Housebreaking a new puppy can seem like a daunting task! I know some people who have adopted an older dog just so they can skip this very important and necessary step in training. Some people even give their new puppy over to a trainer for a few weeks to get the housebreaking done.
These are both fine options, but the thing is, housebreaking is a very easy thing to do. All it takes is timing, patience, positive reinforcement, and two weeks of consistency!
When Should I Start?
Experts say puppies are developmentally ready to start housebreaking somewhere around 2-4 months of age. I think it differs depending on the puppy. I think you should start training as early as you can, depending on your puppy’s needs. I started working with all 3 of my dogs somewhere between 2-5 months (as soon as I adopted them from the shelter).
My Experience with Housebreaking
Skeeter is the first dog I ever housebroke or trained at all! He’s 10 years old now. I took on the task of housebreaking without any prior experience with dogs (I had a cat named Scooter when I was a kid, but no dogs), and without any research into housebreaking. I used common sense, and it worked very well! I have since used the same method on Annie (9) and Fitz (2), and Hollywood Feed’s foster puppy, Seymour (about 4 months) is staying with me for two weeks and is now getting the same treatment.
I try to be very observant of my puppy’s habits, as this helps me predict when he may have to use the bathroom. Is he standing by the backdoor? Is he walking around sniffing out good places to pee? Seymour, when he was very young, used to start turning in a backwards circle when he had to poop. It was pretty cute, but it also gave me time to rush him outside before anything happened, because I paid attention to his routine.
Eat, Sleep, Play…Poop
If we think about it, puppies have a pretty cyclical life. They eat, they sleep, and they play. Our job is to train them to have the habit of using the bathroom outside in between these other very important parts of their life. Within 5-30 minutes of eating, a young puppy will be ready to use the bathroom. We need to create a habit for our puppy.
Of course, there will be a few accidents indoors during the training process, and some dogs may take an extra week’s worth of work to get this habit down.
- The very first thing we should do in the morning is to take our new puppy into the yard and wait patiently until he has urinated. Praise your puppy for a job well done verbally and with a little petting.
- Next, feed your puppy breakfast, and after a few minutes take him outside again. Be very patient again, and wait until your puppy defecates. This could take a while, as puppies are easily distracted by smells, other dogs, and the sound of our voices! Wait patiently and quietly. It is very important to stay outside until your puppy has done the deed, even if it seems to take forever. Once your dog does his business, pet him and tell him what a good boy he is! Your puppy will likely then play with you for a little while, get worn out, and go to sleep.
- The next step is to take your puppy back outside immediately after he wakes up, patiently wait again, and give positive reinforcement again. Take your puppy out every time he wakes up from his naps and after every meal. If he stays awake for longer than an hour after he last went to the bathroom, take him out again. If your puppy has an accident in the house, take him outside immediately.
YES, EVEN OVERNIGHT!!
- I think the hardest part of housebreaking is taking your puppy out overnight. A young puppy will need to go out about every 2-3 hours during the night. You need to set an alarm and take him out! This is a very important part of housebreaking training, and two weeks worth of poor sleep will give you a housebroken dog for a lifetime.
But, I Work All Day!
I know this can be difficult if you leave your puppy kenneled at home while you work all day. I know there is really no way around this for most people. If this is the case, then you need to be consistent when you ARE home in the evening and on the weekend. Take your puppy outside immediately after getting home from work, and follow the schedule from there.
If you can take a week of vacation when you first get your puppy, all the better. Think about adopting your puppy in the summer when your teenager is home from school and can do the daytime training.
Consistency Is Key to Lifelong Habits
That’s all there is to it! I promise, this works, and it’s just common sense observation of a puppy’s natural routine. Consistency is key. If you will live on your puppy’s schedule for a couple of weeks, then he will live on your schedule for the rest of his life!