How To Potty Train Your Puppy: Housetraining Tips, Tricks & More


Last Updated: January 2, 2023 | 12 min read | 2 Comments

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Bringing a new puppy into your home is, without a doubt, an exciting time. With your little fluffy bundle of joy comes a whole range of responsibilities that you commit to taking on from day one. And one of the most important of those responsibilities is teaching your puppy not to relieve himself inside your home.

In this article, we explain how to housetrain your new puppy. But what if you plan to rehome an adult dog from a rescue center? No problem, we have a few tricks up our sleeves! Later in this guide, we explain how to housetrain a senior dog.

Accidents do happen, so we’ve included a brief guide to show you how to clean up dog urine from carpets and wood flooring too.

How Long Does It Take?

Housetraining puppies is about patience, positive reinforcement, and above all, taking a consistent approach.

In general, it takes between four and six months to housetrain a puppy fully. However, some pups can take up to one year to learn what’s expected of them.

Your dog’s breed can be influential in housetraining, and any regimen should be accompanied by basic obedience lessons. Small breeds have smaller bladders and higher metabolism than larger pups. That means these pups will need more frequent bathroom breaks. Never ask a puppy or dog to wait too long between bathroom breaks. That will cause your dog to become stressed and upset if your pet can’t wait and has an accident.

Don’t worry if you have a few setbacks. Keep your approach consistent and be patient; you’ll get there in the end!

When Should You Start?

The best time to begin housetraining a puppy is when your new furry friend is aged between 12 and 16 weeks. By then, he should have good bowel and bladder control to learn to hold on until you’re there to take him outside to relieve himself.

However, your challenge may be greater if your puppy is older than 12 weeks and has become accustomed to relieving himself in a cage or a run adjacent to his kennel. In this case, you’ll need to totally change your pup’s behavior by using a reward, encouragement, patience, and plenty of repetition.

How To Housetrain – Step By Step

  1. To begin with, keep your puppy confined to a particular space. That could be in a crate, in another room, or on his leash. Once your puppy understands that he must go outside for his bathroom breaks, you can allow your pet more freedom to wander around inside your home without fear of accidents.
  2. Set a regular feeding schedule for your puppy. Remove your puppy’s food between meals.
  3. First thing in the morning, take your puppy outside to relieve himself. Throughout the day, take your pup outside every 30 minutes to an hour. Also, get into the habit of taking your puppy outside when he wakes from a snooze and after he’s finished a meal. Before you settle down for the night or go out, leaving your puppy alone, take your pet outside.
  4. Always take your puppy to the same place to relieve himself. That way, your puppy’s scent will mark the latrine area, and your pup will understand what he’s expected to do there.
  5. Until your puppy is housetrained, it’s essential that you stay with him when he goes outside. Keeping an eye on your puppy means that you will know what he has done, forewarning you if there’s more to follow later.
  6. As soon as your puppy has relieved himself, make a fuss of him or reward him with a treat.
  7. While your puppy is doing his business, use words that he will associate with going to the bathroom.  For example, you could say, “Go pee. Good dog,” or something similar. Eventually, your puppy will understand what that phrase means, and you can tell him that it’s time for a bathroom break wherever you happen to be.

Using A Crate

As a short-term measure, you can use a crate for housetraining your puppy. That will give you the chance to keep an eye on him for signs that he needs to go out. Crate training will also teach your pet that he needs to hold it until you open the crate and take him outside to his toilet area before he can relieve himself.

Here are some top tips on using a crate for housetraining:

  1. The crate must be large enough to allow your puppy to move around comfortably, stand up, and lay down, although it shouldn’t be so big that he can use one corner as a toilet spot.
  2. If you plan to leave your puppy in his crate for more than a couple of hours, fill up a no-spill water dispenser that attaches to the crate. Your puppy must always have access to fresh water so that he doesn’t get dehydrated.   It’s cruel and potentially dangerous to deny your puppy or dog a drink just so that he doesn’t need to urinate so often.
  3. A crate shouldn’t be used if your puppy is relieving himself in it.

There are several reasons why your pup is eliminating in the crate:

  • Your puppy has developed bad habits while living in his previous home.
  • Your puppy needs more access to the outdoors.
  • The crate is too big.
  • Your puppy may be too young to have good bladder and bowel control.

Learn When It’s Time To Go

When you’re housetraining your puppy, you’ll need to know the signs telling you that your pup needs to go out. If your puppy shows any of the following behaviors, he likely needs to relieve himself:

  • Circling around on one spot
  • Sniffing around on one spot
  • Whining
  • Scratching at the door
  • If your puppy does any of those things, take him outside immediately – he most likely needs to go!

Never Do These Things

Here are some things that you absolutely must not do when housetraining your puppy.

  1. Never punish your puppy if he has an accident. That will make your puppy upset and afraid of you, and you could only worsen the problem. It can also cause them to pee at your feet and become more nervous.
  2. If you find your puppy doing the dirty deed, clap loudly or say “Hey!” in a stern voice. That will let your puppy know that he’s done something unacceptable. Take your puppy outside immediately to finish, and then reward him with praise or a small treat.
  3. If you come across the evidence but didn’t catch your puppy in the act, don’t get cross or begin yelling at your pet. A puppy doesn’t have the mental capacity to connect an earlier event with your displeasure.
  4. When you take your puppy outside to relieve himself, don’t be in too much of a rush to bring him back inside. Puppies typically enjoy sniffing around and exploring, and coming back indoors too soon could result in an accident.

Housetraining Adult Dogs

If you take on an adult dog from a rescue center, you may find that he’s not housetrained. That could be because the dog was a stray, living on the streets, nobody ever bothered to housetrain him in his previous home, or he could be a long-term resident of the shelter and is accustomed to relieving himself in his cage or run.

Bearing that in mind, you may have concerns that housetraining your new canine companion is likely to be problematic. However, housetraining an adult dog is often a much more straightforward process than toilet training a young puppy.

So, when compared with a puppy, an adult dog has a greater capacity to “wait” for several hours before he has to go to the bathroom. That said, you should never force your dog to wait for too long.

Make sure that you allow your dog lots of opportunities to learn the rules of what constitutes acceptable toileting by taking him outside often. Choose a latrine area outside and always be consistent in taking the dog to that particular spot. Shower your dog with praise and treats when he goes in the right place.

Tips & Tricks For Adult Dogs

The key to successful toilet training for an adult dog is to begin the moment you bring your new pet home. Keep to the following routine, and it should take you about a week or even less to housetrain an adult dog.

  1. When you bring your rescue dog home, take some time off work to ensure that you’ll be around during the day. That will help your dog to settle down and bond with you, and it will also greatly assist you in housetraining your new pet.  If you’re not going to be around, hire a dog walker to call and let your dog out or ask a neighbor to pop in.
  2. Start developing a clear routine for your dog. Let your pup out first thing in the morning before he’s fed. Take him outside again at midday and again mid-afternoon. Remember to take your out for a final toilet stop before you settle him down for the night.
  3. Praise your dog lavishly whenever he gets it right by relieving himself at the appointed outside latrine area.
  4. When you take your dog outside to his designated bathroom area, praise him immediately, and reward him with treats when he performs. He needs to associate his toilet space with a good experience!
  5. Watch for signs that your dog needs to go (see above), and act immediately to avoid accidents.
  6. If you catch your dog in the act, clap loudly or say, “No!” Hustle your dog outside right away, and when he’s finished, praise him and reward him with treats.
  7. If you find the evidence but don’t see your dog doing the deed, don’t punish him. Dogs don’t understand “after the fact” scolding, and you could risk destroying any trust you may be building with your new pet.

From time to time, dogs suffer from tummy upsets such as gastroenteritis. An upset tummy can also be caused by a change in food and water combined with stress. If you bring home a dog from a rescue center, keep a close eye on his toileting. If you notice that he has loose stools or diarrhea, ask your vet for advice right away.

Clearly, an upset tummy can lead to toileting accidents that are distressing for your dog and you. Under these circumstances, it’s a good idea to keep your dog confined to a crate when you’re not around, just in case he can’t wait. Using puppy training pads, trays, or litter boxes to protect the bedding in your dog’s crate is a good idea too.

Using A Crate

Crate training can be a helpful tactic to use when housetraining an adult dog. Crate training works because adult dogs don’t like to soil their eating and sleeping space.

Make sure that the crate is roomy enough for your dog to move around and lie down in. Don’t choose a crate that’s too spacious, though, or your dog may decide to use one corner as a toilet area, which defeats the object of the exercise.

Situate the dog’s crate in an area of the house where he can see people. If you put your dog somewhere that he feels isolated, he could become stressed, which could exacerbate toileting problems.

Don’t keep your dog confined to his crate for too long. A new dog needs plenty of time to get to know you and orientate himself with his new surroundings. Keeping your dog shut in a crate all day will make him feel trapped and stressed.

The golden rule of crate housetraining is not to force your dog to wait too long. If your dog is forced to go to the toilet out of desperation, you’ll make housetraining your pet that much more difficult.

If you do decide to use a crate for housetraining your dog, you should only need to use it for a few days. You may even find that your dog will use his crate as a chill-out zone after he has been housetrained.

Cleaning Up Accidents

During the housetraining process, there are bound to be accidents, and unfortunately, dog urine is notorious for creating a smell that can linger for months.

So, here’s how to clean up dog urine from carpets and wooden flooring so that your home remains clean and fragrant!

Cleaning Dog Urine From Carpets

You will need:

  • Clean towels
  • Dish detergent (non-staining)
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled white vinegar

How to do it:

  • When you see the accident, immediately use clean towels to blot up as much liquid as possible.
  • Place a few drops of dish detergent and a little water on the area. Place a towel on the spot and step on it to absorb as much liquid as possible.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda over the soiled area, and leave it to sit overnight.
  • The following morning, spray the dry area with distilled white vinegar. Don’t worry if the carpet begins to “bubble” that’s the interaction of the compounds within the substances you’ve used to clean the stain.
  • Rinse the spot with clean, cold water. Blot the area with clean towels to dry it.
  • When the carpet is dry, vacuum over the area to lift the carpet pile.

What About Store-Bought Cleaning Products?

You can also clean pet urine from your carpets by using store-bought cleaning products that contain enzymes. We have found this Stain and Odor Eliminator to work well in our homes.

Enzymes are proteins that work by attaching themselves to the molecules that form urine, killing off the bacteria that feed on the urine. It’s the action of the bacteria that produce an unpleasant, lingering odor that’s so difficult to get rid of.

You don’t need to rinse the carpet or blot it after using an enzymatic cleaner. All you need to do is apply the product, allow the enzymes to do their work, and wait until the application dissolves and dries. However, you should be aware that serious stains can take several repeat applications of enzymatic products over a couple of weeks to completely remove the odor and staining from the carpet.

What NOT To Use On Carpet

Never use ordinary household cleaning products on your carpets. Many of these products contain bleach, chlorine, ammonia, and lauryl sulfate, which could damage your carpet, and are also harmful to pets.

What About Stubborn Smells And Stains?

Sometimes, a very large stain that’s been overlooked and allowed to dry can be tough to get rid of by yourself. In cases like this, your best plan is to contact a professional carpet cleaning company to tackle the job for you.

Pro cleaners have access to special chemical antibacterial deodorizers that are much more powerful than regular cleaning products. Also, professional cleaning companies use steam cleaning machines that penetrate the carpet fibers, leaving your carpets touch-dry and free from odors and stains.

How To Remove Urine From Wood Floors

The most important thing to remember when cleaning urine from wooden floors is to act quickly. If it’s left to its own devices, the urine will slowly seep into the wood and down into the seams between your floorboards. Although varnished and waxed wood does have some protection, untreated wood is especially vulnerable to permanent damage from urine.

You will need:

  • Clean rag
  • Scrubbing brush
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Enzymatic cleaner

How to do it:

  • Immediately blot up the urine with a clean rag or towel. Make sure that you get rid of all the liquid.
  • Next, make up a solution of white vinegar and warm water. Scrub the area thoroughly with the solution to eliminate any remaining urine.
  • Now, sprinkle some baking soda onto the stain. Allow the baking soda to sit there for a few hours. The baking soda helps to absorb and deodorize the odor of the urine.
  • Use clean water and a fresh cloth to wipe away the baking soda. As long as the urine didn’t soak too deeply into the wood, the stain and unpleasant smell should be gone.
  • Now, apply a spritz of enzymatic cleaner to the treatment area, ensuring that the whole spot is soaked. Leave the cleaner to sit on the floor as per the manufacturer’s instructions on the container. Repeat the process if necessary.

In cases where the wood has been very badly stained, you may need to sand down the area to gently get rid of the stain. Prime and finish the wood after sanding to give it protection from any future accidents.

Do not:

  • Never use harsh chemical cleaners on an unfinished hardwood floor. The bleaches contained in such products will damage the wood.
  • Don’t allow dog urine to soak into untreated wood. The urine will leave a dark stain that is almost impossible to remove.
  • Don’t allow other pets and your dog to have access to the stained area to keep them from ingesting the cleaning solution.

Why Is It So Important To Clean Up Properly?

Remember that your dog has a favorite toileting area outside your home. He finds that same place every time he goes outside by using his keen sense of smell. So, if your pet urinates inside your home, he will identify that spot as a new place to relieve himself, and he will most likely return to the same area.

That’s why it’s so important that you remove all traces of your dog’s urine from any area that you don’t want him to use as a toilet.

Final Thoughts

Housetraining a new puppy or an older dog from a rescue shelter needn’t be a hassle. Just follow the advice in our guide for a stress-free toilet training process that works!

  • Be patient and understanding, especially with young puppies and little dogs whose bladder capacity is only small.
  • Keep your training consistent so that the dog understands when he’s getting it right.
  • Don’t expect your puppy to last for more than a couple of hours before you take him outside to relieve himself.
  • Never lose your temper with your dog if he has an accident. Scolding your pet will only make him anxious and could exacerbate the problem.
  • If you have difficulty housetraining your dog, always seek the advice of a professional dog behaviorist and consult your vet to ensure there is no physiological reason for your pet’s problem.
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