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Housetraining your puppy

It’s all sweet puppy breath and fuzzy snuggles until you get your new dog home and realize housetraining begins immediately. The first weeks of puppy potty training are no joke. It may even feel similar to having a newborn. However, if you go into the experience with patience and a plan, you’ll come out of it with your sanity intact.

This house training plan is inspired by The Happy Healthy Dog and the Baxter and Bella method. It will help you teach your puppy when and where to pee and poop. It will also help you teach them to alert you when they need to go.


  1. Your dog is not inherently dirty. In fact, dog’s prefer to keep themselves and their “dens” clean. You may notice that your dog never relieves himself around his sleeping area. That’s why!

  2. Your dog may not be completely house trained until he’s 6-12 months old. Even then, accidents are part of being a pet owner. If your dog is at home too long and can’t get out or isn’t feeling well, it’s likely you’ll find an unwelcome surprise somewhere in your house.

  3. Dogs from large breeders sometimes take longer to train because they’re used to relieving themselves freely. Small breeders often already start working on house training before new pet owners arrive to pick them up.


If you do each of these things, you and your puppy will be set up for a smooth, successful housetraining experience.


Dub your laundry room or a bathroom the “puppy room” and block the entrance with a baby gate. These are good options because the floors are usually easy to clean. Bonus points if the room is close to a door that leads to their approved potty spot. Keep a large litter box in the bathroom, but stay away from puppy pads. Remove anything from the room you don’t want your puppy to chew on.


As you get to know your puppy and see him have a few accidents, you’ll notice quirks that signal it’s time to head outside. Look for any signs of restlessness or verbal cues that show discomfort. You may also want to think of a way to teach your dog to communicate with you. Simply standing next to the door could signal that it’s time to go outside.


Because a puppy’s bladder muscles haven’t matured, accidents are a reality the first year of life. The same way you would with a toddler, offer opportunities to go to the bathroom frequently. Especially at first, take your puppy out hourly or as often as he shows signs that he needs to go. If you take your puppy out on schedule and he doesn’t go, wait 15 minutes and try again until he does! In addition, make sure your puppy has a chance to do his business first thing in the morning and any time you take him in or out of his kennel, crate, or room. Your puppy should also have a chance to go to the bathroom before any excitement, such as a puppy play date, seeing visitors, or going to a new place. You’ll get to know your puppy’s habits and needs quickly and adjust as necessary. If it’s helpful those first few weeks, write down when you take your puppy out and how often he does #1 and #2.


You may eventually plan to teach your puppy how to “sit,” “stay,” and maybe even “shake.” You can also come up with a command that encourages your puppy to relieve himself. Make sure the words you use can’t be confused with other commands. Something like “go potty” is a great option.


The most intimidating thing about this whole process can be knowing when to start trusting your puppy’s bladder. It should be safe to let your puppy roam his room for 15-30 minutes after doing his thing in the backyard. Over time, you’ll understand your puppy’s endurance level and will know when to make his “room” bigger. This means you can start increasing the amount of space your puppy can occupy in your house. Regular accidents may be a sign that your puppy’s room is too large.


  1. Don’t allow your puppy to go even 30 minutes without taking him out. If you won’t be home, recruit a friend or hire a dog sitter to help out.

  2. Don’t leave any trace of your puppy’s accident. Clean the area thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner to eliminate the scent for you and your dog. Other cleaners will leave traces you may not smell, but your dog can. If your dog can smell the area, he’s more likely to have an accident in that exact spot.

  3. Don’t punish your puppy for having an accident. He won’t understand your behavior or that he has done something wrong. Scaring your puppy through scolding may encourage him to pee or poop in a secret location instead.

If you’re feeling stressed about the process, take a deep breath. This is going to take time! Once you have a system down, it will feel second nature until accidents disappear all together. Good luck!


About the Author

Kristi Diaz MD

Kristi is a retired anesthesiologist who loves helping people take good care of their pets.


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