Housetraining a Puppy

by Melissa R. on March 6, 2013

Innocent looking puppy

Innocent looking puppy

When one gets a new puppy, one of the biggest issues is housetraining. I’ll share my experience with you.

Our puppy came to us at eight weeks old. A puppy this young really has very little, to no control over when and where they go potty. They just don’t have the control at this age. So expect to do a lot of cleaning up for a couple weeks, until they gain more control. The first few days can be the worst! I remember bending over to clean up some piddle…and then she would poop while I was doing that! Endless amounts of cleaning spray and paper towels… I thought it would never end. But it did (and we are now at 16 weeks old). Here is what we did.

  1. Establish a routine. This is what we did: when we got up in the morning (puppy is crated at night), put puppy outside to potty. She usually pees twice, and sometimes poops, too. Then inside to play. Then outside to potty. Then inside to eat/drink. Then outside 10 minutes later (or less!). Eating usually made her have to poop, so often it was IMMEDIATELY after she ate. We learned this quickly. Pretty much, we repeated this all day long.
  2. ASSUME your puppy has to go potty after they wake up, eat, drink, chew, or play. Really. After all of these things, all day long. You will be outside a lot. Good thing is, the longer it goes on, the less you have to go outside. The older they are, the more control they learn.
  3. WATCH for signs! A puppy that is playing happily then all of a sudden gets up and starts sniffing around…. Usually has to go potty. Our puppy had a distinct “Circling” behavior when she had to poop so we would watch out for that as well. Keep your eyes open to her signals and soon you will be able to get to them BEFORE they do it inside.
  4. Puppy go potty!

    Puppy go potty!

  5. Halt indoor accidents. Personally, I waited until our puppy was more like 10-12 weeks before I started this, because I didn’t feel she really had any control until then. When I did catch her going “inside”, I would CLAP my hands very loud, and say “AH!” scoop her up and set her outside telling her to go potty. The clap/ah sounds startle them into stopping what they are doing, and then you praise outside when the go potty in the proper area. We try to simply disrupt the unwanted behavior, and then praise the good behavior.
  6. Give them a command. When we first got our puppy, and would she potty outside, I told her “Good POTTY!” We kept this up for several weeks. Then, I would start saying “Go Potty” when we first went outside, and soon enough, she learned the word “Potty” and now when I say go potty, that is what she does. Some people use something like “Do your business” or “Hurry up” – which sounds a bit more dignified in public. 🙂
  7. Clean it up! When your puppy has an accident inside, be sure to use a stain and odor remover/cleaner that contains natural enzymes that break down stains and odors. Other cleaners may leave scents behind, or even enhance the odor of the urine. Some great cleanup products are here.
  8. Be patient. Puppies have a lot to learn and it takes time. Patience and persistence will pay off in the end!
  9. So, we are only two months in, but all is going well for us. Our puppy consistently goes to the door if she has to go potty, and we have not had any accidents inside for two weeks. Any accident we had prior to that was really my fault, for not paying attention or being lazy. Hopefully we continue along this path!

    About the author: Melissa is a devoted pet owner with several cats: Kai, Cirrhi & Ritter; and the newest addition, Emme a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. Melissa is an avid dog agility enthusiast, and hopes her new pup will someday be an agility champion! She is a Graphic Designer and Project Coordinator for the and websites. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Michigan State University and is a lifelong pet lover and owner. See more articles by Melissa R.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

larry the chihuahua August 21, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Great Post! Larry Likey

Pat M. (animal angel) March 21, 2016 at 2:44 pm

I guess this really isn’t a comment, it’s mainly a follow-up question. I have recently brought home two puppies out of the same litter. This is what I have done for the last three sets of pups that we’ve raised. They are males. I have NEVER had a problem training any of the other sets of pups, whether they were AKC or mixed breeds that I got locally from a “non-breeder”. I have always had the pups potty trained in two weeks at tops. I got these two pups at 8 weeks old. They are now going on 11 weeks. They are the hybrid breed called a “Bullador”, half AKC Lab and half AKC English Bulldog. Mom was a yellow lab. I have ssuccessfully crate trained them and they have no accidents in their crate, not even after 7 or 8 hours of sleeping! We go immediately outside when they wake up. I always say the words, “Go outside”. I take them to the same place each time and they immediately urinate, and I praise them highly and at first gave them treats as rewards. They immediately move over about 10 feet and want to defficate and I praise them again. They KNOW what I want them to do outside and and they do it when I know that they have finished I say “Inside” and we immediately go back into the house and straight to their crates when I say “In In” so I can remove their leashes. They have learned to sit down in their crates and wait for me to remove their leashes and I tell them good boys, give a small treat. and then when I say “OK” they know to they can leave their crates and either go into the kitchen to eat if it’s time, or into the living room to play. They are very smart and have learned everything so quickly and very well…. except…. without ANY warning, after just coming in from outside within just a few minutes, they will piddle on the floor even while they are playing or quietly chewing on a chew toy. This goes on all during the day and I take them out constantly always doing the same commands and praising the same way each time! I can be cleaning up one puddle and one of them??? (could be the same one again) makes another piddle on the floor again before I have finished cleaning up the other piddle. It’s not because I am training two at a time, as I said, I have successfully done that with no problems. I think I have figured out the reason,but have don’t know what do differently. The previous owners, as I said were not professional breeders, just left 8 puppies have the run of a 9′ x 9′ bedroom in a mobile home (which was the whelping room) and all the people did was dump more cedar chips on the floor rather than cleaning the messes up. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, other than it stunk horribly. After a week of seeing these two pups just relieve themselves wherever and whenever they wanted regardless of how many times I had taken them outside using my commands, I racked my brain trying to figure out what was wrong here. That’s when I thought of those 8 puppies never coming out of that small bedroom, which had also been completely destroyed by the puppies clawing and chewing, let alone the constant relieving themselves at will. Do you think that I have figured out the root of my house training problems and what can I do to get them to stop going inside if I never have a clue that they need to go out. I already routinely take them out at least every 10 to 15 minutes. I read that on another website that they might need to go out that often. I have to use a timer to keep up with it! The only time I can sit down is when they are in their crates! I didn’t get two adorable and otherwise very intelligent puppies into my home and heart to have them stay in a crate to keep them from constantly going to the bathroom on my floor. I do use a enzyme cleaner that completely eats away the urine or fecal odor so there is no “marking” of any kind. I also have a “pet style” heated steam cleaner that I use on our carpet every few days that also has that enzymatic cleaner in the solution and I am mopping up my very good grade laminate flooring every night before I can go to bed. I love them dearly, even only having them for three weeks now. Like I said, they are so intelligent, they love to learn and please me. Their little tails could not wag any faster when I praise them for doing something right. The know how to sit and stay, are leash trained, crate trained, come when called, even how for “Give me Five!” ( same as them giving me their paw on command. But this house soiling is physically draining me to death. They just don’t seem to get it at all when they are not in their crate. It’s impossible to run and grab them if you can’t even see that they are piddling on the floor. I have only caught each one of them a few times and said NO!, then scarfed them up and hurried to the door and said “Go Outside!” and got the outside to their spot. I have even put a gate up so they do not have complete run of the house. Do you think I have figured out why they are relieving themselves freely inside because of being allowed to do it in dirty cedar chips ever since they were born? They never left that room until the day I got them! What am I supposed to do??? HELP!! – Exhausted Pat

Briana W. March 24, 2016 at 2:13 pm

We recommend an examination with your veterinarian. By 11 weeks of age, puppies should be able to hold urine for more than 10-15 minutes. Your veterinarian will need to examine the puppies and likely run a few tests to determine if there is a medical/physical cause for frequent urination. If medical and physical causes are ruled out, then it is likely behavioral.

Pat M. (animal angel) March 28, 2016 at 2:42 pm

The vet has ruled out any physical problems and has agreed that it was probably because the pups were permitted to pee or pooh at will in the dirty whelping room. And with that room never being cleaned up, they have no idea that going inside the house is wrong. The thing that is driving me stir crazy is that they NEVER give a hint that they are about to “go” or need to go outside. They can just pee on the run while they are playing. I never leave them out of my site when they are out of their crates,but yet we still have puddles and once in a while, a pile of pooh on the floor. Just today, I took them outside as soon as they woke up from nap in their crates. We went to our “spot” and they immediately, without any prompting, relieved themselves. I never move from that spot and they are on their leashes so they they must stay and go right there. After about 5 minutes and they have finished doing #1 and #2,( I still highly praise them for being good boys for going outside” and then we go back inside. We are no longer in the house when the peeing starts up again! They never walk in circles, sniff the floor, NOTHING! IN less than 10 minutes, if that, I caught each of them one time in the act of peeing and instantly scooped them up, and take him outside to show him again too our “spot” and said, “Do it outside!” where he immediately manages a few dribbles, then after a few minutes, it’s back into the house, only to have this scenario repeated over and over all day until it’s bedtime! Just to get a break, I HAVE to put them back in their crate so I can at least sit down for a minute to catch my breath! I am no closer to having these two pups house trained than I was on day one and we are going on one month now ! I Have always had this job finished within two weeks! Our vet said that this may take several more weeks before they realize that they are not to go in the house. I am calling a dog trainer today to see what, if anything else I can do that I have not already tried. I have NEVER had to use a trainer for any puppy training or socialization. If I didn’t already love as much as I do, I would take them to a shelter to be adopted as outside only dogs, but I’d worry on how someone else would treat or mistreat them. I am exhausted and so run down that I just sat down and cried my eyes out a few minutes ago. I am even considering using puppy training pads, which I never thought I’d even consider! In training over 11 pups over the last 30 years, this has never happened! The vet told me that I am doing everything right, it’s from what the pups learned to do in that filthy whelping room. So, I guess I will call that trainer, only for this problem, which is the only one! Oh, my son adopted one of the other pups from this litter and he does the same thing! It HAS to be behavioral! Now, if their behavior for this problem can be changed ! Thank you for listening.

Melissa R. April 13, 2016 at 8:43 am

Pat, glad to hear your vet has ruled out any issues, that is wonderful news. I think involving a trainer is a great next step for you. Sometimes we just need a little outside eyes looking in to see things we are not. Best of luck and keep us posted. You just never know what the next dog is going to throw at us, do you? They sound like sweet dogs and kudos to you for all the hard work.

Pat M. (animal angel) April 14, 2016 at 11:15 am

Well, it’s been almost a month now and I’ve kept up the routione that I had been doing. According to the trainer, I am doing it all right, just keep doling it! The GOOD news is… just starting last weekend. 4/9, we went three days in a row with NO accidents in the house at all! NONE!! I can’t believe it!!! Now, there have been a couple of days that I thought they were going to revert back to going in the house every few minutes, but those were days that my husband had just come out of the hospital after being on there for 3 weeks and the change of him being here threw the pups and my routine off. We are now back on track and I am finally feeling that we are so very close to having this problem completely done and over with! I still expect a few accidents once in a while, but it’s like it finally “clicked” in their cute little heads what was expected of them for going outside! Thank you so very much for listening to me! I truly thought I was in over my head! I LOVE your Pet Blog. I have learned so much and it has given me the confidence to continue on when I thought our situation was hopeless! OK, time to take the pups outside to go and then out again to run off their energy in the finally warm sunshine! Thanks again! Pat

Melissa R. April 14, 2016 at 11:19 am

Bravo Pat! I am so happy to read the good news. Keep it up and we applaud you for all your efforts with these pups.

Pat M. (animal angel) April 14, 2016 at 11:22 am

I forgot to tell you that as of yesterday, 4/13, BOTH puppies are going to the back door when they need to go out…. MOST of the time! Toby is even scratching at the door. I am going to make a “door bell” with bells on it than hangs on the door knob and teach them to swat at it to ring the bells rather than scratch at the door to let me know they need to go outside! Made one for my son and his pup is using it!!! I think we are going to make it through puppyhood! Pat

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