How to housebreak your puppy

Housebreaking your puppy is one of the most onerous tasks facing most puppy owners.  It needn’t be so difficult, though, if you take advantage of the puppy’s natural preference for a routine.  You will have to put in some work and make sure you are consistent in your training.

The first thing to understand is that puppies have small bladders so need to go out frequently.  Once an hour is about right until the puppy is about four months old, then every two or three hours.  A puppy should not be left for eight hours and be expected to refrain from eliminating over that time.

Puppies generally need to eliminate upon awakening in the morning, waking up from a nap, eating, being let out of a crate, playing vigorously, and before going to bed for the night.  In order to successfully house break a puppy, you will have to take him out on leash at each of these times.  Carrying the puppy outside may be necessary when the puppy is very young to avoid an accident.  It should be phased out as soon as possible, however.

The general procedure is to take the puppy out on leash to a place you want him to eliminate at one of the times mentioned above.  Repeat “go potty” or some such phrase until the puppy does so.  Then praise the puppy extensively and give it a little treat.  After that, let the puppy  go inside and play some with you or another pet as an additional reward.  At regular intervals, generally once an hour or after one of the activities mentioned above, take your puppy out and repeat this.

If the puppy plays or does not go when taken out, put him in his crate for ten minutes and repeat until you achieve success.    The crate is not punishment, it merely prevents the puppy from eliminating in the house instead of outside.  A puppy will try very hard not to eliminate where he sleeps, such as in his crate.

The most frequent mistake in housebreaking a puppy is leaving the puppy unattended and then finding a place where the puppy has eliminated inside.  Unless you catch the puppy in the act, you cannot punish him.  Spanking the puppy with a paper or rubbing his nose in it only makes the puppy fear you.  If you do catch the puppy in the act, you can yell “No!” and carry the puppy outside.  The direct the puppy to “go potty” and praise him for doing so.

If the puppy does eliminate in the house, put him in his crate while you clean up the mistake.  Use an enzymatic cleaner (available from pet stores) to clean up the area so it no longer smells to the puppy like a good place to eliminate.

The second most frequent mistake in housebreaking the puppy is waiting too long to take the puppy out to eliminate.  As mentioned above, puppies have small bladders and less control over their bodily functions than an adult dog, so making him wait too long will have negative consequences for all involved.

Housebreaking a puppy, while somewhat time consuming, if not hard if you are consistent and stick to a routine.