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How to House Train a Dog

When it comes to puppies and adult dogs, the word training often has a negative connotation. We have heard of multiple cases in which dog owners either give up way too easily or end up treating training as a punishment. Dogs are often forced to behave a certain way and are yelled at if they don’t. Sadly, this sours the relationship between the pet and the owner. House training your pet should be a positive experience.

Border collie puppy potty training

House training your dog doesn’t have to be hard or negative. It can be fun! It can also strengthen your relationship and be a bonding experience. 

Commitment and patience are the two main ingredients to successful house training. Without these, none of the steps below will help. 

The following guide is tailored to puppy training, but we also have a few additional tips to help you train an adult dog. So, please make sure you hang on till the end.

Make It a Routine

We advise you to get started with house training quickly after bringing your puppy home. A regular schedule from an early age will make the entire process easy. Include grooming time, feeding time, napping time, playing time, and potty time in the schedule. The puppy will know, thus, when he should do what. 

Remember that bladder control varies with age, and you should never force your puppy to hold it in longer than that. Otherwise, no matter how strict your schedule is, he will have an accident. A rule of thumb is that the number of hours of control is equal to the month of age. A 3-month old puppy will be able to control for 3 hours, for example. 

However, to start off with, you should take your puppy for potty breaks very often. We recommend that you do it before playtime, after playtime, after eating, after waking up, and before sleeping. We understand this can be difficult, but as we mentioned, it takes commitment and patience, especially in the initial months. Once your puppy adjusts, it will be easier.

Another thing to note here is that the time that a puppy takes to adjust or learn can never be etched in stone. Just like humans, dogs are unique. Some may learn extremely quickly, while others may take a few weeks longer. It is absolutely okay!

Always Stick to Feeding Schedules

french bulldog puppy uses dog wheelchair

Puppies should be fed 3-4 times a day. Make sure the times are consistent. Fudging the schedule will lead to confusion, and nature will start calling out of the routine. Your puppy will have accidents, and you will have to deal with the consequences. 

If you are not going to be at home during feeding time, please make arrangements so that the schedule remains consistent. It is important to understand the importance of this step because it is the foundation that determines how quickly you can house train.

Become a Supervisor

At least in the first few months, constant vigilance is the key. Keep an eye on your puppy indoors so that you catch him just in time for an accident. Most puppies, once they know their designated place to relieve themselves, will show signs such as scratching the door or barking at it. Be aware of these signs and let your puppy out immediately. 

In the initial months, supervision will help you realize how often your puppy needs to go out. There’s a learning curve for both of you here.


Every aforementioned step will be easy when you have a few rewards up your sleeve. Dogs are very attached to their owners and love their attention. They look for ways to please them. You can use this to your advantage by rewarding them for a job well done. Praise your dog and give him a treat every time he poops outside. This will make him think of eliminating outdoors as a desirable action. He will, after a few rewarding sessions, continue doing the same. 

Also, puppies have a short attention span. Pretty much everything distracts them! Treats are the best way to attract their attention.

Just make sure that you praise them or reward them only after the act is done and not during or before. They won’t finish because they will get excited, and the whole purpose of the rewarding system will be lost.

Accept That Mistakes Happen

Diapers for Dogs

This, again, is just like the case of humans. Mistakes will happen, and that’s completely okay. But shouting or rushing to punish your dog is wrong. It is absolutely unethical, and we condemn it. Here are a few things you could do instead:

  1. Stop your dog during the act. You can do so with a startling noise (that alerts them but does not scare) and say sternly, “Outside!” Then, take your dog straight outside and wait for him to finish his business.
  2. If you were unable to interrupt, just let it go. Clean it up quietly without yelling at your dog the whole time. Make sure you clean it up quickly and thoroughly so that your puppy does not get attracted to the smell of urine or feces. Otherwise, he will continue soiling the same area.

How to House Train an Adult Dog

While most of the tips above will come handy even while house training an adult dog, there are a few specifics as well. We have enlisted them here for your convenience.

  1. Make sure there are no medical problems. Multiple medical conditions have the capability of messing with schedules. So, the moment you bring an adult dog home, you should make sure he is healthy and has no medical issues.
  2. See if the dog is anxious. Many rescued adult dogs have separation anxiety and fear due to poor treatment in the past. It is important to be extra patient and loving if this is the case because you will need to establish trust first. 
  3. If possible, check if the dog was partially house trained before or not house trained at all. This will help you sketch further steps. 

If You Are Confining Your Dog

Crate training is important, and like everything else, the crate shouldn’t feel like a punishment. It should be your dog’s safe abode. So make sure the crate is large enough for your dog to stand, sit, walk a little, and lie down comfortably. Also, make it a habit slowly and don’t restrict him when he is “bad.” Associating a crate with punishment will be disastrous, leading to behavioral issues and fear.

Also, while confining, never force your dog to hold it in longer than he can. It is cruel and impossible. He will soil his crate. Give breaks and keep the door open when he is out. Soon, he will look at it as his personal space. 

The Right Time to Potty Train a Dog

If you brought home a puppy, make sure he is at least 12 weeks old before you start training him. Before that, puppies barely have bladder control. But, of course, you can put him on a schedule from day 1. 

If your puppy is older than 12 weeks and has had no training before, he will take longer to get used to the new schedule and rules. This holds true for adult dogs as well. 

What If You Are Not Going to Be Around for a While?

That’s an important question! Whether it is for work or whether you are traveling and can’t take your dog along, you have to make arrangements. Arrange for a responsible sitter when you are not around or train your little puppy to go indoors whenever you are not around. This will prolong the training process but it is necessary.

On a side note, in case you haven’t brought home your dog, and you are usually away for more than 4 hours a day, we recommend that you wait until you have more time. It is not right to get a puppy and leave him alone for extended periods of time. 

Never Hit Your Dog!

No matter how long it takes, it is inhuman to hurt an animal. Some dogs just take longer to train, and almost all dogs have accidents. That does not give anyone the authority to punish them verbally or physically.

Dogs look up to us as members of their pack and give us their whole world. They love us unconditionally and are eager to please us. Abusing them scars them very deeply and develops a negative relationship. Now, we are sure you don’t want your dog to be scared of you and listen to you out of fear, right? No one wants that.

Engage in positive reinforcement and see how much happiness your dog brings into your life!

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  1. Great points. What I might add is that adding a startling noise when the dog has an accident might lead to a dog associating potty training with fear. Any sound could interrupt, but it should not be a sensory experience that is stressful.

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