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How to House-train Your Puppy

By using a puppy crate or confined area, and plenty of rewards for outdoor urination and defecation, you can successfully train your puppy to “go” outdoors.

For many new puppy owners, house-training is the first order of business, after lots of cuddling. It is also the first hurdle encountered by new puppy owners. The good news is that, unless the new puppy was previously confined for long periods in dirty living conditions, she will naturally tend to avoid doing her “business” in places where she must sleep or eat. This instinct is important when it comes to house-training. It’s also one of the reasons for acclimating your puppy to a crate, or some other small area for times when she can’t be supervised.

How Long Can She “Hold It”?

Even young puppies can be expected to “hold it” for at least a short period of time. As a general rule, that can translate to one hour for each month of age, give or take an hour. For example, your 3-month old puppy might easily resist urination for three to four hours and should be fine in the crate for that short time.

Probably because she sleeps for much of the time, she’ll often learn to stay dry overnight before she can repeat her performance during the day. If it’s necessary to leave her for longish intervals, your puppy shouldn’t be crated. Instead, consider the use of a baby gate to confine her to a slightly larger area, such as the kitchen or laundry room. This will still allow her to maintain a natural cleanliness because she can eat and sleep away from the areas where she has soiled.

To ease cleanup and train your new pup to urinate and defecate on a specific surface, place newspapers in the previously soiled area. The use of newspapers, so-called paper training, can be avoided altogether if you can take your puppy outdoors frequently.

Your Time – Your Responsibility

The best situation, of course, is to be home with your puppy, or at least to have a flexible schedule allowing home visits every few hours, until she’s house trained. She should be taken outdoors to a designated “toilet” area every few hours but if you take her too often she may become confused about the purpose of the visits. Immediately after urination or defecation, reward her with a small food tidbit.

If the toilet visit is unproductive, go back indoors after just a few minutes and restrict the puppy in a crate, gated area, or even on a leash near you for 15 minutes and then try again. With persistence, she’ll quickly learn to associate that outdoor area with elimination. Once she has urinated and defecated outdoors, she can have freedom indoors for a short time, at least.

Don’t Punish Your Pup

Because punishment can be both mentally and physically harmful to your young puppy, it should not be used during house-training. If you catch your pup in the act, a simple handclap will distract her so you can quickly move her outdoors to finish the job. If a mess is found after the fact, punishment will only confuse her. Instead of scolding, try to figure out how to avoid the accident next time. For example, perhaps other family members can watch her more closely the next time you’re busy with dinner.

With some time, patience, and the help of a crate or confinement area, and with rewards for using the outdoor “bathroom,” your puppy can be successfully trained to keep both her “den” and yours clean and dry.