How to housebreak a puppy

Many owners dread housebreaking their puppy, but with a little knowledge it can be relatively painless. You can anticipate your puppy’s needs and reduce the chance of accidents with a simple schedule and a watchful eye.

Schedule puppy’s activities

The most important detail in housebreaking is to make a schedule and stick to it. This both minimizes the opportunity for accidents and builds your pup’s confidence. If you keep track of when food and water goes in, you can predict when it needs to come back out. As the days go by you’ll notice your puppy can hold himself for longer periods, which means more praise and trust from you.

The best housebreaking schedule sets times for when puppy gets food and water, when he plays or goes for walks, and, of course, bathroom breaks. Plan each activity for the same time every day. Because dogs are creatures of habit, the more regimented the schedule the easier it will be for your puppy to learn what you expect from him.

How often to go out

In the beginning stages of housebreaking puppy, you should take him out in the morning when he wakes up, every hour-and-a-half during the day, and in the evening before bed. Later on, your pup should only need to go out in the morning, evening, and after meals or long play sessions. The following is a simple formula to remember:

Puppy’s age plus one

Add one to your puppy’s age in months to get the number of hours he should be able to wait before going out. So a puppy that’s two months old can wait about three hours; you’ll need to take him outside at least once during the night.

To avoid accidents while housebreaking, pay attention to how your puppy signals he needs to go out. Signs may include sniffing or scratching at the ground or door, pacing, or whining. Once you’re keyed in to these behaviors, you can extend the periods between bathroom breaks.

Taking puppy outside

The heart of learning how to housebreak a puppy comes when it’s time to go outside.

Take puppy to the designated soiling area

Always use the same route to get there and don’t let him out on his own. You want to be sure he goes in the same place every time and that you’re there to give praise.

Repeat a housebreaking command as he starts to go

When it looks like your puppy is about to go, softly repeat a command like “hurry up” or “do it”. Don’t stop repeating the command until puppy actually starts to go.

Switch to gentle praise

Quietly switch from the command to gentle praise once he starts to eliminate and continue to praise until he’s done. It may take a few times for your puppy to be completely empty, particularly in the mornings. Wait until you’re certain he’s finished, then give him some hearty praise and head back to the house.

If this method is used consistently when housebreaking your puppy, you’ll eventually be able to make him go on command.

How to deal with accidents

You should expect a few accidents during the housebreaking process. Whatever you do, do not punish your puppy! Don’t rub his nose in the mess and don’t discipline after he’s already eliminated in the house because you think he knows what he did. This will only confuse and intimidate your puppy.

Catching him in the act

Clap your hands or slap the wall. Make any loud noise you can to interrupt the behavior. Then scoop your puppy up and take him outside to the soiling area. When he’s done, praise him as usual.

For all other times

Clean up the mess and figure out where YOU went wrong in housebreaking puppy. Did you ignore the schedule, give him water late at night, or miss the signs that he needed to go out? If you can see where you failed your pup, you can be better prepared to help him succeed.

Clean up messes with a product designed for pet accidents. Never use household cleaners or those containing ammonia, which can’t remove the odor. Your puppy may revisit the area if it’s not properly cleaned.

Learning how to housebreak a puppy is a pretty simple task if you stay alert and stick to your schedule. With consistency and plenty of praise, your puppy will be housebroken in no time. Visit our dog house training tips to learn how to make the housebreaking process even easier.