Housebreaking Your Puppy: Do's and Don'ts
The housebreaking process often creates feelings of nervousness and anxiety, but the process doesn't have to be stressful — for you or the puppy.
The fact is, this is a scenario in which you have Mother Nature working with you from the get-go as you are training your puppy. Once the puppies are first born, they feed and relieve themselves inside the den, but the mother always cleans them. There's never a hint of urine or feces where puppies eat, sleep, and live. Once they get old enough, they learn to use outdoor spaces as they mimic their mother.
It usually takes 4-6 months for a puppy to be fully house-trained, but some puppies can take up to a year. Size can be an indicator. For example, smaller breeds have smaller bladders and higher metabolism and need more potty trips.
When to Begin Housebreaking Your Puppy
Professionals recommend that you start housebreaking your puppy when they're between 12 weeks and 16 weeks old. At that point, they have enough control of their bladder and bowel movements to learn how to hold it.
If your puppy is more than 12 weeks old when you bring them home and they've been eliminating in a cage, house training may take longer. At this point, you will have to have to reshape the dog's behavior with positive reinforcement and reward.
Signs That Your Puppy Needs to Eliminate
With close observation, you'll learn what your particular puppy is doing to let you know she needs to go potty. Although some puppies may let you know directly, others are more focused on finding a spot to go. That's why you need to learn the indications in order to avoid accidents.
Whining, circling, sniffing, barking and scratching the floor are all common indicators that they need to go, so if they do any of these things, take them out right away. Further down the line, it's possible to train your dog to tell you when they need to go.
By two to four months of age, most puppies pick up the concept of housebreaking and crate training very quickly, because it is part of their natural conditioning.
Puppy’s Digestive Tract
Another built-in advantage when it comes to housebreaking is the digestive tract of a puppy, which is extremely quick and efficient. She's going to want to poop five to 30 minutes after eating. So, with a regular feeding schedule, and your attention to the time, your puppy will keep going outside on a daily routine.
In the early days of housebreaking, you do want to make sure that the puppy has a place to rest where she feels safe; a place that seems and smells familiar. Have you noticed how many dogs will go to the toilet in the same spot they did before? The scent acts as a trigger.
Know, as always, that your own energy is a big part of your housebreaking effort. Whether you're anxious or impatient, or if you're trying to rush a puppy to be toilet trained, you might stress her out too. Use a noisy, squeaky sound to prompt your puppy to "go potty" is a distraction to the dog, so try to avoid doing that.
Setting a Routine
First thing every morning, take your puppy out to the same general place. It is important to stay consistent throughout the transition so that your puppy can learn the routine.
Once your puppy has successfully gone outside, it's essential to reward good behavior. It doesn't have to be a massive, noisy celebration, but a simple quiet approval or a reward will get the message about a job well done.
Don't discipline your dog for an accident or do something to establish a negative association with the body's functions. Keep calm and assertive, and gently carry the puppy to the location where you want him to go.
Done properly, housebreaking should not be a chaotic process, but only a matter of putting a little extra effort into keeping your puppy on track for the first few weeks after you get home. Don't let any unnecessary stress over this very normal, uncomplicated process ruin any of the joys surrounding the puppy training cycle and your dog's puppyhood.