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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Dare

Some Wee Advice: tips for house-training your pup

Updated: May 18, 2020

There’s marvelous information readily available online and in puppy books about how to house-train your pup. The theme is pretty straightforward:

  • Bring pup outside frequently to give him ample opportunities to pee/poop outside

  • Select potty locations, when possible, that are as distraction-free as possible

  • Reward each outdoor success, to strengthen the habit

  • Require pup to potty first, before outdoor play is allowed

  • Keep pup on consistent feeding schedule so output is easier to predict

  • Supervise carefully inside to spot the early warning signs that pup has to go out

  • Contain pup in an appropriately-sized space when you can’t supervise, to reduce accidents

When I say “appropriately-sized” I mean that the space is just small enough so your pup is reluctant to soil that area, but not so small that pup is squished and unable to stand, turn, stretch out, lie down, etc. For many pups, short bouts of crate-time will successfully discourage accidents when you can’t supervise. Other pups will keep an entire exercise pen accident-free. Of course, if you leave a pup anywhere too long without a chance to go out for a potty break, accidents can happen even in small enclosures.

It takes time, consistency, and patience to build a strong habit of outdoor peeing/pooping, but early attention to this training yields smooth sailing for the rest of the pup’s life. And while it’s a bit tedious to be on alert, fewer indoor accidents means less rehearsal of the undesired behavior.

Core training tip: practice and reinforce the behaviors you like in your pup,

and prevent him practicing the undesired behaviors.

Here are a few additional pointers I’d like to share:

MANAGEMENT: If you’re like me, your attention may get sucked into a book, TV, or computer, and you’ll forget to supervise the pup as you should. To make supervision more likely, loop a tether around your chair leg and attach to pup. I’d recommend no more than 4’. Make sure pup has access to some interesting items like a toy, a chew, and a food puzzle, so his mouth is appropriately occupied. If pup has to pee or poop at any point while tethered near you, he’s likely to give you a sign that he has to go because he won’t want to soil an area where he can’t then move away.

SIGNALLING: each dog is unique in the way they may signal when they need a potty break. Some are clearer than others. You need to learn what your own puppy’s signals are, and that requires careful observation. Some common signals:

  • Suddenly distracted from previous activity

  • Whining or barking

  • Standing near or pacing by door

  • Sniffing the floor

  • Circling in place, or moving in a hectic manner

  • Turning into a land shark, jumping up on you and biting

SUBSTRATES: If you plan to travel with your pup regularly during his life, practice walking him on a variety of surfaces to allow opportunities to pee/poop on things like grass, gravel, mulch, leaves, blacktop, etc. I learned this the hard way years ago. I had a dog who was raised in the country and when we’d visit my sister in NYC, the dog was unable to eliminate on the city streets, so we’d have to run to a dog park for potty breaks on a patch of grass. Not the most convenient thing.

If you’re having a particularly difficult time with house-training, reach out to a professional trainer for some more guidance. A pee- and poop-free house is achievable!

If you like this article, please share with other puppy lovers you know.  :-)

Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, puppy matchmaking services, and pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies. She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.

Please visit to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120


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