House training your puppy is about consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. The goal is to instill good habits and build a loving bond with your pet.
It typically takes 4-6 months for a puppy to be fully house trained, but some puppies may take up to a year. Size can be a predictor. For instance, smaller breeds have smaller bladders and higher metabolisms and require more frequent trips outside. Your puppy’s previous living conditions are another predictor. You may find that you need to help your puppy break old habits in order to establish more desirable ones.
And while you’re training, don’t worry if there are setbacks. As long as you continue a management program that includes taking puppy out at the first sign he needs to go and offering him rewards, he’ll learn.
When to Begin House Training Puppy
Experts recommend that you begin house training your puppy when he is between 12 weeks and 16 weeks old. At that point, he has enough control of his bladder and bowel movements to learn to hold it.
Puppy’s digestive tract
Another built-in plus when it comes to housebreaking is our puppy’s digestive tract, which is extremely quick and efficient. Five to 30 minutes after the puppy eats, she’ll want to defecate. So with a consistent eating schedule, and your attention to the clock, your puppy can maintain regular trips outside.
In the early days of housebreaking, you also want to make sure the puppy has a place to relieve herself where she feels safe; a place that seems and smells familiar. Have you noticed how dogs will often eliminate in the very same spot they’ve done so before? The scent acts like a trigger.
As always, remember that your own energy is a big factor in your housebreaking efforts. If you are feeling nervous or impatient or are trying to rush a puppy to relieve herself, that can also stress her out. Using a loud, high squeaky tone to encourage your puppy to “go potty” is a distraction to the dog, so try and avoid any conversation at all.
Setting a routine
First thing every morning, bring your puppy outside to the same general area. It is important to remain consistent throughout the process so your puppy can learn the habit.
Once your puppy has successfully gone outside, it is important to reward the good behavior. It doesn’t have to be a big, loud celebration, but a simple quiet approval or a treat can get the message across of a job well done.
Don’t punish your puppy for an accident or do anything to create a negative association with her bodily functions. Stay calm and assertive and quietly remove the puppy to the place where you want him to go.
Done correctly, housebreaking should not be a turbulent production but just a matter of putting a little extra work into getting your puppy on a schedule during the first weeks after she arrives at your home. Don’t let unnecessary stress over this very natural, uncomplicated process taint any of the joy surrounding the puppy training process and your new dog’s puppyhood.
Housebreaking Your Puppy in Six Easy Steps
Your furry bundle of joy is now leaving not-so-joyous bundles and puddles throughout your house. What steps should you take to ensure puppy house training success for your favorite canine? Both with puppies and dogs with established potty problems…
Step one: Feed on a schedule. Dogs that eat on a schedule eliminate on a schedule.
Step two: Use a notebook or chart to keep track of when your dog eats, drinks, and eliminates. Also note what the dog was doing before the elimination – dogs frequently must “go potty” after: meals, naps, and playtime. Look for “pre-elimination” behaviors and note these – many dogs will sniff around, paw at the ground, or offer other indicator behaviors pre-elimination. These behaviors should become a cue to you to take your dog out for a potty break. Look for patterns; find your dog’s elimination schedule by reviewing your notes after a week or two.
Step three: Management. Use a crate if you are unable to supervise your dog. Purchase a crate that is just large enough for the dog to enter, turn around in, and lie down. Too large crates give dogs enough room to eliminate on one side and relax comfortably out of the mess on the other side. Crating takes advantage of a dog’s natural desire to live in a clean environment.
While crates are great housetraining aids, avoid crating your dog for longer than he can reasonably be expected to hold bladder/bowel movements. Generally, puppies can last one hour more than they are months old up until the age of 6 months, but this will vary for each individual (toy breeds especially may have difficulty “holding it” this long).
If you are gone all day at work and your dog cannot hold it that long, you must either arrange for someone to take the puppy out mid-day or provide a “safe spot” (many people use “potty pads”) until he is mature enough to control his elimination behaviors for the duration of your workday.
Use tethers for management when you are home. Freedom in the home is a privilege that should be earned after potty reliability is established. Tethering the dog to you allows you to recognize pre-elimination behaviors and thus, provide well-timed potty breaks.
Step four: Reinforce all correct responses. Every time your dog eliminates outside, have a party! Wait until the dog is finished before you reinforce. If you clicker train, click when he finishes and offer treats or play with a favored toy – with some practice, you can put eliminating on cue! Even if you don’t clicker train, please reward every correct response with treats, a favorite game, or a walk around the block!
Step five: If you catch him in the act, interrupt (not with yelling, a simple “oops!” generally works fine and is difficult to say in an angry tone), take him immediately to the designated potty spot and reward when he finishes outside.
Step six: If you find an accident after the fact, just clean it up. Avoid rubbing your dog’s nose in it, dragging him over to it or swatting him with a newspaper. If you missed the event, you’ve missed the training opportunity. Clean up with an enzymatic cleaner designed specifically for pet accident clean up.
Let’s review. The five steps of potty training are:
Feed on a schedule
Management: Crates, tethers, potty pads, dog walker/pet sitter
Reinforce correct responses: Every time!
Interrupt mistakes: Reward for finishing outside
Clean up with appropriate products
There are only five steps on the road to potty training success. What are you waiting for? Start your dog off on the right paw today, and you’ll be well on your way to a clean house and a well trained dog!