Housebreaking a puppy can be likened to finding that perfect New York City apartment; it’s all about Location! Location! Location! Keep in mind that it’s not the act of urinating or defecting that’s wrong, rather, it’s that we humans consider the carpet and potted plant to be inappropriate. The goal is to make this very, very clear to our furry companions.
We want to teach our dogs the correct place to eliminate. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to present your puppy with the best obvious option out of a limited selection.
Things you will need for your pup
- A portable dog crate for crate-training large enough for her to stand up and turn around comfortably in. For long absences, a long-term confinement area is called for.
- A regular feeding schedule.
- A schedule for going outside.
- Treats for when you go outside with her.
- Good observational skills to prevent accidents.
- Patience! (And, might I suggest, a shot of whiskey).
You’re a busy New Yorker, so when you’re unable to supervise your pup or when you’re away for shorter periods, they should be crated. Short-term crate-training essentially exploits a puppy’s instinct to keep her bed clean, and gradually tones up her flabby little puppy muscles so that she can hold it in until she’s let outside. Additionally, crating prevents mistakes around the house and allows you to accurately predict her elimination schedule to the point where you’ll be able to closely align it with your own hectic schedule.
Puppy muscles are weak, and bladders are smaller, thus frequent meals and lots of activity means more frequent output. When it comes to puppy peeing and pooping, a general rule of thumb is:
- First thing in the morning
- After eating
- After waking from a nap
- Last thing before bed
- Young puppies (8-10weeks) usually need to go out every hour or so
As your pup begins to go regularly outside without fail, you can increase the duration in between walks until you’re able to leave her confidently for hours at a time. For now, your job is to control the timing and correctly deal with the accidents, the latter is where things tend to go wrong.
If your puppy doesn’t eliminate when you take her out, back to the crate she goes! This is the only way to avoid an accident. Then, make sure to try again in 30-60 minutes (depending on the size and age of your dog). Gradually, when your pup begins to go regularly outside with zero accidents indoors, you can offer her free roaming time in the home as a reward after her successful walk. If you’d like to give her free reign in the house before she’s done her business, just make sure to supervise VERY closely as any accidents until she’s fully housebroken will set back your training.
If you find that your puppy is soiling her crate regularly, it’s either too large, or you’re leaving her for far too long, thus giving her no choice but to make a mess.
Puppy Housebreaking Tips
- Do not leave your puppy in the crate for too long as this will entice her to soil it and may result in ruining her natural tendency to want to keep it clean
- When you take your puppy out, try to go to the same spot so as to make it easier
- Praise and reward outdoor elimination the first few times, until she gets the hang of it
- Try not to immediately end the walk as soon as your dog has eliminated as this may teach her to hold out longer so that the walk doesn’t end
Accidents, They Happen
Most puppies will have accidents, especially in the beginning of training. Don’t let this break your resolve; take it as an opportunity to tighten the weak spots in your potty-training practice.
If you happen to catch your pup in the act of committing a faux pas, interrupt her (“Ah Ah! Outside!”) at the start of any mistake indoors, then hustle her outside to finish.
What doesn’t work? When it comes to house soiling, punishment is futile. If your puppy makes a mistake unsupervised, there is no connection to the act that happened many dozens of behaviors ago, with your punishment. If you frighten your dog during the act she may feel reluctant to go in your presence at all and choose to go when you’re not looking, making housebreaking very tricky indeed! Finally, if you punish when you come home, your pup may simply learn that it was silly to greet you when you showed up – we’ve all seen footage and photos of so-called “guilty” looking dogs who welcome their owners when they return after a long day, with downcast eyes and bowed heads. In actuality, the trodden looks these dogs give have nothing to do with recognition of the so-called naughty act they’ve committed, but rather your irate body language when you see what they’ve done. In their eyes, it’s a matter of safe vs. dangerous, not right or wrong.
Instead, try and keep your cool when you’ve discovered an unwelcome surprise (here’s where the whiskey comes in). Clean up the spot with an odor neutralizer to help prevent that location from smelling like an indoor toilet, and tighten up your vigilance. It’ll pay off in the long run, we promise!
If you follow a schedule and supervise closely, yet your puppy still urinates several times a day in the house, have your vet check whether she has an infection.
In summation: the crate will be your best friend (after your pet, of course). If your pup fails to perform when expected, no prob! Back into the crate she goes with an opportunity try again every 30 to 60 minutes or so until she succeeds. If she eliminates outdoors, free period in the house! Remember, it’s far easier to loosen the reigns after starting off with a strict schedule, than to have to tighten them after accidents have already occurred, and bad habits established.
As with all training, you want every mistake to turn into a learning experience, so ask yourself: what will my pup learn from the accidents she makes? If it’s unclear to you, chances are she won’t know either. Feel free to contact us so we can help you identify the problem, or for more troubleshooting tips.
The Ins And Outs Of Crate-training
Crate training your puppy or adult dog is vital for housebreaking. The added benefit is that you’ll also be chew training and alone time training as a bonus.
Now, you can’t just throw your dog into a crate and expect her to adjust. Early association is important, and indelible. Situate the crate in a high traffic area like the kitchen, and when she’s not looking, drop a few treats inside, letting her discover them on her own as though the crate magically holds all sorts of goodies at random intervals. You can also feed her meals in there, with the door open so that she forms positive associations immediately.
- Crates should only be big enough for your pup to stand and lie down comfortably
- Begin crate training right away—first day home – with small tasty food treats. Your pup should enjoy her crate and not see it as a prison
- Put crate next to the sofa, and keep her occupied on stuffed chew toys while you relax
- Start leaving her alone in the crate, for short periods initially (15-30 mins), gradually extending the duration
- Bring her out as soon as you come home after an absence
Remember that with too much unsupervised, loose time in the house, each accident your pup has is essentially detraining her. Tighten up your regime so that your puppy really only has two choices: in her crate, or outside and make sure to give her plenty of opportunities to do the latter. As always, contact us for fine-tuning tips and troubleshooting!
When You’re Gone For Lengthy Periods
If you anticipate being gone for longer absences (such as while you’re at work all day or overnight), use a long-term confinement area rather than a crate for your already house-trained pup. X-pens or baby gates on puppy-proofed kitchens and bathrooms are ideal with their easy-to-clean flooring. This coupled with food, water, chew toys, a bed at one end, and a bathroom area at the other (far from the bed and food) will ensure a comfy and suitable play room while you’re gone.
For the bathroom area, you can use pee pads or some sort of commercial substrate turf.
OR, just inquire about our boarding and sitting options so your pup can get all the TLC she deserves while she’s awaiting your return.