How to Housebreak Your Dog or Puppy
©2005 by Kathy Burns-Millyard
Dogs are creatures of habit; and once they develop a habit, breaking it can be a long, frustrating process. Your dog needs guidance and encouragement from you to develop a toilet habit you can live with.
Animal behaviorists have learned a lot about dogs over the last couple of decades, and there are many tips available that will make housebreaking your dog or puppy a less frustrating task.
When you consider some of the things your dog or puppy is willing to roll in, or put in their mouth, it's a bit hard to believe they're picky and specific about their toilet areas. Dogs will go to great lengths to avoid soiling near where they eat and/or sleep. That means any accidents an un-housebroken dog has will be far from its food dish
and bed. To a dog, however, "far" can mean about 6-10 feet. This leaves lots of "fair game" space in your home, unless you guide the dog to suitable spots.
Whether your dog is a puppy, or an adult dog new to your home, the process is the same:
- Every few hours, take the dog outside to a place you designate as a "bathroom" area.
- 30 minutes after the dog or puppy eats, do the same.
- Stay in this bathroom area, and praise the dog lavishly when they relieve themselves.
- If the dog doesn't use the bathroom when you've taken them outside to the appropriate spot, try again 15 minutes later. Continue doing this until they've actually used the bathroom spot.
- When the dog is inside, watch closely for any signs of needing to "go". A dog will circle and sniff areas when they're about to relieve themselves.
How quickly your dog becomes housebroken depends partly on their personality, but mostly on your diligence in taking them outside at the right time. If your puppy is less than four months old, you should plan on getting up during the night to take it outside. Puppies over four months of age can usually "hold it" through the night, but if
your dog cries to be let out, it is best to get up and let them tend to the urge. It is vital that you give your dog every chance to succeed during this time. Positive reinforcement of the proper behavior is the fastest way to teach your dog anything.
Accidents happen, and when they do, your response will affect how quickly your dog learns to "go" outside. If you catch your dog in mid-squat, clap your hands or call their name loudly to distract them. Once you have their attention, quietly and calmly take them outside.
Be sure to praise your dog or puppy well when they finish relieving themselves outside properly.
If you find a wet spot or droppings on the floor when your dog is not around, simply clean it up. If your dog approaches to investigate what you are doing, ignore them. Don't talk to or pet the dog at this moment, because it could be interpreted as praise. Above all else,avoid yelling or physically punishing the dog, because they won't make
the connection between their mess, and your anger.