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What is the Best Way to Housetrain a Puppy?

What is the Best Way to Housetrain a Puppy? | BetterVet

Congratulations on your new family member!  This is such an exciting time, and housetraining your puppy is one of your biggest responsibilities as a new puppy parent. Although every puppy housetraining scenario will differ slightly, it helps to understand some of the basics.

Below, we’ll explore answers to the most common puppy training questions, such as how long the process takes, the signs to look for, tips for success, and more. 

How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?

For most puppies, it takes between 4 and 6 months to become fully housetrained. However, each puppy's situation is different. Therefore, each timeline may differ. As you consider puppy home preparation to bring your new friend home, it's an excellent time to consider what you may need to support the potty training process.

One of the first questions new puppy owners often ask is, "at what age should a puppy be housetrained?" Generally, it is recommended to start house training when your puppy is between 8 to 12 weeks old. Most puppies at this age can begin to understand commands, especially with food rewards, and the earlier you start, the easier it will be to ingrain the training in your puppy’s mind. 

Bear in mind that your puppy’s natural behavior is to eliminate whenever and wherever they please, and this will continue until they start to understand what their human counterparts want. Most puppies will not be able to hold their eliminations for longer than a few hours until 3-4 months of age, when this time will gradually begin to increase.

Factors That Affect How Long Housetraining Takes

A variety of factors can impact how long housetraining will take. One factor is the size and breed of your puppy. Smaller breeds of dogs generally have smaller bladders. In turn, this can mean they need to urinate more frequently. The success of house training puppies can also vary depending on what age you begin.

Other factors that affect how long housetraining takes include your dog’s physical readiness and attention span. Consistency is also an essential component of housetraining. Remember that potty training is a learning experience for you and your dog, so be patient!

Methods of Housetraining a Puppy

You can use several methods and approaches to housetrain your puppy, including outdoor potty breaks (most common), crate training, and potty pad training. During your BetterVet puppy wellness exam, your BetterVet veterinary team can help you determine which method is best for you and your puppy's needs. 

Outdoor potty breaks: If you are planning on having your puppy regularly eliminate outside (the majority of pet parents do) then you should avoid pee pads as much as possible, except when your pup is crated.  

The crate training method (occasionally used): This involves keeping your pup in a crate without a potty pad and recognizing the signs that they need to exit to go outside to potty. The theory is that pups will be reluctant to eliminate in a closed space, and it will help to contain the mess, but this method could result in a messy crate and in your puppy needing a bath. You also won’t be able to play or interact with your companion as well. 

Potty Pads: Some pet parents prefer to train their puppy to eliminate inside on potty pads. This method can be practical for pet parents who live in upper floor accommodations or are disabled and do not plan on taking their pet outside regularly. Potty pads can also be used to give your pup a place to eliminate while crated overnight or when left alone during the day until they are able to hold it during these periods. 

Ultimately, there is no best way to housetrain a puppy; it's dependent on you and your dog's preferences, and many pet parents will use a combination of methods.

Best Tips for Housetraining a Puppy

Regardless of which house training method you choose, consider these tips for successful housetraining.

  • Aim to keep your puppy on a regular feeding schedule to establish routines while housetraining.
  • Bring your puppy to eliminate in the morning, after meals, and when waking up for a nap. 
  • Aim to allow your puppy to go out around every two hours when first starting housetraining.
  • Take your puppy to the same spot to eliminate each time, as they can smell their own scent.  Once outside, use a consistent command that your puppy can recognize. This could be as simple as “go potty”. Bear in mind that the spot you choose should be away from other canine traffic, as young puppies are still susceptible to contagious viral and parasitic diseases. 
  • Monitor closely so that you can immediately reward your puppy with a treat and praise them when they are successful. Remember that too many treats could cause stomach upset, so make sure the treats are small. There are many tiny commercial  training treats that are ideal for this purpose.
  • Never harshly punish your puppy for improper eliminations. If you catch your puppy in the act of urinating or defecating inside, you can say “no” firmly, then take them outside immediately to finish their business. If they continue eliminating outside, reward them with a treat or praise. If you catch accidents more than a few seconds after the fact, do not reprimand your puppy as they will not be able to make the association with the reason for the punishment. Simply take him/her outside to allow them another opportunity to eliminate in the proper place.
  • Never, ever use any sort of physical punishment as this will scare and confuse your new companion. 
  • Use a special enzymatic cleaner to thoroughly clean up all accidents, as pups tend to want to eliminate where they smell urine or feces.

Why Accidents Happen

When housetraining puppies, expect that accidents will  happen. During the housetraining process, it is not uncommon that puppies will undergo regression in their behaviors. Accidents can be triggered by stress or anxiety, incomplete housetraining, changes to the puppy's environment, and sometimes even medical problems. Monitor your puppy for the following cues that they may need to go outside: 

  • Whimpering and acting restless
    Scratching or barking at the door
    Sniffing and circling 
    Posturing to eliminate

Bear in mind that once males become sexually mature at 6-8 months of age, if they are not neutered they will often regress in house training due to instinctual drive to mark their territory. Their behavior may also change at that time.

If you suspect your puppy may be experiencing accidents associated with a medical condition, such as if you see bloody urine or straining to urinate, consult a BetterVet doctor for guidance. BetterVet offers both in-home and Veterinary Telemedicine Video consultations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can an 8-week-old puppy be potty trained?

At 8 weeks of age, a puppy is not old enough to become fully housetrained, but you can certainly start the process by following the steps above. The sooner you start, the more natural it will be for your puppy to learn the habit. Bear in mind that training comes more easily to some puppies than others, and patience and consistency will be key.

How hard is it to housetrain a puppy?

Housetraining is not an easy task, especially for first-time puppy owners. Their natural instinct is to eliminate freely, so this is a learning process that will have setbacks along the way. If you're experiencing ongoing trouble house training your puppy, talk to your BetterVet veterinarian about supportive in-home puppy behavioral counseling. Trying a new puppy training method may also bolster your success.

How do you crate train a puppy in 3 days?

Crate training a puppy can take up to six months of consistent training. A puppy cannot be fully crate-trained in 3 days. If you're interested in crate training, your BetterVet veterinary doctor can help outline more detailed steps to help you succeed with this puppy training method.

Get Puppy Housetraining Help With BetterVet

Successfully housetraining your puppy requires patience and knowledge. Using these tips as a guide, you'll soon be well on your way to a potty-trained pup! If you're facing challenges in puppy potty training, we're here to help. 

Book an appointment with a BetterVet doctor for guidance. BetterVet's veterinarians are here to answer any questions or concerns you may have about the house training process, either through a home visit or telemedicine video consultation. 

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