The Key To House Training Success Is Supervision

Total Supervision

Outside of sleeping, puppies really don’t do too much; you can expect that unless they are eating, chewing, or playing, they are looking for a place to pee. Don’t let them wander off behind the couch or up the stairs without you, don’t let them out in the yard or to hang out in the kids’ room without your total supervision. Use a leash tied to your waist, kennels, crates, and exercise pens to accomplish this. Don’t let that little pup out of your sight for a moment! Dog training is about timing. In order for your dog to understand that going inside isn’t right and going outside is –you need to be there, every time they go, giving your very clear and consistent input on the subject.

Schedule the Event

We will use what we know about our pup’s limited schedule to determine when they will need to go. If your puppy isn’t asleep, they are peeing now and/or will be soon. You’ll be taking your new puppy for a walk roughly every waking hour. 8-week-old puppies can’t be awake for more than 75 minutes without going pee, by 12 weeks of age they have a 90 minute bladder capacity, and can hold it in for just 2 hours at 18 weeks.

Don’t wait to see if they show signs they need to go like circling, sniffing, or going toward the door –it’s already too late! Pick that puppy up and get a pair of slip-on shoes because you’ll need to take them out the moment they wake from naps, immediately after drinking or playing, and within 20 minutes of eating. A consistent feeding schedule and removing water at night can be helpful. Feed your puppy 3 times a day, for exactly 10 minutes. Don’t leave food out to be eaten all day.

Teach your pup to go on command

  1. Say your cue, such as “better hurry” when you expect the magic to happen
  2. Pair the cue with calm, reassuring praise as they urinate or defecate
  3. Once your pup has finished doing their business, say ‘Yes!’ and offer a treat to seal the deal

1-2-3, it’s that simple, why not? With repetition, the sound of your cue will be a reliable command to pee/poo, which comes in handy on a rainy day.

What to do when accidents happen

Even if you are a vigilant supervisor and an adept scheduler, an accident or two is likely to occur within the first 2 weeks. So long as you are right there to interrupt them, these incidents will be teachable moments. Interrupt, saying ‘ah!’ is more than enough, the key is to interrupt them, not to punish or startle. Don’t let them finish emptying their bladder or bowel, pick up your puppy as quickly as possible and rush them outside. Hopefully, they will finish what was started outside and earn a reward.

Don’t rub their nose in it!

Punishing or startling could result in un-wanted behaviours like coprophagia (eating feces) and trying to hide to avoid punishment. The key is to keep them from enjoying the reward of emptying their bladder or bowel in the house, and of course, to teach them that going outside is awesomely rewarding. Imagine that every time you sat down on the toilet, someone burst into the washroom and interrupted you. Now imagine that every time you peed in a bush outside, someone waited patiently till you were done, all the while singing your praises, then handed you candy. Dog training should be consistent and clear. Would it have made it any more clear if the person bursting into the washroom had shoved your head in the toilet? Probably not.

What if I don’t catch my puppy in the act?

If you find a cold turd behind the couch or dried urine under the dining room table, you should go roll up some newspaper and smack yourself with it. You’ve failed to follow the most basic rule of house training, which is that TOTAL SUPERVISION is key to success. Your pup has learned that so long as they’re alone–it’s okay to pee and poo in the house. When you first begin giving your pup brief periods of freedom in the house after 2 solid weeks of accident free living, you’ll need to spy on them with mirrors and convince them that you are always watching, catching everything in the act!

Is my puppy totally ‘house-trained’?

Visiting someone else’s home or a public place like a bank can be great for socialization, but Fido won’t be welcome for long if he can’t hold his bladder. Treat each new location as though your pup isn’t house-trained at all, because until they have had experience in many locations, they simply cannot generalize the concept to all indoor spaces, or even to the identical townhouse next door. Take your puppy to an appropriate spot outside, use your cue word to eliminate and reward if they do. Once inside, watch your puppy carefully,


Puppies don’t choose the best places to pee! Supervise accordingly.

keeping them engaged, walking around, checking things out briefly, doing an obedience command or two. Within the first few minutes of arriving, return to your outside spot and give your cue to pee and poo. Hopefully you’ve had success, but in any case, you’ll bring your pup out again within the next 20 minutes. Giving the puppy so many chances to see where the bathroom spot is at this new location will help ensure success. Do not to allow your puppy to explore the new place alone, and bring along a cleaning kit for just in case!

Why does my puppy need a small crate?

Using a crate or kennel is important for many reasons, but for house-training, it is indispensible. Your pup will need a space to be safely kept while you can’t be watching them, and the space needs to be exactly the right size. The space should be large enough that they can stand and turn around, but not so large that they feel comfortable urinating or defecating in one corner and lying in the other. Dogs and puppies raised in clean homes have a wonderful natural instinct to keep the environment where they eat, sleep, and play clean. They will gradually learn to see your entire house within that realm but for an 8-week old puppy, a kennel is the right size environment to trust them with. As they get older, exercise pens and baby gates can provide stepping-stones toward freedom in the household.

Should I use a Pee-Pad?

There are few instances in which it is helpful to have a pup accustomed to using a pee pad, such as in the case of an ill or incontinent dog, but in most scenarios, you won’t require them, and in fact, they create another, more complicated step to your house-training, sometimes involving phasing out the pads by moving them back and forth to the door and eventually outside because, and hopefully, that is your end goal. Having an indoor bathroom will limit your puppy’s socialization opportunities, and prevent them from developing the ability to ‘hold it.’ Bladder and bowel control can be improved by keeping the puppy in a small kennel for an hour or two at first, gradually increasing the time spent and the size of the kennel as your pup grows older. If you must leave your new puppy alone for too long, consider arranging for a neighbour or friend to help walk your puppy. Hiring a dog walker or investing in day care could be suitable options as well.

What if I’m still having trouble?

Have your veterinarian rule out medical issues such as bladder infections and incontinence before seeking the guidance of a qualified trainer. If you are in our area, we would be happy to provide one-on-one help. We also offer help on-line and over the phone from anywhere in the world. Got a question you’d like to ask the trainer? Send your queries to