PLEASE NOTE: Our Buffalo location closed at 6 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, April 16, due to severe winter weather.

  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Housetraining 101: A survival guide

There are four simple rules for housetraining a puppy or dog:

  1. Never take your eyes off of the puppy.
  2. Reward the puppy for peeing and pooping in the right place. 
  3. Prevent him from pooping/peeing in the wrong place (inside).
  4. Gently interrupt and redirect the puppy if he makes mistakes inside.

Housetraining is teaching your puppy where she can poop and pee and preventing her from doing it where she can’t.  Punishing mistakes (this includes yelling “NO!”) only teaches a pup to poop and pee when you’re gone.  He doesn’t know that it’s “wrong” to eliminate inside, he has only learned that it’s dangerous.  This is why prevention is more effective than punishment.

Take your puppy outside on leash once an hour while you’re home.  Go to her potty spot and simply stand there until she does something!  (This could take up to 5 minutes.)  When she poops or pees, praise and give her a treat.  This is important in building a reward history, which means building a behavior by rewarding it over and over.

While housetraining, you will either supervise or confine your puppy.  Supervising means your puppy is in your sight at ALL times.  When you can’t supervise, the best place for your puppy is a crate (kennel), only large enough for her to stand up, turn around and lie down.  Puppies can be confined for an average of their age in months plus one:  therefore, the maximum amount of time a two-month-old pup can be crated is three hours.   If your puppy must be left alone for longer than she can “hold it”, she will need to be confined to a puppy-proofed room or an ex-pen (a small, freestanding pen) with bedding, water, chew toys and a potty area available.  This is not ideal, however, because while her messes will be contained to one area, she is still being allowed to soil inside the house.  Teaching her to poop and pee outside will naturally take longer and require extra patience from her owners.

If you forgot to confine your puppy before checking your email and he starts to pee, do not punish (see above for the reason why):  interrupt him and take him outside right away.  Some people clap their hands and say, “Outside!  Outside!” while taking the puppy out; others simply pick him up and take him outside.  The goal is to distract him away from peeing/pooping without scaring him.  If you find the mess after the fact, simply clean it up and make a point to confine him when unattended.  Remember to use an enzyme-based cleaner (like Nature’s Miracle) when cleaning up so that your pup can’t smell it any more.


When you are playing with/supervising/training your puppy, he will be in your sight at all times, or tethered to your belt while you walk around the house.

When you are doing housework, talking with visitors, taking a shower, sleeping or away from the house, your puppy will be in her kennel or ex-pen.

When you are in your fenced yard, waiting for Fido to pee, he will be on leash with you.

After puppy has peed successfully in the yard, he will be with you, dragging a leash or drag line while he plays.


An unattended puppy or un-housetrained dog will have accidents and won’t understand why it’s a problem.  Supervise or confine at all times.  Most puppies are not considered reliable until they are at least six months of age.    Remember that an adult dog with an unknown housetraining history may need extra time and patience.

If your adopted dog is still having accidents even when following these guidelines, please call the AHS Training School for assistance at 763-489-2217.

This material is copyright of Animal Humane Society and can only be used with written permission.

Animal Humane Society locations


4375 Hwy. 55 S.E.
Buffalo, MN 55313
(763) 390-3647

Operating hours

Coon Rapids

1411 Main St. N.W.
Coon Rapids, MN 55448
(763) 862-4030

Operating hours

Golden Valley

845 Meadow Ln. N.
Golden Valley, MN 55422
(763) 489-2201

Operating hours

St. Paul

1115 Beulah Ln.
St. Paul, MN 55108
(651) 645-7387

Operating hours


9785 Hudson Rd.
Woodbury, MN 55125
(651) 730-6008

Operating hours

  • Administration
    (763) 522-4325
  • Animal Admissions
    (763) 412-4969
  • Pet Behavior Helpline
    (763) 489-2202
  • Boarding
    (763) 489-2222
  • More contact info »