3 min read

3 Key Secrets to House Training a Puppy


Written by Darlene Stott

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 12/15/2020, edited: 10/26/2022

House training a puppy is hard work. At times, it seems like you'll be cleaning up messes forever. But with a little patience and these tips, your pup will get the hang of it in no time. Below are some of the key secrets professionals use when house training a puppy. These tips are effective and simple enough to be used by non-professionals.

Clean up accidents well

You may be surprised to see that this is the very first tip, but there's science behind it. Have you noticed your dog likes to potty in the same area of your home, over and over again? That's because they're attracted to the place they "marked" with their urine. 

Dog owners may think they're cleaning the messes well, but your regular cleaning spray won't eliminate the pheromones in the dog's urine. You'll need to clean the area with soap and water as well as a urine-specific cleaning agent to keep your dog from returning to the same location.

Take your dog out often (and on time)

Having your dog on a strict schedule is so important when house training. Set a timer if you have to; just keep the same schedule until your pup can hold their water. A dog's bladder grows continuously until about 6 months of age.

Professionals estimate that dogs hold their water for 1 hour per 4 weeks of age until growth plateaus at about 6 months old. Theoretically, a 3-month-old woofer will pee every 3 hours at the very least. You should give your dog some leeway, especially if they're heavy water drinkers. We'd recommend taking a 3-month old dog out every 2.5 hours to avoid accidents. 

It doesn't matter how consistent you are on your days off if your pup is left alone for hours on your workdays.  Schedules only work when they're the same all the time. If you're going to be away for long periods, book a dog walker. You can find vetted dog walkers near you on the Wag! app. 

Praise your dog for pottying outside

Positive reinforcement is essential for willing your dog to pee outside. Consistent praise and treats will make them want to alert you when they have to pee rather than hiding to do it in the corner. With that being said, negative reinforcement like scolding or hitting your dog when they have accidents will only make them want to hide better when they have an accident.

Corporal punishment can also encourage peeing due to anxiety or fear, which is entirely counterintuitive to house training. Reinforcing good behavior is way more effective than disciplining them for bad actions. 

Other recommendations

Here are a few more tips to make house training a puppy go smoothly. 

Identify have-to-pee behaviors

Dogs commonly exhibit behaviors like whining, restlessness, sniffing, and circling when the need to go arises. Every dog has different tell-tale signs, and it's your job to figure them out. Pay attention to your dog and take them out at the first sign of urgency. Many accidents can be prevented by paying attention to your pet and acting fast when you notice these behaviors. 

Some dogs like to potty in peace

Many pet parents find success in tethering their dogs during potty breaks. Tethers will give your pet time to do their business and prevent you from walking your pee-shy dog for 30 minutes and having them squat on the floor when you return. Runners are "pawticularly" good for this purpose since they allow dogs more freedom than a regular cable. 

Control their access to water at night

Avoid waking up to a puppy puddle by taking up food and water bowls two hours before lights out. Limiting water intake is so effective that many pediatricians recommend this for children who wet the bed. Your dog shouldn't be thirsty if they have access to water all day and you put their bowls back down when they wake up.

Invest in a crate

Sure, crate training sounds scary, but the truth is it's effective. Most dogs find sanctuary in their crates and benefit from them in many ways. Crates help your dog learn to hold their urine since they don't want to eliminate where they sleep. Keep in mind that crates are not an alternative to schedules and dog walks since your dog will still have accidents if they can't hold it any longer. 

House training a puppy, like anything else, takes time to master. We hope these tips and tricks offer you a solution to those pesky accidents and help you and your pup find a schedule that works for you. With some persistence and a little praise, your dog will be pottying outside in no time!

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