If you’re looking to buy a puppy, or you already have one, it’s essential that you understand the importance of housetraining. As the first few months of owning a puppy will be some of the hardest and most important, housetraining your pup will make it easier for you to take care of him, while simultaneously teaching your pup to do the right thing in the first place! For information on training an adult dog, click here.

Before you begin housetraining your puppy you’ll need to know its breed, size, coat, and personality type so as to carry out the appropriate training. You also need to prepare yourself by learning the best practices behind housetraining. And you’ve come to the right place! This guide will teach you all you need to know about successfully housetraining your puppy. So let’s get started.

What is housetraining?

Housetraining is the process by which you train your puppy to only go to the toilet when and where you want them to. This can be either outside your home or inside in a designated area. Housetraining can also be referred to as ‘housebreaking’, ‘potty training’, and ‘toilet training’.

Essential housetraining facts

Before you start, there is some information you should know that can help make you a more sensitive and helpful housetrainer to your dog:

  • A puppy under three months of age has limited bladder control and reflexes;
  • A puppy likes to be clean and sleep in a clean area;
  • All puppies do their best when kept to a routine schedule;
  • A puppy has to go to the toilet when:

    – It wakes up in the morning, or after a nap,

    – Within half an hour of drinking or eating,

    – After playing around or getting excited, e.g. seeing a visitor or other animal,

    – Before going to bed at night.

General housetraining tips

Here are some general tips to make the housetraining process easier for yourself. Read these before you begin to minimise trouble:

  • To prevent ‘accidents’, train your puppy to go to the designated toilet spot at the right times to relieve itself;
  • Reward your puppy with small treats the size of half your thumbnail or other rewards such as going for a walk, playing ball games, a big petting session, and so on;
  • If you use treats and food as rewards, make sure to account for this when giving your puppy its meals, as overfeeding your puppy will make it fat and lazy;
  • Have short and consistent training sessions, e.g. 2-3 training sessions of 5-10 minutes a day;
  • Get your puppy’s attention so they comply;
  • Finish a training session on a positive note, e.g. reward positive or obedient behaviour so your puppy remembers to act that way next time.

You can also find more tips in our article here.

Tools you’ll need

You can’t go without the following tools when housetraining your puppy. Make sure you have them on hand before you get started:

  • Leash and collar – These will keep your puppy from wandering off and getting distracted while you’re taking them to the designated indoor or outdoor bathroom spots;
  • Suitable crate – When you can’t supervise your puppy, you can confine it to a crate where it can take advantage of its natural instincts without soiling its den. In doing so you’ll also subtract from its ability to sneak away and go to the toilet where it shouldn’t;
  • Puppy play/exercise pen – If you can’t keep an eye on your puppy or have to be away from home, a pen will provide a confined sleep and play area with a bathroom spot that has puppy pads;
  • Plastic tarpaulin sheet – Lay this down underneath your play pen or crate so as to keep mess off your floors and carpets, and make it easier to clean when accidents happen;
  • Pet barriers (baby gates) – A barrier will confine your puppy to a specific, easy to clean, and puppy-proofed room, or restricts its access from a certain room;
  • Puppy pad and holder (litter tray) – These are essential as your puppy’s bathroom spot if you’ll be training them to go to the bathroom indoors. You can also use them for the designated outdoor spot, however;
  • Small treats – For rewards. Every time your puppy goes to the bathroom in the right spot, give it a small piece of high quality, low calorie treat, such as beef jerky or dried liver;
  • Dog poo bags and pooper scooper – Use these for picking up and disposing of your puppy’s poo, especially if it goes to the toilet outdoors;
  • Cleaning products – Buy an enzymatic cleaner or an ammonia and bleach-free cleaner, as these can help remove stains and eliminate odours;
  • Black or UV torchlight – Use these to find hidden urine stains inside the home and on carpets. You can then remove these stains to prevent repeat accidents.

There are four different ways to housetrain your puppy. These are the four main methods:

1. Crate training

Crate training involves a crate and a mix of confinement and supervision. Encourage your puppy to go into their crate by putting some chew toys or treats inside, and close the door once they’ve entered. Puppies have a natural instinct to not want to soil their sleeping and eating area, so they can learn to control their bowels and bladder if you leave them in the crate until their scheduled potty time. Once you release the puppy, you can attach a leash and then lead them to their designated bathroom spot. Crate training is suitable for puppy owners of all ages and types.

2. Paper training

Paper training involves training your puppy to go to the toilet on papers/newspapers or puppy pads, either inside the home or outside. Take your puppy to their confinement area where the papered bathroom spot is, and supervise them as they go. Be ready to intervene if they make a move to go to the bathroom away from the paper. If they don’t go at their scheduled time, lightly encourage them to do so.

Paper training is best suited for those who plan to have a designated long-term bathroom spot, or those who don’t want to use a crate for training but can’t always supervise their puppy when it’s inside the home.

3. Constant supervision

With constant supervision you’ll have to constantly watch your puppy and be ready to react quickly if they look like they’re about to relieve themselves. A sign of this could be them walking around in circles while sniffing the ground. You can’t allow your puppy to make a mistake, you must counter it immediately so they learn that they’ve made an error. At the scheduled time you can then attach a leash to your puppy and lead them to their designated bathroom area.

Constant supervision is best suited for those pup owners who don’t want to confine their pets, and are able to stay at home and watch them throughout the day, every day. This usually applies to people who work from home or are retired.

4. Umbilical cord training

Umbilical cord training also relies on constant supervision. For this method, you attach a leash to your puppy with a quick-release collar and tether them to you. Be ready to react if they make a move to go to the bathroom; they will always be by your side so you can easily and quickly correct any mistakes. Remember to take them to their designated bathroom spot at the scheduled time.

Umbilical cord training is best suited for those who are always at home with their puppy and don’t mind being literally tied to them all day. It’s also good for those who find ‘constant supervision’ to be too difficult or forgetful.

Feeding your puppy

The type of food you feed your puppy, as well as when and how you feed it, can have a significant impact on housetraining. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Give your puppy high quality food so it has fewer bowel movements each day. This can help puppies to learn bowel control;
  • Only feed your puppy according to their scheduled potty time (3-4 meals a day for the first month), because what goes in on a schedule comes out on a schedule;
  • Don’t free-feed your puppy (leave food out for them all day), you must stick to a schedule or they will go to the bathroom at non-scheduled times;
  • Choose and stick to just one high quality and nutritionally balanced brand of puppy food;
  • Make water freely available to your puppy during the day, but monitor their intake and remove access to water two hours before bedtime.

Housetraining your puppy doesn’t need to be difficult! When you know what your puppy needs to do, what’s required of you, and how to work with your puppy’s natural instincts and desires, the process will be much easier for you. And you can make housetraining your puppy a success by following this guide. Good luck! Oh, and if you can’t get your dog to stop nipping – check out our article on training pups to stop!

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Liz Walden

Liz has a passion for all things cat and dog, and was one of the first in Australia to bring Pet Insurance to the market. She has headed up Petsecure marketing for the past 10 years, and is committed to promoting and supporting the amazing work done by rescue groups around Australia, and those who work to promote a better life for all animals

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