How to House Train Your Puppy

Housebreaking for Puppies

Golden Retriever puppy sitting by bed, side view
GK Hart & Vikki Hart/The Image Bank/Getty Images

House training is one of the first things you will teach your new puppy. This should be started as soon as you take your dog home, but it takes patience. In general, puppies are unable to control their bladders and bowels until 12 weeks of age. If your puppy is younger than that, extra patience is required. If you have an older puppy or even adult dog, house training is still possible. It may or may not take longer depending on your dog.

House Training Tips for Dog Owners

The following tips can help you as you go through the housebreaking process with your puppy.

  • Set a schedule for your puppy when you begin house training. Try to get up at the same time each morning, taking your puppy outside right away. Feed your puppy at the same times each day and take him outside immediately after eating.
  • Watch your puppy for signs such as sniffing, circling and pacing – these usually mean it is time to go. If you see these signs, take him outside immediately. If you catch him in the middle of an accident, say “no” firmly and take him outside to finish, praising him if he does. Never punish him by hitting or pushing his nose in the mess! This will only teach him to fear you. If you find an accident in the house, but do not catch him in the act – do not punish him. He will not associate the punishment with the action and will only become confused.
  • Pick a word for the action, such as “outside” or “do your business.” Use this phrase consistently so he will learn it as a command. Always bring your puppy to the same area outside while housebreaking. The odors in this area will encourage him to urinate and defecate here again. If he does his business, praise him.
  • When you are away from home, your puppy should stay in a crate, or kennel. You may buy a larger crate for your puppy to grow into, but place a divider in it so that it is only large enough for your puppy to turn around and lie down. Instinctively, your puppy will not want to soil his own area. Be careful not to let your puppy stay in the cage for more than 4-6 hours, or he may have no choice but to relieve himself. If you are away from the house regularly, as many of us are for work, return home in the middle of each day to let your puppy outside. Arrange for someone else to let your puppy out if you will be unable to come home.
  • If you choose not to crate your dog when you are away from the house, set him up in a room with a non-absorbent floor. Place training pads at one end of the room and his bed and toys at the other. Generally, dogs prefer to urinate on absorbent materials, but they tend to avoid doing so in their own beds. Ideally, he will gravitate towards the training pads. This method may take longer than the crate method.

    Remember These House Training Rules

    • Praise him when he behaves.
    • Keep a solid routine.
    • Never punish him physically when caught in an accident.
    • Do not correct him unless you catch him in the act.

    House training may take several months, so don’t give up. Remember that your puppy wants to please you, he just needs to learn how. Be clear with him when you praise or correct his actions. Eventually, you will see results.