When you bring your new puppy home, right off the bat you get started in housebreaking! Housebreaking a puppy seems so mysterious to so many, but it’s really not. It’s really just establishing a habit of going to the bathroom outside, and not going to the bathroom inside. I’ve housebroken many puppies and they’ve all been very reliable and you can do it too! Here are some hints:
1) Don’t give your puppy free reign of the house right away. Free reign of the house is for dogs who are housebroken. The more area your puppy has to explore, the more area he has to potty inappropriately (as well as do other inappropriate things, like chewing. In fact in many ways chew training and housebreaking go hand in hand.)
2) Take your puppy outside. Frequently. Often. A lot of times. Maybe as often as once per hour. Maybe as often as once every fifteen minutes, if you are pretty sure your puppy has to go. It doesn’t count if you send your puppy outside, and you stay inside. (Opening the door and standing inside the warm house while the dog potties is for older dogs who are already housebroken.) You really need to know if he potties out there, and it’s also good to praise him for going in the correct spot.
3) While you are spending all this time outside, make sure your puppy concentrates on the business at hand. This is not the time for play or petting. It’s usually best to keep him on a leash, so that he can’t range too far. If he starts chewing the leash or leaves, grass etc, calmly redirect him to the business at hand. He doesn’t get indefinite time to stand there, though. Two or three minutes; definitely no more than five – and if he doesn’t perform within that time period, back inside to your watchful eye.
4) Get to know any quirks that your puppy might have. Does he tend to get too distracted by the cat next door, and “forget” to pee until he’s back inside? (Try moving him around to the other side of the house, to reduce distraction.) Does he always poop twice in the morning? Does he have to pee right away after drinking water, or does it take a while? Every puppy will have specifics, so get familiar with them.
5) Keep an eagle-eye on your puppy while he’s in the house. If you’ve just witnessed him doing his business outside then maybe you have a 15 or 30-minute grace period where he can have a bit of freedom, but overall you want to keep a very close watch. This is to ensure that he’s not either pottying inside, or about to potty inside. You need to be close enough to interrupt him if he tries, and then rush him outside. (It’s a good idea to spend a few weeks wearing shoes inside the house, so there’s no delay if you need to pop outdoors.) And when you find yourself rushing outside at the last minute, it’s a good idea to pick up the puppy and carry him, so he doesn’t squat and start going while on the way out!
6) Crates can be your good friend. Crates work because most puppies will at least attempt to avoid soiling their personal bed area. This gives them the concept of “holding it” and not just pooping/peeing willy-nilly. If you’re not available to supervise your puppy, feel free to crate him, maybe with a good chewie. Now he can’t get into any mischief. Be careful not to overcrate, though – a few hours per day (plus overnight) is all that most puppies should ideally be crated for. A guideline for maximum length of crating is the puppies age, plus one, equals how many hours the pup can be crated.
7) Don’t rely too much on your young kids for help. If your human child is under 12 or so, they can definitely be part of the process, but usually young kids lack the focus and supervision skills to successfully housebreak a puppy. If you put the puppy in a room with two kids and almost any distraction (homework, video games etc) the likelihood is high that the puppy will go unsupervised and have an accident.
8) Don’t be too quick to assume that your puppy is housebroken and training is complete. If a couple of weeks go by and your young puppy successfully goes every time he’s outside, and doesn’t go any time he’s inside, it’s tempting to declare the puppy is successfully housebroken. Don’t do this! Housebreaking is a habit, and strong habits take time to form, even if the puppy is doing it right. Many puppies seem to “regress” in housebreaking at about age 4-5 months old, but usually this is not a true regression. Usually it’s just that they weren’t actually fully housebroken to begin with, and then the regimen ended too early.