Housebreaking your puppy is essential to a happy home. Nobody wants to come home at the end of the day to a mess, and the frustration you experience with your new pup after an accident can hurt the great relationship you can have with your dog.
There are a great many ways to train your pup and we’ll discuss a few of them here. These are the methods that I have used in the past and they seem to work well with most dogs. Dogs naturally have an instinct to not mess in their surroundings. We can use this to our advantage in all three different methods we will talk about.
Let me start by saying that the more time you can spend with your puppy the better. Not just for housebreaking, but for training in general.
The first method is the Supervision Method: This is definitely the most successful for people who can be home for most of the day. Just watch carefully for your dog to give signs of needing to go. When you see signs such as your dog sniffing the floor or turning in circles, you can take the pup outside. When you do this, use verbal commands such as “go potty,” “outside,” or whatever term you want to use. As soon as the pup does his business, praise him and tell him what a good job they did. Praise for doing well works so much better than punishment for messing in the house. Of course, this method only works if you can provide constant supervision. If you are away from home for long periods of time, you may want to use one of the other two methods I will touch on.
Kennel (crate) method: This brings the natural instincts of the dog to the forefront. Dogs naturally want to keep their sleeping area clean. Put simply, they don’t want to mess where they sleep. You will need a kennel that is just large enough for the dog and a rug or blanket. Anything larger than this will give the pup room to defecate or urinate in the kennel with it. Take the pup out every 2-3 hours and let them do their business, again praising them when they go. You can gradually extend the time to 4 or 5 hours. Don’t leave them in the kennel for much longer than that if you can help it. As the pup gets older, he will eventually be able to hold it through the night. You can’t expect a pup younger than 6 months to be able to hold their urine for more than 4 hours, but after 6 months they will have trained their bladders to hold it longer.
Paper Training: This is probably the oldest method used. For this you’ll need newspapers or specially treated pads that are infused with an odor to attract the pup. Spread the papers out in a spot where if the urine leaks through it will be easy to clean up. Whenever you see the pup making motions, again sniffing the ground or circling, take them to the paper and set them down. As soon as they have relieved themselves, praise the pup. Over time, move the paper closer toward the door until eventually it is outside. If you have a small dog and wish to continue having them use papers, keep them in the same spot.
Make sure you stick with one method. Changing the way you train the dog only serves to confuse them. Be consistent. Spend as much time with your pup as you can–especially the first few weeks–to ensure good results with whichever method you use. Make sure every family member uses the same commands for housebreaking.
Next we’ll talk about praise and punishment. If you walk in and see that the pup had relieved himself in an inappropriate place, there is no use in punishing him in any way. He doesn’t understand what you are punishing him for. If, however, you catch him in the act, firmly say “bad dog,” or simply “no,” then immediately pick him up and take him outside. If he does his business outside, reward him with praise. The old wives’ tale of rubbing their face in their mess does NOT work. It only confuses the dog and makes it extremely unpleasant to get kisses from him!
Keep your feeding schedule consistent. Pups will want to poop about 30-40 minutes after eating, so pay attention and take them outside. Always remember to praise them for a job well done. Pups will also need to go out immediately after waking up, either from a quick snooze or from sleeping at night. Pick them up and take them outdoors.
Puppies are kind of like babies… a lot of work. But if you do your part by being patient and training them early, you will have years and years of enjoyment ahead of you.