Home Labrador Behavior & Training Labrador Retriever House Training Overview

Labrador Retriever House Training Overview


House training your Labrador Retriever doesn’t need to be difficult, unpleasant, or messy. Do it right, and your Lab will be doing his business in the right place sooner than expected. It takes appropriate Labrador Retriever house training, coupled with patience, persistence, and affection, to train your puppy. Most of the rules and guidelines that apply to house training Labrador puppies, apply equally to house training an adult Labrador. The more attention and focus you are able to pay to your Labrador during this important training phase, the shorter the messy part of your relationship will be.

Labrador Retriever House Training

Labrador Retriever House Training Golden Rules

If you don’t catch your Labrador in the act of making a mistake, don’t punish them. Your dog cannot connect the dots. If some time has passed since the mistake, your Lab will not make the connection between the act and your anger.

When your Labrador gets it right, give plenty of praise and affection. Labs love to please, and when they make the connection between your praise and their elimination in the right place, they’ll be eager to get it right again.

Debunking Old Housetraining Myths

Don’t rub your Labrador’s nose in it! This is probably the most prevalent house training myth among new dog owners. We’ve all heard the story: “Take your dog to the mess, rub their noses in it and then reprimand them vocally.” This act makes no sense and does more harm than good. The only thing you may succeed in doing is teaching your Labrador that performing normal bodily functions is somehow bad.

This is definitely not the aim of house training. Even adult dogs struggle to connect an earlier act with the mess on the floor, even if it is still steaming.

A young Labrador puppy can definitely not differentiate between cause and effect. He or she will never understand why you’re yelling for something they did 30 minutes ago. Successful house training is more about encouragement and reward than scolding. Labs are smart, but this is expecting too much of them. In a timid or anxious Labrador, it could be the start of emotional problems.

Labrador Retriever House Training “Good To Know”

All house training methods will run more smoothly if you have a basic understanding of your Labrador Retriever’s bodily functions. Here’s a bit of insight as well as a few tips that apply to all house training methods:

  • A Labrador puppy’s bladder is very small. Puppies pee a lot because they need to. Your Lab pup does not have full control over his bladder or sphincter muscles until they turn 6 months old. They cannot hold it for a long period, especially after meals.
  • Older Labradors have far better control and can physically stop the elimination process. However, when house training starts, the dog has no idea that this is expected of them. Elimination is a natural bodily function for a dog.
  • A Lab puppy needs frequent meals to grow properly. This means your pup also needs to eliminate frequently.
  • All dogs exhibit pre-potty behavior. Typically your Labrador will circle, sniff, scratch a door, whine or whimper for no other apparent reason. Observe your Lab and try to learn about their unique signs.
  • A regular feeding schedule helps. Most Labradors have a toilet regimen or time, especially for defecation.  If you feed your Labrador at the same time every day, you’ll already know when they are expected to do their business.
  • Once a dog has marked a spot with urine, they are very likely to return to it frequently. They are attracted by the scent.
  • Accidents happen! No Labrador will get it right without house training. Be persistent and patient.

Different Ways To House Train Your Labrador

The right house training method depends on your lifestyle and tolerance level. There are a number of options.

Direct House Training Method

If your lifestyle permits, the Direct method is the best way to house train your Labrador. This method is often referred to as the Traditional method.

The Direct method is best suited to Labrador owners who work at home, stay-at-home moms, retirees, and those in other circumstances that permit them to be with their Lab constantly. You also need a home with easy access to an outside area where it is okay for your dog to do their business. The biggest drawback is that it requires that you keep a constant eye on your Labrador puppy or dog. Many Labrador owners do not have the time for it.

The Direct house training method does not involve an outlay on accessories – no pads, papers or crates – but you will have to clean a few messes. Accidents are bound to happen.  The major advantage is that it really helps you bond with your Lab.

The basic rules are really simple:

  • Recognize the pre-potty signs. Older pups and grown Labradors will typically circle, sniff or scratch on the floor or door, when they feel the urge, especially when they begin to understand that messing inside is a big no-no. Don’t expect too much from a young puppy in this regard. You’ll soon pick up on your puppy or dog’s signals.
  • Say a specific word like “outside.” With repetition, your Labrador will start to associate this word with (1) leaving the house and (2) doing their business. Don’t use this word when you’re going out to play or for a walk. You will need to form an association between the specific word and “toilet business” in your dog’s mind.
  • Calmly take your Labrador dog or puppy to the chosen potty place outside. Don’t let your Labrador get distracted. This is business-time, not play-time. If your Lab has learned to walk on a leash, use one. If not, just call him or her to follow you.
  • Now encourage your Lab to do business by announcing the “potty” word. Say something like “go potty,” “make a good girl,” “go pee-pee” – whatever works for you. Your dog needs to eliminate anyway, so it shouldn’t take too long.
  • When your Labrador has done his business, praise him or her enthusiastically.  Let him know that he is a “good dog.” No dog loves to hear words of praise more than a Labrador.
  • Return inside immediately afterward. If you start fooling around with your Labrador at this time, it may distract their attention from the lesson, and the learning process will take longer.

It is not as easy as it sounds. You need to keep a constant eye on your Lab to get the best results. The fewer the mistakes, the quicker the learning process. Make your verbal cues as simple and consistent as possible. It is quite important that all members of your family use the same words. Labradors, like all dogs, learn by repetition, so be patient and persistent. In the beginning of the Labrador Retriever house training, it may take your Labrador some time to figure out what it is all about, but they will get it eventually.

Indoor House Training Method

There are a number of reasons for house training your Labrador puppy. We have combined all the indoor house training methods simply because they all start indoors.

A growing number of Labrador owners live in the city. They do not have a backyard or nearby park at their convenience. Toilet training in an apartment on the 30th floor doesn’t leave many options – Lab puppy bladders are small and need to work often. There may be other circumstances, such as extreme climates, which prevent Lab owners from going outside frequently.

Other Labrador owners simply prefer to start the process indoors and gradually move it outside.

Luckily, there are many tools available that help with the indoor house training process, even if it is a permanent situation. Today, you can buy anything from pre-treated pads to fully functional indoor toilets for your Labrador. And when everything else fails, the good old newspaper also does the trick, albeit leaving a bit of an odor.

The advantages of indoor house training are obvious, but the potential drawbacks are not too obvious.

First, when your Lab has learned that it is okay to eliminate indoors, it becomes harder to convince them otherwise. If the indoor method is a precursor to moving things outside, your house training will be delayed and will never be as short as the Direct method.

Second, some, Labradors will resist doing their business indoors. This is especially true for older dogs that are trained to go outdoors. If this happens, persist, encourage and be patient, and your Labrador will eventually cooperate.

Indoor house training requires the same rigid adherence to a schedule as outdoor training.

Here are the basic guidelines:

  • Decide on an indoor area for your Labrador to eliminate. Ideally, it should be away from your Lab’s eating and sleeping area. It would help if the area is easy to clean. A tiled or linoleum floor works best. It is important that the location remains constant, so choose carefully.
  • Cover the area with training pads or newspaper. Initially, cover more than you will eventually need, about three to four square feet. Reduce the coverage gradually as house training progresses. Pre-treated pads or similar products contain attractants, so your Lab will seek out the pad when a need to eliminate arises. Newspapers work well because of their absorbency. Pads or newspapers should not be available in any other area of the home, because this only creates confusion. You may also want to prevent access to the area at non-potty times. This helps to designate the area as being exclusively for toilet business. If your aim is to help your dog transition from indoors to outdoors eventually, you will need to gradually move the potty area closer and closer to the door.
  • When you are training a Lab puppy, calmly take them to the potty area after every meal. If you are training an older Labrador, call, coax or lead them to the potty area whenever you notice the potty signals. Do not play with or distract your Labrador in any way. You do not want them to associate the routine with anything other than doing their business.
  • Next, encourage your Lab by repeating the “potty” word. Say something like “go potty,” “make a good boy,” “go pee-pee” – whatever works for you. Your dog needs to eliminate anyway, so it shouldn’t take too long.
  • When your Labrador has done the deed, praise them enthusiastically. Nothing works better than positive, loving encouragement. Labs love attention, and they also love to please.
  • If you are using newspapers, replace the top layer after each event. It might get a bit unpleasant, but this smell will attract your Labrador to the area next time. The absorbency of pads differs, and you should be able to tell when they need to change it. Even instructions on the pack can give you sufficient information regarding this.

Crate Training Method

Crate training is another popular house training method. At first blush, crate training may seem cruel. The thought of caging a small Lab puppy or worse a fully grown Labrador seems unnatural and unnecessarily restrictive. There is science and pretty sound philosophy behind it. This idea is that dogs are naturally and instinctively den animals. A wild dog’s den is his sanctuary. It provides a safe place to sleep, keep out of danger and raise pups. Dogs will never intentionally soil their den. They are naturally clean animals. If you crate train correctly, your Labrador eventually views their crate as their den or safe haven and will not do their business there.

Crate training has other advantages too. Besides discouraging your Lab from messing up in your home, it teaches a puppy that they can hold in the urge to pee or poop. Crates can also be used to curb destructive behavior.

It would be wrong to abuse crates. Not all dogs will take to crate training, especially those who have pre-existing anxiety issues.

Here are some very basic crate house training guidelines.

  • The crate size should be just big enough for your Labrador to lie and turn around. If you are training a Lab puppy, you can buy a bigger crate with a divider to isolate the pup.
  • Place your Labrador’s bedding in the crate. Remember, dogs do not like soiling their resting area, because they do not want to lie down in the mess. With crate training, puppies can learn to control their bowels as well as bladder.
  • For Lab puppies, you may want to add a chewing toy or two.
  • Before putting your Lab in the crate, let them have a toilet break outside.
  • As soon as you take your Labrador out of the crate, take them for another toilet break.
  • You will eventually be able to leave your Labrador out of the crate for longer periods.

Always remember that puppies are just puppies. House training Labrador Retrievers will take time, but they will get there in the end!