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Housetraining for Puppies

Let's face it. Housetraining a puppy stinks (literally!), and it can feel like a full time job in the beginning. Following these guidelines will make it as painless and efficient as possible so that you can move from housetraining to the good stuff.

Steps to Housetrain


Weeks 1 & 2


Management is about preventing mistakes. See our next section for more details on the rules of management.

Doing a good clean of all accidents is important too.

  • Prevent mistake indoors

  • Crate overnight

  • Supervise "empty" dogs

  • Use your puppy confinement area for times when you will be away from him longer than he can hold it.


Weeks 1 & 2

Surface Reinforcement

During the first few weeks build reinforcement history for pottying on the preferred surface. This also includes using something like happy talk or preferably a small treat immediately after each go-outside event.

  • Go outside with puppy every single time. Within 2 seconds after he goes, reinforce with praise and a treat.

  • Once you are familiar with the signs your puppy gives right before he goes, say "go potty" before he squats. This will build a "go potty" cue so that in the future you will be able to say it and he will go on cue.


Weeks 3+

Allow a Bit of Freedom

Now it's time to provide a bit more freedom. Supervise your puppy, but be ready for those potty signs you learned in step 2. If you see them, time to go outside! 

Continue reinforcing each time he goes outside. After about a month, you drop the treat reinforcement schedule from every time to every few times.

Management Rules - A Closer Look

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Take a puppy to potty immediately after waking up from the night or a nap, after eating or drinking, and after playing for 30 mins

  • If dog just pottied, he is "empty" - If you don't see your dog potty, consider him full

  • Empty dogs can be placed in confinement area or spend time with the family with direct supervision

  • Crate if not empty and if not directly supervising

  • Use crate for sleeping

  • Use a confinement area for absences longer than the puppy can be crated

  • Don't forget to accompany outside, use potty cues and pay with treats!

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Crate Times

How long your dog can hold it varies based on age. 

Age (weeks)   Maximum time in crate

8-10               30-60 minutes

11-14             1-3 hours

15-16             3-4 hours

17+                4-5 hours

If you need to leave your dog alone during the day for longer than the maximum time in crate, use the dog's confinement area  or a trusted dog walker.


Here is a link that shows you how to size your crate:

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Confinement Area

Use a confinement area for any absences that will be longer than what your pup can hold it for in the daytime crate schedule. Set up a safe area the includes your dog's crate (bed), play area, water and a potty spot (preferably of the same surface as what you want him to "go" on).

This area can also be used for families who work from home or just need a break from supervising the dog or puppy. A great bone, stuffed Kong or bully stick will keep a puppy busy.

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Introductory Podcast & Handout

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Click here to download a housetraining handout from fellow Academy Grad Sandi Thompson, owner of California based, BravoPup!

Key  Points to Remember

16 weeks

Your puppy won't have full control of his bladder until about 16 weeks of age. 


Don't Punish

Don't punish accidents. This will make your puppy afraid to potty in front of you, not afraid to potty.


Follow a potty schedule. Remember that until 16 weeks, your puppy can go anytime basead on urges. A schedule helps prevent accidents.


Early potty training is all about having repetitive reinforcement (both relief from going and treats) on a preferred surface. 

Already Had Accidents?

Let's get started by doing a deep clean! We want to remove the chemical signals your dog's potty accidents have left behind. This is an important part of efficient potty training.  You are going to need a few supplies:


Cleaning Supplies

Let's get started by doing a deep clean! We want to remove the chemical signals your dog's potty accidents have left behind. This is an important part of efficient potty training.  You are going to need a few supplies:

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These are our favorite two cleaners, but you can buy any cleaner for pet messes that has an active enzyme. You will need two different kinds for this procedure. Click here for several other options.

Follow this Clean Up Procedure

*if you have children, this can be a ton of fun for them - they love to play detective!

Night 1

1. At night, with all the lights off in your home, walk through your house with your blacklight on. 

2. If you see a spot that lights up, take a piece of blue painters tape and mark the area by putting a piece of tape on it.

3. Continue until you have marked all spots that light up.

4. Turn the lights on and take one of your cleaners and clean the areas marked.

Night 2

Repeat the procedure but use the other cleaner.



Click boxes below for downloadable resources.
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