Puppies are bundles of joy, wiggles and fluff. But they also make messes … some more unpleasant than others .Housebreaking your pup is important not just to save your carpet cleaning bills, but also to make sure you start your owner-pet relationship off on the right foot.
Quickly housebreaking your puppy depends on several key things:
- Being consistent
- Supervising constantly
- Well-timed feedback
Remember, puppies don’t know that soiling your carpet or hardwood floor is against the rules. However, your pup wants your approval and praise. It’s up to you to get the message across that making a mess in the house is not OK.
Stick to a Schedule
Puppies need routine. No matter how you’re training your puppy (using a crate, using pads, frequent trips outdoors) you must stay consistent.
All pups are different, but here’s a good basic schedule for when most will need to be taken out to do their business:
- First thing in the morning
- 5 to 30 minutes after eating or drinking
- 5 to 30 minutes after being crated or taking a nap
- 5 to 30 minutes after playing/exercising
- Last thing at night
Puppies will also be more likely to go in a place familiar to them. Pick a ‘bathroom spot’ outside and always bring your pup to that area (see ‘Crate Training versus Paper/Pads’ if you don’t have a consistent place to go outside).
Be consistent with your pup’s mealtimes as well.
Supervising and just watching your puppy is important for two main reasons.
First, house breaking your pup fast depends on you learning his or her signals and rhythms. Pay attention to how your puppy acts when they need to go.
Second, it’s important to catch your pup before or during any behavior you want to discourage. Immediately rush your pup outside if he or she starts to squat or show any signs that they need to go. (Note: scolding after the fact accomplishes nothing! If your puppy makes a mess, then clean it up and move on.)
Having trouble keeping track of your pup when they’re loose in the house? Buy a long leash and keep your pup leashed when they’re wandering around – you can let them have some exploration time while still keeping an eye on what they’re up to.
Give Positive Feedback
The best way to reinforce good behavior in your pup is well-timed, positive feedback. Most puppies are eager to please and a treat and a word of praise when they go where you want them to will drive the message home
Negative feedback is less effective, and tends to result in puppies fearing their owners and increases the likelihood of them intentionally trying to hide ‘mess ups’ or sneaking away to do their business.
Crate training (taking your pup outdoors to go to the bathroom) is ideal – conditioning your pup to only go outside when you let him/her. Dogs (like most animals) like to keep their living area clean and will hold it as long as they can when they’re in their “den” – in this case, a comfy crate you can keep them in when you’re not actively watching them.
Crate training lets you not just teach your puppy that he/she shouldn’t make a mess inside – it teaches them that they can hold it. This is extremely important for puppies to learn, as you can’t always instantly let them out.
Make sure the crate is large enough for your pup to comfortably lie down, stand up, and turn around, but not too large – if the crate is too spacey your pup might see it as big enough to have its own “bathroom”. ?
When your pup needs to go, they’ll most likely signal it by whining or scratching. You should also make sure to take them out regularly based off of our schedule above.
Important note: be consistent and timely in taking your puppy out with this method. If your puppy slips and makes a mess inside his/her crate, they might learn that it’s OK to do that. If you’re already having problems with this, look here to find out how to continue training.
Paper or Pad Training
If you live in an apartment or don’t have a safe, consistent place to take your pup outside, training with paper or pads allows you and your pup another option.
Keep your puppy pad in an easily accessible space (preferably somewhere easy to clean just in case!) and try not to move it during your pup’s training.
Every pup’s different, and you’ll face different challenges training yours. However, here are a couple questions for problems that you might be facing.
My puppy’s soiling his/her crate. How do I train them?
This can happen for several reasons. Your crate might be too big, which causes your pup to see it as being spacious enough for both his/her bed and bathroom. There’s also a good chance at some point your puppy learned to potty in their crate – this can happen with irresponsible breeders and even at pet stores.
Your pup might also have health issues – if your pup is having unusual incidents, see a veterinarian in your area.
There are a few steps you can take to prevent this:
- Keep your pup on schedule. Take your pup out regularly (our schedule should help you with this) and train them to go at certain regular times of day.
- Keep the crate sterile. Canines like to urinate in the same place they have before, and if they can smell their urine they’re more likely to continue using that spot.
- Don’t feed or water your puppy right before bed. Make sure it’s a few hours before so they don’t go during the night.
- Remove blankets, towels, or dog beds. It may seem harsh but puppies prefer to go potty on soft surfaces, not hard ones. Wherever your pup is going, make sure it’s a hard (and clean) area that discourages them from going there.
Whenever my puppy is excited or scared, they urinate. How do I deal with this?
This is common with puppies and they usually grow out of it after a few months. Don’t punish them for it, as it’s usually something they can’t help, and scolding will only make them more nervous and likely to make a mistake.
Keep using positive (not negative) reinforcement, eliminate odors from areas where they’ve eliminated, and encourage them to respond to new situations with positive, confident behavior like sitting and standing.
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