Housetraining Your Puppy


Congratulations on your new puppy! Housetraining your puppy need not be difficult, but it does take time, patience, and consistency. Here are some general guidelines to help facilitate this accomplishment. Remember it is through consistent conditioning and repetition that your puppy will become housebroken.

Housebreaking as a general rule means teaching your pup to go to the bathroom outdoors. Papertraining is teaching him to use papers in the house. The problem with papertraining is that it makes it harder for them to learn that they should go outdoors. It is an extra step and at best messy.

Starting Out

Before you begin housetraining your pup, be sure he is free of intestinal parasites (worms) by having your veterinarian check a stool sample. Worms can cause pups to have loose and or irregular movements and make housetraining impossible.

It is natural for pups to want to eliminate away from their sleeping area. Therefore it is a good idea to initially restrict your pup's activity by the use of a crate. Whenever you are unavailable to supervise your pup (i.e. your at work, sleeping, etc.) your pup should be in his crate. Make the crate a fun place - feed him at least one of his meals there, play fetch the ball by throwing it in the crate, and have toys in there for him to play with.

For your pup to learn where he should go to the bathroom you need to take him to the same area every time. Choose an easily accessible spot and the pup will soon associate this area with doing his duty as he begins to recognize his odor from previous trips. You can use a prompt command such as "go potty" or "hurry' to help him associate this command with the act of housetraining. Your pup will soon learn what he is expected to do when hearing the command and this will come in handy when it is cold or rainy outside. It is imperative that you stay with your pup while he eliminates and praise him lavishly as he does his "business." (Act as if he's won the lottery for you!!) Your pup needs to learn that it is not only O.K. to go to the bathroom in your presence, but it is magnificent to do so on command in the appropriate area. Praise him vocally and with a treat and show him how pleased you are.

It is important when housetraining to adhere to a schedule. Take your pup outdoors to the special area every 1-2 hours. Do not spend a lot of time and do not try and play. Save exercise and play as a treat for after he is finished. (Many pups when on a walk "forget" they need to eliminate and then promptly proceed to do so when back in the house).

Keep your pup on a routine food and water schedule. It helps to predict when you'll need to take him out. Most pups will need to go out within an hour after eating. Offer food 2-3 times daily at the same time and try to schedule the last meal to be finished 3 hours before bedtime. Leave the food down for 20 minutes and he will soon learn to eat when fed (an exception to this is very small pups or toy breed puppies who need food available more frequently). Avoid feeding your pup table scraps and try and stick to the same food brand. If you need to change your pup's food do it gradually over a 4-7-day period. If it is very hot your pup needs free access to water, otherwise you can offer him water 3-5 times daily, 1 cup for every 8 pounds of body weight per day.

What to Do With Those Mistakes?

The number one mistake owners make is to correct the pup after the fact. Only if you catch your pup in the act of having an accident should you reprimand him. A loud NO and quickly bring him out to the designated area followed by praise for completion of the task is the best method. Yelling or rubbing his nose in it etc. will only teach your pup to avoid you whenever he needs to go. Next time he will find a place to hide away from you. Remember - until your pup is 100% housebroken for at least two weeks, you should always be watching him when loose or he should be in his crate.

Make sure you clean the soiled area well to remove the odor with an effective cleaner - preferably an odor-neutralizing product. If your pup continues to go to the same area, place a gate or furniture over the spot. Another point - pets usually won't void where they eat, so you could try placing their food dish in a previously soiled area to discourage further accidents.

Final Tips

Remember all pups learn at their own speed. Mistakes will happen. Too much punishment and inappropriate punishment will thwart your success. Only correct when you catch the pup in the act. If even a few seconds have elapsed since the elimination, it is useless to discipline, as your pup will not understand. Also, if your pup squats and urinates when excited, at greetings, etc. never discipline him. This is a normal behavior in young pups (esp. females) when they are excited and/or nervous and will improve as they get older and more confident.

With patience and consistency your pup will soon be a housetrained member of your family. Please call our hospital if things do not seem to be going as "expected" or if we can be of any further assistance.


Berkshire Veterinary Hospital
730 1/2 Crane Avenue
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413)499-2820