Pet tips: housebreaking a puppy

Housebreaking puppies can be a time-consuming experience. If consistent and persistent, you can housebreak your new dog. Advice on positive reinforcement.


Adding a new puppy to your household can be a fun and exciting time.

It can also be a frustrating time, however, if you are going to housebreak your puppy. Housebreaking a puppy takes time and patience. Puppies don’t willfully disobey their owners. They just don’t understand what it is you want them to do, and so they have to be taught.

There are various ways to housebreak a new puppy. Many people swear by the crate method. Relying on the idea that dogs won’t mess where they sleep, many dog owners keep a small dog crate in their homes. You can put the crate where the puppy can see you. Don’t use the crate as a form of punishment. Instead, leave it open even when the puppy isn’t using it, and place his toys inside. You can also feed him in the crate. He needs to view the crate as his special place. If the puppy cries at night, however, it might be necessary to move it farther away from sleeping members of the family until he gets used to it. Crates provide a safe environment for your puppy to stay when he needs to be confined. Just don’t leave him in there for long periods of time.

Another method of housebreaking is to teach your puppy to use newspaper or “pee pads”, which are specifically designed and sold for puppies to mess on. Confine your puppy to a small room and cover that area with newspaper or pads. You will still need to take your puppy outside regularly, but if you are gone to work during the day, your puppy can use the newspaper until his bladder has matured enough that he can hold his urine until you get home. As he grows, cover smaller and smaller sections of the floor with paper or pads. He should seek out the paper to use.

If you are able to stay at home with your puppy, you should be able to train him to go outside. Pay attention to your puppy’s actions. As soon as he wakes from a nap, finishes eating, or stops drinking, pick him up and take him outside. Pick a place outside that you would like your puppy to use for his bathroom, and repeatedly take him to that area. Once he has gone there a couple of times, he will recognize the scent, and that should trigger him to go again. As soon as he pees or poops, praise him lavishly.

The trick to housebreaking a puppy is to stop him from forming bad habits in the first place. It is very hard to get the smell of urine and feces completely out of a rug or carpet, and the smell will attract him again and again.

Of course, there will be accidents, and you need to remain calm when these happen. You should try to remember that your puppy is not doing this on purpose to punish you. He simply forgot what he was supposed to do, or his immature bladder couldn’t hold on any longer.

If you catch your puppy in the act, quickly pick him up, and say, “No!” as firmly as you can. Take him outside, and place him in the area that he has used before. He probably won’t go right then but leave him outside for a little bit. You can then bring him in, but be sure and watch for signs that he needs to go back out. One sure sign is when a puppy begins to walk around the room with his nose to the ground, sniffing. If he starts to do this, pick him up quickly, and take him back outside.

If you are consistent in confining your puppy and watching for signs that it is time to take him outside, you should be able to housebreak him without too much trouble. Yes, it will take time and patience, but in the end, you and your puppy will be much happier.