How To House Train Your Puppy (Or Even An Adult Dog!)

House training is something that many owners struggle with, especially when it feels like you’re not making any progress because your dog continues to have “accidents” in your home.

But fortunately, it is possible to successfully house train virtually any dog (barring a medical problem) with the right techniques, combined with patience and persistent reinforcement.

But while most dogs can be house trained fairly quickly, with others it can take much longer – so patience is always going to be key.

Something else to consider is whether you’re housetraining an adult dog. If you have a fully grown adult dog that has never been house trained, you should treat them in the same way you would house train a new puppy – because there really isn’t much difference in technique – but you do need to be very patient.

Never ‘Punish’

Many owners seem to think “punishing” their dog for their “accident” is an effective method of house training, but, in reality, it’s not very efficient at all – and it’s usually just needlessly cruel.

The idea of “rubbing your dog’s nose in it”  is an archaic idea that never works as well as positive reinforcement training. In fact, it never really works at all!

So based on this fact, you should never punish your dog for making a mess in your home – even though it can be frustrating to deal with at times. Punishing your dog after an ‘accident’ only teaches them to be nervous and scared of you.

You must always remember to control your temper while you’re house training a puppy, or an adult dog who hasn’t been house trained properly yet. Punishing or scolding your dog is pointless because they simply won’t ‘understand’ what they did wrong.

However, if you do catch them relieving themselves inside, say ‘no’ firmly and quickly take them to a designated spot where they’re allowed to relieve themselves. Your dog will soon learn that they’re meant to relieve themselves in this place only – and eventually, the dog will wait until they can access this location (such as waiting at the back door to go outside).

Begin With Anticipation

Most dogs have “tells” which show you they’re going to urinate in the house. Many dogs will start to pace around the room, sniff objects, or walk in circles.

With some observation, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out when your dog is going to “go”. Try to anticipate these moments beforehand so you have the opportunity to positively redirect the behavior.

If your dog suddenly puts their nose down and sniffs intently, this may well mean they’re about to relieve themselves right there and then. You should keep an eye out for these signs (especially after meal times), then take your dog to an appropriate place where they’re allowed to relieve themselves.

If you catch them in the act, you can interrupt them with a clap of your hands, then immediately take them outside to an area where they can “go”.

Take Your Dog Out Regularly

After your dog wakes up, eats, or plays, you should take them to a place you’ve chosen for them to relieve themselves.

As your dog eliminates, you can praise them for going to the right area, then praise them further once they’ve finished.

Soon enough, you’ll be able to give your dog the command to ‘go’, and they will take it as a signal that they’re permitted to relieve themselves in this location.

Your puppy will need to relieve themselves after each main activity during his 24 hour day. For example: After sleeping, after playing, after eating and after being in a crate for a while, so be extra vigilant at these times, and check to see if they’re already planning to ‘go’ even when they’re still indoors.

When you take your puppy outside, you should keep their attention on you by talking to your dog and using an exciting toy to hold the attention.

This will help make sure that there are no ‘accidents’ on the way. Remember to say ‘hurry up’  (or a similar verbal command) as your puppy relieves themselves, and then praise them for the good behavior.

Using A Crate

Dogs will always avoid relieving themselves in their own bedding, so you should try to restrict your puppy to their crate if it’s not possible to take them out for a short period of time. Keep in mind that puppies have small bladders, so they shouldn’t be expected to ‘hold it’ for long periods of time.

You must always provide your puppy with something interesting, such as a toy, to chew when you leave them in the crate for any length of time, too.

Before you buy a crate for house training, it’s important to make sure it’s going to be the right size, because if it’s too big your puppy might relieve themselves in one end, and sleep in the other.

Paper Training

Many people leave paper down for a puppy as a way of house training. This can work in some situations (and it’ll help protect your floors), but it can also cause some confusion for your puppy if you’re using multiple different house training methods.

Paper training, in particular, can be risky, because you’re still letting your puppy relieve themselves inside the house, so they may still learn that relieving themselves indoors is technically acceptable.

So whenever possible, you should train your puppy to relieve themselves outdoors. If you do decide to use paper indoors then follow the same crate restrictions, and let your puppy ‘out’ onto the newspaper.

Another useful strategy involving paper or ‘training pads’ is to allow your puppy to relieve themselves on the paper or pad, and over time, gradually remove a pad at a time – ensuring that your puppy only ‘uses’ the remaining paper or pad.

This strategy can be particularly effective when you’re using a puppy playpen too – because you can place the paper pads within the playpen, which means your dog will quickly learn to favor the training pad.

Once you begin to gradually remove the pads, your puppy should continue to use the remaining pads. It’s important to praise your puppy each time they favor the pad, which boosts the positive reinforcement effect and leads to quick success with house training.