Housebreaking a Puppy

Housebreaking a puppy requires time, consistency, and patience. On the plus side, puppies are eager to please and be praised; on the minus side, all puppies have accidents that will soil the home. The more time committed to training the puppy, the shorter the process will take. Establishing a routine is extremely important. Typically, it takes several weeks to housebreak a puppy, but once the dog is trained, with very few exceptions, the dog will abide by the house rules.

Establishing a Routine

When establishing a housebreaking routine for a puppy, it should be remembered that a puppy can typically wait one hour for each month of its age before emptying its bladder. A 3-month-old puppy, for example, should be taken out every 3 hours. In order to successfully housebreak a puppy, the following steps are necessary.

  • Take the puppy outside frequently to a designated area
  • Use the same short phrase to request the desired behavior
  • Establish routine times for "bathroom" breaks, such as after a meal
  • Do not engage in play until the puppy has eliminated
  • Do not take the puppy on a long walk until the task is accomplished
  • Reward the puppy every time it eliminates
  • Feed the puppy at the same time every day
  • If the puppy needs to go out during the night, make it a quick break
  • Don't let the puppy wander around the house unobserved

The puppy should be rewarded immediately after eliminating so the dog understands what it is being rewarded for. The more regularly the puppy is taken out to eliminate, the more quickly the housebreaking will go.

It is a good idea to pick up the puppy's water dish for a couple of hours before bedtime so that the dog will be less likely to require a break during the night. Normally, even puppies are able to sleep for 7 hours without urinating.

Confinement as an Aid to Housebreaking

In recent years, crating has become a popular means of confining puppies during the housebreaking period. Since the dog will not want to soil its sleeping area, this method can be very effective. If a crate is unavailable, the puppy may be confined to a small area with baby gates. Confining the puppy for a few hours when you are out of the house can pretty well ensure that it won't have an accident and that it will eliminate as soon as you return home.

Confining the puppy is also a good way to keep the animal from destroying property or eating undesirable things while it is alone, either of which can easily develop into a bad habit.

Dealing with Housebreaking Accidents

Accidents are a normal part of housebreaking a dog. How the owner responds to such accidents can have a positive or negative impact on the training process. If caught in the act, the puppy should be interrupted with a sharp word like "Outside!" and immediately brought to the appropriate location.

Punishment for housebreaking accidents is counterproductive since it will only scare the dog and make it afraid to eliminate in its owner's presence. If soiling is discovered later, the puppy will not make the connection between the past accident and the present scolding. It is, however, important to clean the soiled area well so that puppy isn't likely to resoil the same spot. Products specifically designed to remove the odor are available in pet stores.

Preventing housebreaking accidents is best, because the more accidents the puppy has, the more confused it will be about where to eliminate.

Housebreaking When the Puppy Is Alone

Since a puppy cannot be expected to control its bladder for as long as an older dog, special arrangements have to be made to accommodate a puppy that is left alone for an extended period. This aspect of housebreaking should be considered before adopting a puppy. If a person who is employed full time adopts a puppy, for example, it is necessary to retain a dog sitter to take the puppy out at reasonable intervals, both for training and for affection and play.

Designated Indoor Areas for Housebreaking

In some cases, it may be desirable for the puppy to learn to eliminate in a particular indoor area. A small child's tub or pool may be used for this purpose, either filled with layers of paper or with sod. Placing paper towels used to clean up an accident in this container will give it the scent to entice the dog to eliminate there. Products are also sold in pet stores for this purpose. It is necessary that the indoor area designated for elimination be distinctly separated from the dog's sleeping and playing areas.

Additional Resources