Housebreaking Your Puppy? Try These Tips!

The Puppy

Klearchos Kapoutsis, Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5462779252

Housebreaking Your Puppy

Adopting a new puppy is an exciting process. Housebreaking your puppy is a responsibility, among others, that might slip your mind in the midst of the excitement. However, housebreaking is extremely important in helping your puppy adjust to their new forever home. Many new owners return their dogs because of housebreaking problems and other training issues. Understand that puppies do not come trained. You will have to put in the time and effort to train them properly.

If you have feelings of uncertainty, don’t worry! Overcoming the challenge of housebreaking your puppy does not need to be a frustrating process. The best part about housebreaking is that young puppies are naturally inclined to associate their crates with a den. Dogs will not relieve themselves where they sleep. It’s part of their instinctive programming, but they still need you to guide them in how to behave.

Establishing a Routine

  • Select a crate that is large enough for him to turn around, be comfortable, and sleep. Don’t give him too much space. If he has not learned how to signal he needs to go to the bathroom, then he will go at one end of a larger crate, and curl up at the other end. You’ll want to place a soft pad in the bottom of the crate for comfort.
  • Allow him to nap for approximately two hours, depending on his age and breed. Increase this time limit, as he gets older. After he wakes, place him on a leash, pick him up, and carry him outside. As he gets older, you can let him walk. Since puppies naturally need to go to the bathroom upon waking, this is the best time to work on housebreaking them. As you walk outside, tell him, “Want to go out?” or “Let’s go out!” Dogs are quick to associate phrases with specific actions.
  • Place him on the spot that you wish for him to go to the bathroom. As soon as he begins to go, give a command like, “Go potty!” in a very light tone. Again, puppies quickly associate phrases with particular actions. After he finishes, give him lots of praise. Tell him, “What a good boy!” Give him additional time outside to see if he needs to go any further. Puppies love to play and roll around. Use this time to train him with easy commands or simply play with your puppy.

Additional Considerations

The first few days are critical to his training. Don’t allow him any freedom to make mistakes. For example, when you take him back inside, keep him on your lap, and give him lots of attention. Don’t leave him unattended. If you are unable to supervise him, place him back into his crate. After a couple of weeks, you can begin to allow him to run around inside, but only under supervision in a small area. When playtime is over, put him back in the crate for another nap. Give him a treat to reward him. Tell him, “Crate, good boy.” This creates a positive association with his crate.

Mistakes are most likely going to happen in the beginning. If you catch your puppy making a mistake, then interrupt him, and take him outside to his spot. If he finishes on his spot, then praise him, and give him a reward. If you find that he has soiled the floor, simply use an enzymatic cleaner to thoroughly clean up the mess. You can make your own or purchase some at a local store. Do not punish him because he is not capable of making the association—especially long after it has occurred. Furthermore, you may frighten him, which will make the process more difficult. With proper monitoring and a consistent routine, he will pick up on house training in a short period of time.

Also, when determining how long the training cycle should be, a good rule of thumb to remember is that a puppy can typically hold it for an hour for every month of age. If the puppy is two months, then he can probably hold it for about two hours. Another thing to mention, having a puppy is almost like having a baby. If you have an infant, you get out of bed to feed and change the baby at night. The same concept applies to puppies. A responsible puppy parent makes sure to accommodate his needs throughout the night. Do not force him to hold his bladder or eliminate in his crate because you don’t want to get out of bed in the middle of the night. Besides, if you do not stick to enforcing the routine, then it will make housebreaking your puppy more difficult. 

It is extremely important to keep this a positive experience. After a couple of hours, begin the process over again. Housebreaking a puppy seems like a daunting process, when in reality it is a simple process, requiring structure and consistency. Don’t overcomplicate a process that comes naturally to your puppy. Put in a little extra time into housebreaking him and the reward will be a dog that never uses your living room rug as a potty.


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