How to Housetrain Your Dog

Learn housetraining 101 and get the basics of housetraining puppies, step by step.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #96

If you have to leave your puppy home for longer than he can reasonably hold it, the best bet is to have a walker in. As an alternative, set up a puppy playpen with absorbent material in one area. Or you can leave the puppy in a puppyproofed room (hard floor, no access to items the puppy can destroy by chewing on them, nothing dangerous accessible). There’s no guarantee that the puppy will eliminate in the designated area, remember.

How Long Will Housetraining Take?

How long does housetraining take? It depends!  Some puppies get the idea pronto and start signaling a need to go out even though they can’t yet hold on till they get there. Others aren’t reliable for a long time. Puppies become able to sleep through the night long before they’re reliably housetrained. That’s because the metabolism slows during sleep, and so does production of urine and feces.

Finally, some small breeds have a rep for being difficult to housetrain; trainers opine endlessly about whether this is a real breed characteristic or a function of the fact that a small dog starting to squat is less conspicuous than a large dog doing so, so that people don’t prevent as many mistakes.

What About Mistakes?

A few mistakes are inevitable and won’t ruin your housetraining program. If you have more than two or three in the first week, or if you can’t seem to get the number of accidents down over time, housetraining ain’t happening. Try giving your trainee more potty opportunities, less house freedom, or both. Sometimes medical problems interfere with housetraining.

If your puppy eliminates indoors, just clean up the mess calmly and cheerfully. Use a specialized enzymatic cleanser. Scolding, spanking, and other punishments are pointless—as far as we can tell, dogs don’t see urine and feces as disgusting. Besides, punishment may make her afraid to eliminate in front of you. Your booby prize is a dog who doesn’t pee or poop on walks and instead leaves surprises behind the sofa.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).