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Puppy House Training - Step by Step

This method is for when you are at home with your puppy follow it as closely as you possibly can. Equipment you'll need: I prefer to use a good quality crate. Ensure that it is comfortable, safe and the right dimensions for your puppy. You can read a detailed crate training article I wrote here - puppy crate training -or- You can also set up a small pen area with a comfortable dog bed, fresh water and a couple of chew toys (like a food stuffed kong toy). Do not put a doggy toilet in this pen area.

  1. Choose the spot outside where you would like your puppy to go to the toilet (eliminate).
  2. Keep your puppy in his/her crate, pen area or even tethered to a chair where you are working. Your puppy cannot have free run of the house at this early stage, he must be confined. Every 60 minutes take your puppy straight to the designated toilet area outside. Carry your puppy or walk out on leash.
  3. When you reach the toilet area walk back and forth or circle around and around. At the same time say and repeat a cue word you would like to attach to the act of your dog eliminating. I use "hurry up" but just pick out a cue word or short phrase and stick with it. In your dogs mind you are building an association between the cue "hurry up!" and him emptying out. This is the first obedience training command you will teach your young pup.
  4. If your pup does eliminate continue to repeat your cue word and the instant your dog finishes doing his business enthusiastically praise and reward him with a small tasty treat. Make it clear that you are very happy with him and that he is the best little puppy on the block! If after 3-4 minutes of circling around your puppy shows no signs of needing to eliminate take him back inside (put in crate or pen) and try again in about twenty minutes.
  5. Immediately after a successful toilet trip outside you can allow your puppy some free play time (under supervision) in the house. Just spend some time enjoying the company of your puppy, then place him back in his crate or pen area.
  6. Continue with this 60 minute puppy house training schedule, you'll be rewarded for sticking to it. Remember that you are trying to prevent any mistakes and at the same time establish good habits in your little puppy.
  7. "What about overnight?" I hear you ask. Yes well, firstly do not feed your puppy close to bedtime and take away his water before you go to bed (don't forget to put it back first thing in the morning). You'll need to set your alarm clock to go off once and possibly twice throughout the night. This is an important step, just take your puppy out to the toilet area as usual and then hop back into bed. When your puppy is young it is physically impossible for him to hold on all night, but before long you will both be sleeping peacefully right through the night. In addition to your 60 minute schedule it is important to take your puppy outside after each meal time (most puppies go to the potty within 15 minutes of eating). That's the puppy house training process, follow it consistently and I'm sure you'll experience pleasing results. When you are not home you will need to set up an area with comfortable bedding, water, toys and a toilet. Place the indoor doggy toilet at the opposite side to the bedding in your puppy's living area. When you arrive home remove the toilet area inside and follow the potty training method detailed above. Teaching Your Puppy To "ask" To Go Outside. If you aren't able to install a doggy door it is handy if you teach your dog the right way to let you know he wants to go outside. Do this by hanging a Poochie-Bell on a piece of string attached to the door handle (at the level of your puppy's nose).
  8. Follow the puppy house training schedule as detailed above but now add the following: Each time you get to the door to go outside give the bell a bit of a shake and say "go potty". Do this every time you take your puppy outside to the toilet for a week or two.
  9. After a week or so when you arrive at the door say "go potty" but don't touch the bell. You want your puppy to give it a nudge, if he does, give lots of enthusiastic praise and quickly open the door. If your puppy doesn't nudge the bell after standing at the door for 10 seconds, shake the bell yourself while saying "go potty".
  10. Keep trying this procedure every time you go outside until your dog "gets it". With most dogs it doesn't take long at all.
  11. Eventually your dog will make his way to the door and tap the bell every time he needs to go outside to the toilet.

Adapted from The Puppy Owner’s Manual, by Diana Delmar (Storey Books, 2001)