House Training Puppies: Not Always A Fun Job

Puppies are a wonderful addition to any home, but with them comes one change that can be anything but wonderful – house training.


It’s a process that can be slow and frustrating, but Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a veterinarian and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has a few helpful tips that may alleviate some of the pain.


Beaver says that the first thing puppies learn when being house trained is what surfaces can be used for potty training and what surfaces cannot.  A fundamental principle in puppy training is establishing what surfaces are appropriate, she says, and she recommends establishing acceptable surfaces with the use of praise and treats.  Different surfaces include grass, concrete, newspaper, puppy pads or any other place the pet owner always wants the puppy to use to go to the bathroom. 


She believes this principle should be established young, because once the puppy understands what surface is appropriate to be eliminated on, the puppy will usually only waste on that surface.


“The pet owner should take the puppy to the surface frequently to ensure that the puppy only eliminates there,” Beaver explains. 


“The pet should definitely be taken to the surface after eating, before sleeping, after waking up, and after periods of activity, since these are the instances when the puppy will likely need to urinate.  It is also important to take the puppy to go to the bathroom at least once during the night, since puppy’s bladders are small.”


It is critical that owners understand that the surface that the pet is taught to use will always be used.  When pet owners begin training puppies, it is essential to choose a surface that will always be available and convenient for use.  Beaver notes that this can be a problem associated with puppy pads.


“The owner teaches the pet to eliminate on the pads when it is young, so the pet believes that this is the appropriate behavior,” she adds.  “But when the dog gets older, the owner decides he or she does not want the 60-pound dog eliminating on the pad in the laundry room, but by this time the behavior is too engrained in the pet’s mind, and is often irreversible.”


The owner should always go to the surface with the pet to ensure that the pet does eliminate.  Beaver recommends using a leash if the owner wants the pet to eliminate outside. The action of walking makes the puppy want to eliminate while also getting the puppy used to the owner being around while it is eliminating.  This can be very helpful if the owner chooses to relocate to an area where dogs must be kept on leashes if outside.


Going to the surface with the pet also allows the owner to know definitively that the puppy has gone to the bathroom, and this will help alleviate some accidents, she notes.


Another aspect that is crucial for training is the use of rewards.  Beaver says the pet owner needs to very actively and enthusiastically praise the pet for eliminating on the proper surface.  When taking the pet for potty time, the owner should try to show the pet very little affection before the pet eliminates and a great deal of affection afterward.  “This helps reinforce the pet’s perception that it has done something right,” she says.


If the owner has to leave the house for an extended period of time, Beaver recommends keeping the pet in a crate.  The crate helps keep the pet inactive and reduces the desire to eliminate, and pets generally do not eliminate in small places they know they will be spending time in, she adds.






Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the World Wide Web at


For more information, please contact Keith Randall at (979)845-4644 or


Suggestions for future topics may be directed to



Follow Texas A&M