If you obtained an 8-week old puppy from a home that provided them a surface to eliminate on that is not found in your home, and this surface was different than the resting, playing, and eating surfaces they had, you are almost done. You want the surface they previously eliminated on to be different from what is in your home so the puppy has not already learned to eliminate on your floors. Ideally this surface should be close to the type of surface you want your dog to eliminate on such as grass, dirt, gravel, etc… It is okay if the surface for elimination was newspaper, as long as the puppy had a separate surface to play, rest, and eat on like you have in your home, such as wood, vinyl, or tile floors, etc… and you don’t have newspaper floors in your home. If it was all newspaper, just assume that your new dog or puppy is not housetrained regardless of what anyone tells you. There is no such thing as being almost housetrained. Housetraining requires you to establish a regular routine, supervision, and confinement when you cannot be eyes-on.

Housetraining a new puppy or an older dog will follow the same principals. The basics are management and training, but with a heavy emphasize on management. Dogs have an instinctive tendency to keep the area where they rest and sleep clean and will seek out another location to eliminate. unless we have corrupted this instinct by poorly setting up the environment. Mother nature provides the instinctive tendency for the housetraining behavior to develop, the envirnoment provides the opportunity if we get it right. 

The vast majority of dogs that are not housetrained are almost always the result of:

·       Puppy obtained from an inexperienced breeder, or dog owner.

·       Puppy mill dog obtained from a pet store or internet. Responsible breeders do not sell a puppy in a pet store or via the internet.

·       Background of being crated, kenneled or confined for a long period of time.

·       Absence of proper housetraining.

·       Not given sufficient opportunities to eliminate in the proper area.

The question most everyone would like to know is how long it will take to housetrain a dog. That answer depends on the whether the place the dog was raised before 8-weeks set the foundation, and your willingness and commitment to continue the training. If your dog benefited from a good foundation and you are committed, it may only be weeks. If the dog was lacking the proper foundation and you are willing and fully committed it may take a month or longer. If you are not 100% committed to establishing a routine, keeping a log, giving regular opportunities to eliminate you may always have one of those dogs who “is almost housetrained”. Dogs will not outgrow housetraining problems; you must be actively involved in the process. 

Don’t consider your dog housetrained until they have had no accidents for 12-weeks.[1] Most dogs will have good control at about 6-months of age. Remember, even when your dog is housetrained they still need numerous opportunities to eliminate in the appropriate area so you don’t undo what you worked so hard to accomplish.

How To Housetrain

Keep in mind every dog is different in regards to how often they will need to eliminate. If your dog needs to poop more than two or three times a day, it could be due to a low quality diet that has a low digestibility.  As a general rule, puppies can hold their urine for their age in months plus one hour. Meaning an 8-week old puppy (2-months) can hold their urine for 3-hours on average (2 + 1) if they are resting with no activity.

The first time you bring your new puppy or dog home or to any location for that matter, give them the opportunity to relieve themselves outside in the area that you wish them to use. Start from day one to teach your dog or puppy to eliminate outside the home. This is why it is recommended you don’t put down newspaper or housetraining pads in the house. Why would you want to teach your dog to eliminate in the house? Generally the purpose of housetraining is to teach the dog to eliminate outside, not in the house. If you have already started by paper training your dog, and your intent is to teach them to eliminate outside, commit now to doing it in one step. Just take some of the paper that they have already eliminated on and move it outdoors to the location where you want them to use so the smell associated with eliminating is there now.

You must also completely clean the area where the paper was kept with an enzymatic cleaner or one designed to neutralized odor molecules in urine to remove all traces of the smell inside the house.  (See below; “How to Properly Clean Up To Leave No Trace”. Don’t confuse your dog by trying to paper train them inside and trying to train them outside at the same time.[2] In the cases where eliminating outdoors is not an option, as in the case with people who live in multi-unit high-rise buildings or some owners of service dogs, there are artificial grass products (see resource section below) that drain into a tray beneath the turf. These products may be a viable option on cruise ships that permit service dogs to be kept in staterooms with their owners.[3] If you choose to use this option, just follow the same guidelines below.

Now when your dog does eliminate in the designated area, praise them immediately after they finish eliminating. This is the first step to establishing a routine and pattern. The routine should start with keeping a general feeding schedule for each meal. This means you are not leaving food out for the dog, but rather feeding two to four times a day depending on what is appropriate for the dog’s age.  Keep a detailed log with times of all your dog’s activities and non-activities. When she sleeps, when fed, chews, play time and for how long, etc… in addition to noting when she eliminated.

You will need to take your dog to the designated elimination area on a leash; as soon as they wake up in the morning, after they wake up from a nap, anytime they get up from resting, after they have eaten, between 15-30 minutes after a meal, after they have played, after they have been chewing, after a walk. Any time your dog is transitioning from one activity to another (playing – laying down), or a non-activity to another, (laying down – getting up ), or chewing on a toy then getting up from the floor, take them out to eliminate. This is not a stroll to the designated area, but rather a quick walk. If you saunter along, you may find your puppy has suddenly stopped along the way to piddle. If you just open the door or put them outside they will not understand why. They likely will sit at the door wanting back in with you. If by some fortunate turn of events they did run out to the designated area and eliminate and they come back to the door to re-enter and you enthusiastically praised them, the logical conclusion on their part would be that you were praising them for coming to the door, not eliminating in the designated area. A more likely scenario is that they will just go explore the yard, chase squirrels, or some other activity you had not intended. This is the reason why dog doors are not appropriate for housetraining. If you are not outside with your dog, you cannot be sure whether or not they eliminated, nor train them to use a designated area if you are not there to direct them. Another important reason to not start with a dog door is that you want your dog to learn how to eliminate while on a leash. There may be times when you are away from home that your dog will need to eliminate. It is important that they learn to eliminate away from home on a leash in an area of your choosing so they don’t eliminate in public areas.

Don’t have unreasonable expectations of expecting your dog to eliminate in a tiny area. Most dogs don’t pee and poop in the same small square. They will often pee (or poop) then move a short distance away and poop (or pee) in the same area, but not the same tiny square.  Don’t rush your dog when you take them out. If you give them the chance they may pee or poop more than once while they are there.

While housetraining you will be taking you dog out every two to three hours if not more often during the day. At night just before bedtime, don’t engage your puppy or dog in vigorous exercise or you may find your dog will need to eliminate soon after you both have settled down. Also remove the water about 30-minutes before your dog’s last visit to the designated elimination area before bedtime.[4] At night, your dog can often go longer then the age plus one rule since they are not eating or drinking, as long as you take them out just before bedtime and they have eliminated. But don’t expect them to hold it all night until you wake in the morning. If they start to move around or whimper, just get up and take them to the designated area so they can relieve themselves, then you both can go back to bed.

If your dog is awaken suddenly by a noise (door bell, knock on door, loud noise from the television, something dropped in kitchen, etc…) and is startled from their rest, be aware that the sudden burst of excitement may get their system moving and she may need to go out right afterward. After play, vigorous exercise, or any excitement such as a guest arriving at your home, take your puppy or dog out to eliminate.

You should realize by this point if you are going to housetrain a puppy it will require someone to be home with the puppy. If you are not home you may need to have a friend or pet sitter come by to get your puppy/dog out. Don’t think you are going to housetrain a puppy if you are away from home for hours at a time. Remember, your puppy can only hold their urine for so long, and this will vary by individual. If someone is not home to take your puppy out when they need to go you are going to have an accident in the house to clean up. Every accident is a setback. You likely have no control over someone knocking at your front door, or a loud noise outside startling the puppy waking them from their sleep when you are not home. This excitement in itself may be enough to cause them to need to relieve themselves.

After a few days if you have been consistent in your routine and have been keeping a detailed log, you should have an observable pattern of elimination times. After establishing an observable pattern you should be able to predict when he may need to go out to eliminate. About an hour before his predictable time of elimination confine him to a really small area in a place he will not want to soil until time to take him to the designated area on a leash.[5] Take him out at that time or when you observe him sniffing the ground or circling.

When you take him out to eliminate just stay quiet and keep them in the designated area on the leash for about 5-minutes. Don’t turn this into a play session or time to explore. If you want to play or give your dog free time come back out after a few minutes and play with them in a different area if they have already eliminated.

If your dog does not eliminated on schedule when you take him outside, take him back inside and be sure that he only has access to a very small area where he is less likely to soil.[6] By feeding your dog in that area you can increase the chance of your dog not wanting to eliminate in that area.[7]  If you confine him to a pen, bathroom, or kitchen with a baby gate now, you will likely have mistakes since the area is large enough for him to eliminate at one end and move to the other away from the mess. Closely supervise him until you take him back outside to the designated elimination area which can be as soon as 5-minutes for a puppy, or maybe 30-minutes for an adolescent or adult dog. It is your responsibility to be sure that you never give your dog an opportunity to eliminate in the house. You cannot accomplish this if the dog is out of your sight, so one consideration is keep him on a leash and tethering him to you. That does not mean letting the dog have 6-feet of leash behind you out of view. If they are out of view you will not see the signs that they need to eliminate, such as sniffing the ground and or circling.

Some trainers’ advice teaching your dog to ring a bell hanging at the door leading to the yard when they need to go outside to eliminate. This can be a viable option for some if the dog is confined in the area where the door is located. First though you must be close enough that you hear the bell so you can quickly get your dog outside to the designated area. A common issue with this approach is that many people find that their dog learns that ringing the bell gets you to come so they can go outside any time that they desire. One way to help avoid this is to only place the bell at the door about a half-hour before his predictable time of elimination. If he rings the bell take him out on a leash only to eliminate. Stay quiet and keep them in the designated area on the leash for about 5-minutes. Don’t reward the bell ringing by turning this into a play session or time to explore. If your dog becomes an annoying bell ringer, just eliminate the bell and supervise. There really is no substitute for supervision.

When you take them outside to the designated elimination area and you see them sniffing the ground and or circling you can put the elimination on command. Just give a command in a normal voice when you see the sniffing and circling is going to lead to elimination, and after several weeks the dog should feel the need to eliminate on the designated surface when he hears the command.[8] 

If your dog has had their regular elimination then you can give them more freedom in the room you are in as long as you closely supervise. You can also confine them to a small area such as a bathroom or kitchen with the use of a baby gate, or use a pet tether to keep them on their favorite bed when you are not able to be eyes on for short periods of time. If they are tired after a play session, walk or other exercise and they have already eliminated it is fine to place them in a crate for them to nap. If the puppy or dog is not tired, they can view the crate like a prison on lockdown, so do not abuse its use, but rather use the crate after they have exercised first and are ready to rest.   

Stuff Happens

If your dog does eliminate in the house, many trainers recommend that you roll up a newspaper and smack yourself, don’t blame the dog! And by all means don’t do sometime totally stupid like rubbing your dog’s nose in it. In all likelihood you made a mistake by not supervising or not taking the dog out often enough. Dogs experiencing stress will increase the need to eliminate.[9] Yelling, or smacking your dog or puppy with a paper, or rubbing their nose in their mess will not be viewed as a correction, but as an act by an unstable person they learn not to trust. The submissive posture and “guilty look” that many owners believe they see after the dog has had an accident in the house, or has “knowingly done wrong”, is the dog reacting to the owner, not the act of doing something wrong.[10] Just because later they may come to you with their tail wagging does not mean you have not harmed your relationship. Even young children will show affection to parents that abuse them.

If you catch your dog in the act, make a startling noise or give an urgent verbal correction (not their name) e.g. "outside" but do not yell or show anger. Your goal is to interrupt the act so the bowel and bladder shuts off so you can immediately take them outside on a leash to the designated area. Immediately after the startling noise or verbal correction make sure you assume a neutral demeanor, not one of anger or frustration. You will only confuse your dog if you do. Don’t forget to immediately and sincerely praise your dog if they now eliminate in the proper area outside. If you over-correct you may cause the dog to start to eliminate in another room out of your view to avoid your reaction. If you are too harsh they may never want to eliminate in your presence either inside or outside.[11] This can now be a big problem if they will not eliminate outside with you present.

If the dog urinated in the house, dab it up on a paper towel and place the paper towel in the area of the yard you wish the dog to eliminate. If the dog pooped in the house, place the poop outside in the area where the dog should eliminate. You want to put the odors in the area you want the dog to use.  

If a dog is housetrained, it does not eliminate in the house except for a few exceptions which are not housetraining issues. If you are having problems with your dog it may be the result of one or more of the following contributing factors. 

Common reasons for elimination problems are:

·       Illness

·       Urinary Incontinence

·       Canine Dementia

·       Medical Conditions

·       Submissive Urination

·       Excitement Urination

·       Fear / Insecurity

·       Separation Anxiety

·       Territorial Marking Behavior

Urinary incontinence (See Resource Section Below) predominantly affects spayed female dogs and they may dribble urine or leave a small puddle behind after resting.[12] Fortunately this is a condition that can be treated by your veterinarian. Age related cognitive dysfunction is not an incontinence problem but rather dog dementia. (See Resource Section Below)  Medical conditions that can cause elimination problems are often a urinary tract infection that your veterinarian can treat. More serious problems such as chronic kidney failure can result in increased water consumption and increased urination, which can also result in the bladder emptying involuntarily while the dog sleeps. Drugs prescribed by your veterinarian such as cortisone and phenobarbital can result in your dog eliminating in the house after having been housetrained.[13] If there is a sudden breakdown in housetraining or you are having trouble housetraining a puppy or dog you should always have your dog checked by your veterinarian to rule out any type of medical issue that could be causing the problem.

Submissive and excitement urination is caused by the temporary loss of control of the bladder when the dog becomes excited or feels threatened. If submissive or excitement urination is the problem, don’t overexcite and avoid doing do anything (if at all possible) that would trigger urination. By ignoring or acting calm around the dog and not adding to a dog's excitement/arousal, or anxiety the problem will likely resolve itself. With submissive urination you must avoid adding any pressure to the dog. This sounds simplistic but the first step is to work to remove your dog feeling overwhelmed and needing to express the urination behavior while at the same time working on building their confidence.

Fear related elimination issues are seen when the dog becomes frightened which can result in them losing control of their bladder and or bowels. Dogs that experienced a proper socialization process almost never have fear elimination problems. Separation anxiety does not have the sudden onset like fear, but as the anxiety builds the dog becomes distressed. Dogs that suffer separation anxiety need to slowly learn over time how to manage on their own for periods of time.

Territorial Marking

Territorial urine marking is not a housetraining issue per say, but the result of a dog feeling the need to reestablish their scent in the places they inhabit. A dog coming into season may start to mark to invite possible suitors. [11]  For an insecure dog the marking behavior can be motivated out of a need to protect self so for them it is very important to let others know the place is occupied. Humans are motivated for the same reason. We post signs that state "no trespassing" or that the home has a security system, and a number of other creative signs to get the message across to others that they are not welcome without an invitation. Something as simple as a dog door may contribute to the dog's insecurity. Humans look at dog doors as a way for a dog's to get outside. But for an insecure dog this can be seen as a way for the outside world to gain access to their sanctuary. People can experience the same insecurity if they are unable to secure the front door to their home.    

Humans have breed some dogs to naturally be more territorial. For the more confident territorial dogs their marking can provide clues about their relationship with their owners or the people they live with. A dog with territorial tendencies needs the understanding that it is the humans who are responsible for controlling the territory and not the dog. A dog needs to realize that they are not responsible for the humans and the territory, but rather they are responsible to the humans. A dog that realizes they are responsible to the humans does not believe the environment allows them the liberty to act as they please. You don’t need to establish an authoritarian relationship to be considered the one responsible for the territory, you just need to lead.

How to Properly Clean Up without a Trace

If your dog does eliminate in the house you must permanently remove all odors from this area with cleaning products that completely eliminates all odors and not just covers them up with another scent.  Do not use a cleaning product that is ammonia based or any product that leaves a scent otherwise the dog will be attracted back to this spot. Clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner or one designed to neutralized odor molecules in urine to remove all traces of the smell inside the house.  It may require more than one application. You can also use the laundry detergent that you use to wash your clothes to remove any odors provided it won’t discolor the surface. Using a solution of your laundry detergent won’t introduce a foreign scent to the area that will attract your dog again.   To complete the cleanup I highly recommend after thoroughly cleaning the area that you spray Zero Odor Pet Odor Eliminator to eliminate odors on a molecular level.



After cleaning the area where mistakes were made spray Zero Odor Pet to completely eliminate odors.

After cleaning the area where mistakes were made spray Zero Odor Pet to completely eliminate odors.

Use to freshen artificial turf.

Use to freshen artificial turf.

Artificial turf for home and travel. Freshen with Simple Green.

Artificial turf for home and travel. Freshen with Simple Green.

For artificial turf, patio, yards.

For artificial turf, patio, yards.

Adjustable Walkin Wheels Dog Wheelchair
Mr. Peepers Male Wrap

     Handicapped Pets:

3 Options for Incontinent Pets

  • Male Wrap Belly Band
  • Disposable Pet Diapers
  • Washable Pet Diapers


Peepers Disposable Pet Diapers


By following the process of management and training your dog can be housetrained if you are committed. It takes a lot less time committing to taking your dog out regularly and setting the right pattern early on, then it does to clean up ongoing accidents.

Always consult your veterinarian whenever you are having a difficult time housetraining your dog to rule out a medical issue. If your dog checks out fine medically and you have been diligent in following all the advice above with no success, get a copy of John Rogerson’s book, The Dog Vinci Code and read the chapter on “Elimination Problems”. This chapter is for the very rare occasions when additional steps need to be applied.     


[1] How to Behave So Your Dog BehaveDr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

[2] Puppy’s First StepsEdited by Nicholas Dodman, BVMS

[3] Cunard Cruises

[4] How to Behave So Your Dog BehaveDr. Sophia Yin, DVM, MS

[5] The Dog Vinci CodeJohn Rogerson

[6] The Dog Vinci CodeJohn Rogerson

[7] The Dog Vinci CodeJohn Rogerson

[8] The Dog Vinci CodeJohn Rogerson

[9] The Dog Vinci CodeJohn Rogerson

[10] Inside Of A Dog   Alexandra Horowitz

[11] The Dog Vinci CodeJohn Rogerson

[12] The Well-Adjusted DogDr. Nicholas H. Dodman

[13] The Well-Adjusted DogDr. Nicholas H. Dodman