Puppies Under 6 Months:
Puppies in this age bracket, especially 8-12 weeks have little control of their urination/defecation, similar to human babies. It is therefore very important for you as the owner to let them outside to go to the bathroom frequently. Young puppies should be confined either in a crate or exercise pen while inside to avoid allowing them to go to the bathroom in the house. You should then go outside with the puppy so you can give praise when they go to the bathroom outside in the appropriate location. When you take a puppy out, and they do not go to the bathroom, bring them back inside and confine the dog. If the puppy does go to the bathroom, they can have some free time in the house, but only supervised.
If at any time your puppy has an accident, which will inevitably happen, you can only correct the dog if you catch them in the act. You can say no, pick the puppy up and bring the dog outside. If the puppy finishes outside, give the dog a lot of praise. If the puppy does not finish outside, bring the dog back inside and confine the dog. The most important aspect to crate training is you, the owner. You can also keep the puppy leashed to you while you are in the house so you can keep an eye on the dog. Where owners make mistakes with house training is leaving the puppy with too much free space in the house. Using baby gates and keeping the puppy in the kitchen or confined into a room is also helpful. Generally potty pads are not great, but they are useful in bad weather, or if you are gone for more than 4-5 hours at a time. If it is possible to house train the puppy without them, the process will be faster and less confusing to the puppy. Also remember that puppies generally go to the bathroom first thing in the morning and within one hour of each feeding.
One thing that should be mentioned is never to rub your puppy’s face into their accident in the house. Again, unless you catch them in the act of having an accident, you cannot correct the puppy. This is a very common mistake made in house training, and is not something that dogs understand.
Adult dogs are relatively easy to house train since they have the ability to control urination/defecation. Dogs should be confined in a kennel when you cannot watch them to prevent unnoticed accidents. Take the dog outside every hour or so and apply praise when the dog goes to the bathroom outside. If you suspect your dog has to go to the bathroom, let’s say after the dog eats breakfast, but the dog does not go in the appropriate location, be sure to confine the dog in a crate in the house and try again in 30-40 minutes. Once your dog goes to the bathroom outside, free time loose in the house may be given. It is still best to keep bedroom/bathroom doors closed and keep an eye on your dog while loose in the house. If the dog has an accident in the house and you catch the dog in the act, you may bring the dog outside and see if the dog will finish up. If your dog finishes outside, apply praise, and if not, try again later.
B.S. Animal Science
AKC CGC Certified Evaluator, Selected Mentor Trainer for Animal Behavior College, APDT Full Member