Aww, puppies! They're so adorable, playful and easy to love—until it comes to housetraining. Training a puppy to relieve himself when and where you want them to (and more importantly, not to go when and where you don’t want them to) can be a frustrating task. With a little patience, a positive attitude, and by consistently following the tips below will ease the housetraining process for you and your furry friend:
Pay attention to your puppy for cues:
Many dogs like to follow their favourite people around the house, and encouraging this behaviour will make it much easier to notice when your dog needs to go outside. When a puppy that is normally at your heels wanders away from you, there is a good chance that he's looking for a place to relieve himself. That’s your cue to excitedly say, “Ready to go for a walk?” and take your pup outside. Observing your puppy closely will help you to learn his particular habits and make for a more harmonious dog-human relationship, as well.
Take your puppy outside every 2-3 hours:
Puppies have tiny bladders and need to frequently relieve themselves. A general rule of thumb: How old your puppy is, plus one, will equal the number of hours he can hold it in. For example, a two-month-old pup can’t hold it for more than three hours. You should also take your pup outside after he eats, wakes up from a nap, or finishes a play session, apart from mornings and just before going to bed at night.
Use a crate training to speed up the training process:
Leaving your puppy in a crate when you are away or overnight can greatly reduce accidents. Dogs do not like to urinate or defecate in such close quarters, so they will learn to hold it until you get back and take them outside. Don't leave your dog in the crate longer than he can hold it, though. This will be miserable for your dog and will also interrupt your house training progress.
Plan a middle-of-the-night break for young puppies:
Yes, it is inconvenient, but sometimes, you might be woken up in the middle of the night to take him outdoors. Learning from the cues, you can set an alarm to wake up and help him, as well. Puppies grow fast and will soon be able to last through the night without having to relieve themselves.
Designate a special bathroom area:
Whenever you take your puppy outside, go immediately to the same location. Dogs operate primarily by smell, and the smell of his designated area will activate his instinct to poo and pee. Use your chosen command, “Go potty!” and don't leave the area until she has finished doing her business. If you can, leave a piece of soiled cloth in this area, as well to make it easy for him to identify the area.
Use immediate, positive reinforcement:
Dogs are naturally eager to please, and making you happy is their best motivator. Don’t wait until you are back inside to give your puppy treats; he will not connect the reward with going potty. Instead, praise him enthusiastically and give him a treat immediately after he does his business. Afterwards, you can also indulge him in a nice, leisurely walk, where he can inspect all the smells on the block. This will make him excited to go outside and he will get done with his business faster, so he can get to the fun stuff. You don't want to immediately rush him inside or he will learn to hold it in order to spend more time outside, however, it's important that he learns not to dilly-dally for occasions when you cannot linger outside, like when you're travelling.
Establish a routine:
Consistency is your most useful tool when it comes to training your puppy. Establishing a routine for mealtimes, naptime, playtime and bedtime will help him get comfortable around your schedule. Dogs are wonderful observers and will quickly adapt to how you go about your day, as long as you meet their needs for meals, playtime, rest, affection—and of course, the regular bathroom breaks. A consistent routine will make it easy for your pup to know certain behaviours are expected, and that will motivate him to wait until the designated time to go outside.
Use enzyme-based products for cleaning accidents:
Don't use ammonia-based cleaners. Enzymatic cleaners specially designed for cleaning urine, faeces or vomit, and can be found at most stores that sell pet supplies. Follow the directions on the bottle and the cleaner will break down the proteins in the soiled area to remove any lingering odours that might stimulate your pup to use the same spot for relieving himself.
What if it's not working? Housetraining requires patience commitment, and any problems that arise can generally be traced to a lack of consistency in implementing the above strategies. Even a previously housetrained dog may begin having accidents if their routine is disrupted or they do not know what to expect. Look for any sources of anxiety in your pet—moving to a new home, gaining a new member of the household, or having a sudden change in your routine are all likely culprits—and make changes to soothe and reassure your pet. Returning to these basics and providing greater consistency usually will bring things back to normal within a few days.
Don't scold or punish accidents you don't see, as that will only confuse and distress your pup.
If you don’t see positive changes in a certain time frame or your dog seems otherwise distressed, a trip to your vet may be in order to rule out any medical causes.