Housebreaking is at the top of the list of priorities when you have a new puppy in the house!
If you're a first time puppy owner, or it's been a while since you had a young puppy, you're probably going to be surprised by how many times your pup needs to 'go'.
And when the urge strikes, you'll also soon find out that he has no qualms about 'going' just about anywhere.....
That includes (but is not limited to!) under the table, on the Persian rug, behind the sofa (or even ON the sofa if he can climb up there), in the bedroom/kitchen/study.... as you can see, I really do mean anywhere.
Your puppy has no idea that this isn't the way we humans do things, and is totally oblivious to the fact that we think this behavior is unacceptable.
So, it's up to you to help him learn where you expect him to pee/poop as quickly as possible, with love, patience and understanding.
Start Out The Right Way!
The good news is that if you follow my simple, step-by-step guide guide, you'll be able to avoid the majority of 'puddles and piles' and both you and your puppy will be happier!
But don't expect to housebreak your puppy in 5 days, or 7, or 10.... those kinds of expectations are unrealistic and no matter what anyone promises you, it is extremely unlikely that your puppy is going to be housebroken within a week or two.
Of course there are always exceptions, and your little one may be a really quick learner, but it's best to expect the whole process to be ongoing for some weeks to come.
Your pup learns through repetition and by linking cause-and-effect.... when you help him make the right connections (by anticipating his needs and showing him what you expect), he quickly gets into the right habits - ones that he'll follow for lifetime.
BUT, if he's allowed to build up bad habits (such as peeing on the living room floor) it will make life much more difficult than if he gets into the habit of feeling the grass in the backyard on his paws before he lets loose!
Puppy potty training begins the minute you bring your 'baby' home, so being prepared beforehand is always recommended. Here's a look at what you need to get started....
First of all you'll need the following:
- A plan for your daily routine
- A designated 'potty spot' outside (or an indoor dog potty/pee pads)
- A crate
- An understanding of the limited capacity of a puppy's bladder/bowels
- Plenty of patience!
- Designate a specific 'potty spot'
Make sure there's an area of your yard just for your puppy, and ALWAYS take him there to potty. Introduce him to it as soon as you get him home, before you even take him inside the house, and hopefully he'll be ready to relieve himself.
- Realize that puppies need to potty a lot!
The average 8 week old pup needs to go out approx. every 30 mins to an hour during the day, and most will need at least one potty break during the night for the first few weeks. Always take him to his potty spot after every meal, nap and playtime - and anytime he is whining, circling and sniffing, or seems restless or agitated (all classic signs that he needs to 'go').
- Keep To A Predictable Routine
Puppies really benefit from having a daily housebreaking routine that they can count on. It also helps your efforts to potty train a puppy in two ways..... It has emotional benefits because it makes them feel secure - remember how puppies love repetition and habits? On a practical level, putting your pup's meals, naps and playtimes on a schedule will regulate his bowels and make it easier for you to predict when he needs a potty break.
- Teach your pup to let you know when he needs to go outside
Although at first you will be in control of when, and how often, your pup goes outdoors to pee/poop - but eventually you'll want him to let you know when the urge strikes! You can teach him to give you a 'heads-up' by using Poochie Bells. The idea is that he alerts you to his needs by ringing these little bells which are hung on the handle of the door you want him to use to go outside. To begin with you'll need to help him 'ring' them every single time you go out, and add a verbal cue such as 'Fido needs to potty' as you do so. Most pups will get the hang of this fairly quickly, and it certainly makes life much easier later on.
- Never leave your puppy to run around indoors unsupervised
When you're beginning to potty train a puppy, NEVER leave your puppy to run around the house unsupervised. Although dogs are naturally clean animals and will do their best not to soil in their den, your home is considerably larger than a dog's natural den, and it will take some time for a tiny puppy to realize that the whole house is his den and needs to be kept clean.
This is why crate training a puppy is the quickest and most effective way to potty train a puppy. While your puppy is loose in your home, watch him like a hawk.. and at the first sign that he needs to 'go' (remember the body language for this... whining, circling, intense sniffing, arching his back or even squatting) scoop him up and get him to his potty spot. Whenever you can't watch him, put your puppy in his crate (where he will be much less likely to pee/poop at will.
A puppy play-pen or a fenced-off area of the kitchen is better than letting him run free, but not nearly as effective as a crate. BUT don't put him there and then forget about him. He's still going to need to go outdoors in 30 minutes!
- Pick a 'Trigger Word' and use it consistently
When you're potty training a puppy, choose a word or phrase (called a 'trigger word') and repeat it quietly while you're encouraging him to 'do his business'. "Potty time" or "hurry up" work fine or choose something you're comfortable with. (You could say 'bananas' if you wanted to and it would work the same way, but if anyone overheard you they may well THINK you're bananas yourself!)
Over time your little guy will come to associate this word or phrase with the actual action of peeing or pooping and eventually just hearing it will trigger the desired reaction. This is something that will prove invaluable when it's 20F below and you don't want to stand outside for the next 45 minutes!
- Make sure your puppy knows when he's succeeded
Always praise your puppy when he 'goes' in the appropriate spot. He wants to please you and this is how he knows he's been successful. If you want to you can give him a tiny, tasty treat as a reward too (I do this for the first few weeks and it really does help). Just don't give him a big treat because as he'll be making anywhere up to 24 potty trips a day he'd be eating his own weight in goodies in no time!
- Don't scold, if he makes a mistake so have you!
Unless you catch your puppy in the act of peeing/pooping in an inappropriate place (and I mean IN THE ACT, not 10 seconds later) there's no point in scolding him, he won't have a clue why you're mad and will just be scared. He may look guilty, but it's not because he knows he did wrong, it's because he can feel that you're angry and upset and that scares him. If he's had the opportunity to have an 'accident' then you've also failed somewhere and probably should be scolding yourself!
Maybe you didn't supervise him closely enough, or you forgot that he needed to go out after lunch, or you were busy when he woke up and expected him to 'hold it'. When you want to potty train a puppy, your job is to make sure he's set up to succeed, and if he's made a mistake, chances are good it's because of one you made first.
However, if he does squat right in front of you it's perfectly OK to say "No' or "Bad" in a loud, firm voice. It may even startle him into pausing mid-flow. Scoop him up immediately and take him straight to his potty spot and let him finish his 'business'. Then give him lots of praise. Even if he seems to have emptied his bladder or bowels onto the carpet, still take him outside and repeat the 'trigger word' so that he understands that this is where he's supposed to 'go'.
One other point that I'd like to make is that puppies NEVER make a mess on your carpet out of 'spite' or because they're upset with you!
They're simply not capable of thinking in that way. They also don't know that it's wrong (until their housebreaking education is complete anyway).... you'd be surprised how many puppy owners don't realize this.
- Should My Pup Eliminate Outdoors Or Inside?
This is because most owners have this as their final aim anyway, and if you teach a pup to pee/poop indoors it simply makes the whole process much more confusing, and frustrating, for everyone.
But of course, sometimes there are good reasons for having to potty train a puppy to pee/poop indoors, or on a balcony or porch.
If you're trying to potty train a puppy and you live in a high rise apartment building for example, or if you're disabled or have mobility issues, or if your pup is a very small breed and the weather is extremely bad etc. etc......
In these situations you have a couple of options - pee pee pads, a doggie litter box or an 'indoor doggie toilet'. The pee pee pads are probably the cheapest option in the short term (but they're still not cheap, especially if you plan to have your pup 'go' indoors 90 or 100% of the time)
However, puppy training pads do have drawbacks that make them my least favorite choice personally, although many other dog owners swear by them! A lot of puppies see them as toys, and often prefer to drag them around and chew them up rather than pee on them!
You can find reviews of, and information on, many popular brands of puppy training pads here - Best Puppy Training Pads
A doggie litter box may work better than the pee pads, but some pups prefer to play in the litter (or eat it!).
The third choice is an indoor doggie toilet which is more durable than the pee pads, and not as messy as the litter box. Several of them have 'fake turf' for the pups to use which helps them when you want to transition over to peeing on REAL grass later on.
The initial outlay is a bit more than the first two options, but when you're trying to potty train a puppy you need all the edge you can get!
Cleaning Up Housebreaking Accidents
When you're trying to potty train a puppy there are always going to be occasional accidents - no matter how careful you are or how smart your puppy is!
Whenever this happens you need to clean it up immediately using a special cleaner/deodorizer such as Nature's Miracle Stain & Odor Remover to remove every trace of urine/feces.
Puppies are attracted back to the same areas by their own smell and ordinary household cleaners simply won't do the job of removing all the lingering odor. Although YOU may not smell it, your puppy will, so always use a product that's been specifically designed for the purpose.
Although there are a whole host of dog urine cleaning products on the market today, some are better than others.
You can find a full list of the ones that I personally recommend on my Dog Urine Cleaning Products page.
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