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Avoiding a Life of Pee Pads: How to House Train Your Puppy

House training your new puppy is challenging and exhausting while you are "in it". It is so important to be consistent and diligent during these first few weeks after you bring home a new puppy. You will find that if you set them up to succeed, you are more likely to see the results you want. As they grow, increase their bladder and adjust to being in your home, they will have less and less accidents and house training becomes a thing of the past.

If you are new to dog ownership, follow the tips below; and if you are having trouble finding success, see if there is a tip you can use to adjust your approach.

100% Supervision: Arguably, the most important, you must have eyes on your dog 24/7. If they wake up from a nap, take them out. If they start to sneak behind the couch, follow them, then take them out. If you have to go upstairs and leave them, take them out first. If you have to shower, keep them in the bathroom with you!

Watching them 24/7 is the best chance for success in preventing accidents, noticing signs, and being consistent in where you take them out. When you are a couple of weeks into house training and you only have a few accidents a week, I would much rather hear a client say "I watched them do it, I just missed it!" than "I came back from the other room and he had peed". If you miss the accident, then you have missed your opportunity to train.

Give Your Dog Access to a Small Area of the House: When you come home, set them up in a portion of your house where you can see them 24/7 (I am setting you up for success in being able to supervise them 24/7!). This area should be central to the activity in your home and it should be dog proofed. For example, don't set them up in the living room where you have expensive chairs and a nice, antique rug!

"Max, do you have to go out?" "Yes, hurry up!"

Be Consistent About Going Outside: Dogs THRIVE on consistency. It helps them understand what we expect of them, so your entire process of taking them out should be the same every time.

- Use the same door to go outside

- Use a leash: If you don't use a leash, you'll have a hard time fighting every distraction in your yard!

- Pair a word with the behavior: Say the same thing before you go outside. "Max, do you have to go out?". And, then when Max goes the bathroom, I say "Yes, Good Out".

Positive Praise: When your dog goes to the bathroom outside, in addition to pairing the behavior with a word, you can utilize your tone and body language to show that they did a good job and pleased you.

If your dog has an accident in the house, simply clean it up and move on. You can not explain to your dog that you are yelling at them for going to the bathroom in a spot you do not like. The positive praise reinforces them going to the bathroom outside, but the punishment does not explain to them what you want them to do.

Note About Treats

I do not use treats for rewarding going to the bathroom and I don't think you need to either. Here are the two main reasons why:

  1. You are not teaching them the behavior of going to the bathroom, you are teaching them where to go to the bathroom; and that comes with consistency, their growth, and your control of where they are allowed in your home

  2. It is hard for them to understand the association between the act of the going to the bathroom outside and your treat.

Short trips outside to communicate you are NOT playing!

Bathroom Trips Outside are Short: One of the most common questions I get when it comes to house training is "My dog was outside playing for 45 minutes and then came in the house and peed! Why didn't he pee when we were outside?"

I recommend separating bathroom trips from play trips. Bathroom trips are two - five minutes. You follow your routine above, you go outside for a few minutes, and if they don't go to the bathroom, you come back inside. After you come inside, you watch them. If they start to show you signs again of having to go to the bathroom, you repeat the steps above. They are learning that it is bathroom time, and you are keeping them from getting distracted.

Note About Crates

Any time you put your puppy in the crate, follow these steps for setting them up for success:

  1. Take them out before you put them in the crate

  2. Take them out after you take them out of the crate

  3. Start with short amounts of time in the crate where you find success of no accidents and then make crate time longer

  4. Put them in tired

  5. If you put your dog in a crate at night and don't take them out again until the morning, use a play pen to surround the crate so they can leave the crate and pee outside in the play pen and go back to sleep in the crate (You can use pee pads in the play pen to make your clean up easier! But, once you start seeing clean pee pads, I recommend taking them away.)

This should help get you started, and help you gain traction if you're having difficulty. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to comment or email


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