PITA PuppyHouse Training a Puppy

Having trouble house training your new puppy? You’re not alone!

This is a very common issue with puppies, often times requiring patience, consistency (and cleaning supplies) for any accidents along the way. Below are a few tips to help your puppy understand what is expected from him.

General Guidelines

  • Establish a Routine:

    • Establish a routine and schedule for your puppy. This allows him to know what to expect and when, and makes elimination more predictable.
    • Feed at specific times during the day, then take your puppy out when he’s done- every time.
    • This includes all meals and treats, as any sort of food intake will stimulate a need to eliminate.
  • He Can’t Hold It!

    • Take your puppy out to urinate every 1-2 hours to help prevent accidents.
    • Puppies have a very high metabolism and a very small bladder. In other words, they produce a lot of urine but they have not developed the muscles to “hold it” as an older dog can.
    • A general guideline is that the number of hours your puppy can hold its urine equals how many months old it is.
      • Ex: a one month old puppy can only reasonably hold its urine for one hour.
    • Take your puppy outside immediately after play, naps or if he/she awakens at night. Remember, it is physically impossible for your puppy to hold its urine all night!
  • Be Patient, and Consistent:

    • Keep in mind it is common for puppies to be faster to train about elimination (pooping) than urination.
    • For some dogs, may help to put a urine soaked sponge or piece of poop in desired area for elimination.

Preventing Accidents in the House

  • Keep your puppy in sight at all times! Tie a leash around your waist and connect it to your puppy to keep him close to you. Alternatives include using a baby gate or crate to confine your puppy to smaller area where he can be monitored indoors.
  • Watch for behaviors that indicate your puppy may need to eliminate, including:
    • Pacing
    • Whining
    • Circling
    • Suddenly stopping movement
  • If any of these are noted, he needs to eliminate and should be taken outside immediately.
  • Putting a bell on the dog’s collar may make this easier to monitor at home; if the bell stops, take him outside.
  • If you pick up the puppy and it starts to pee, get a cloth and gently clamp the genitals to stop the flow. This will help the dog to associate inhibiting elimination with those muscle groups (and help prevent a mess in your house!).

Training your Puppy to Poop Outside

  • Getting Into the Right “Frame of Mind”
    • When you are out with your puppy, let him sniff. Smelling is an important part of the sequence of elimination, allowing your dog get into the “right frame of mind”.
    • If your puppy is simply pulling on the leash and sniffing without pause, try walking back & forth quickly for a short time. This movement mimics part of the sequence of elimination behavior in a dog and may help him get down to business sooner rather than later.
  • Keep Control of the Situation:
    • Use a fixed-length short lead to keep control over your puppy when outside; this enables you to respond to cues and encourage your puppy more quickly.
  • Reward Good Behavior!
    • Try offering a treat if your puppy squats on an appropriate surface (grass); this will encourage an association between elimination and good experiences.
    • When your puppy eliminates in the desired area, reward and praise him A LOT.
    • Physically escort him to the desired area and praise as dog eliminating to prevent rewarding for a different behavior (like coming back to the house).
  • Encourage, and Be Consistent:
    • Use verbal cues when taking your puppy out to eliminate. Say “go potty” in encouraging tone of voice as he squats to help him understand what you’re asking.
    • Be consistent with command, and he will soon learn what to do when he hears the phrase.
  • Set a Good Example:
    • If there is an older, house trained dog in the household, take it with you when taking the puppy outside.
    • Dogs learn by observation; having a good example of the desired behavior may help to speed the process of house training.
  • Be A Good Neighbor:
    • Please remember to clean up any feces; this helps to control parasite transmission and makes your dog more socially acceptable both at home and within the community.

Sample Schedule (When to Take Your Puppy Outside):

  • In the morning, immediately after waking, so he can eliminate after long night indoors.
  • Feeding times- as soon as he is done eating. Most puppies eliminate shortly after a meal. Feed at same times daily to make eliminations around same time (be consistent).
  • During the day- at least once hourly, especially during playing, after playing and after eating. The frequency of these trips will decrease as he ages.
  • Keep your puppy close by when at home; if he looks like may need to go, immediately take him outside to designated spot.

When You Are Away From Home:

  • Take your puppy outside to eliminate immediately before you leave.
  • Keep him in a confined area; puppies don’t tend to eliminate where they sleep.
    • The space should be roomy enough to stand, lie down and turn around, not so big that they can “get away” from the mess they make.
    • This will encourage him to “hold it” until you can get home and take him outside.
    • Crate training is an easy solution for this situation, but if your puppy will be alone for extended period, he should have larger area available.

What to Do When Your Puppy Has an Accident

  • Don’t yell or rub his nose in it!
  • Dogs do not make an association between the mess you’re cleaning and why you’re yelling at them- the two actions are too far removed.
  • Clean the mess with an enzymatic cleaner to remove the smell and try to monitor him more closely to catch him before he has an accident in the home.


Remember, the time and energy you invest in house training your puppy is setting him up for success- ultimately saving you time (and messes) later and bringing you more enjoyment from your new best friend!

If you have any questions regarding house training, please consult your veterinarian for further suggestions.