How to House Train a Puppy

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Dog Training By Meg Marrs 7 min read January 20, 2021 10 Comments

how to housetrain a puppy

When to House Train a Puppy

Experts recommend that you begin house training your puppy when he or she is between 12 weeks and 16 weeks old, although many start earlier. At that point, the puppy has enough control of its bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it.

Beware that starting puppy housetraining too soon, and you could be setting up your puppy for failure, as he or she isn’t old enough to control their bladder.

How Long Does It Take to House Train A Puppy?

The length of time it will take to housetrain a puppy depends on your dog’s aptitude for understanding and their general personality.

Most puppies can be house trained within 4-6 months. Some puppies will not be fully reliably house broken until 8-12 months.

Keep Puppy In A Defined Space

Experts also recommend confining your puppy to a defined space, whether that means in a crate, in an x-pen, in a room, or on a leash. As your puppy learns that it needs to go outside to do its business, you can gradually give the puppy more freedom to roam about the house. Depending on the expected full adult size of your puppy, you may want to get a larger crate with inserts that can divide up a large crate into smaller quarters. Sliding dividers mean that you can slowly add in space as your pup grows or gets the hand of potty training.

When Housetraining A Puppy, Act Quickly!

When housebreaking a puppy, you’ll want to watch for patterns in your puppy’s digestive track.

Puppy digestive tracks are extremely efficient and fast. 5 – 30 minutes after the puppy eats, he or she will want to defecate. Be consistent with your puppy’s eating schedule and watch the time so that you can regularly give your puppy outside time after meals, increasing chances of success.

Housetraining A Puppy: A Safe Space to Pee

Make sure that your puppy has a place to relieve himself or herself where it feels safe. The spot should be familiar and comfortable to your puppy.

puppy housebreaking

You may have noticed that dogs will often relieve themselves in the very same spot that they’ve used before. Their scent acts like a trigger, and they’ll likely continue using familiar spots to relieve themselves.

It’s also important to keep in mind that your puppy will react to your tones and gestures. A nervous or frustrated tone can easily affect your puppy (but being too squeaky or loud could distract your puppy as well). Instead, it’s best to keep relatively quiet during while your puppy is learning to do its business.

House Training A Puppy: The Importance of Routine

Having some sort of routine while housetraining your puppy is extremely important.

Sticking to a schedule teaches your puppy that there are times to eat, times to play, and times to potty.

According to the Humane Society, a puppy can generally control his bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is two months old, he can hold it for about two hours. Don’t go longer than this between bathroom breaks, or he’s guaranteed to have an accident.

With this in mind, taking your puppy out as frequently as possible is important. Start off taking your puppy outside at least every two hours. In addition, there are certain times of day when your dog should absolutely be taken outside to potty right away.

These times include immediately after waking up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking.

You may also want to consider teaching your pup to hit a doggie doorbell when you go outside, which will eventually teach your dog to signal when they need to use the bathroom.

It may be a lot to start with when you’re still getting the potty training basics down, but eventually, it can be quite handy!

how to house train a puppy

Pick a bathroom spot outside, and always take your puppy (on a leash) to that spot. While your puppy is “going,” use a word or phrase, like “go potty,” that you can eventually use before he or she goes outside to remind him or her what to do and get your pup to potty more quickly.

Depending on their age, puppies usually need to be fed three or four times a day. Feeding your puppy at the same times each day will make it more likely that they will potty at consistent times as well, and that makes house-training easier for both of you.

Rewarding Your Puppy When Housebreaking

Once your puppy has successfully gone outside, it is important to reward the good behavior.

It doesn’t have to be a parade with 57 trombones, but an enthusiastic word of praise alongside a treat can get the message across of a job well done.

At the same time, don’t punish your puppy for an accident or do anything to create a negative association with the puppy’s bodily functions.

It may be frustrating when your dog pees in the house after just being outside, but you’ll be better off rewarding success rather than punishing mistakes.

If your puppy has an accident, stay calm and assertive and quietly remove the puppy to the place where you want him to go. Expect your puppy to have a few accidents in the house – it’s a normal part of housetraining!

Common Problems When Housetraining A Puppy

Accidents are common in puppies up to a year old. The reasons for accidents range from incomplete house training to a change in the puppy’s environment.

housebreaking a puppy

When your puppy does have an accident, keep on training. Then if it still doesn’t seem to be working, consult a veterinarian to rule out a medical issue.

According to K9 Behaviorist, there are actually six common housebreaking problems that go unnoticed. These six problems are:

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Dog’s size/maturity level
  • Lack of pack leadership
  • Incorrect use of force to house train

However, some problems owners encounter aren’t really problems at all. Some breeds and temperaments (i.e., genetics) of dogs are simply more difficult to housetrain.

House size can also play a factor. The bigger the house, the more difficult to housebreak. To a puppy, a large home is an endless maze of potty places (it’s a lot to handle!). That’s why it’s often best to start your pup off in a small, enclosed area (like a crate), and slowly add more space as your pooch learns how to potty appropriately.

Another issue can be too much fiber in your puppy’s food, making your puppy more accident-prone.

Too much water intake, and even medications can also result in accidents that your puppy has little control over. If you’re having puppy housebreaking issues, be sure to check all these potential problems.

Tips and Tricks for House Training A Puppy

1. Don’t Punish Your Puppy. Punishing your puppy for having an accident is strongly discouraged. It teaches your puppy to fear you (positive association is a common theme for general dog training across the board).

If you catch your puppy in the act, clap loudly so it knows it has done something unacceptable. Then take him outside by calling him or taking him gently by the collar. When he is finished, praise him or give him/ a small treat.

If you find the evidence but didn’t see the act, don’t react angrily by yelling or rubbing his nose in it. Puppies aren’t intellectually capable of connecting your anger with their accident. You’ll just make things harder and more confusing for your puppy.

2. Stay Outside For Longer Than Normal. Staying outside longer with your puppy may help to curb accidents. He may need the extra time to explore.

3. Use Enzymatic Cleaners. If your dog pees on the carpet or other furniture, clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors that might attract the puppy back to the same spot. Remember, dogs like to relieve themselves in the same spots where they detect their scent, so try to eliminate your dog’s scent from any unwanted accident spots.

It’s also not a bad idea to get a puppy bed that is designed to be easily washed, since accidents will be frequent at first.

4. Try Potty Pads. Some pet owners prefer to use dog potty pads and grass pads to house train their puppies. They are available online and in pet stores.

Do you have any puppy house training tips to share? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!

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Written by

Meg Marrs

Meg Marrs is the Founder and Director of Marketing at K9 of Mine. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! She loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!


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Susan Linden

My puppy is 4 months old and I can take him out and he will pee and them come back in and pee in 15 to 30 minutes on the floor. I feel we are going backwards. Should I confined him to a cage and try potty training that way.. Need help!

Ben Team

Hey, Susan.
House-training puppies can be frustrating! Check out our article on crate training — it may be just the answer for you and your pooch!
Best of luck!

Susan Linden

Thanks for crate training info. I seem to have peeing problems only in the evening after 5pm or when i’m trying to bake. He does great in the morning. Like tonight. He pee a little so I cleaned that up and after I wash my hands he went again. so I cleaned that up and he went again. I just took him out and he had did both. So I will do the crate in the evening until he comes out of this habit. I’m retired so I.m here all day, I do crate him at night and he does great. Thanks for the help

Sandra Bailey -Toussaint

How do l train my puppy in the Winter with very low temps -20 to -30 ,they are 10wks old and are good on the pads right now ,no cage .

Ben Team

Hey, Sandra. Just keep using the pads, and then, when warm temperatures return, start teaching them to tinkle outdoors. Or, you could try bundling the little floofs up!
Best of luck!


can you trin youre puppy to pads nd go outside




This is a great article! Excellent tips. I am going to try the Enzymatic Cleaners.


Great advice and using a crate makes it so much easier! I especially like your idea of associating a command or phrase with going to the bathroom. I did this with Haley and it makes life much easier, especially when you’re traveling and need them to go on command. Fantastic article!! 🙂


Thanks Elaine! I completely agree on the phrase trigger – very helpful!


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