Like children, puppies can be unpredictable. Some will learn where and when to use the potty within weeks of you bringing them home. Others will take a little longer. The ASPCA notes that most puppies can be housetrained within four to six months, but accidents are still likely during this time. While you may not be able to totally prevent puppy accidents, reduce their likelihood with a few tried and true training methods.
Establish a Routine
Puppies excel when they are put on a regular routine. A routine lets your puppy know that there are certain times to eat, play and go to the bathroom. Take your puppy outside as soon as he wakes up, after he eats and drinks, immediately after play time and before bed. When your puppy is young, take him out at least every two hours. Pick a designated bathroom spot outside and always bring your puppy to that spot when you take him outside. Reward your puppy with a treat or a pat immediately after he eliminates, while you’re still outside. Feed your puppy at the same time, three to four times per day. Feeding your puppy on a regular schedule makes it more likely that he will eliminate on a regular schedule, making it easier for you to avoid accidents.
A young puppy cannot hold his bladder for more than a few hours at a time, no matter how hard he tries. The Humane Society of the United States says the general rule is to assume your puppy can hold it for about one hour for every month of age -- so if your puppy is four months old, he shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours. If you have to leave for longer periods of time, arrange for a close friend to take him outside or hire a pet sitter to come over every few hours.
Confine in a Crate
When you’re not home, confine your puppy to a crate or a small area of the house. The space should be large enough so that your puppy can comfortably stand, lie down and turn around, but small enough that your puppy does not want to soil the area. If you prefer not to use a crate, you can use a small bathroom or a baby gate to section off a small area of the house.
Even if you do everything right, it’s highly likely that your puppy will have a few accidents. If you catch your puppy in the act, interrupt him with a startling noise and take him outside to his bathroom spot. Don’t punish your puppy for his mishap -- this will only instill fear. Instead, clean the soiled area completely with cleaning products that are formulated for eliminating pet odors. If the puppy can smell any remnants of his urine or feces, he will be more likely to eliminate in that spot again.
Lindsay Boyers has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.