Housebreaking


Housetraining a puppy requires time, vigilance, patience and commitment. Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog, you are going to find that the essential lessons and methods of housetraining are the same.

When you begin housebreaking your puppy, realize you are teaching a new behavior. You are teaching the puppy where you want him to go potty — outside.  Would you punish your child for going potty in his diaper while toilet training? Probably not.  Likewise, a dog should not be punished for going in the house.  Instead, punish yourself for not closely watching the dog and allowing him the freedom to soil where you don’t want him too.

By following the procedures outlined below, you can minimize unwanted incidents. But, keep in mind that nearly all puppies will have accidents in the house (more likely several). This is part of housebreaking and should be expected. The more consistent you are in following basic house training procedures, the faster your puppy will learn acceptable behavior. It can take several weeks to housebreak your puppy.

Here are some basic housebreaking tips:

  • Crate your puppy – In general, a dog will not eliminate where it sleeps. Exceptions are: dogs in crates that are too big (so the pup can potty at one end and sleep in the other); pups that have lived in small cages and have had no choice but to eliminate in the crate; puppies with blankets and other soft absorbent items in the crate with them and dogs that are left for too long in the crate and can no longer hold it.

    A puppy that is allowed to roam around the house where ever it wants usually has a harder time being housebroken. The crate is where the dog should sleep at night and where your dog will stay when you are not home or are unable to watch him.

    You want to ensure that the crate you choose is large enough for the puppy to be comfortable but small enough so the puppy cannot relieve himself at one end and sleep in the other. If your puppy potties in the crate, you should take the puppy out as soon as possible and wash the puppy and crate immediately.

    Do not get angry because it is likely the puppy could not help it.

  • Establish a routine – Your puppy will do best if he is taken outside on a consistent and frequent schedule. He should have the opportunity to eliminate after waking up from a nap, after playing, after eating and before bedtime.

    When you take the puppy outside, choose a location not too far from the door to be the bathroom spot. Always take your puppy, on a leash, directly to the bathroom spot. Remember, your goal is to get the pup to eliminate. Do not play with the puppy during this time. Just walk around the yard or stand in a particular spot where you would like the puppy to go until the puppy has eliminated.

    As the puppy is eliminating itself issue a command – “go potty,”  “smell the roses,” “go duty” – whatever you want the command to be – so he can start associating the command with the act of going potty. Once the puppy has gone potty, then lavish him with lots of praise. Praise the puppy immediately after he’s finished eliminating, not after he comes back in the house. This is vital because rewarding your dog for eliminating outdoors is the only way he’ll know that this is an appropriate behavior.

    Do not bring the puppy back in the house until the puppy potties outside – but, if the puppy doesn’t or refuses to potty outside then put him right back into his crate and try again in 10-15 minutes. 

    Never leave the puppy unattended in your house for even a minute. If you walk away and the puppy relieves himself in a spot in your home, and you do not know what the puppy has done, then the puppy will be likely to repeat this process whenever he has a chance.

  • Punishment – If a puppy relieves himself in the house, tell the puppy “no,” and take him out immediately.  DO NOT rub the puppy’s nose in it or hit the puppy. If the puppy uses the bathroom outside, be sure to praise him for going. If he doesn’t, then put him into his crate and take him out 10-15 mins. later and try again.

    Rubbing your puppy’s nose in it, taking him to the spot and scolding him (or any other punishment or discipline) will only make him afraid of you or afraid to eliminate in your presence.

  • Regulate the puppy’s diet – You want to keep things as normal for your puppy as possible. Changing his food or diet can mean the puppy needs to relieve himself in different ways. The puppy may need to go more or less. However, if you are changing the puppy’s food often, you may not know what to expect, which will make it much harder to housebreak your puppy.

  • Feeding Schedule – Put your puppy on a regular feeding schedule. Feeding your puppy at the same time each day will make it more likely he’ll eliminate at consistent times as well. This makes housetraining easier for both of you.  

  • Supervise, Supervise, Supervise – Don’t give your puppy an opportunity to soil in the house. He should be watched at all times when he is indoors. You can tether him to you with a leash or uses baby gates to keep him in your view. Watch for signs that he needs to eliminate, like sniffing around or circling. When you see these signs, immediately take him outside, on a leash, to his bathroom spot.

  • Paper training – Paper training a puppy is counter productive. Essentially, you are teaching the puppy to potty in a specific spot in the house – exactly what you’re trying to teach him what NOT to do. Your best bet is to skip paper training and follow-up with a diligent routine in which you take your pup outside frequently. Paper training a puppy will only prolong the house breaking process.

  • House soiling problems – If you’ve consistently followed the housetraining procedures listed above and your puppy continues to eliminate in the house, there may be another reason for his behavior.

    Medical Problems: House soiling can often be caused by physical problems, such as a urinary tract infection of a parasite infection. Check with your veterinarian to rule out any possibility of disease or illness.

    Submissive/Excited Urination: Some dogs, especially young ones, temporarily lose control of their bladders when they become excited or feel threatened. This usually occurs during greetings, intense play or when they’re about to be punished.

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