House-training Basics



The amount of time it takes to house-train your puppy is primarily dependent on you.  If you do it right it shouldn’t take long at all, perhaps just a few weeks.  Dogs are unique – some “get it” right away and others don’t get it quite so fast.  

The most important thing to remember when house-training your puppy is that unless you actually catch him in the act of having an accident in the house you should NOT punish him or yell at him.  Above all, do NOT take him to the spot and put his nose in it or show it to him.  First of all, if he had an accident it is your fault, not his.  You should have been watching him more closely.  Secondly, he will have no idea why you are mad at him.  He’s gone potty hundreds of times before and been praised for it.  He does not fully understand the concept of “place” yet, so punishing him for something that is natural (going potty) only confuses him.  Just clean it up and forget it.    If you do catch him in the act, quickly but calmly pick him up and without raising your voice, say NO! and take him outside.  When he finishes, praise him.

Most puppies will go into a “pre-potty” routine.  Some of the common signs that he is getting ready to go potty are sniffing the floor and circling an area.  Watch for these signs and go outside immediately!

If you are crate or cage training your puppy there are a few important things to remember:

  1.   Make sure your crate/cage is properly sized for your puppy.  
  2.   Do not put food or water in the cage.
  3.   Take your puppy outside immediately after you open the cage.
  4.   Whenever your puppy is not being watched by a responsible family member he should be in the cage.  You might also want to have a leash on your puppy and loop it through your belt or keep it on your wrist so he can’t wander off to go potty when you aren’t watching him.
  5.   Like most training, house-training is about consistency & positive reinforcement.  Use specific commands to tell your puppy what you want him to do and use the same command all the time.  For example, say “Outside” when it’s time to go out to potty.  Once you’re there, pick another word or short phrase like “Hurry Up” or “Find a spot” to have him do his business.
  6.   If you keep your puppy leashed when he is outside you will make certain he is actually going potty when he is outside.  If we just let the puppy out in the yard unattended, he may easily get distracted and forget to go.   Then when he comes back inside and has an accident we can’t understand it!  He was just outside!!  
  7.   As soon as your puppy goes to the bathroom, praise him!!  Let him know that was exactly what you wanted him to do.  Then take him back inside right away to that he only associates the word “outside” with going potty.  A few minutes later you can take him out to play, if you wish.
If your puppy does have an accident in the house it is extremely important that you thoroughly clean the area with a product specifically made to clean pet stains and odors.  If you don’t use a product for pet accidents, even if you can't smell an odor, your puppy can and he will return to that spot again and again.  To him it will smell like it is “OK” to eliminate in that place.  

Remember, until your puppy is accident-free, he is not house-trained.  Even though you thought you were about done with this stage, you must go back to the same level of monitoring and training you were doing at the beginning of the training.  Be patient!  Don’t lose your temper.  You’ll get there.  The better job you do, the better your puppy will do.


Renee Jones, CPDT-KSA, is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).  She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and

Questions about this article, training or non-emergent health concerns are welcome. Renee can be reached most days from 9am – 5pm Central Time (Mon-Fri) at 1-800-JEFFERS (533-3377) ext 381 or by email

Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.

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