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Dr. Yin with black and grey puppy on green grass

Q: I have a new puppy. How do I successfully housetrain?

A: Always Supervise: 

  • Use crates, gates, ex-pens, and tethers to make sure your dog is never out of sight.
  • If you cannot directly supervise, then your dog needs to be secure in a safe place.

Clean, Clean, Clean:

  • If your dog has gone to the bathroom somewhere inappropriate, make sure to clean it thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner. Dogs have a better sense of smell than humans, so even if it smells clean to you, they could be attracted back to the same spot.
  • Enzyme cleaners may need to be injected into the carpet pad if need be. You can purchase an injection kit with the cleaner.
  • Use a black light to locate areas where your dog has urinated.


  • Puppies less than four months old urinate more frequently.
  • Put them on a schedule to take them outside regularly.
    •    Every hour
    •    Every 15 minutes when playing
    •    Within 20 minutes after eating
  • Feed regular meals (three times a day for puppies under four months and twice a day if over four months) so that you can predict a bowel movement (usually within 20 minutes of eating) and get them outside.
  • Puppies under four months old need to eliminate at least every couple of hours. Consider hiring someone to come let your dog out or make arrangements to return home regularly.


  • Set your dog up for success and reward them each time they urinate or have a bowel movement outside.
  • Immediately reward them after elimination rather than waiting until you get back inside.
  • Take them out on a leash and supervise them each time.
  • You can also use a cue word such as “potty”.
  • Pair this cue with the act of elimination then reward when finished.

Avoid Punishment:

  • Punishment increases the likelihood that your dog will not eliminate in front of you but will not necessarily stop them from soiling other places in the house. Using punishment also causes them to see you as unpredictable.  
  • You can gently interrupt your dog but never punish.