Housetraining your new dog or puppy

You will need…

  • Crate only large enough for the puppy comfortably stand and turn around
  • Schedule for going outside
  • Treats for rewards
  • Good observational skills to prevent accidents
  • Patience


The puppy should be crated whenever you're away or can't actively supervise, i.e. when you're busy around the house, sleeping etc. This will help her/him learn to hold it so that you have success outside later. If you find the puppy is soiling his crate, the likelihood is that the crate is too large (the puppy can use part of it as a toilet).


You must provide the puppy with a set schedule for eating and for going outside. If you are away for longer than 4 hours, have someone come to the house to take the puppy out. Optimally, there is always someone at home during the housetraining period.

A typical puppy schedule looks like this:

  1. First thing in the morning
  2. A few minutes after each meal. This is often when puppies will have a bowel movement. You will discover your own puppy's rhythm.
  3. Every hour on the hour. Take the puppy outside on leash for five minutes in a small area. Always return to the same spot so (s)he begins to associate the area with its purpose. Don't interact with the puppy. Have a play period once (s)he is finished. If nothing happens after five minutes, bring her/him back into the house and crate her/him for another thirty minutes. Then try again. If (s)he does eliminate, (s)he may have a free period in the kitchen or confinement area, or, better yet, a nice walk. This acts as an added bonus for performing.
  4. During the night. A very young pup (6-7 weeks) may need to go out once during the night.


Every time the puppy eliminates outside, lavish him or her with enthusiastic praise during the act and follow with an extra special treat (a small piece of cheese, hot dog, etc.). If you find that the praise makes her/him stop in the middle of eliminating, save it until just after he finishes. Observational Skills Your puppy will give off signals that (s)he needs to eliminate. It's essential that you learn what these are so you can prevent mistakes. Common behaviors include circling, restlessness and sniffing. Whenever you see these, take the puppy out!


Don't lose your cool. Most puppies will have accidents, especially in the beginning of training. Since your puppy will be supervised at all times when loose in the house, you will be able to provide the proper feedback as the dog begins to eliminate or, even better, take her/him out before (s)he even starts.

If you catch her/him starting to eliminate inside, interrupt her/him with a sharp sound. This may even prevent her/him from finishing. Urgently say "outside" and then get the puppy there as quickly as possible. Stay outside for the 5-minute period and praise and treat if (s)he finishes eliminating. If not, bring her/him back inside and either supervise or crate her/him for another try later.

If the puppy has an accident in the house or in the crate and you did not see it happen, it is futile and even detrimental to punish her/him after the fact. Simply clean up the spot and then apply a commercial odor neutralizer or 50% mixture of water and vinegar. This will help prevent a certain location from smelling like an indoor toilet. Most importantly after any accident, vow to supervise more closely in future and/or add another outing to your schedule.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if there is no one to come home while I'm at work to let her/him out after four hours?
Try to find a doggy daycare that can provide your puppy with the attention (s)he requires during the first 4 months. The more accidents that go without feedback, the longer it will take to housetrain.

I follow the schedule but my puppy urinates several times an hour in the house! Is (s)he normal?
Have your veterinarian check whether the puppy has a urinary tract infection.

My puppy is four months old and still having frequent accidents. Help!
He or she likely has too much unsupervised, loose time in the house. Remember that each time (s)he eliminates in the house, (s)he is being de-trained. Tighten up your regime.

I want my dog to eventually go outside but I'm confused. Should I paper-train first and then later train her/him to go outside?
If you have access to the outdoors and your goal is for the dog to eliminate there, paper training is unnecessary. It's easier on the dog to not first teach her/him that it is okay to eliminate inside and then later change the rules.

I live in a high rise with a small dog. Is paper-training her/him okay?
You can permanently paper train the puppy (assuming it's a small dog!) in the same manner as outlined for outside training. All your trips will be to the paper, rather than outside. Choose one location for the paper. Just be sure to also take her/him for walks and outings so (s)he receives necessary exercise and socialization.

Reprinted with permission of the San Francisco SPCA

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