One of the most common cries for help we get from dog owners is how to house train. House Training is simple if dog owners have a plan, remain consistent and take the time to teach the puppy from the very first day it moves in. For the first couple of weeks, focus should be on teaching the dog where to go to the bathroom and manage the puppy’s environment to prevent mistakes.

The most successful way to house train a dog is to have a plan that includes the following tools:

1. A written schedule for all breaks, meals and quiet time
2. A journal of actual events
3. An evaluation process so the plan can be amended based on the puppy’s actual biological habits.
4. A clean up kit

When housetraining a puppy there are four things we should never do. (1) The puppy should never be left without supervision to roam around the house. (2) Never punish a puppy if things go wrong, instead owners should take note of their mistakes and carry on with the plan. (3) Don’t expect more from a puppy than it is physically able to do in terms of its bladder control and (4) never isolate the puppy by placing the crate in an unused or unoccupied area of the house.

The actual training plan consists of a daily written schedule. If you make notes against the plan, after a few days you will be able to see the puppy’s bathroom habits in correlation with their eating, drinking and sleeping habits. This will allow you to tweak your plan to suit the puppy’s needs. For example, if the puppy needs to go to the bathroom 10 minutes after she eats then the schedule should include a bathroom break to allow for this. You will get this information from keeping a daily journal, if you detail exactly what happens during the course of the day with your puppy you will have some excellent information to help the program along.

If the puppy has an accident in the house it must be cleaned up with a specialized cleaning product that removes and eliminates all odors. If odors are left the smell may encourage the puppy to return to that same spot. If a puppy mess is found in the house then this indicates at some point the puppy was not being directly supervised and we missed out on a wonderful opportunity to do some hands-on house training. If you catch the puppy in the act of going to the bathroom then pick them up (or lead them quickly outside) with a “NO” as you catch them. Take the puppy outside and praise them in a big way when they complete their bathroom break.

Until a puppy is four to five months old they do not have good bladder control. Young puppies have to go outside often. The crucial times are after they eat, sleep or drink. Many owners are unwilling to take a puppy out during the night but for a young dog this is essential. Most puppies will only mess in their crate if they are in extreme discomfort and we should never allow the puppy to suffer this way. We do not want our puppies to fail because of our poor housetraining management. We also do not want our puppies to develop habits of soiling the home or the crate as these bad habits are harder to resolve later on. It is easier and more efficient to create good habits from the first day.
Some owners use newspaper or puppy pads to help with the housetraining process. I try to encourage owners to avoid these training aids as they teach the puppy to go indoors. At some point the owner has to reduce the puppy pad or newspaper and relocate it outside, thus the training period could have been shorter if the outside habit was developed first. The exception to this is owners who have indoor dog toilets; these are great aids for small dogs living in apartments. Dogs can easily be trained to use these indoor aids and they are easy to clean and keep odor free.

Some puppies that have undeveloped bladders and get very excited will submissively urinate when owners greet them. If you keep the greeting with the puppy very low key this may help prevent the excited or submissive urination. There should not be a big commotion when owners arrive or leave. Complicated and emotional arrivals and departures can generate anxiety for dogs and this can lead to other problems later on in life for those dogs that do not like being left for long periods of time.
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