House Training Dos and Don’ts

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 3:45pm
Brindle and white puppy with red collar on

You’ve brought a new dog into your home—congratulations! Now comes your first dog-training challenge: house training.

House training is not an exact science—there’s no sure-fire formula or timetable that will work for every dog. The important thing is to make it a positive, not a stressful, experience. Being attentive, patient and consistent are the keys to success, along with the following dos and don’ts:

Do: Closely supervise your dog. Limit the dog’s run of the house to the one or two rooms where you are able to see her at all times. Dogs usually show “pre-pottying” behavior such as sniffing, circling and walking with stiff back legs; all signs that you should get her to the potty area ASAP! As the training begins to take hold, you can slowly enlarge her territory as she learns where the potty area is—and that the house is not a toilet!

Don’t: Yell at or spank a dog for a mess she made earlier. If you catch her in the act, it’s okay to startle her by clapping or making a noise (hopefully this will stop her long enough for you to whisk her outside). But a dog will not learn anything by being scolded for a past accident, even one a few minutes old. Just clean it up and soldier on.

Do: Offer big, enthusiastic praise when she gets it right. Whether your goal is for your dog to eliminate on pee pads indoors or to do it outside, you have to really throw a party for her when she succeeds. Lavish her with praise, affection and some yummy treats!

Don’t: Rub her face in it. Ever!!! In addition to this action making your dog fear you, she’s incapable of making the connection that it’s the act of soiling indoors you object to—to her, you just really hate pee and poop. If she thinks that the waste itself is what you dislike, she’ll only get sneakier about hiding it from you.

For more detailed advice on house training specific to your pet, please visit our Virtual Pet Behaviorist articles on Weekend Crate Training, House Training Your Puppy, House Training Your Adult Dog or House Training Your Puppy Mill Dog.

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Karen Carney

I hope you don't take ducky back there.


I've found frequent visits out and giving the dog the opportunity to go outside eliminates accidents inside. I have an 8 year old Airedale who has NEVER had an accident inside. He now knows to go to the door-and he will wait patiently until someone notices him.

Tony G

We have a "very sensitive" mini-goldendoodle. He punishes himself if he makes a mistake in the house. We never yell at him, hit him, or anything negative. If he makes a mistake, (very rarely), he will not greet us at the door as he usually does. He will hide under the kitchen table until we "discover" the mistake. We have to tell him it is OK, pet him, and otherwise help him shake it off. This guy does know he did a wrong thing and dwells on it until we help him get past it. He is so funny. His personality is so fragile, but he is the most affectionate dog a person could ever want.

Vickie Willmuth

Puppies are just four legged babies--they do what babies do--eat sleep and poop/pee. It has always been the rule, and I have had many dogs in the house, when puppy wakes from nap, no matter how long or short, we go outside, immediately. If potty is not first on our mind, a trick I learned from my grandmother, pick puppy up, gently pat belly, set down, pee will flow like the Mississippi.


I've never heard that tip from your grandmother--I'm definitely going to try it. Thanks for sharing!


A good general rule is to let puppies go outside to potty after they awaken, after play, after eating and drinking, and if they start sniffing the ground or circling. Later, when they go to the door that leads to "outside", it's time to go NOW. Patience and close observation makes a pup easy to house train. When you leave, crate your pup, or confine him/her in a small paper/pad lined room. Try to make time apart as limited as possible, since babies cannot hold it for very long. Besides, they need frequent meals and water anyway.
Never, ever scold for accidents. Praise successes. Soon there will be far more successes than accidents. That pup really, really wants to please.

Cortney S

I have a chihuahua jack russel mix (Benny) that's still a puppie and my dad found it in a sack with five other dead puppies which is terrible but lucky for him he's then only one who made it and we had one dog already so we already have a doggy door but Benny's too small to go out the doggy door for some reason like we would put it in the back yard untill he was done but he would just come inside through the doggy door just he couldn't go out side through it so he still does his stuff in the house


It sounds like Benny doesn't understand that outside is the place to do his business. You need to take him outside, on leash, and just stand still (no wandering around) and wait until he does business, then praise lavishly, take him for a longer walk, or give a treat as a reward. It helps if you teach commands for peeing and pooping (I use "Go potty" for peeing and "Hurry up" for pooping). In the beginning, you'll need to wait until the pup just starts to do one or the other before giving the appropriate command, then say, "Good potty!" or "Good hurry up!" as he's doing it. Before long, you'll be able to give the commands and Benny will take care of business, as asked.

Once Benny does his business, make sure you let him have at least 5 minutes outside to sniff/play/explore in a wider area, before going back in. That way, he won't try to linger just to extend his potty time.

To help you get started, you might want to ensure that Benny has to go. Give him a quarter of a cup of water with a tablespoon of low-sodium chicken broth in it. He'll lap it all up quickly. Then, about 20 minutes later, take him outside and follow the potty techniques I suggested above. He should go pretty quickly. If not, take him back inside and try again 20 minutes later. Remember to praise, praise, PRAISE, when he does his business outside. Be silly and playful with him to show him you're happy--he'll love it!

Also, never make Benny wait more hours than his age in months +1 (so 4 hours MAX, if he's three months old) between potty breaks.


These are some great tips! One thing I'd like to add is that it's okay to offer correction (a firm "NO") if you catch your dog in the act of eliminating in a bad spot. Some people automatically go to pick up their dog to stop them or to carry them outside. That sort of close contact and touch is percieved by the dog as praise, even if you're saying "NO!" in the process. This praise will lead your dog to believe you like this bad behavior and will slow training. I recommend having a leash on the pup at all times so you can walk the dog outside should they eliminate in a bad spot, but if you must pick up the dog, make minimal body contact - hold the puppy by the scruff (a means of correction used by the puppy's mom as well) with one hand and support his/her bottom with your other hand. If your dog has a command to go outside then give that command and lavish praise on the dog for doing so. If your dog doesn't have a command for that and you picked him/her up, praise the dog just for being outside and throw a party if they finish pottying out there!

Mary G

Bill W is so correct on a word association. When we got Daisy who was only 8 weeks old, we'd take her outside and tell her to "find a spot." Even when she was 15 years old and you'd take her outside and tell her to "find a spot," she'd squat and immediately go potty.