How to house-train your puppy

A black puppy standing next to a small puddle of pee

The number one priority on a new puppy parent’s list? House-training. As a rule of thumb, your dog can be considered officially house-trained when they can go one month without any accidents. Puppies lack the bladder muscle control of adult dogs and may regress during adolescence, but with patience, commitment, and consistency, they emerge from the other side fully house-trained.

Tips on house-training your puppy

  • Take your puppy out often. Depending on age and size, your puppy may need to potty anywhere between every 30 to 90 minutes. Many puppies need a bathroom break after any kind of status change–waking up, finishing a meal, playing, etc.
  • Use positive reinforcement only. Archaic house-training methods encouraged rubbing your puppy’s nose in their pee or smacking them with a newspaper. However, these methods teach dogs that it’s unsafe to potty in your presence, making house-training more stressful for everyone. Instead, clean up any accidents calmly and make it rain treats and praise when they go in the right spot.
  • Stick to a schedule. Keep feeding times and potty breaks consistent. In the long run, once your pup develops the right muscles, the regularity of their routine helps them anticipate an upcoming bathroom break. On your end, once you get a sense of how long after a meal your dog needs to poop, you eliminate the guesswork and can set your dog up for success.
  • Limit space. Use your dog’s crate or baby gates to control their access to the house. Once they have proven themselves reliable about not pottying in a certain location, you can expand their access. If they have an accident, reduce space again. This teaches your dog that the entire interior of your living space is off-limits, not just whichever room they eat and sleep in.
  • Be consistent from the beginning. Many puppies struggle to learn the difference between a pee pad and a rug. While helpful during the initial stages of puppy rearing, pee pads can draw out the house-training process for longer. Training your puppy to potty outside from the beginning makes it simpler for everyone.

Suggested equipment

  • Enzymatic cleaners formulated for dog urine and feces
  • Crate
  • Treats
  • Potty bells

Why you should use potty bells

House-training consists of two elements: your puppy learning to hold it until they get outside and you learning to read their signals. Canine communication can be fairly subtle–your dog might whine, circle one spot, or sniff the ground before abruptly squatting. If you’re not keeping a close eye on your puppy, you might miss the signs.

Potty bells give your dog a way to get your attention without having to bark or suffer in silence. They can learn to target a bell with their nose or paw, or use a button placed on the ground.

Gentle Beast offers online training courses led by pet behavior expert Alex Sessa, CPDT-KA. Our House-training course helps you troubleshoot your house-training efforts, set your new dog up for success, and even train them to use potty bells.

About the Author

A picture of Melody smiling towards the camera
Melody Lee
Contributing Writer

Melody Lee is a contributing writer for Gentle Beast, and is a CPDT-KA dog trainer. She lives in Manhattan with two feral cats, Littlepip and Alphonse, that tolerate her clicker training attempts. One day, her cats might let her adopt a dog of her own.

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