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You just got your new furry friend home, he runs inside, sniffs around, and pees on the floor… now what? This scenario is common for new rescue pups, so don’t fret – we’re going to help you and your new buddy out. Most dogs (even if they’re already housetrained) will have some accidents in the beginning. Here are some guidelines to help set your new pup up for success.


The goal in housetraining is to prevent as many accidents as possible so you can reward your dog when he gets it right. (How else is he going to know what you want?) You will prevent accidents by keeping a close eye on him and by using a crate or dog safe area when you can’t. Let’s talk about preventing accidents first.

The Crate or Den Area

Dogs are den animals who like to keep their dens clean (provided they’re not left in it longer than they can hold it). So, one way you can prevent accidents is by using a crate or dog safe area when you can’t supervise your dog.

If you don’t have a crate you can create a small, den area for your dog instead by baby gating a smaller room with easy to clean floors. (Laundry rooms and bathrooms can work great. Just make sure to clear the room of any chemicals or harmful items in his reach.)

To figure out how long your pup should be able to wait to go outside take his age in months and add 1. (ie a 3 month old puppy can probably wait about 4 hours) Adult dogs should not be expected to hold it for more than 8-9 hours. If you’re going to be gone longer than your dog can realistically wait use a dog safe area and put a few housetraining pads down so he has a potty space. Another option is to ask a trusted friend or dog walker to take him out.

Keep Him Close

Another way to prevent accidents is by supervising your dog closely when he’s not in his den. It’s much easier to do this if you limit the areas of your home he can access (just for now). Keep in mind that dogs instinctively look for absorbent materials to eliminate on, like carpeting. Close doors to rooms when possible and consider putting up a baby gate to help section off areas of your home without doors. Another great trick is to tether your dog to you using his leash. Where you go, he goes. Having him close to you will help you keep an eye out for signals he needs to go to the bathroom.

Common potty signs include:

  • Sniffing
  • Circling
  • Pacing
  • Whining
  • Trying to wander off

Catch him in the act!

When you see a potty signal, scoop your dog up (if possible) or call him to the door and take him outside. Dogs get distracted easily so, even if you have a fenced yard put him on a leash to keep him on track. Immediately after he goes -- get excited! Tell him what a good boy he is and give him a high value yummy treat right then. He’s not going to connect the behavior with the treat if you give it to him once you’re back inside. (He will think you’re a nice human but that’s not going to help him understand where you want him to go.)

If he doesn’t go when you take him out, just take him back inside and try again in 5-10 minutes. (In the meantime, keep a close eye on him or put him in his den.) 

Movement Creates Movement

In a nutshell, movement creates movement. Don’t miss these predictable times your dog will need to go as they are opportunities to teach him! Grab his leash, a treat and go:

  • Immediately after being let out of his crate
  • When he wakes from a nap
  • First thing in the morning, right when you get home, right before bed
  • After chewing on a toy or playing
  • Within minutes of eating or drinking (especially true for puppies!)

Take your pup out as often as possible so you can “catch” him and reward him for it! This is your chance to tell him that good things happen when he goes to the bathroom outside. And behaviors that are rewarded are repeated!

Accidents Happen

Accidents are going to happen. (A lot of them if you have a puppy.) While it can be very frustrating, please try not to get angry. You simply missed one of his signals or he forgot to go when you took him out. It happens to the best of us.

If you catch your dog going to the bathroom in your home, you can try to distract him and take him outside to finish. (Keep in mind he may not be able to stop.) But be careful not to scare him. Punishment (scolding, rubbing his nose in it, swatting him) will only confuse him and make him afraid to go to the bathroom in front of you. This will create a dog who seeks out hidden spots in your home to go because all he knows is he doesn’t want to go to the bathroom in front of you. As you can imagine, this will create a big problem when you take him outside to train him.

The same goes for when you discover an accident after the fact. Just clean it up and make an effort to watch him closer to potty signals and use the crate when you can’t keep an eye on him. Be sure to use an enzymatic pet cleaner for all accidents. This will remove the odor that would otherwise draw him back to that spot.

Keep in mind that housetraining can take a while. Puppies can’t physically hold it for long so it will likely take months to get them completely housetrained. But the more accidents you can prevent, the more opportunities you’ll have to reward your dog for going in the right place! This will help expedite the process while also building a great relationship with your new dog.

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