Step-By-Step Housebreaking Process
A new puppy (or dog) that is not housebroken should be restricted to one of these three situations at all times:
1. Inside under your constant and attentive supervision.
2. Outside with you.
3. Confined to his crate/den.
Situation 3 is where your puppy should spend most of his time during the housebreaking process.
Did you notice that we did NOT include a situation where you leave your dog outside all the time?
Many people mistakenly think that puppies kept outside will be less trouble— after all, they won’t be peeing and pooping in your house, and they won’t need your constant supervision, right?
But here is the reality: puppies left outdoors and unsupervised for long periods of time seldom become housebroken. They tend to bark, chew, dig, and escape from your yard.
Outdoor puppies also become so excited on the rare occasions when they are allowed indoors (excited puppies tend to pee without warning), that eventually they are no longer allowed inside at all. We don’t want that. You shouldn’t want that.
Here’s how to housebreak your four-legged friend:
1. Determine where you want your dog to go potty. It’s best to pick a doggy toilet area that’s relatively close to the door, so you and your dog don’t have too far to go when he’s gotta go. Give the location some thought, because after he’s trained, your dog will continue to use this place as his toilet. This is convenient for clean-up time, especially if you have a large yard—and your family won’t have to be wary of little “landmines” when playing outside in the non-doggy-toilet areas.
2. Know when your puppy needs to go. Until your puppy is trained to tell you when he needs to go outside (don’t worry, that will eventually happen), you have to be an expert at deducing this. Sometimes a puppy will need to go within 5 minutes of going! Don’t assume you don’t have to watch him just because he’s just gone potty.
Here’s when you should take a puppy out to go:
• Immediately after he wakes up.
• Immediately after letting him out of his crate/den.
• Every 30 to 60 minutes while he’s awake, based on his age (see Fact 2).
• After he eats or drinks.
• When he’s been doing something for a while (like chewing on a toy), and then gets up and starts looking around.
• When he starts sniffing the floor.
• When he goes to an area where he’s gone potty before.
• When he’s running around and excited more than usual.
• When he’s look at or wandering near the door.
• When he’s pacing, whining, or starts to squat (duh!). Note: Male puppies squat to pee just like female puppies (versus lifting a leg) until they are 4-9 months old.
3. Keep your puppy under your constant and attentive supervision, or confined to his crate, when indoors. It only takes a couple of seconds for a puppy to squat and pee, so you must watch him very closely.
Don’t stare at him (it’ll make him nervous), but keep an eye on him at all times when he’s out of his crate. This will be easier if you limit his movements, either by keeping him on a leash or by restricting him to one or two rooms.
Don’t think you can watch TV, wash the dishes, or do something else and still watch your puppy. If you become distracted or preoccupied, accidents will happen and this will make housebreaking your puppy a longer, more difficult task. It’s your responsibility to take him outside when he needs to go. Accidents will be your fault, not your dog’s.
4. Take your dog to his designated toilet area every hour or whenever he needs to go (see Step 2), whichever is less, and teach him to go on command.
• Every hour, fill your pocket with treats, release your pup from his crate and quickly take him outside to the designated toilet area. Encourage him to go quickly by enthusiastically calling “Outside, outside, outside!” (If you take your time, he may pee or poop en route. Also, hurrying him along tends to jiggle his bowels and bladder so that he really wants to go the moment you let him stand still and sniff his toilet area.)
Take your dog out every hour even if he’s old enough to hold it for longer than that. This practice is as much to train your dog—in the shortest time possible—to use the designated toilet area and go on command as it is for getting him outside in time to pee or poop!
• Use a leash (even if you have a fenced yard) to lead him to the correct place. This will also get him used to going potty while on the leash.
• Stand quietly (don’t stare at him) and wait until he begins to go. (If he stares at you instead of doing his business because he smells treats in your pocket, just look away and pretend to ignore him; eventually he’ll start sniffing and preparing to go.) When he does start to go, quietly (so you don’t startle him) say “go potty.” (You can choose another cue. Make it something you wouldn’t mind saying in public. Once you decide, be sure that you and your family use only this word/phrase, and use it every time he goes.)
• After your dog is finished, immediately give him a generous amount of tasty treats and lots of enthusiastic praise. Lavish rewards mean quicker results!
These steps are essential. If you just open the door and let your dog run out by himself to go potty, then give him a treat when he comes back to the house, his housebreaking will take longer and be less successful. Your dog will think he’s getting the reward for coming back to the house (versus going potty), and you’ll miss the opportunity to train him to go on command.
5. Spend time playing with or training your puppy, or take him for a nice walk (if he’s old enough). If you take him outside to go, and then quickly bring him back in and ignore him after he does so, he’ll learn that “after I go, my fun ends!” Consequently, he may become reluctant to go potty when he’s outside (and end up going inside when he can no longer hold it).
It is much better to praise your puppy for going potty and then take him for a walk as an extra reward for a “job well done.” This extra reward will also encourage him to go potty more quickly.
What if he doesn't go potty when you take him outside?
If your puppy enjoys the great outdoors but doesn’t go potty within a few minutes, take him back inside, put him in his crate, and try again in 10 minutes or so. Repeat the process until he does go.
Your puppy will learn that if he doesn’t go potty when you take him outside to do so, he’ll be confined to his crate again (no go, no freedom). Eventually he will go in the appropriate place at the appropriate time, and you will be able to give him appropriate rewards!