House Training Your Puppy

A Few Weeks of Work for Long-Term Success

The Key is to Limit Her Space

The most efficient way to house train your puppy is to limit her space using an appropriately sized crate, 6-foot leash, or a small area of confinement in your home. By limiting your puppy’s space, not only will you drastically reduce the number of accidents in your home, but your puppy will also develop a signal (whining, scratching at your leg, scratching at the door, sitting by the door, etc.) that lets you know she needs to go out.


Puppies are hard wired not to eliminate where they have to eat, sleep and hang out. Crate traininglong term confinement, and keeping your puppy tethered to you or a piece of furniture with a leash capitalizes on this hard wiring.

Herman was a board and train dog who lived with us for house training. Here he is enjoying being in the kitchen with us and is tethered in order to limit his space.

Your puppy can be wherever you are and can have fun things to chew on and play with, but she must be tethered to something to prevent her from wandering off and eliminating in another room. If you are not able to watch your puppy for even a quick minute (i.e. jumping in the shower, answering the phone, cooking dinner), then crate her or untie her leash and take her with you.To tether your puppy, attach her to a 6-foot leash (very small dogs may need a shorter leash) and tie her to you, or to your chair at the kitchen table, or your desk.

When you have your puppy tethered or confined your job is to be observant about her behavior. When you notice a change in behavior like barking, whining, pulling at the end of the leash, or frantic/agitated looking behavior, immediately take your puppy by the leash, say “outside”, and get her outside to her potty place as quickly as possible. You may need to carry very young puppies out to their potty spot if you find that they potty while you are en route to the door or the potty area.

Steps for House Training

Step 1. Confine your puppy’s space inside. When you see the behavior change, immediately take her outside.

Step 2. Take your puppy outside on the leash and to the same place every time.  Puppies are easily distracted, so be patient. You must go outside with your puppy to be sure that she has eliminated. Carry very young puppies outside. Use a leash so the puppy doesn’t have the option to use this outing for playing or running around.

Step 3. If your puppy doesn’t potty within 3-4 minutes, bring her back in the house, put her back in her crate or on her tether for 5-10 minutes and then try again.

Hint: If your puppy comes inside and eliminates (after being outside), you need to either stay outside longer or limit her space when she comes inside. Puppies that come in and immediately potty were too distracted outside to eliminate.

Step 4. After your puppy successfully potties outside (she must both pee and poop) only then is she allowed to be free in the house. This freedom will only last for 15 – 20 minutes and then she needs to be crated or tethered again.

Simple Rules for House Training

Take your puppy to her potty place first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, right after meals, naps, or play sessions, and when she comes out of her crate.

Until your puppy is perfectly house-trained, always go outside with her and watch her potty so you can confirm she actually went.

Supervise your puppy when she is not crated, tethered or confined. If you must take your eyes off her, even for a minute, crate her or put her in her confinement area.

Try to feed your puppy on a regular schedule so her pottying habits are predictable.

Do not restrict water.

As your puppy is in the process of pottying you can say “Go potty”, “Do Your Job” or any other phrase you like, to help your puppy learn a potty phrase. Your puppy must be in the process of pottying when the words are introduced.

If you observe your puppy sniffing, circling, barking, whining or acting agitated or frantic in the house, take her out immediately. Each puppy has her own behavior signals that indicate she is thinking about pottying. Be observant so you can learn what your puppy’s signals are.

Avoid using newspapers or indoor pee pads if you ultimately want your puppy to potty outside. Newspaper and pad training teach your puppy that the right place to potty is inside, and will increase the amount of time and work needed to house train your puppy to go outside.

Keep her leashed and with you in the house. A 6’ leash will act like a crate without having to crate her.

Keep a journal of pottying events, both successes and accidents. You may notice patterns that help you improve the efficiency of your house training.

What About Accidents?

Interrupt mistakes as they are happening. Say “Ah Ah!” to interrupt her, then pick her up and hustle her outside to the potty area immediately.

Don’t be too harsh, or your puppy will be afraid to potty in front of you even when you are outside.

Clean up the indoor mess with an enzymatic cleaner (i.e. Nature’s Miracle) to remove protein residue that might attract him to the same place again.

Never punish your puppy. If your puppy made the mistake one hour or five seconds ago, and you didn’t catch your puppy in the act to interrupt her, you are too late. You must catch her in the act for the interruption to work, and, you can’t do it too harshly or your puppy will be afraid to potty in front of you.

When Do I Give My Puppy Free Run of the House?

Not until your puppy is chew trained as well as house-trained. This can be as late as 12-14 months old.

Training Tips

You are doing your puppy a big favor with a few short weeks’ of confinement and crating. Once your puppy is house trained she can enjoy much more freedom and she will be able to visit other houses and places.

If your puppy is going potty in her crate, remove and clean any bedding, make sure she has pottied before you put her in her crate, and that she is not being left for too long.

At Everything Dog, we are happy to help you with house training, crate training, long term confinement or any other issue you are having with your puppy. Contact us and with your questions and concerns and let us help!

Denise Mazzola

Denise Mazzola


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