House Training Puppies

House training a puppy is a rite of passage and an insurmountable dilemma.  Family, friends, neighbors and even people you barely know will have a hefty supply of unsolicited advice on how to be successful and the horrors that accompany potty training the moment they hear you have a new furry baby at home.However, the way to achieve ultimate victory when it comes to house training your new puppy is to come up with a plan of attack BEFORE you ever bring your puppy home!

There are about as many customs for puppy potty training as there are puppies to train.  The problem is that some of them simply don’t work, and others are outdated and/or barbaric.

You need to have a strategy and a schedule in place and well studied before the new little life comes home to be triumphant when it comes to house training.

You would never go on a road trip without some type of map or assistance to help you get there; house training needs to be tackled with the same amount of verve.

Narrowing Down Your House Training Options

There are two basic approaches when it comes to house training.  Dealing with the problem AFTER it happens or TEACHING your dog by avoiding the problem all together and rewarding good behavior.


Whenever you deal with a problem behavior after the fact you are applying the principles of punishment.  Punishment happens after the given behavior; meaning you have to wait until your puppy soils the floor and THEN punish him by spanking, yelling or rubbing his nose in the spot.

This negative approach may work eventually, if your dog figures out why he is being punished but as B.F. Skinner (the researcher that articulated the differences in positive and negative reinforcers) points out “punishment changes behaviors only temporarily and presents many detrimental side effects.”

Positive Reinforcement

The other approach is to use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior and TEACH your dog what you want and what your expectations for house training are.

This approach avoids the “bad” or problem behavior all together because you are giving information to your puppy by teaching him what you want and rewarding good behavior and success.

B.F. Skinner has shown that positive reinforcement is superior to punishment in altering behavior or maintaining behavior.  This is hands down the best way to begin training your new puppy!

Benefits of using Positive Reinforcement in House training

There are many benefits to using positive reinforcement training in all aspects of puppy training, but it is especially useful when potty training because you are trying to avoid the problem of having potty accidents by teaching your puppy where to go potty.

Positive reinforcement also builds a strong bond of trust with your puppy.  Even outgoing puppies can be scared and nervous when they first enter their new homes.  Although this is an exciting time being away from their mom, former home and litter-mates can be terrifying.  Now is the time to begin building a bond of love and trust with your new puppy.

Positive reinforcement training has also been shown to be a quicker form of learning, because it gives information on what an owner wants and expects!


House Training Structure

Puppies need structure and a set schedule to be victorious in house training.   Structure and a House Training Scheduleschedule sets them up for early success and the ability to easily learn what you desire.

Puppies should be fed, watered at the same time each day.  Puppies should also be put to bed and awakened at the same time each day while you are establishing their schedules and their success for house training.   They also typically need to potty within certain times throughout the day.

  • After they wake first thing in the morning
  • 10-15 minutes after a meal or a trip to the water bowl
  • After a period of play or high activity
  • Every 2-5 hours during the day until they are about 12 weeks old or successfully house trained
  • Every 4-5 hours at night until about 12 weeks old or sleeping through the night

You must accompany your puppy outside in order to quietly and calmly praise him for going potty and in order to make sure he is utilizing his time to potty, and to get use to his body’s schedule.

Other Tools for Puppy Potty Training Success

Puppy Potty Training Tools
  • A Potty Spot: Take your puppy to the same place each time you take him outside.  Visiting the same spot helps signal your dog with odors what to do in this given space so that he can be successful!  As he is going potty, be sure to add a verbal cue, such as “Go Potty” and praise.  Be sure to use the same command each time you take him out.
  • Cleaners:  Your puppy will have accidents, expect it and prepare!  Get rid of them quickly by cleaning them up ASAP or lingering scents may lead your puppy to return again to the scene of the crime.  I recommend using a carpet cleaner and can shoot water and solution down into the spot and then suck it back out.  Then apply an enzyme cleaner to the spot and leave it on the spot so it can do its job and remove any leftover particles or odors.
  • Treats:  Utilize scrumptious morsels to reward your puppy for successful moments outside.  By rewarding the good behaviors outside you are increasing the probability of more successes to come!
  • A Signal:  Your puppy needs a way to tell you he has to go outside.  Some pups will scratch or sniff at the floor, but what if you aren’t near to see the sign?  A bell on a string tied to the door will help your dog signal you when he needs to go outside.
    • When your dog goes outside each time he will hear the ringing of the bell.  Soon he is bound to jiggle the bell with his paw or his nose, at which point immediately reward him by taking him outside.  He will quickly get the idea that the ringing of the bell equals going outside and he will begin ringing the bell on his own!

Potty training does not have to be an impossible quandary it can instead be viewed as your first chance to build a bond and teach your puppy what excitement and joy his new life holds!  Understand his needs and be kind and patient by using praise and rewards to teach him what you want.   House training a puppy will be a snap if you follow these simple irrefutable, verified rules.

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