Bringing home a new dog is tons of fun! But those first few weeks can be quite the hassle. Both you and your pup have to get used to life with each other. For most puppies, this means learning where they should – and should – not pee!
You'll lose the rose-colored glasses of puppyhood fast if your house starts to smell like a kennel. Some dogs just don't know where they are supposed “go.” Others are trying to claim various possessions by sprinkling them with their signature scent. Either way, you're probably going to want your pooch to not pee in your house.
Teaching canines to only pee outside is called “housebreaking.” It's pretty standard for puppies to learn this hygienic habit, but sometimes an older dog will have to learn it too. This is often the case of rescue dogs, or dogs who have lived their entire life outdoors.
The goal is to help your four-legged friend understand that peeing should only happen when the dog is out of the house. Eventually, you can even train your dog to pee on command! But you've got to crawl before you run. Most pups will need to start at the very beginning of housebreaking. And the whole process may take several months to perfect!
To help you on your puppy-potty-training journey, you're going to need a few things. Below are a few essentials to help get the job done.
It's important to mention that in rare cases, your pooch might be peeing inside because of a health problem. Take the dog in for a check-up to be sure all is well.
Following are some of the best tried and true ways to teach your dog to keep the urine on the grass and off of the carpets. No matter which one you choose, remember that consistency is key!
Bentley has been trained to go outside or use a pee pad when it's cold out but when he gets scared he'll do his business in the house. This usually happens during thunderstorms and we won't notice the spot until much later. How do we calm his anxiety so he's not peeing in the house? And how do we let him know it's wrong to do so even when he's scared?
Hello Ashley, Thunderstorm phobia is unfortunately a common problem for many dogs. To help him remember to not pee in the house I would begin by making him a safe enclosed area in the house, where he can feel secure and have a potty area on the pee pad close by. Many dogs feel safe in closets or bathrooms or inside of their crates during storms. Pay attention to where he tends to go when scared and if possible set up an area for him there that includes a pee pad, a bed, and something he can hide under, such as a crate with a blanket over it, a cardboard box, or a piece of furniture. Keep this area separated from the rest of the house so that he is less likely to eliminate in other places that are further from the pee pad when you cannot pay attention to him. When you are with him you can distract him from his fears by playing with him or having him perform his tricks for food, if he is food motivated. It is important to act confident, calm, and happy around him when it is storming, pitying him or acting angry can encourage him to be more afraid. Once he is acting happier and more relaxed, take him to his pee pad and encourage him to go, if he does give him another treat or play a game. Pay attention to how long it has been since he has eliminated last and if enough time has passed then take him to his pee pad area again and encourage him to go and reward him. You may need to help him relax right before with training rewards and play. If you work on telling him "Go potty" every time you take him to the bathroom when it is not storming, and reward him for going then, then you can use that phrase when he is on the pee pad during a storm to remind him what to do then. Some people also find success using the Thundershirts for dogs, or talking to their veterinarian about medication that can be used during a storm for severe anxiety, or by getting a dog use to the sounds of thunder gradually ahead of time by playing a recording of a storm very quietly and rewarding with play or treats and very gradually increasing the volume over time if the dog is relaxed. I hope Bentley feels better during storms! Caitlin Crittenden
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I work Monday through Friday 8-5 and am having a hard potty training my dog. I don't have consistent help at having someone to him out on the daily. Also, every time he gets super excited(often) or if he's scared, he'll unrinate..
Hello Zak, At four months Parker is struggling because he is only able to physically hold his bladder for about five hours during the day, and that is assuming that he completely understands that he is supposed to hold it while inside, which he may not. A general rule of thumb is that puppies can hold their bladder for as many hours as they are months in age plus one. So being four months old, Parker can hold it four hours plus one, equaling five hours. Because of this, the only way for him to learn at this age is for him to be taken out before he reaches five hours. Dogs naturally will try to keep their crates clean if the crate is small enough that they cannot eliminate in one end and then hang out in the other end without touching the poop or pee. After dogs have been forced to eliminate in their crates too many times many dogs will loose that instinct to hold their bladders while in their crates. If that has already happened then potty training will take longer, if it has not happen yet it is essential that you hire someone like a dog walker to let him out to go potty midday to prevent that from happening. If he is crated with an interesting chew toy such as a kibble and peanut butter stuffed Kong that has been frozen overnight, then he can self entertain and sleep in his crate throughout the day, and will likely attempt to hold his bladder until the dog walker takes him to go potty. This will encourage him to only go outside. He needs to build a habit of peeing outdoors. The more successes he has outside and the less accidents he has inside, the quicker potty training will go. Crate training and finding someone to let him out will be the quickest way to train him, the other option is to teach him to potty in a designated area inside and then transfer that area outside later, when he can hold his bladder for longer. Since I am guessing he is a small dog, you can use an exercise pen, also called an X-pen, set up in a circle somewhere without carpet, such as a kitchen or large bathroom. Connect his crate to the X-pen wall securely so that he can go in and out of his crate from inside of the X-pen, or place his entire crate inside the X-pen if it will not connect securely. Now create an elimination area inside of the X-pen, away from the crate. For a dog this size I actually recommend using an open cat litter box with a layer of grass sod or kitty litter or other natural, but non toxic, material that can mimic the outdoors but be scooped or changed as needed. You can also place a puppy pee pad in there. Pee pads work well for attracting a dog to that area to eliminate but do be aware that because of the material that pee pads are made of some dogs will also learn to eliminate on other fabric type material such as door mats or even carpet. This is not all dogs but there is the risk. When you are home, work on walking Oliver on leash over to his X-pen toilet area at a time when he is likely to go. Puppies typically need to go if it has been a couple of hours since they last eliminated, if they have just woken up, if they have been playing or getting excited, have just finished eating or dranking water, or just finished exercising. After he has just woken up from a long nap in the crate that would be a likely time. When you have directed him to the area on leash gently, then tell him "go potty" while he is standing there, and give him time to sniff around. If he goes then praise him and offer him three tiny but tasty treats, one at a time. If he does not go, place him back in the crate and try again in thirty minutes. Repeat this process until he goes there. You can also further encourage him to go by spraying a special spray that smells like urine onto the bottom of the toilet area right before taking him over or placing one of his own small feces from outside, to make the area smell like a toilet to him. It sounds gross but it can really help until he learns. Most large pet stores will carry the spray, you can ask the store clerk where to find it. Once he is regularly eliminating there, then when he is older gradually move his toileting area closer and closer to where you want him to be eliminating outside, until you can remove it entirely. After he learns to go in his potty area, then any time when you are home do still take him outside on leash to eliminate so that he will be learning that as well to help the transition later on be easier. When you take him outside, repeat the same things you did to teach him to eliminate in his potty area. Lead him to where you would like him to go on leash, to prevent him from becoming distracted, tell him "go potty" to teach him to go on cue, and when he goes praise him and deliver three small treats, one at a time. It will help to keep a container of small treats by your exit door, so that you can grab some every time you take him outside while teaching him. For the peeing while excited or scared. That is what is called excited or submissive peeing. Many young dogs go through a period where they will do that. The best thing to do is to come in the house very calmly and ignore him until he has calmed down. Take him potty without speaking to him or getting excited and then once he has gone potty and calmed down then you can love on him and say hello. Many dogs will grow out of this behavior if you can prevent it from turning into a habit. To prevent that, you simply help him remain calm during times when you know it will be hard for him to hold his bladder, such as after you have been gone all day and he is excited to see you and his bladder is full. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Since we’ve had June, she’ll sneak off and do her business in the house before we even realize it.
When we adopted her, she had been returned to the shelter twice. We are guessing that she was never trained in peeing in a proper spot (outdoors). We were hoping she’d eventually learn but it seems maybe once a week she’ll pee and or poop in the dining room (which I have told my parents needs to be closed off).
At this point I don’t know what to do.
Hello Dianne, you are probably right that June was never taught to pee outside. She could have also been improperly taught to pee on puppy pee pads, but it was not done correctly so she associates peeing with the indoors. I would treat her like a puppy that has never been housebroken. First you will need to clean all of the areas that she has previously eliminated on with a pet specific enzymatic cleaner. Look on the bottle and make sure that it says that it contains enzymes, because it is the enzymes that actually break down the protein in the poop and pee that the dog can smell even when we humans cannot. Also be sure to avoid any cleaners containing ammonia because ammonia smells like urine to a dog, and can actually encourage them to eliminate in the cleansed spot again. Once things have been cleansed, create a small enclosed area for June to be in whenever she cannot be completely supervised. A crate is the best place because it will utilize a dog's instincts to hold their bladders while in their den. The crate will need to be small enough that she cannot eliminate in one end and sleep in the other. but large enough that she can stand up and turn around comfortably. If you have a large crate already, you can block off part of it the make it the correct size. An exercise pen with a crate inside or a small room like a gated off bathroom without any rugs or carpeting may work if she tends to hold it in areas that size also. While she is in this space you can provide her with puzzle toys with kibble inside or with Kong chew-toys stuffed with food to keep her entertained. She will need to be taken to go outside very often at first, as often as every two hours if someone is home with her and able to supervise her completely while she is loose in the house. While crated she may be able to hold it for as long as five or six hours, but the more times that she successfully eliminates outside, the quicker this process is likely to go. When you take her outside, take her on a leash to an area where she has eliminated in the past so that the smell will encourage her to go. Tell her "Go Potty" or a similar simple word or phrase that she will learn to associate with going. Stand still and give her time to sniff around and think about what to do. If she just sits, then you can take a couple of steps every time she does it to get her interest again, but then stand still again and let her sniff. If she goes, praise her enthusiastically as soon as the finishes and offer her four tiny but flavorful treats, one at a time. Taking her on leash will help her to not get distracted while outside. Once she has eliminated she can go play if you would like, but not before. If she does not eliminate while you are out there after seven minutes, then bring her back inside and put her in her small area for forty five minutes. After forty five minutes try taking her outside again. Repeat this until she eliminates outside. If you try to enclose her in the small room or exercise pen instead of a crate, but find that she eliminates there too, then she will have to be in a crate for this to work. You can experiment though. The idea is to teach her that eliminating outside is very fun while also teaching her to hold it while inside by utilizing her instincts to keep her den area clean. The more times that she eliminates outside and less times that she eliminates inside, the quicker the process will go. It takes several times of eliminating outside to make up for one mistake inside, so if you do not feel like you can be vigilant watching her while she is loose in the house and taking her out every two hours, then either utilize the crate or have her on a leash that is attached to you so that she cannot sneak off while she is learning. Many dogs prefer eliminating on rugs and carpeting because it is absorbent so be especially vigilant around those. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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So I’m convinced my dogs aren’t very intelligent, I was always told dogs aren’t supposed to potty where they sleep “lay” well my dogs don’t seem to care they will poop and pee on themselves with no care in the world so kennel training has been completely horrible So we’ve tried puppy pads they chew them up I’ve tried feeding and watering them around the same time every day and not feeding or watering them after a certain time long story short I can not seem to potty train. My dogs at all I will take them outside FOR HOURS and the moment we come back in literally they will have a accident
Hello Stormy, Did your puppies come from somewhere where they were kept in a kennel or crate a lot? When a puppy or dog is kept in a confined space for longer than she can hold her bladder or bowel movement for, then she is forced to eliminate there and over time will loose the desire to hold it in such spaces. It's possible that was the case with your puppies before they came to you or there are also rare dogs that simply do not care. It sounds like you have tried most of the usual things, so I have a couple of more creative suggestions that you may need to try. For the first suggestion, they will need to wear what basically amounts to doggy diapers while indoors. This will hopefully take away the comfort of peeing inside and remove the continual smell they are adding to everything, and will break the habit of eliminating on items in your house. You can buy Belly Bands for boys and menstrual cycle diapers for girls, and place doggie feminine pads, which can be purchased at the pet store, inside, or you can even use human Maxie type pads for absorption. You can buy both disposable and cloth versions, your dogs will probably be less likely to eat the cloth type and it will save you money. At first you may need to have them wear Elizabethan collars to prevent them from tearing the diapers up. With your dogs outfitted, you will need to get a good pet odor eliminating spray. It needs to say that it contains enzymes. The enzymes are what break down the poop and pee enough for the dog to not be able to smell it. If your dog can smell it, the smell will encourage your dog to eliminate where the smell is over and over again. You will also need to take your dogs outside to potty as frequently as possible, ideally every hour and a half while teaching this, if you have that option. Be sure to take off the diapers and Elizabethan collars and to walk them on leash to a soft, ideally grass, spot. When one of them goes potty outside offer five treats, one at a time. The more accidents that you can prevent inside and the more that you can reward outside, the quicker your dogs will become potty trained. The second option that you can try is another type of indoor potty that resembles the outside environment more. To create this, enclosed your puppies in an exercise pen or very small room with a baby gate at the entrance, such as a half bathroom. Set up a no chew, non absorbent bed area. I recommend purchasing PrimoPads online, or something similar, for this. Then, on the opposite end of the enclosure, place a doggie toilet. You can either create a toiet out of a wooden or plastic box with a piece of sod grass wedged tightly inside, or you can try using a litter box with cat litter in it to train them. You will need to use an open top type litter box. You can also purchase spray that smells like pee to a dog. If you spray this spray onto the toilet area it will encourage your dog to go there. If you catch your dogs using the toilet area offer them a treat and gently praise them. Be careful not to startle them though. Once they are toilet trained in that area, if you do not want a doggie toilet to remain in your home you can gradually move their enclosed area closer to the door to outside, and then move the actual toilet gradually outside, and then deconstruct the toilet until your dogs are doing their business on the ground outside. If you have ever watched one of those movies where a dog owner, with a notoriously hard to housebreak dog, ends up getting their dog to pee outside by gradually transferring the dog's favorite peeing chair or pillow to a grassy spot outside, it's a bit of the same idea, as goofy as it may seem. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Atticus has (mostly) adapted to pad training, but lately has accidents on carpet when we let him out. Now that the weather has improved we would like to train him to go outside. Our challenge is that beginning next week, he will be alone from 8am to 4pm each day. A few things to note: He sleeps in his crate, has a large Pen complete with toys, comfy blanket, food and water.
How do we wean him off of the pads to only go outside?
Hello Nic, Atticus might be peeing on the carpet because the fabric type material reminds him of the pee pads. Some dogs will make this mistake, so it is best to remove the pee pads like you are planning on doing before that becomes a strong habit. There are a few things that you can do to remedy the situation. The first is to clean all carpets that he has eliminated on with a pet safe cleaner that contains enzymes. The enzymes are very important because without enzymes to break up the protein in urine and feces, your dog will still be able to smell it even though you will not. The remaining smell will encourage your dog to eliminate in the same spot over and over again. Also avoid cleaners containing Ammonia because Ammonia smells like urine to a dog. Once you have cleaned the areas then there are a few other things to do. For next week while you are away, you can create a potty area that resembles your yard better and eventually move that potty area outside. To do this I recommend getting a cat litter box tray or something harder that your dog will not chew up, if he will chew that. Fill the tray with a piece of sod grass, or if your dog will eliminate on it, cat litter. The idea is for the "Pee Pad" toilet area to no longer look like fabric but like something that your dog will only find outside. The grass will also smell like outside which will help later. Place the toilet area inside of the Pen area with your crate. Your dog can stay in his pen while you are gone from eight to four. Be sure to also give your dog interesting toys to keep him entertained. I highly recommend stuffed Kong toys, or something similar, because it keeps your dog entertained for longer and discourages barking while you are away. Your dog cannot chew and bark at the same time. When you are ready to begin Potty Training outside then I would use the Crate Training Method and The Leash Method to teach your puppy to eliminate outdoors. To do this, place your puppy inside the crate whenever you cannot directly supervise him. Be aware that at three months of age he will not be able to physically hold his bladder for any longer than four hours during the day, even in the crate. If you force him to hold it longer than he is able to inside the crate, and he eliminates in the crate too often, then he will eventually loose his desire to keep his crate clean and you will no longer be able to house break him with the crate. With your puppy staying inside the crate, take him outside to go to the bathroom, on the leash, every one and a half hours whenever you are at home for a month. As he learns to go potty outside and is no longer eliminating inside at all, then you can gradually increase that time. When you take him outside, tell him "Go Potty" and let him sniff, and when he eliminates outside, then praise him and offer him several tiny treats, one at a time. If he does not eliminate, then bring him back inside after seven minutes and put him in the crate for thirty minutes. When the thirty minutes are up, take him back outside on leash to try again. Repeat this until he goes potty outside. After he goes potty, then you have two options. You can give him freedom in the house while watching him closely for forty-five minutes. After the forty-five minutes, put him back in the crate until it is time to take him again, so that he is not loose with a full bladder. Your other option is to attach him to yourself with a six or eight foot leash, so that he is always supervised and cannot sneak away to eliminate on the carpet. I suggest this method in your case, so that you will be very attentive to his signals that he needs to go outside, so that he cannot sneak away to eliminate on the carpet, and so that he will be with you at all times to help him learn how to alert you when he needs to go outside. Watch for any signs that he needs to go, such as trying to sneak away, circling, sniffing the ground, whining, pawing at you, or barking to get your attention. In general the more accidents that you can prevent inside and the more successes that you have outside, the quicker house breaking will go. It takes several successes outside to undo one mistake inside. The hard work will pay off with a well trained dog down the road, and you are obviously looking ahead to plan for success which is great. Best of luck with training, Caitlin Crittenden
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We have a wee bit of a problem with our Vuki's peeing habits. This is the situation, we live on a rural property where he is completely free as a bird to go where he wants and play, run, explore, etc.. So he has acres of land to pee but he somehow pees ONLY in the workshop. Workshop is a big building away from the house where the tools, food for animals, vehicles, and various other things are stored. He has the freedom to pee wherever he wants but somehow he only does it inside of it, and in the most unfortunate locations (on electric tools and appliances, animal food, stored materials, etc, basically on all the things that can get bad/broken by fluids/amonia). Please how can we try and change his habit? Thank You
Hello Miodrag, He might have originally chosen to pee in there because of all the interesting smells in the workshop, and because of bad weather or wet ground outside that he wanted to avoid. Now that he has done it several times, his own urine smell is attracting him to the area again and again, and he has developed a habit of going in there, making it harder to break. You will need to remove all of the previous urine scent from the workshop by using a pet safe cleaner which contains Enzymes, in order to break up the urine, at a protein level, well enough for him to not be able to smell it still. Also, if you have any products in the workshop that contain Ammonia, such as cleaning solutions, then they are probably encouraging him to eliminate there also, since Ammonia in cleaners smells like urine to a dog. If the workshop is made out of unfinished wood or other absorbent material that is hard to clean, then removing the smell well enough is probably not possible, and it will need to air out over several months. If there are every any animals in or around the workshop, such as cats, rats, or raccoons, then their own urine and feces will encourage him to eliminate there. In order to teach Vuki not to eliminate in there, you would also need to supervise him very carefully every time that he goes inside the work shop, to prevent him from having anymore accidents, to take him outside frequently, on a leash to ensure he goes potty, and to praise and reward him with treats for eliminating outside, so that he will want to eliminate outside in the future. Since eliminating the smell and supervising him as closely as you would for potty training in a house might not be an option, the next best thing is to teach him to avoid the workshop altogether, to break his bad habit of going potty in there and to give him more opportunities to eliminate outside. Work on boundary training with him, to teach him to avoid the workshop perimeter. If you cannot supervise him while he is outside and teach boundaries using your body language, supervision, and rewards, then you will probably need to purchase invisible fencing, and create a "fence" around the workshop, and go through the process of training him how to avoid the area using the electric collar that corresponds to the fence. It would be the same idea as an invisible fence for your yard, except instead of keeping your dog in somewhere, it would keep him out of somewhere, in this case the workshop. You can also purchase a device called a "Pet Barrier Transmitter" that will emit a signal that corresponds with a collar, to teach him to avoid the area. I have not personally used those though, so I cannot speak toward their safety. Another option is to purchase a high quality manual electric collar or remote vibrating collar. Good brands are: Dogtra, Sportdog, Garmin, or E-Collar Technologies. If you choose to go this route, then you will need to hire a local dog trainer with experience using electric collars, to help you use the electric collar properly for electric collar boundary training. A good trainer will only use the collar on the lowest settings that your dog responds to well, that correspond to what he finds your dog responds to best when he carefully tests the levels on your dog. He or she will only use a high quality brand, not something inexpensive and dangerous from a website being shipped from China, and he will have lots of experience using electric collars. The training should also always be paired with great communication, so that your dog understands what he is supposed to be doing and avoiding, and lots of rewards for getting it right. I recommend only ever use an electric collar under the supervision of a qualified trainer, because when used wrong they can be dangerous, but they are extremely effective when used correctly and paired with great communication. Last, you could simply place a physical, wooden or metal fence around the workshop, or block off entrances into the workshop, so that your dog does not have access to the building. This last option is probably the simplest solution. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I got my puppy when she was 5 months old. She was doing fine with being housebroken but has started to has more and more accidents. What should I do? I reward her when she goes outside AMD punish her if I catch her. I dont know what im doing wrong. Please help !!!
Hello Autumn, There are a few things you can look into to see what the problem is. The first is to check what type of cleaner you are using to clean up any accidents. It should contain Enzymes, only enzymes will break down the protein in the poop and pee enough to eliminate the smell enough to not encourage your puppy to eliminate there again. Also avoid cleaners with Ammonia, Ammonia smells like pee to a dog. Second, look at your schedule, until a puppy is fully potty trained with no accidents for at least a month, she needs to be taken out very frequently. Every two hours for two weeks would be ideal, but definitely no more than four, unless she is crated. If she is crated then at seven months she should be able to hold it for six, possibly seven hours, but four hours would be much better. Crating encourages a dog to naturally hold their bladders for longer, because dogs do not want to soil the area where they sleep or eat normally. If she has had enough accidents in the crate, she will loose that instinct though. The crate needs to be large enough for her to stand up, turn around, and lay down, but not bigger than that. Extra room can encourage her to eliminate in the crate while still learning. Whenever she is free she still needs to be supervised. Only give her freedom in your home when she has eliminated outside during the two to three previous hours. All other times she should be confined to a crate when you cannot supervise her. Do this until she has gone one month without accidents, and is alerting you every time that she needs to go potty. Only increase the freedom gradually, and only continue to increase the freedom if she is remaining accident free. To ensure she stays with you you can tether her to yourself with a leash if she will not pull you over. Third, if she seems to be peeing very frequently, get her checked out with your vet for a urinary tract infection. That can cause urinary incontinence and frequent accidents and your pup will not be able to help it. Also, if she is on any medications like steroids, certain medications will cause urinary incontinence, so ask your vet about that. Last, if she is not eliminating in front of you easily when you take her outside, then the punishment for eliminating inside could be to blame. Some dogs will respond to certain forms of punishment by avoiding going potty in front of you anywhere, and by sneaking off to find somewhere to potty when you are not around. If you are not taking her out on a leash, but simply letting loose into your backyard, then she might be getting distracted and not eliminating while outside. The solution then would be to take her out on a leash or follow her, so that you can see when she goes. When she goes tell her "Go Potty" so that she will learn to go in the future on command when you tell her "Go Potty". If she struggles to alert you when she needs to go outside, then teach her how to ring a bell when she needs to go outside, and reward her for going potty when she does so. Check out these Wag! articles on how to teach that. https://wagwalking.com/training/got-potty-with-a-bell https://wagwalking.com/training/with-a-bell Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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