Q: My 16-week-old puppy, Mabel, doesn’t seem to be picking up on the concept of indoors vs outdoors. How long should it take to housetrain a puppy? —Puddles in Portland
A:If Mabel isn’t picking up the concept of indoor vs outdoor, it’s up to you to make sure you are very clear in your guidelines. Every time Mabel makes a “mistake,” it’s your mistake. “Oops, I wasn’t watching her and I didn’t get her out on time.” Making sure she goes outside and doesn’t make mistakes is more efficient (and humane) than scolding her for going in the house. Punishment can make matters worse, as she may start to hide to do her business. Just get her outside.
First, if Mabel is peeing two or three times in an hour, make sure to rule out any medical issues with your veterinarian.
Then, have a set routine and stay consistent. Mabel must not have free run of the house and she must have a feeding schedule. Do not leave food down for her to munch on all day, and remove water at about 7 pm.
Kennel (crate-train) her during the day in the kitchen where there is usually more activity. At the door, use the word “Outside?” in a questioning tone, then as you open the door to take her out, again say “Outside!” as a statement. Take her out first thing in the morning on leash, to a spot you have designated, praise and treat for bathrooming outside. When at her bathroom place, use a cue as she eliminates: “Peepee, peepee, good girl!” Treat. Have a bit of playtime and training with her when back in the house, then into her kennel for one or two hours. Repeat this schedule throughout the day. At night, keep the kennel in your bedroom so you can be alert if she needs to go outside, then back into her kennel for some more shuteye.
You can also tether her to you while in the house, so you always know where she is. Again, take her outside sooner rather than later, so you lessen any chance of her bathrooming in the house.
Keep a simple time schedule on the fridge to note when and what she does outside. As the days and weeks progress, you can lengthen the time between bathroom breaks.
As she is having to relearn where she’s to go, it may take longer for her to learn the new routine. If you stay consistent and have patience, Mabel can be reliably trained within a few weeks.