How To Housebreak Your Puppy

Labrador Retriever Puppies
Puppies are ripe for house training. Steve Wilkes

The first thing on any new puppy owner’s mind is housebreaking. I recommend you switch the word ‘breaking’ for the word ‘training’.  I will, however, sometimes use it in my writing because that is what people are accustomed to saying. Doesn’t ‘breaking’ lead you to think of doing something to your puppy to teach her? The word ‘training’ reminds you that this is a learning process for you and your puppy. There are five key concepts to teach your puppy:

  1. Teach her where you want her to go potty
  2. Teach her where you do not want her to go potty
  3. Teach her to ‘hold it’ when she does not have access to the potty area
  4. Teach her how to tell you when she needs to go potty
  5. Teach her a phrase or word to go potty when you need for her to​

Housetraining your puppy is similar to potty training your child. If you would not do something with a child then please do not do it with your puppy! This process is easy unless you do things that make it difficult.  Punishment has no place in housetraining and will make this process both more difficult and take longer.

For ease of communication, I will assume you are outdoor training your puppy. For indoor training simply substitute ‘outside’ for ‘potty area’. I also use the female gender in my writing. This is for ease in writing and not meant to be a slight on male puppies!

Equipment

Start by gathering the correct equipment. Think for a moment about your field of expertise. Does using the proper equipment make things easier?

You will need:

  • Good quality puppy food
  • Buckle collar or harness
  • 3-4 foot non-retractable lightweight leash
  • 15-foot non-retractable cotton web long line
  • A place to confine your dog = this is the largest area your puppy will keep clean and not chew up- typically a crate or exercise pen
  • A place to walk your dog for outdoor training
  • For indoor training either 2 dog litter boxes or 2 frames that hold wee-wee pads and a good supply of wee-wee pads
  • Small easy to swallow treats
  • Carpet cleaner
  • A good amount of patience
  • A sense of humor

Think about these things before you start:

  1. Feed your puppy on a schedule. What goes in comes out! The puppy that eats all day will need to go at unpredictable times. Feeding on a schedule allows you to predict when your puppy needs to eliminate.
  2. The best place for your puppy to sleep is in a small wire crate next to your bed. It is a good idea to have a larger crate in the area of your house where you spend the most time. Consider using an indoor exercise pen if you need to leave your puppy for longer then four hours.
  3. Choose a keying phrase that the entire family agrees with. I use ‘be quick’ with my dogs. You might also say ‘business’, ‘go potty’, ‘or ‘ water the grass’. The only rule is that you are comfortable saying the phrase in public!

The Five Concepts of Housetraining Your Puppy

Let’s review the 5 concepts of housetraining your puppy. It is important to teach all five concepts to your puppy! There is no specific order to teaching these:

  1. The first is how to teach your puppy where to go potty. Decide where her potty area is and consistently take her there. Remember to say the word ‘Outside’ as you go outside or ‘Inside’ as you go to her indoor potty area. Give your treat five seconds after she has finished going.
  2. The second concept teaching your puppy where not to go potty. Avoid frightening and/or punishing your puppy. Redirection without fear is the fastest way to results
  3. The third concept is how to teach your puppy to hold it. Use confinement to teach this when you cannot watch your puppy. Use your leash (safely) indoors when you can watch her.
  4. The fourth concept is to teach your puppy how to tell you she needs to go potty. I suggest teaching her to ring a bell instead of barking, whining, or scratching the door.
  5. The fifth concept is how to condition a keying phrase to get your puppy to feel the internal urge to go potty when you need for her to go.

You will find that all five concepts weave together as to patiently teach your puppy what you expect from her. I do not believe that there is such a thing a partially housetrained dog. Your puppy is either housetrained or she is not. You can use these five concepts to teach a puppy or teach an older dog, as long as the dog is of sound mind and body. It is, however, much faster and easier to teach these concepts in puppyhood!