Ask Dr. Wan: "How do I housetrain my puppy?"

Dr. Wan, a certified applied animal behaviorist, provides housetraining tips.

Q: How do I go about housetraining my new puppy?

A: There are several steps to housetraining a puppy:

  1. Diligently supervise your puppy. Do not allow your puppy to roam freely in your home until he is completely housetrained. Behaviors like sniffing the ground, circling, or pacing may mean that your puppy needs to go. If you see these behaviors, pick him up and take him out right away.
  2. Crate your puppy, or put him in a small puppy-proofed room for those times that you cannot supervise. Owners often use a mudroom, laundry room, or bathroom closed off with a baby gate.
  3. Take your puppy outside as frequently as you can. In the beginning, try to take him out hourly. If you suspect that he needs to go, but he doesn’t eliminate within five minutes of being outside, put him back in his crate, and try again in ten minutes.
  4. Reward your puppy when he potties outside. Praise and treat him.

What should you do if your puppy has an accident indoors?

  • Avoid punishing your puppy when he has an accident, or he may try to avoid you when he needs to go.
  • Use an enzymatic cleaner to clean up accidents, as it will help remove lingering odors that might attract your puppy back to the same spot.
  • Decrease the size of the area that he has access to, and increase the number of trips outside. Be sure to take your puppy out after meals, naps, and playtime.

Be patient, as housetraining often takes months, not weeks. When your puppy is no longer having accidents, you can slowly start giving him more freedom by giving him access to one new room at a time, but supervise him each time he enters a new room.


Need help with a new puppy?  Dr. Wan, a certified applied animal behaviorist, offers puppy classes, consultations, and playdates to Fairfield County dog owners.  She earned her doctorate and researched dog-human communication at Columbia University.  

Have a dog training or behavior question?  Post your questions to me below, or e-mail them to AskDrWan@westportdogs.com. Every month, I will select one reader question to answer.

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