If there’s one thing you don’t want to put off as a new dog owner, it’s house training your puppy. House training makes life with a puppy a lot easier — and cleaner! — but it’s not as simple as showing your new puppy the backyard.

Successful house training requires consistency, patience, and commitment. Your new puppy won’t learn the ropes overnight, but in a few weeks’ time, your house training efforts will pay off.

Here’s where to start.

Two House Training Options

Dog owners have two options for house training.

Option 1 is immediately training your puppy to go outdoors. This eliminates any confusion over where to potty, but taking a new puppy out every 2-4 hours is challenging for some owners.

Option 2 is using puppy pads as a transition step. Pee pads are convenient for puppies since they need to go frequently, but they can send mixed signals. Keep in mind that if you choose puppy pads, you’ll need to train your puppy a second time when making the transition to going outdoors.

5 Tips for House Training Success

1. Establish a routine

Like babies and toddlers, puppies do best on a schedule. Eating, sleeping, and playing at the same times each day will keep your pet’s bathroom needs predictable and teach your puppy how to be a member of your household.

2. Go out frequently

As a rule of thumb, the number of hours your puppy can go between bathroom breaks is equal to its age. So while a two-month-old puppy needs to go outside every two hours, a four-month-old puppy can hold it for about four. That doesn’t mean adult dogs can hold it indefinitely, however! Even fully-grown dogs need to go to the bathroom every few hours.

3. Stick to business

When taking your puppy outside to relieve itself, don’t get distracted by playing. Keeping your puppy leashed and going indoors immediately after toileting helps your puppy understand the purpose of going outside. Relax the rules only once your puppy is reliably house trained.

4. Teach a potty cue

Some owners opt to teach their puppy a potty cue. This can be sitting by the door, ringing a bell, or another cue, but the goal is for your puppy to tell you when it needs to go outside. Whether using a potty cue or not, watch for signsthat your puppy needs to pee or poop.

5. Praise, don’t punish your puppy

As soon as your puppy is finished, praise and reward. However, don’t punish your puppy when it has an accident indoors. Interrupting your puppy and redirecting it outside will teach your dog where to do its business. Scolding, on the other hand, may make your puppy afraid to relieve itself in your presence. It’s also important to clean soiled areas thoroughly to prevent repeat offenses. Enzymatic cleaners are best for eliminating pet odors.

The Role of Crate Training

Crates are commonly recommended for house training because they play on a dog’s natural reluctance to soil their sleeping area. However, crate training is only an effective tool if your puppy’s crate is the right size. A crate should be large enough for the puppy to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. However, it shouldn’t be big enough that your puppy can use one side as a toilet and the other as a bed.

Crate training isn’t a replacement for regular potty breaks, however. A puppy that doesn’t go outside often enough will still have accidents whether it’s crate-trained or not. Crates also aren’t a punishment for potty accidents. Your dog’s crate should be a safe space, so make sure you’re using the crate as a tool, not a crutch.

House training a new puppy can be frustrating, but remember: This part is only temporary. In return for your consistency and patience, you’ll not only be rewarded with a puppy that’s a good citizen of your household, but you’ll strengthen the bond between dog and owner for years to come.

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