December 4, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Housebreaking a Puppy


Whether you’ve decided to get a new puppy or already gone out and gotten one, there are a lot of things that you need to know, as new puppy owners. One of those things is how to go about housebreaking a puppy. After all, the vast majority of dogs, at least in the USA, grow and live mainly in the house with people as companions. If your puppy goes anywhere it wants to, it can make living in your house very unpleasant for both you and your pet.


When it comes to housebreaking, what not to do is more important than what to do. One of the common mistakes that people make in house training a puppy is punishment. If you come home to find an accident on the floor, your instinct is to find the dog, shove his or her nose in it and start yelling. Not only is that cruel and useless, even if you catch the dog in the act, but it’s too late if you don’t see the puppy actually have the accident. Puppies have a short attention span and won’t understand what they’re being punished for, even if there’s only a few minutes between accident and punishment.

Your Puppy’s Training Tool:

A much better way to handle accidents in the home is through a system of positive reinforcement. That is, you should ignore the puppy when he or she has accidents, but reward them with something they enjoy when they go to the bathroom outdoors. Each puppy is different. Some puppies like food. Some like squeaky toys. Some like balls or stuffed animals. Once you find something your puppy likes, use that thing as their training tool/reward system.

Communication and Clarity:

One important thing, when it comes to housebreaking a puppy, is communication. The pup needs to learn what you want and a great way to do that is with verbal commands. Those commands need to be consistently used by everyone that has contact with your puppy, though.

For example, if you say “potty” and your spouse says “out” and your child says “yard” whenever you want the puppy to go outside and go potty in the yard, it will cause mass confusion for your family and your puppy. So, it’s very important that you always use the same word for the act of going outside, the same word for the act of relieving themselves outside and the same word to praise them for going outside. Some suggestions are “outside”, “potty” and “Good!”, but you can use any thee words, as long as you are consistent with them.

Consistent Routines:

One of he most important things about housebreaking a puppy is to set up consistent routines. The puppy needs to learn when feeding times are, for instance. There should be three feeding times each day for puppies under three months and two feedings each day after that. If you only leave the food down for about half an hour, they’ll learn when it’s time to eat.

How does that help with housebreaking? Well, puppies typically have to relieve themselves right after they get up in the morning and about half an hour to forty five minutes after they eat something. So, by controlling when they eat, you can control when they need to go outside.

On top of that, it’s also important to be consistent about how they go outside. For example, it helps to take them out the same door each time. Eventually, they should get so used to the routine that they come find you and bring you to the door or wait patiently at the door when they need to go. Also, of course, they should always go in the same area outside. That way, they’ll learn that that is the potty patch and not leave piles and puddles all over the house and yard.

The Paper Method:

Many people train their puppies to go outside by using newspapers in the house, to begin with. Then, they either move those papers slowly towards the door until they’re outside or place papers in an outdoor area, too. Although that’s not a bad idea, it can have some drawbacks.

One problem with the paper method is that it can just be inconvenient to have papers strewn in various places in your house. Also, though, bigger dogs make bigger messes. That can stink up the house, as well as mean even more frequent paper changes and even more chances of stepping in puddles or piles in the dark at night.

A lot of people also combine the paper method with baby gates to keep puppies in a certain area of the house. After all, owners can’t be with their pets 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so it’s sometimes necessary to confine them. That brings us to the next method.

The Crate Method:

Another way to housebreak your pet is to crate train them. Dogs usually like to be clean, so they don’t like to urinate or defecate where they sleep. If you give your puppy a crate with a bed in it and nothing else, except maybe a toy or treat to keep them busy, they have no room to have “accidents”.

The problem with the crate method is that many people lock their puppy in the crate for far too long. Even though being in a crate will teach the puppy to “hold it” a bit, making training them to go outside easier, they shouldn’t be confined for too long at once. It’s a training tool, not a jail.

Another crate training mistake is getting the wrong crate size. If you want to be successful with crate training, you need the crate to fit the puppy. Extra space will only give them the ability to go to the bathroom in an empty area of the crate. So, be careful to select a crate with adjustable panels, if you plan on housebreaking a puppy using a crate.


One response to “The Ins and Outs of Housebreaking a Puppy”

  1. Mike Germna says:

    I always wondered how Pitbull puppies were training. Great article.

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