Courtesy of ASPCA
Puppies need to be house trained in order to understand that it’s not okay to eliminate in your house. House training is a simple process, but one that must be carried out positively (without punishment that scares the puppy) and consistently, following two main guidelines: 1) prevent indoor accidents through confinement and close supervision, and 2) take the puppy outside on a frequent and regular schedule and reward him for eliminating where you want him to go. House soiling can occur in any location in the home but sometimes pet parents will notice that their puppy soils more in certain locations, such as infrequently used rooms or on a specific kind of surface. Very young pups (under 12 weeks old) don’t have complete bladder control and might not be able to hold it very long. Older puppies who have had accidents might not have been house trained completely.
Why Puppies You Thought Were Housetrained Might Have Accidents
Too Young to Be Fully House Trained
Some puppies, especially those under 12 weeks of age, haven’t developed bladder or bowel control yet.
Incomplete House Training
Many puppies simply haven’t learned where to eliminate—or they haven’t learned a way to tell their people when they need to go out. Some puppies house soil only under specific conditions. For example, your puppy may soil when he’s home alone for long periods of time, first thing in the morning, sometime during the night, only when you’re not watching or only in infrequently used rooms. Other puppies may urinate or defecate whenever they feel the need to go.
Breakdown in House Training
Sometimes puppies who seem to be house trained at one point regress and start soiling in the house again.
Other Reasons Your Puppy Might House Soil
If your puppy is over three months of age and urinates small amounts on vertical surfaces, he may be urine marking. Young dogs engaging in this behavior often raise their hind legs when urinating. For more information about this problem, please see our article, Urine Marking .
If your puppy only soils when he’s left alone in your home, even for short periods of time, he may have separation anxiety. If this is the case, you may notice that he appears nervous or upset right before you leave him by himself or after you’ve left (if you can observe him while he’s alone). To learn more about this problem, please see our article, Separation Anxiety .
Your puppy may have a submissive/excitement urination problem if he only urinates during greetings, play, physical contact, scolding or punishment. If this is the case, you may notice your puppy displaying submissive postures during interactions. He may cringe or cower, roll over on his belly, tuck or lower his tail, duck his head, avert his eyes, flatten his ears or all of the above. For more information, please see our article, Submissive Urination .
Medical Causes for House Soiling
It’s always a good idea to visit your puppy’s veterinarian to rule out medical causes for house soiling. Some common medical reasons for inappropriate urination and defecation follow.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Puppies with urinary tract infections usually urinate frequently and in small amounts. They may also lick their genital areas more than usual.
If your puppy was house trained but now defecates loose stools or diarrhea in your house, he may have gastrointestinal upset for some reason.
Change in Diet
If you’ve recently changed the amount or type of food you give your puppy, he may develop a house soiling problem. Often, after a diet change, a puppy will defecate loose stools or diarrhea. He may also need to eliminate more frequently or on a different schedule than before the diet change.
Miscellaneous Medical Causes
Other medical causes include abnormalities of the genitalia that cause incontinence (loss of bladder control), various diseases that cause frequent elimination and medications that cause frequent elimination.
How to House Train Your Puppy
House training is accomplished by rewarding your puppy for eliminating where you want him to go (outside) AND by preventing him from urinating or defecating in unacceptable places (inside the house). You should keep crating and confinement to a minimum, but some amount of restriction is usually necessary for your puppy to learn to “hold it.” (To learn how to crate train your puppy, please see our article, Weekend Crate Training .)
How Long It Will Take
Some puppies learn where and where not to eliminate at a very young age, while others take longer to understand. Most puppies can be reasonably housetrained by four to six months of age. However, some puppies are not 100% reliable until they are eight to twelve months of age. Some puppies seem to catch on early but then regress. This is normal. Keep in mind that it may take a while for your puppy to develop bowel and bladder control. He may be mentally capable of learning to eliminate outdoors instead of inside, but he may not yet be physically capable of controlling his body.
How Often Your Puppy Needs to Go Out
All puppies are different, but a puppy can usually only hold his waste for the same number of hours as his age in months. (In other words, a four-month-old pup should not be left alone for more than four consecutive hours without an opportunity to go outside.) He can last longer at night, however, since he’s inactive (just like we can). By the time your pup is about four months old, he should be able to make it through the night without going outside.
House Training Steps
Additional House Training Tips
House training does require an investment of time and effort—but it can be done! If you’re consistent, your hard work will pay off. Hang in there! If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact a qualified professional, such as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or Associate CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB). To find one of these experts in your area, please see our article, Finding Professional Help .
What NOT to Do
Copyright © 2009. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). All Rights Reserved.
Education is the first step in pet poison prevention.
Pet owners should take the time to educate themselves on the various, sometimes unexpected, pet poisons in their environments. The Pet Poison Helpline provides an extensive list of poisonous items for pet owners to be aware of, but here are a few of the most common items seen by veterinarians:
Many people believe certain dog breed, such as huskies and malamutes, are capable of living outside all of the time because of their thick coats. However, no dog breed should be consistently left unprotected outside. According to the City of Cincinnati, when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a pet owner should not leave their dog outside for longer than sixty minutes without adequate shelter. For outside dogs, owners should provide a warm, dry, draft free shelter with fresh, unfrozen water. Heated water bowls are a great option to ensure consistent access to unfrozen water. Owners should also feed their outdoor dogs more during the winter because their bodies use more energy trying to keep warm. In 2016, the City of Cincinnati passed an ordinance with further restrictions and shelter guidelines for dog tethering and weather conditions, which can be found by clicking here
A common winter hazard that vets encounter consistently with cats is engine belt injuries. Cats will climb into cars to keep warm, and without knowing they’re there, people will start their cars and harm the cats. Before starting your car in the winter, it’s advised to give the car hood a few raps to make sure there are no cats cozied up inside.
Pets start an estimated 1,000 fires per year. While this isn’t a huge number, it’s easily preventable. Pet owners should identify the risks in their home and make sure they’re contained from pets. Risks to consider include, open flames such as candles, space heaters, stovetops, fireplaces, and frayed wires chewed by puppies.
Even if all fire hazards are contained from pets, there’s still always a chance of a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) , there’s a home fire reported every 86 seconds in the United States. So while the hope is that you and your pets never have to face a fire, it’s important to have a plan.
In case of a fire, pet owners should hang window clings that let firefighters know there’s a pet in the home. The ASPCA offers a free Pet Fire Safety Pack that includes a window decal. When leaving home, pet owners should know where their pets are and keep them close to exits if possible. Pet owners should also consider investing in monitored smoke detectors that alert homeowners of a fire when they’re not home and automatically dispatch firefighters.
Getting your dog microchipped is an easy and relatively inexpensive procedure that drastically increases the odds that your pet will find its way home if it’s ever lost. A microchip is a tiny chip that’s about the size of a grain of rice and contains a unique identification number. It’s injected into a pet’s skin between the shoulder blades on their back. When scanned with an electric scanner, the chip will show the unique identification number and manufacturer of the microchip. This unique identification number will be linked to the pet owner’s contact information in the microchip manufacturer’s database.
If a stranger ever finds your dog, a shelter or veterinarian can scan your pet for a microchip. Once they have the identification number and manufacturer from the chip reading, they will call the manufacturer in search of the pet owner’s contact information. Therefore, if a dog owner moves or changes their contact information, it’s extremely important for them to update the contact information associated with their pet’s microchip identification number.