Housetraining a puppy requires time, vigilance, patience and commitment. Following the procedures outlined below, you can minimise house-soiling incidents, but virtually every puppy will have an accident in the house, during this process (more likely several). It is part of raising a puppy; the more consistent you are in following the basic housetraining procedures, the faster your puppy will learn acceptable behaviour. It may take several weeks to housetrain your puppy and with some of the smaller breeds, it might take longer.
During housetraining your puppy should be always be in one of the following situations;
• In its crate, or containment area.
• Loose, but under your direct supervision.
• Outside at its toilet area or on a walk, again under your direct supervision.
Times and signals that may mean your puppy needs to urinate or defecate.
• Just woken up/ been let out of its crate or confinement area.
• Stops playing abruptly, wanders away from a play area.
• After eating or drinking.
• Sniffing with its nose directly on the floor.
• Circling, (possibly sniffing at the same time).
• Standing near or going to the door that it usually goes out of to urinate or defecate.
• Moving towards an area that it has previously soiled.
• About to squat!
Establish a Routine.
Puppies need a regular routine. Take your puppy outside frequently, at least every two hours, immediately after your pup wakes up from a nap, after playing and after eating. The optimum times to take your puppy outside to wee and/or poop are after sleep, play and feeding.
Praise your puppy lavishly every time your pup wees or poops outside. You must praise your puppy and give your puppy a treat immediately after your pup has finished weeing or pooping, not after your pup comes back inside the house. This step is vital, because rewarding your puppy for weeing or pooping outside is the only way your pup will know that is what you want it to do.
Choose a location not too far from the door to be the toilet spot. Always take your puppy, on a lead, directly to the same spot. Take your puppy for a walk or play with it only after it has weed or pooped. If you clean up an accident in the house, take the soiled rags or paper towels and leave them in the toilet spot. The smell will help your puppy recognise the area as the place it is supposed to wee or poop. While your puppy is weeing or pooping, use a word or phrase, like “be quick,” that you can eventually use before it wees or poops to remind your puppy of what it is supposed to be doing.
If possible, put your puppy on a regular feeding routine. Depending on their age, puppies usually need to be fed three or four times a day. Feeding your puppy at the same times each day will make it more likely that your pup will wee or poop at consistent times as well. This makes housetraining easier for both of you.
Do not give your puppy an opportunity to soil in the house. Your pup should be watched at all times when inside. You can tether your puppy to you with a six-foot lead, or use baby gates, to keep your puppy in the room where you are. Watch for signs that your pup needs to wee or poop, like sniffing around or circling. When you see these signs, immediately take your puppy outside, on a lead, to its toilet spot. If your pup wees or poops, praise your puppy lavishly and reward your puppy with a treat.
When you are unable to watch your puppy at all times, your pup should be confined to an area small enough that your pup will not want to wee or poop there, ideally its crate. It should be just big enough for your puppy to stand, lie down and turn around comfortably in. If not its crate, this area could be a portion of a toilet or laundry room, blocked off with boxes or baby gates. If your puppy has spent several hours in confinement, when you let your puppy out, take your puppy directly to its toilet spot and praise your puppy when your pup wees or poops.
Expect your puppy to have an accident in the house – it is a normal part of housetraining a puppy.
When you catch your puppy in the act of eliminating in the house, do something to interrupt your puppy, like make a startling noise (be careful not to scare your puppy). Immediately take your puppy to its toilet spot, if your pup finishes weeing or pooping there, praise your puppy and give it a treat.
Do not punish your puppy for eliminating in the house. If you find a soiled area, it is too late to administer a correction. Do nothing but clean it up. Rubbing your pup’s nose in it, taking your puppy to the spot and scolding your puppy, or any other punishment or discipline, will only make your puppy afraid of you or afraid to wee or poop in your presence. Animals do not understand punishment after the act, even if it is only seconds later. Punishment will do more harm than good.
Cleaning the soiled area is very important because puppies are highly motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or faeces. Do not use ammonia based products as they contain a chemical that may encourage your puppy to return to that area to wee or poop.
It is extremely important that you use the supervision and confinement procedures outlined above to minimise the number of accidents. If you allow your puppy to wee or poop frequently in the house, your pup will get confused about where your pup is supposed to wee or poop which will prolong the housetraining process.
Crate training your puppy may take some time and effort, but can be useful in a variety of situations. You can use the crate to limit its access to the house until your pup learns all the house rules, such as, what your pup can and cannot chew on and where it can and cannot wee or poop. A crate is also a safe way of transporting your puppy in the car, as well as a way of taking it to places where your pup may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your puppy to use the crate, it will think of it as its safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed.
Selecting a Crate.
Crates should be the collapsible, metal pen type. They are available in different sizes and can be purchased at most pet shops. Your puppy’s crate should be just large enough for it to stand up and turn around in.
The crate training process.
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending upon your pups age, temperament and experiences. It is important to keep two things in mind while crate training. The crate should always be associated with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps – do not go too fast. Your puppy should never be put in its crate as a punishment.
Step 1: Introducing Your Puppy to a Crate.
Put the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such a kitchen or family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Bring your puppy over to the crate and talk to it in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and it is fastened securely, so it will not hit your puppy and frighten it.
To encourage your puppy to enter its crate, drop some small food treats near it, then just inside the door and finally all the way inside the crate. If your pup refuses to go all the way in at first, that is okay, do not force it to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your puppy will walk calmly in to the crate to get the food. If your pup is not interested in treats, try tossing a favourite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or several days.
Step 2: Feeding Your Puppy its Meals in the Crate.
After introducing your puppy to the crate, begin feeding it its regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your puppy is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, put the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If your puppy is still reluctant to enter the crate, put the dish only as far inside as your puppy will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed your pup, place the dish a little further back in the crate.
Once your puppy is standing comfortably in the crate to eat its meal, you can close the door while it is eating. At first, open the door as soon as your pup finishes eating. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until your pup is staying in the crate for ten minutes or so after eating. If your pup starts to whine in an attempt to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving your puppy in the crate for a shorter period. If your pup does whine or cry in the crate, it is imperative that you not let it out until your pup stops. Otherwise, your pup will learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so your pup will keep doing it. (See notes below).
Step 3: Conditioning Your Puppy to the Crate for Longer periods.
After your puppy is eating regularly in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine your puppy there for short time periods while you are home. Call your puppy over to the crate and give your puppy a treat. Give your puppy a command to enter such as, “in your crate.” Encourage your puppy by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your puppy enters the crate, praise your puppy, give it the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to ten minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time, then let your puppy out. Repeat this process several times a day. With each repetition, gradually increase the length of time you leave your puppy in the crate and the length of time you are out of its sight. Once your puppy will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can begin leaving your puppy crated when you are gone for short time periods and/or letting your puppy sleep there at night. This may take several days or several weeks.
Step 4: Crating Your Puppy When Left Alone.
After your puppy is spending about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving your puppy crated for short periods when you leave the house.
Put your puppy in the crate using your usual command and a treat. You might also want to leave your puppy with a few safe toys in the crate. You will want to vary at what point in your “getting ready to leave” routine you put your puppy in the crate. Although your pup should not be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate your puppy from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Do not make your departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact. Praise your puppy briefly, give it a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly.
When you return home, do not reward your puppy for excited behaviour by responding to your puppy in an excited, enthusiastic way, keep arrivals low key. Continue to crate your puppy for short periods from time to time when you are home so your pup does not associate crating with being left alone.
Step 5: Crating Your Puppy at Night.
Put your puppy in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to wee or poop during the night and you will want to be able to hear your puppy when your pup whines to be let outside. Older puppies, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating does not become associated with social isolation. Once your puppy is sleeping comfortably through the night with its crate near you, you can begin to it move gradually, to the location you prefer.
Too Much Time in the Crate.
A crate is not a magical solution. If not used correctly, a puppy can feel trapped and frustrated. For example, if your puppy is crated all day while you are at work and then crated again all night, your pup is spending too much time in a small space. Other arrangements should be made to accommodate its physical and emotional needs. Also, remember that puppies under six months of age should not stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They cannot control their bladders and bowels for longer periods.
If your puppy whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether your pup is whining to be let out of the crate, or whether your pup needs to be let outside to wee or poop. If you followed the training procedures outlined above, your puppy will not have been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from its crate, in which case, try to ignore the whining. If your puppy is just testing you, your pup will probably stop whining soon. Shouting at your puppy, hitting, or banging on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you have ignored your puppy for several minutes, use the phrase your pup associates with going outside to wee or poop. If your pup responds and becomes excited, take your puppy outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you are convinced that your puppy does not need to wee or poop, the best response is to ignore your puppy until your pup stops whining. Do not give in, otherwise, you will teach your puppy to whine louder and longer to get what it wants. If you have progressed gradually through the training steps and have not done too much, too fast, you will be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.