House Training for Any Dog
“How often should I take my dog out during house training?”
It’s a question that trainers are commonly asked, particularly from parents of new puppies.
The Short Answer:
As often as possible!
Take your dog out to eliminate even if they don’t have to go, although once per hour should be sufficient with patience and consistency.
When my dog Kane was a puppy, I potty trained him in just three days using the guidelines of this article. Kane has never had an accident since!
What I Tell My Clients for House Training
- Leash up and take your dog to one particular spot in the yard.
- Stand in one place and your dog may go within 360 degrees of you.
- When your dog successfully eliminates, immediately reward them afterward with a tasty treat and two minutes of off leash play time.
If you don’t have a fenced yard, try a tug toy instead. Or, find a game you can play as a reward, like this: How To Build an Agility Weave Pole Set
Condition yourself to verbally reward your dog with “Yes!” or “Good!” in conjunction with treats. Use this as praise while your dog is eliminating.
If Your Dog Doesn’t Go When Outside
If your dog is not interested in eliminating after several minutes, take them back indoors, but observe and be conscientious for indicators your dog may have to go back out (such as sniffing or sitting by the door you have been going out).
You may also want to try a leashed walk through the neighborhood. Being able to smell new and familiar places will often help dogs eliminate successfully.
If You Catch Them in the Act
If you happen to glance over at your dog and catch them in the act, allow them to finish. However, the moment they are done, you should immediately pick them and take them out to the area in the yard that they have been going. This will help your dog make the associate that they don’t go inside; only outside.
DO NOT punish your dog for eliminating inside. Doing so will only cause them to become more fearful of you, particularly if you are in an elevated mood of frustration.
Why You Shouldn’t Punish
I once had a client who punished their dog for accidents during house training. The situation became so bad that the owner’s truck starting up (to leave) sent the dog into a fearful state. The dog learned to anticipate punishment when the dog parent came home.
It’s a myth that dogs have a guilty look. It’s actually fear and anticipation of punishment. Your dog’s “guilty look” is their way of attempting to appease you to avoid punishment.
If You Come Home To an Unpleasant Surprise…
…pretend it never happened.
That’s right. Clean it up and continue about your business. Take your dog out for a chance to eliminate anyway.
“But Josh, We Both Work 9–5 Jobs”
I hear this from people a lot. This is often why pet professionals suggest taking the time to house train and crate train your dog when you first get it (often when people have time off, before going back to work).
In the event you are unable to take your dog out to eliminate during the day, there are a variety of options. Here are a few of my suggestions:
- Ask a neighbor
- Hire a pet sitter
- Install a dog door
Does Your Dog Free Feed?
That may also be contributing to your house training problems.
Maintaining a regular feeding schedule will help to more easily predict when your dog has to go out, as well as establish intervals for routine breaks.
If you are experiencing difficulty during the night, you may also want to consider cutting off access to water in the evening
Some dogs may also suffer from incontinence (lack of bladder control), in which case I suggest you have your dog seen by a veterinarian to be prescribed medication that can help.
Am I Missing Anything?
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I am a professional dog trainer with over 10 years of experience in the pet industry. I am also the founder and CEO of Clicker Plus LLC, a pet product startup. I help dog lovers get the confidence, education and tools they need to succeed in dog training.
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