• Liz MacHaffie


Updated: Sep 21, 2021

A tan, medium-sized dog squats to urinate in some grass.
These tips work for both pups and adults!

The 2 Keys to Housetraining

1. Give feedback for every elimination.

  • Your dog should get a treat right after finishing his business. (Don't feed during...)

  • Every attempt at going to the bathroom indoors should be interrupted. (Okay, at least 90%!)

2. Watch or confine all the time

  • Your pup should either be under direct supervision or confined in a place he doesn’t have accidents.

  • Good options for confinement are in his crate, in an exercise pen with you or near you, or on a leash with you. A hands-free leash can be really handy!

  • Only give your puppy more freedom once he is doing well with this.

Steps to Success

1. Pick a spot for your puppy to use as his toilet area. It should be the size of one or two average bedrooms, but not much bigger. Bring him to this spot on leash (even if you have a fenced yard).

2. Take your puppy to the same spot every time. Consistency will speed things up!

3. Wait for him to go, and be boring. Try not to give attention or play until after your puppy eliminates. The more you engage your puppy, the less likely he is to focus on the task at hand. Stay out for up to 5-8 minutes.

4. Reward every elimination with food.

Right after he finishes, feed him a few delicious treats. (Don’t wait until you’ve gone back in the house!)

5. Once he’s done, have fun!

Give him attention, playtime, let him off the leash (if possible and safe), or take him for a walk. This encourages him to be efficient on his toilet trips so you can get to the fun stuff.

Handling Accidents

  • You can only help your puppy learn not to go inside if you catch him in the act. (That's why we watch or confine all the time!)

  • Interrupt accidents with a little verbal noise and sense of urgency, then bring him outside to his spot.

  • Avoid harsh punishment. You may scare your puppy from going to the bathroom in front of you at all!

  • Thoroughly clean up any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner or a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar.

When to Take Puppy Out

  • Your pup should be taken out at regular intervals throughout the day. This interval will vary from dog to dog. Normally, puppies will be able to last a number of hours equal to their age in months +/- an hour.

For example:

2 months old = 1 to 3 hours

3 months old = 2 to 4 hours

4 months old = 3 to 5 hours

  • Puppies should also go out immediately after waking up, soon after playing, and soon after finishing a meal.

  • Yes, you can take your puppy out too often!The goal is to take him out when it is likely that he has to go. As puppies get older, it is important to stretch out the time between bathroom breaks.

  • Puppies can generally go much longer overnight. (If you're sleeping, you're not metabolizing as much and making lots of urine!)

  • Adult dogs who are re-housetraining (or housetraining for the first time) can generally start out at every 2-4 hours.


  • If your pup is having to go more often than normal during the night, pick up their water 2 hours before bedtime (unless otherwise recommended by your vet). This can help him be able to make it through the night.

  • If your puppy urinates or defecates multiple times when you would expect him to be able to hold it, you may want to regulate the timing of his food and water intake. Regulating input can help make elimination timing more predictable.

  • ​Offer your puppy water for 10-15 minutes after he goes outside. Then, pick it up until the next time he goes out.

  • Feed your pup's last meal up to 2 hours before he goes to bed. (No later than his last water.) The later he's fed, the later in the night/morning he'll have formed a bowel movement.

  • Any unusual urination/defecation should be reported to your veterinarian.

  • If your pup is not making progress, let us know! There are many more tips and tricks for housetraining, and every situation and puppy is different.

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