Pearl’s Pupdates: How to housetrain your puppy

House training is an essential part of integrating your new puppy into a home. Luckily, with help from Dr. Jill Sackman and her family, Pearl, the 12-week-old rat terrier puppy, is becoming quite the expert. For Pearl’s first pupdate, she and Dr. Sackman help explain everything you need to know about puppy house training and preventing accidents in the home.


Pearl’s crate is one of her best tools for house training. She and her sister Bella use the crate while riding in the car.

Pearl is learning that the key to successful house training is scheduling. Because puppies are still growing and developing their organs, their bladders have minimal capacity for holding urine. At 12 weeks old, Pearl’s bladder is likely only about the size of a walnut, so as you can imagine, she needs to relieve herself often. Because a puppy’s urinary and digestive systems are not fully developed, it is important to implement a strict food and water schedule to help prevent accidents in the home.

Make food and water available only during set times, then let your puppy outside 10-30 minutes after each time she eats or drinks. The time frame between eating a meal and needing a potty break is different for each puppy, so it is important to pay attention to your puppy’s needs through close supervision. Puppies need additional potty breaks after play time because of the added stimulation to their bodies.

Dr. Sackman’s expert tip: “After giving food and/or water, set a timer on your phone so you are reminded of exactly when to let your puppy outside!”

Establishing a bedtime routine is also an essential part of the house training schedule. A couple of hours before you go to sleep, do not allow your puppy any more water for the day. Make sure you take your puppy outside immediately before bed and then lock her inside of her crate. Like most puppies, Pearl would rather cuddle up in her parents’ bed at night, but a crate helps prevent accidents (especially accidents on your bedding or bedroom carpet.) By nature, dogs avoid soiling their personal space, so the confinement of a crate encourages them to hold their urine. Choose a crate that is the proper size for your puppy; if the crate is too large, your puppy could soil one corner and rest in another. Also, line the crate with an easily washable material just in case an accident occurs. Two to three times throughout the night, release your puppy
from the crate and take her outside for a potty break.

For many working families, including Pearl’s, letting a puppy outside once every hour or two is simply not possible. While Pearl’s mom and dad are at work, she uses puppy pee pads. While these pads are not a permanent solution for house training, they can be a great tool for preventing accidents during the work day.

Scheduling potty breaks is the most important aspect of house training, but creating a training-friendly environment outdoors is also essential. It’s best to keep your puppy on a leash and lead her to a designated “potty area.” This could be a patch of grass or gravel in your back yard that your puppy associates with relieving herself. Dogs use scent as an indicator of where to urinate, so leaving a concentration of urine in this area is a positive stimulus for your puppy. By isolating a designated potty area, you can also help teach your puppy the difference between leisure walks and “business” walks.

Pearl’s expert tip: “Taking potty breaks with my big sister Bella helps me better grasp the concept of house training. Having another dog in my home to learn from has been very helpful.”

During the house training process – your puppy may have a few accidents. It is important to clean the soiled area with water, mild dish soap and an enzymatic cleaner. Thorough cleaning will remove the scent, and therefore, decrease the likelihood your puppy from having another accident in that area. Don’t discipline your puppy for accidents, even if you catch her in the act; scolding while she urinates in the house can cause scary associations for your puppy. Simply pick her up and take her outside to encourage her to eliminate outside. Ignoring the poor behavior and taking Pearl outside immediately after an accident has proven successful for the MacNaughton family.

Remember that house training requires lots of patience and attention to detail. By creating a schedule, establishing a training-friendly outdoor environment and using a crate, your puppy should be on a course for successful house training.

With the help of her loving family, big sister Bella and mentor Dr. Sackman, Pearl is quickly learning all of the guidelines of house training. She continues to improve and learn every day. Her parents advise, “Give yourself and your pet a break. Realize that she is on course and that you have to train both your puppy and yourself.”

Watch Dr. Sackman discuss this topic on WZZM’s Pet Peeves segment.

Read more puppy training articles:

Pearl’s Pupdates: All about puppy chewing and toys

Pearl’s Pupdates: Crate training your puppy

Pearl’s Pupdates: Teaching basic commands to your puppy

Dr. Sackman is a specialty veterinarian and medical director for BluePearl’s Michigan hospitals. She practices on BluePearl’s veterinary behavior service and possesses years of experience as a behavior expert and dog trainer. She is currently a resident in the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists pursuing double board-certification. To learn more about Dr. Sackman, Pearl and her family, please visit our Introduction to Pearl’s Pupdates article.