It doesn’t matter whether you’re adopting a puppy or an untrained adult dog. As soon as you bring him home, one of the first things you need to do is teach him not to do his business on the floor. For many people, housetraining a dog or puppy can be a daunting prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are six suggestions to help ensure your pooch learns to go potty in the right place.
1. Pick a location
As with real estate, the first decision to make when housetraining a dog is location, location, location.
Start by picking a particular spot in your yard (a place that’s easily accessible for both you and the dog, but away from human traffic).
When taking him outside to do his business, use the same door to go in and out by. Eileen Proctor, dog trainer and pet lifestyle expert, says using the same door lets the dog know that he’s going on a potty break.
Don’t send him outside by himself. Go with him and take him to the approved area. After all, you don’t want him going in your veggie garden or on your patio.
Going for short walks along a familiar route will also encourage your pup to eliminate – just make sure you clean up any solid waste he leaves behind. “Short leash walks not only help with nice leash manners, but the dog will potty multiple times during a walk instead of just going once and returning to the house,” says dog trainer Amy Robinson.
2. Follow a routine
“Get a routine set in stone for the first few weeks,” says Kathryn Smith, who shares her life with several Scotties. “The best investment is a kitchen timer or alarm clock. In the morning, get out of bed, and do not stop at the bathroom, do not brush your teeth, do not turn on the coffee – take the dog out first!”
Make sure the whole family knows the routine. “Use the same cue word each time the dog goes out,” says Eileen. “Everybody has to follow the same script or the dog will be confused and training will take longer.”
3. Praise – never punish
“When he goes (in the right spot), praise him like he’s just won the Pulitzer Prize,” says Eileen. “Always reinforce appropriate behavior and ignore unwanted behavior.”
If your pooch has an accident in the house, never rub his nose in it. He won’t understand what he did wrong and may learn to hide his mistakes rather than ask to go outside. For all accidents, use a cleaner that will penetrate tiny cracks in wood flooring or go all the way to the carpet pad. Never use ammonia; urine and ammonia smell alike to a puppy and he’ll see it as a big red target that says, “Go here!”
“For poop mistakes, one trick is to relocate the mistake, or as I call it, tamper with the evidence,” says Eileen. “Take it outside and put it in the designated area. It will clue the dog in to realize, ‘Oh yeah, I went here before’ so he’ll do it again – where he should.”
4. Monitor access to food and water
“Don’t free feed your dog or give him unlimited access to water,” adds Eileen. “Put your dog on a feeding routine. Regulate the time and quantity of food and water, and that regulates potty breaks. Take up the water bowl a couple of hours before bedtime.” During the housetraining process, a small quantity of water offered frequently is a better idea than a big bowlful. It will keep your dog from getting into the habit of 3am potty breaks.
5. Keep him close
During the housetraining process, keep your pup or dog close by, either with a short leash or by keeping him confined to one area. A crate can be handy for this, as long as he isn’t spending all his time in it. “Two weeks of crate time and leash walking helped housetrain Shadow,” says Cindy Bryan of her year-old rescue dog. “I also made a huge deal of praising him. He had a few accidents at first but now will go to the back door and squeak if he has to go.”
6. Know the signs
What are the signs that your pup or dog needs to go out? “Look for a pause in play, a sit, sniffing or a thoughtful look,” says Amy. If he starts wandering distractedly around and sniffing the floor as if he’s looking for something, it’s time to take him out.
“Housetraining a puppy takes the vigilance of a Navy Seal,” says Amy. “I liken it to potty training a naked toddler. One moment of inattention and the puppy has found a spot to take care of his business. Take comfort in the fact that puppies housetrain faster than toddlers potty train!”
Housetraining is likely the first training experience you will have with your new pup. Make it as pleasant as possible so he’ll look forward to learning more things with you. Know that dogs are eager to please, and that once he’s learned his manners, the rewards of sharing your life with a dog really begin!