How to House Train Your Dog

Three Parts:Setting Up a RoutineRewarding the Dog for Good BehaviorPaper Training a Dog in an Apartment

House training a puppy or adult dog may seem daunting, but almost any dog can be trained to wait at the door and relieve himself outside, instead of going in the house. Create a schedule for feeding your dog and taking him outside. Then, reward your dog with treats and praise when he relieves himself in the designated outdoor spot. When he makes a mess in the house, just clean it up and stick to the routine, since punishing a dog will simply make him afraid of you. Patience and a good sense of humor are all you really need to help your dog adapt to life as a pet.

Part 1
Setting Up a Routine

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    Take your dog outside frequently. This is the most important thing you can do to teach your dog to relieve himself outside. While it may seem excessive, try to take him outside as frequently as possible, about every half an hour. Stick to a schedule and try not to miss even one designated "outside time," since your dog will learn to associate these outside trips with relieving himself.[1]
    • If you're training a puppy, you'll need to take him outside more frequently. Puppies have small bladders and can't physically hold their pee for long periods of time.
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    Put your dog on a feeding schedule. Feed your dog at the same time in the morning and at night, then wait 20 to 30 minutes before taking him outside. Having a feeding schedule will make it easier to predict when your dog will have to go to the bathroom, making house training easier.
    • Puppies need to be fed three times a day. If you have a puppy, schedule a regular lunchtime feeding as well. Again, a puppy should be given more opportunities to go outside, since it has a smaller bladder.
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    Learn to interpret signs that your dog has to go. Signs include walking around stiffly, sniffing the floor as though he's looking for a place to go, holding his tail in a funny position, and so on. If your dog shows signs that he needs to go to the bathroom, take him outside right away, even if it's before the designated time to go out.[2] Include a verbal cue, such as saying, "outside" before you take him out. Eventually, you'll be able to ask him if he needs to go outside, simply by saying the word.[3]
    • When you first start training your dog to go outside, you're teaching him that when he feels the urge, that means it's time to go outside. Each time your dog successfully goes outside, the idea that bathroom = outside is reinforced.
    • Remember to take your dog outside 20 to 30 minutes after every meal and after he drinks water, since he'll likely have to go to the bathroom.
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    Pick a designated spot outside. Choose in your backyard, or if you don't have one, near a green patch of grass somewhere. Take your dog back to the same place each and every time you go outside. Dogs are creatures of habit. You can help your dog feel comfortable and less anxious by picking a good spot for him to use as his "bathroom" each time he goes out. Use a verbal cue such as, "go potty" when you've reached the spot. He'll learn to associate it with the place.[4]
    • Remember to follow your city's ordinances regarding picking up after your pet. If you have no choice but to let your dog use a public spot as his bathroom, you'll need to bring a bag so you can pick up the waste and dispose of it.
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    Supervise your dog during house training. When you first bring your dog or puppy home, plan to spend a lot of time watching your pet to make sure he doesn't go to the bathroom indoors. This supervisory period is imperative because it enables you to teach the dog to quickly associate the urge to pee or poop with going outside. Intercepting the dog or puppy before he goes in the house is the best way to house train quickly.[5]
    • If you can't stay home all day to supervise your dog, you'll need to have someone else come over to take the dog out several times during the day. Make sure the person knows to take the dog to the designated spot each time.
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    Keep your dog in a crate at night and when you're away. If you leave your dog or puppy free to roam the house at night, he's sure to end up soiling the floor. Keeping him in a cozy crate at night and when you're gone reduces the chance that he'll make a mess. Dogs don't like to soil their dens, so your dog will try to wait until he can go outside to relieve himself.
    • Dogs should see their crates as safe spaces and enjoy spending time there. Keeping your dog in a crate is not meant to be a form of punishment. Never punish your dog by banishing him to the crate, or he'll come to associate it with fear instead of comfort.
    • Do not let your dog stay in his crate for too long before taking him outside. If you wait too long, he'll have no choice but to relieve himself in the crate. Dogs need plenty of exercise and playtime too, so you should never leave them crated for more than a few hours at a time or overnight.
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    Clean up messes right away. If your dog makes a mess in the house (and he definitely will), clean it up right away and use a cleaning solution to get rid of the scent. If your dog smells an old mess in a certain spot, he'll think of that as a bathroom spot.
    • Do not punish the dog for making a mess. Just clean it up and stick to the schedule.

Part 2
Rewarding the Dog for Good Behavior

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    Give your dog treats and praise each time he successfully goes outside. Dogs learn best through positive reinforcement and they quickly learn the best way to get it. Every time your dog is able to go to the bathroom in his designated spot, reward him with a little treat, lots of praise, and a scratch on the head.[6]
    • Be consistent when it comes to rewarding your dog. Do it every single time he goes to the bathroom in the bathroom spot.
    • You can of course reward your dog for other things, like learning how to sit and stay. All good behavior should be rewarded.
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    Time the reward correctly. When you're treating your dog for going to the bathroom in his spot, give him a treat and praise right after he finishes relieving himself. Don't give it too early or too late, or he won't associate it with going to the bathroom in the right spot.
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    Consider using a bell or chime to aid in training. Some people have had success using the bell method instead of a treat. When your dog goes to the bathroom in his spot, you ring a bell or pleasant-sounding chime to as part of his reward. The dog will come to look forward to the sound of the chime, which should only be used in this specific situation.
    • The drawback here is that eventually you won't want to keep using a chime or bell every time your dog goes to the bathroom. Initially phasing it out might be confusing to the dog.
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    Keep your voice and manner light and friendly. Whenever you're taking your dog to the bathroom or talking about it, keep your voice light and pleasant. Never raise your voice or take on a menacing tone, because your dog will start to associate his bodily functions with punishment and fear. If your dog makes a mess inside, you can withhold praise, but don't yell at the dog or make him feel ashamed.
    • If using verbal cues, such as "outside", "go potty", or "good dog" be consistent. The repetition of these words along with the action and environment will reinforce where you want your dog to relieve himself.
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    Never punish the dog for making a mess. Dogs don't respond well to punishment. It scares them and instead of learning to perform well for you, they learn to fear you. Never yell, hit, or do anything that could cause your dog to feel afraid.
    • Do not rub your dog's face in his mess. Contrary to some beliefs, this does not teach a dog not to go to the bathroom in the house. The dog will not understand what you're doing and you'll just end up scaring him.

Part 3
Paper Training a Dog in an Apartment

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    Pick an out-of-the-way spot that's easy for your dog to access. If you live in a high rise, you won't be able to make it outside every time your dog needs to go to the bathroom. Pick a spot in your apartment that isn't right in the middle of your living space, but is also easy for your dog to access at any time. A corner of the laundry room or kitchen works well. Choose a spot on hardwood or vinyl flooring, rather than carpet.[7]
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    Line the designated spot with newspaper or training pads. Newspaper is a cheap material you can use to create a bathroom mat for your dog. Absorbent training pads are also available in pet stores. Choose the option that's most convenient for your household.
    • You could also use a dog litter tray. If you'll also take your dog outside to relieve himself, consider filling the tray with soil. This way, the dog will learn that it's acceptable to relieve itself outdoors and indoors.
    • Be aware that your dog may get used to only relieving himself on newspaper, if that's all that you put down.
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    Take your dog to the spot on a regular schedule. Take your dog to the bathroom mat on a strict schedule, just as you would if you were training your dog to go to a spot outside. Frequently walk him to the mat throughout the day and each time he shows signs of needing to relieve himself.
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    Change the mat often, but leave a little spot of dried urine there. The scent of the urine will help your dog remember that the mat is the place to go to the bathroom. Remove feces right away, but leave a sheet of newspaper or a small bit of padding with urine on the clean mat so your dog will naturally know where to go.
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    Reward your dog for going in the spot. Each time he successfully goes on the mat, reward him with a treat, petting and praise. He'll eventually come to associate going to the bathroom on the mat with positive feelings, and he'll start going there without your help before too long.


  • Start training your dog as soon as possible.
  • Keep in mind that accidents are likely, even inevitable. Your dog is learning what is expected of him and can only be expected to "hold it" for so long. Very young puppies in particular have extremely limited control of when they go.
  • If your dog has an accident on hard-flooring, clean it up with paper towels, then a disinfecting wipe. This usually prevents the dog from going in "its regular spot" because they can't find it (no smell!).
  • If you have to leave your puppy for eight hours at a time, the puppy is going to have an accident. Either hire a dog walker or confine the puppy to a place where the mess won't damage your carpets and can be easily cleaned up.


  • Quick trips outside for the dog to relieve itself are not substitutes for exercise or walks. Make sure to exercise your dog regularly.
  • Guilty looks are not a sign that your dog understands what he's done wrong. Your dog is upset because you're angry. Even if your dog does connect your angry behavior to the mess on the floor, it may backfire. Your dog might conclude that you don't want to see him eliminate at all and go to greater lengths to hide it from you, making house training even more difficult.
  • Don't try to punish your dog for accidents. Yelling, hitting, or rubbing your dog's nose in the mess won't teach the dog anything useful. If you haven't caught your dog in the act, he won't have any idea what you're so upset about. Hurting your dog in any way is animal abuse.

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Categories: House Training Dogs