How to Successfully House Train a Puppy

Cute as they are, puppies are a lot of work. To successfully house train a pup you need to be prepared.

Do not expect this to go fast or to be easy. Some breeds, such as the more intelligent ones like Border Collies, train much faster than others, like Shih Tzus. Your pup may not be physically ready to learn when you first get him, but you must start training him right away. You can expect to see results after the pup has reached 12 weeks, as this is more often the time they gain, and understand how to control, their body functions.

Because house training requires attention and time it is best to plan on getting a pup when you have the time to devote to training it. If you work an 8 hour day, or have young children who need your attention, you will not find this easy to do.

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Crate Training, Why?

Crate training has proven to be the MOST SUCCESSFUL method of house training pups, and even adult dogs. The pup will usually resent the crate at first but eventually he will come to know it as his safe place. The crate training method will save you a lot of grief because the pup will be contained and not out destroying your home. Having a dog that accepts being in a crate will make it a lot easier for you if you have to kennel him or take him on trips. Some areas have laws that pets cannot be loose in your vehicle. Dogs who are not used to being kenneled will become scared and stressed if they have to be kenneled at a groomer or veterinarian office.

The whole idea behind crate training is that a dog does not want to mess in its’ bed. So by confining it to a small space you force it to hold its bladder and bowels until it can be out.

Selecting the Crate

The pup must be able to stand up and turn around in the crate, however you do not want a crate that is too large. If your crate is too big the pup can still mess in the crate and sleep in another area. Line the crate with a blanket.

Some breeds of dogs are small enough that you only need one crate for the life of the dog. Others grow so fast you may find they outgrow their crate in a short matter of time. You might find that you can buy a good crate at a second hand store, sometimes even animal shelters will offer used crates for sale. There is no harm in trying to save some money by buying used, just make sure the kennel is secure, the doors and locks work, and that you wash it thoroughly with bleach.

Yukon & Nikon by Kyle T. Ramirez.

Getting Started

The first few nights will be the worst. Put the crate near the back door, rather than in your bedroom. This makes it easier to get the pup out quicker, plus you won’t hear the whining so it will be easier to ignore. You may find it handy to put a radio next to the crate and have music on softly to sooth the pup.

In the morning you must be ready to go. Get the pup out of the crate and quickly outside. You MUST go out with the pup too. Have in your pocket a “soft treat reward” ready to offer as soon as the dog urinates. A soft treat reward can be hot dogs, cheese, or soft dog treats. It is important these rewards be chopped very small. Too much will make your dog fat and you will be using a lot of rewards for training.

Dogs will usually urinate within minutes of getting outside first thing in the morning, you must offer the reward and praise the pup right away. Then it is back inside to eat. After breakfast you and the pup must go back outside again. Usually within 20 minutes of eating they will have a bowel movement. Running will stimulate the bowels. Again you must be ready with the soft treat reward, and a lot of praise. Try to pick up the dogs mess right away so you discourage the bad habit some pups learn, of eating their own stool. Now you should be fine to go in for a while. Crate the dog if you must go to work or be away, but other wise allow it to remain loose in the home. You might find a baby gate to be handy to keeping the pup in a certain area of the house. Do not take your eyes off of it. As soon as it starts to circle and sniff the ground this is your cue to go back outside again.

The better quality food your pup is on will determine how often it has a bowel movement. Better food = less poop. In fact some dogs on high quality food will only go poop once in the morning.  See links on food, below.

Remove all uneaten food within half hour of feeding. Small breed pups, and toy pups should be fed four times a day. Larger breed pups can be fed two or three times a day. The last feeding should be around four hours before bed time. Remove water two to three hours before bed. Just before bed take the pup out again, and as always you must go out too, ready to offer the reward. Make sure you let the dog run and play. As your pup ages you may also use these outside times to get him, or her, used to the leash and collar.

Continue daily, dogs thrive on routine. He may want to stay out in the yard longer than you do, and this is okay, but remember dogs are basically pack animals, they will not want to be left alone too long. The key to successful house training is dependent on you being out with the rewards. People often get lazy and wait for the dog to come in before rewarding it, but the dog then associates the reward with coming in. If you are consistent you should have a fully house trained pup in a few weeks.



Do not use pee pads or newspapers. These encourage dogs to pee in the wrong spots, the dog does not understand why its okay to urinate on some things but not others.

Do not give attention to a pup who cries while in the crate, this rewards them, and encourages them to whine.

Even yelling is giving the dog attention – you must totally ignore it.

Do not use the crate for punishment, it is the dogs safe place, a den.

Do not disturb a dog when they go into the crate, and make sure all children know to leave the dog alone if it goes into its “den”.

Do not give any food or water to the dog while it is in the crate, this will only make it need to go to the bathroom sooner. A good, safe, chew toy is okay.

Do not take any pup off your property until it is fully vaccinated (around 12 weeks) this is to prevent him getting a disease such as Parvo.

Do not leave a pup in a crate for more than eight hours at a time, or more than sixteen hours in a day. If you work, try to come home at lunch to take the pup out, or have a neighbour do it.

Common problems

The biggest problems are caused by human error, of which I have mentioned the causes in the “Don’ts” section above. Mainly giving attention, either positive or negative, to a crying pup. The other biggest problem is people who do not go out with the dog, but expect it to learn on its own. Planning when you get a pup is key, if you do not have time to train properly perhaps you should consider getting an older, already trained dog or pup.

Remember dogs respond better to reward than to punishments, putting their nose in an accident is not going to help them to learn that it was wrong.

If the pup is still having consistent problems after 3 months of trying you should see a veterinarian to rule out medical problems.

Links Regarding Quality of Dog Food

What is in your Dogs Food?

Facts and Fallacies about Dog Food

Mystery Meat in Pet Food

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User Comments
  1. Puppy owner

    On August 7, 2008 at 10:27 am

    I read this 3 weeks ago and just came back to say it was remarkable help. Thanks!

  2. cookie monster

    On March 12, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    i want to know how to potty train a grown dog !!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Nancy

    On September 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    What can you do if you have already started to pee pad train your dog during the day (we have a Maltese and are gone from 7 am – 6 pm) and do not want accidents during the day but do not expect it to not go in the house – our Maltese is only 5 months. We also want it to go outside – is it too much for it to understand the concept of both? It goes to the door sporadically and then just pees in front of you the other times..also worth noting our house is a split level and I think it is confused on how to \”get\” to the door. My husband is starting to \’freak\’ out that she isn\’t potty trained yet and gets pissed off at her too which is NOT helping the cause either. He wants to get rid of her and I will NOT do that.Please HELP!

  4. Brenda Nelson

    On September 7, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    To Nancy
    honestly I feel you are away from home far too long to have a puppy, thats almost 12 hours. I am sure most people will agree that this is too long. Perhaps you have a friend or neighbour who can come over and let the pup out part way through the day.

    This is one of those reasons its suggested people who are not home much do not get a puppy.

  5. Demetrius

    On June 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    So I’ve Been Trying This With My 9 Week Old Yellow Lab And The Only Problem Is That When I Take Her Outside After Breakfast We Stay Out The For Almost An Hour Everytime And She Never Uses The Bathroom. Then She Ends Up Doing It On The Carpet. Any Advice For Me Please????

  6. Brenda Nelson

    On June 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    to Demetrius

    You need to run around with the dog after breakfast to stimulate the bowels. If you bring her in and she hasnt gone bathroom outside, keep an eye on her so there is no way she can mess on the carpet, as soon as she is ready to go you MUST get her outside and give her the reward there.

    Your pup is YOUNG, you cannot expect much for another 2-3 weeks. dont punish your pup.

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