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Top 4 Tips: House training a pup

Updated: Dec 9, 2018

House training a puppy or adult dog can be challenging, and at times it can feel like it’s taking forever. I often get asked for advice on how to speed up the process. Although every dog is different in terms of how long it may take to become fully house trained, there are things you can keep in mind to help you achieve success in a relatively short period of time.

First off, house training is best served by following a couple principles: 1) training must be focused on reinforcement and reward rather than punishment, and 2) the more consistent you are with the schedule you set, the more successful you (and your pup) will be.

With that in mind, I offer the following tips that can help make house training your pup manageable and as speedy as possible.

1. Supervise your pup in the house

When you begin house training, you need to make sure you supervise your pup thoroughly and consistently. Direct supervision is the way to prevent accidents, while also teaching you the signals your pup gives when he needs to go out (some pups may whine, some may go sit and look at the door, others may circle, pant or sniff – all these give you cues to helping him be successful). Basically, someone needs to watch the pup at all times, to prevent mistakes. When you can’t watch him, make sure he’s in a crate. This avoids mistakes and rapidly speeds up the house training process. Remember that an 8-week-old pup can only hold it for a short period of time (an hour or so at best), so you need to make sure he gets outside frequently. As they get older, they can hold it for increased amounts of time, but the more often they get outside to pee, the quicker they understand the process.

2. Establish a routine

Pups thrive on routine, and the more regular your routine, the less likely mistakes will occur during the training process. It’s critical in the early stages of house training a pup that he has ample opportunity to go outside and do his business. For example, you can use your work schedule as the starting point for a routine that would include toileting before and after work. In addition, regular feeding, walking and sleeping times will help your pup establish a routine. When you’re training a very young pup, keep the weekday and weekend routine as similar as possible – if you get him up at 7am on weekdays, you will need to do the same on the weekends so his internal clock can start teaching him how long he has to hold it for. If the routine is all over the place, he’ll never learn to pace himself.

3. Reward your pup

When you take your pup outside to go to the bathroom, you need to reward your pup for going to the bathroom. A treat or even just an encouraging, “Good dog!” will help your pup to remember that toileting should be done in specific areas, and not on the Persian rug. Some pups would prefer to play rather than pee when outside, so make sure they are on a leash and as soon as you get to the designated spot, you should just stand there being still and quiet to avoid distracting him from the business at hand. Once he has done his business, then you can then play. Again, this is part of establishing a routine, which helps speed the learning process.

4. Be patient

Possibly the most important aspect of any good training is patience. All pups are capable of learning new behaviours, and if you are patient in training, your efforts will pay off. So again, remember to watch closely for cues like whining, staring at the door, and/or circling, which indicate that your pup needs to “go” – when you see this behaviour, take your pup outside immediately. In the early stages of training, reward your pup every single time he eliminates outside, but gradually reduce rewards as the behaviour becomes more consistent.

If you follow the above guidelines and are consistent, encouraging and patient, you’ll have a house-trained dog in no time!


Note: The tips on this website are general in nature, and A Capable Dog acknowledges that all dogs are individuals. For professional advice, diagnoses and treatment options for your specific dog, consult with your trainer, veterinarian or other animal health practitioner.


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