Your puppy will not housebreak himself. Housebreaking takes a concerted effort of understanding and consistent direction on your part. It is through consistent conditioning and repetitive exercises for several weeks that your puppy becomes familiar with his routine. It may take up to six months before he can be 100% housebroken. Don’t assume your puppy looks to you for guidance and it is up to you to provide it. The following information is intended to provide guidelines for housebreaking.
Be sure your puppy if free of intestinal parasites. Parasites (worms) cause puppies to have loose and irregular bowel movements, making housebreaking difficult to impossible.
It is a natural instinct for puppies to seek an area away from their den to relieve themselves. Therefore, it is wise to begin by restricting your puppy’s freedom in the house through the use of a pen or escape-proof crate. Without a cage or 24-hour-a-day direct supervision, your puppy will choose his den as well as his bathroom areas. Your guidance is critical for your puppy’s development.
At night, just before you go to bed, take the puppy outside to eliminate then secure your puppy in his crate. Do not give in to him if he cries or whines. Puppies are creatures of habit and if he learns that his fussing causes you to give in to his desires, you could be in for many sleepless nights. Don’t forget to give him one last opportunity to go outside before you go to bed.
In order to teach your puppy where he is to use the bathroom, you must take him to the same area every time. You must also stay with him, praising him verbally as he relieves himself. This step is essential in helping your puppy understand it is okay to use the bathroom in your presence as long as he does it where he is supposed to. Your puppy will also learn to associate a specific command such as, “hurry up” or “do your business” with this exercise. Soon he will understand the purpose and will look forward to his visits.
Many people today continue to use the old method of laying newspaper down on the kitchen floor and encouraging their puppy to go on the newspaper. The problem with this method is that it makes it harder for them to ever learn to go outside. Also, many dogs tend to stand on the paper with their front feet and miss with their back ones.
If you purchased your puppy from a breeder who used newspaper, you will need to take several pieces of paper outside to the areas you wish your puppy to use. Use some stones to hold the papers down. Then, take your puppy to that spot each time you want him to go. If you have a small dog, pick a place close to the house (especially in cold weather and snow). After several days, remove the newspapers altogether.
Note: Newspapers can be used by people who must leave their puppies at home alone while they are at work and have no one to let the puppy out to relieve himself. Use a playpen or large crate, putting his bedding in the front half and newspaper in the back half. As he becomes old enough (6-7 months), you can begin removing the newspaper on the days when you are at home. Replace the newspaper with bedding materials. If the papers are not there he will hold his bathroom needs much longer. At these times you can begin to teach your dog to wait several hours between bathroom trips, building up to 5 to 8 hours by the time he is 7 to 8 months old.
Any time your pup defecates or urinates outside, he deserves some free time in the house to play ball or just wander around being with you. This will help your puppy appreciate his responsibility to relieve himself out of doors. This time should also be supervised so that he does not get into mischief. No puppy will immediately succeed at housebreaking. All puppies will have accidents now and then, but you must catch them in the act to correct them. As each day goes by, allow your pup a little more freedom between bathroom exercises to see if he runs to the door when he needs to go. Don’t be surprised, however, if he chooses to wander off into the dining room and squat behind the table. Instead, be ready for it and reprimand him as he begins to squat. This reprimand should consist of no more than a stern “NO,” followed by taking him outdoors.
By regulating the feeding schedule of your puppy you will quickly discover that he will have a need to relieve himself at approximately the same times each day. For example, for an 8 week old puppy, if your last feeding is 5:00 PM, your puppy will usually need to go outside within fifteen minutes and will have his last bowel movement for the night sometime between 8 and 11 PM. As you proceed with housebreaking, stretch the day’s bathroom trips further apart each week, by 15 minute intervals, so that your puppy has to control his bathroom necessities. Soon you will be able to sleep in on some occasions, especially as your puppy becomes older. Because of various sizes of breeds, some puppies will have to go out more often than others.
Housebreaking discipline: Catching your puppy in the act of doing something that you do not approve of will require immediate attention in the form of discipline, but only if you catch him in the act. Any discipline after the fact will only confuse your puppy and cause him to unjustly fear you. Corrections should be swift and to the point, consisting of a soft spank on the bottom or shake of the scruff on his neck saying “NO” followed by taking him out to the bathroom area to complete or finish what he attempted to do in the house. This is then followed by praise.
The most common mistake made by puppy owners is correcting a puppy after the fact. Example: you come home from work and find your puppy had defecated on the floor in the house. You discipline him by rubbing his nose in it or yelling at him. That may make you feel better, but, because your pup is not capable of understanding or associating the correction with the crime, it will have little or even a negative impact on him. The only way corrections will work is if you catch your puppy in the act or appearing to be looking for a place to go. Then, tell him no and run him outside to the area where he is supposed to go and praise him as he goes in front of you at the designated area.
Summary of Basic Rules for Housebreaking:
1. Be sure your puppy is free of worms and other parasites.
2. Use a playpen, cage or crate when you cannot directly supervise your puppy. Be sure to remove any collars and leaches before crating.
3. Stay outside with your puppy so that you can praise him while he is learning his bathroom habits.
4. Give your puppy ample time to do his business but also teach him the words “hurry up,” snapping his leash if he wastes time sniffing too long or playing. Save the play time for afterward.
5. After a successful bathroom exercise, play with your puppy, or allow him to wander around the house with you.
6. Follow the time schedule faithfully (feed, water, and bathroom visits), using the same times daily.
– Do not overfeed your puppy or give him more meals per day than recommended (cut out a feeding if your puppy is having great difficulty in housebreaking).
– Do not feed your puppy table scraps or between meal snacks (except those that will not spoil his appetite, such as milk bone biscuits).
– Do not give your pup water within an hour of bedtime unless heat conditions warrant it.
– Do not leave his food out for longer than fifteen minutes.
7. Do not reprimand him for an accident unless you catch him in the act.
8. Be patient. The effort put in now will last your dog’s lifetime.
9. Be consistent and persistent.
Cleaning Accidents: All accidents should be cleaned as quickly as possible using a mild solution of ammonia, water and vinegar. This masks the odor and prevents your puppy from smelling the soiled area and repeating his action. Other cleaning products are available at your local pet store.