Top 10 Housebreaking Tips for Dogs

If you have welcomed a new puppy into your family circle and are apprehensive about the housebreaking process, relax and remember that millions of new puppy owners have succeeded at this task. Here are the top ten housebreaking tips that will help you achieve the same success in a training process that is all about patience and consistency.

1. A Crate Is Great: Use One to Encourage Cleanliness

Crates simulate the dens that wild dogs call home. Since dogs are not inclined to want to sleep where they have eliminated, a crate can help to promote that sense of cleanliness. To that end, the crate should only be large enough for your puppy to lie down comfortably, stand up, turn around and lie down again in the same spot. If the crate is large enough that the puppy can eliminate on one-half and lie down on the half that remains clean and dry, then the crate will be ineffective at teaching him not to eliminate in his living space.

2. Access Denied: Keep Your Puppy Confined

Until your puppy is housebroken, his access to your home should be restricted. He should remain in a crate whenever you or a responsible family member is unable to devote complete attention to the puppy’s activity. This keeps the curious little fur ball out of mischief and potential danger, such as chewing on the electrical cords of your computer, and it limits his opportunities to piddle on your prized Oriental rug.

3. Repetition Reaps Rewards: Take Your Puppy Out Often

Plan to take your puppy outside to eliminate every hour, if possible. By taking your puppy outside frequently, you will provide plenty of opportunities for the puppy to eliminate in the proper place. In turn, this provides the opportunities for positive reinforcement so that he learns that outside time means bathroom time. Be sure to bring your puppy outside at these key times:

  • First thing in the morning when the first family member wakes up
  • 15 minutes after each of the puppy’s meals
  • 15 minutes after each time the puppy awakens from a nap
  • After each of the puppy’s play sessions
  • Last thing before the last family member goes to bed for the night
  • Keep a leash on while in the house but not in the crate, this will allow you quick access if you need to get them outside quickly.
  • Only give treats/praise if they performed the duty you wanted them too. No poo no prize.

4. First Thing Is First: Outside Is the Potty Zone

During the housebreaking process, always bring your puppy outside on a leash. This will help you to maintain control of his activities and keep him focused on the task at hand, which is to eliminate. It will be game over if he is free to chase after a squirrel or a falling leaf. Until your puppy does his duty, do not allow him to run and play. If he does not urinate or defecate within ten minutes, then take him back inside and repeat the outing a few minutes later.

5. The Potty Party: Positive Reinforcement

Before you head outdoors with your puppy, stash a few treats in your pocket. When your puppy urinates or defecates outdoors, he needs to learn that this is exactly what he is expected to do. He will learn this message through positive reinforcement. Lavish your puppy with excited, happy praise and give him a treat as a reward. Go over the top with the excitement, act like your puppy’s performance is the most wonderful thing and do not worry about what your neighbors may think. Dogs want to please their masters, and extreme behavior on your part conveys the message more quickly.

6. Accidents Happen: Did You Witness the Crime?

Accidents are a fact of life when it comes to housebreaking, and you should expect them. If you catch your puppy in the act of flooding the floor or hunching to defecate, extreme behavior comes into play once again. Immediately shout an angry, loud verbal reprimand. Say it like you mean it, and do not worry about startling the puppy with your voice. He needs to understand that you are not happy at all. You should then take the puppy outdoors at once to remind him of the proper place to take care of business. Keep the following things in mind when an accident occurs:

Never hit, spank or shake your puppy.
Do not shove your puppy’s nose into his urine or feces.
Never use the crate as punishment.

7. Accidents Without Witnesses: Silently Remove the Evidence

If you did not catch your puppy in the act and instead came across a puddle of pee or a sample of stool, you cannot verbally reprimand your puppy. He is not capable of associating your anger with something that he is not doing wrong at the moment. In these scenarios, it is best to simply hold your tongue, clean up the mess and move on.

8. The Nose Knows: This Smells Like a Potty Zone

The scent of your puppy’s urine will prompt him to urinate. If you bring your puppy to the same spot in your yard each time you bring him outdoors, he will pick up on the scent of his prior elimination and learn to frequent that spot when nature calls. Conversely, you should use an odor neutralizer that is formulated for cleaning up areas that pets have soiled when cleaning up after an accident that occurred indoors.

9. Consistency: Stick to the Regularly Scheduled Program

Consistency is crucial when housebreaking a puppy. Practice a daily routine with set times for your puppy’s meals and other activities. Always use the same words when praising and reprimanding, and make sure that everyone in the household is on the same page. Consistent routine and repetition enforce the lessons of housebreaking.

10. Inside Is Not Outside: Pads Cause Confusion

If your goal is to teach your puppy to always eliminate outdoors, refrain from providing pads or newspapers indoors. Between being allowed to urinate in the house on a pad, being chastised for urinating on the rug and being taken outdoors and rewarded for urinating on the grass, a puppy becomes confused about where he is expected to go to the bathroom. Send a clear, black and white message that your puppy should only go to the bathroom outside by opting out of providing pads and newspapers.

If you are not having success, consult with a member of our knowledgeable and caring staff for other suggestions. If your puppy backslides and begins to have more accidents, schedule an appointment with us so that we can examine your furry friend and rule out any medical problems. Throughout the housebreaking process, remember to exercise patience. Housebreaking takes time. As long as accidents in the home become fewer and further between, you and your puppy are heading in the right direction toward housebreaking success.

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