Housetraining Secrets, by Judy Emmert, Dealing With Dogs, Ltd.

There are simple secrets to housetrain your puppy quickly and successfully. One is to have your puppy at the right place at the right time, and the second is to keep a chart of your puppies performance, so you will know in advance what to expect at what time.
Let's define the first rule and break it down: have your puppy at the right place at the right time. What is the right place? Anywhere on your property that you choose to be the puppy potty zone. We are going to teach your puppy to go quickly on your property, and reward that behaviour with something fun or a nice long walk when they are a little older.
The right place is usually somewhere in your back garden that is easily accessible from your back door, yet away from your home, or a puppy pad inside, if that's your option. Dogs do not like to defecate near where they sleep.
The right time is obviously when the puppy has to go to the bathroom! Sounds simple, but that is a really difficult concept for some people. The puppy needs to eliminate when his/her bladder and/or rectum are full, which is not necessarily when it's convenient for the pet parent. Here is  when the crate comes to the rescue. How and why of crate training will be discussed in another episode. The main benefit is that it acts as a predictor for when the puppy has to go to the bathroom. Given a choice, most pups will avoid soiling where they sleep, and will hold it when they are confined in a properly sized crate. Therefore, when you remove the puppy from the crate, you have a puppy who needs to go, which is the right time to escort the puppy to the right place, which you have already chosen, and shared that location with the rest of the family.
Pups also need to go after play, a long drink, after eating and sleeping. Your chart will be handy to note your pups habits - some are 20 minutes after eating, some up to an hour. Some will poop once, and piddle twice. Nothing worse than having your puppy perform outside, bring him/her inside and they go again. Some pee multiple times, especially males.
When you know your puppy has to go, rush your puppy on-lead to the designated poop zone. Make sure you take wonderful, Gold Star treats with you as you hurry out. Once you arrive at the zone, give verbal permission i.e. "go potty" or "out to play". Stand in the centre of your poop zone, puppy remains on-lead, and wait for performance. If puppy sits or lies down, just move a bit to get them standing up. Stay in the zone. The minute they assume position, be still and say nothing - Do Not Disturb.
The minute they finish, have a party - let that little puppy know that's the best performance you've ever seen -standing OVATION! Be generous 4-5 pieces of very highly valued goodies - hot dogs, cheese, steak, etc. Make sure to chart time and what happened. I suggest a capital "P" means poop, and a small "p" means piddle.
Now the puppy is empty, he/she can have be rewarded with a little supervised free time with you in the house. Do not let that puppy out of your sight, or make sure it's under supervision of a responsible person. As your puppy matures, and is old enough to go on public property, one of the best rewards you can offer is "walkies". The puppy will easily learn the rule: no feces, no walkies, and will go quickly when given the opportunity. Dogs that are walked to go to the toilet are usually taken home after the event, so the pup learns to hold it as long as possible to prolong their outing. Not so good for a Pet Parent on a schedule.
After a little free time, play time or a walk, confine puppy in crate again until next potty time, which you will know by your chart. The rule of thumb is for every month the pup is old, he/she can hold for one hour. i.e.  8 week old puppy holds 2 hrs.  We need to teach them bladder and bowel control, so gradually (15 mins per week) increase the time between bathroom outings. Tiny breeds have smaller bladders, and some need to go more frequently. Pups need to sleep a lot, so don't feel bad about crating. It really is good for them, for many reasons.
Overnight when there is no food, water, light, or stimulation, they can hold longer. Usually an 8-week pup can hold for 6 hours. We don't want an accident in the crate overnight, so until they are around 10 weeks and can hold all night, I suggest an alarm to get up for fast trip to bathroom. Keep praise quiet, offer a small, amazing treat, then right back to bed. Set your alarm to ring 15 minutes later every week until eventually they are holding all night with no interruption.
In about 2 weeks you will be able to walk to your designated outside Zone with puppy off leash (in your fenced property), give your permission word, and dog will perform. If it happens in the Zone, continue to praise with amazing treats, if pup goes outside the Zone, it's still good, so offer verbal praise, but no goodies. Won't take long for them to learn the advantage of going in the Zone.
A puddle inside? Whose fault is that? Who was supposed to be watching the dog? Chart it in red, say nothing to the puppy, and clean it up, resolving to do a better job. Puppy will learn that going outside results in a party, going inside is boring. It will be worth their while to hold it, and try to communicate the need to go.
Catch them in the act? Wonderful! It's a training opportunity. Say their name, clap your hands, do what you can to startle pup, who will automatically contract every sphincter muscle in their body, giving you the opportunity to pick him/her and rush him/her to potty Zone while there's still something left to eliminate, which allows you to reward the right behaviour at the right place.
The biggest secret of all is to learn to think like your puppy, manage their freedom so mistakes don't happen. Every mistake will delay the process. If you are not home during the day, consider employing a walker, ask a neighbour to help, or confine them in an area big enough to hold crate and a pee pad. As you start to feel confident that you can predict the need to go, please do not allow too much freedom too fast. Mistakes will happen in a new area that doesn't smell like home i.e. dining room that's only used once in a while, or guest bedroom.
Gradually open your space to the puppy. After 10 perfect days in kitchen, you could allow access to the back hall or laundry room.
Take them to the family room on leash. If everyone is busy and no one watching puppy, better to crate pup than to have an accident. If an accident occurs in the new space, go back to giving less space in your home. After 10 dry days, try again.
We need to learn to manage their environment so there are no mistakes. Learn to read your pup's signals that he/she needs to go. They will try very hard to communicate with you and it's our responsibility to set them up for success and teach them that Good Behaviour (going in the zone) Makes Good Things Happen (treats, praise, walkies). The successful training process will be fun and rewarding for both of you.
For a free download of Dr. Ian Dunbar's amazing book "After Getting Your Puppy" or to search for more on housetraining, go to
Judy Emmert has been training puppies professionally since 1984, founded the training school and costarred in the TV show, Dealing With Dogs, Ltd.
Judy offers Free Monthly Puppy Parties in Oakville, ON for Pet Parents and their puppies who are between 8-12 weeks old. For information go to or
Judy gladly gives permission for her articles to be copied and shared with new puppy pet parents. Please credit Judy Emmert and Dealing With Dogs Ltd.
RapidWeaver Icon

Made in RapidWeaver