7 Best Tips on How to Housebreak a Puppy

Published: 4/12/2021
We won’t lie to you — housebreaking a puppy is hard work, but hopefully, these tips will help you start off on the right paw. We’ll tackle everything from preventing accidents to cleaning them up and staying sane during the housetraining process. So where should a pet parent start when housebreaking a puppy?

#1. Make a schedule and stick to it

Making and keeping a routine is absolutely crucial when housebreaking a puppy. Most trainers instruct pet parents to take their puppy out every 2 hours. Whatever your schedule, make sure you’re letting your dog out to potty at the 4  most important times:

  • first thing when they wake up
  • immediately after getting out of the crate
  • 15 to 20 minutes after eating
  • right before bed

It’s also a good idea to pick up your pet’s food and water bowls a couple of hours before bedtime to decrease the chance of nighttime accidents.

Keep in mind that your pet’s potty schedule may change many times before they’re completely housebroken. As puppies age, their body is able to hold urine for longer and longer periods — but more on that in the next section.

#2. Use the crate the right way

Crates are an invaluable tool when training a puppy, but you should only use them for short periods. Dogs can only hold their bladders for 1 hour per month of life, or up to 8 hours for a full-grown canine. If you have to leave for more than a couple of hours, you should consider hiring a dog walker to take your fur-babies out while you’re away.

#3. Identify your pet’s cues

Knowing what your pet is trying to tell you is essential when potty training. Often, dogs will whine, pace, and go to the door when they have to potty. Some dogs will walk around sniffing, hike their leg, or nudge their human. Not all dogs have the same cues, so pay attention to what your dog does right before going to the bathroom. 

#4. Clean up accidents promptly and properly

One of the most common complaints from puppy parents is that their pets return to the same spot in the house to potty. This is often a sign that the pet parent didn’t clean the spot properly. Because dogs tend to potty in the same place, eradicating the scent is essential for preventing future accidents.

It’s best to use an oxygen- or enzyme-based cleaner. If you’re in a pinch, you can use a mixture of a tablespoon of blue dish soap, two cups of water, and one tablespoon of vinegar. 

Never use an ammonia-based cleaner to clean up accidents since this mimics the smell of urine and can cause the dog to return to the same place again. Too much vinegar can have the same appeal.

#5. Don’t punish your dog for accidents

No matter what stage you are in housetraining, accidents are inevitable. When your pet does have an accident, don’t punish them. This can actually make the problem worse. Dogs who are punished for pottying in the house are more likely to hide when they do their business.

#6. Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective tools to have in your housebreaking arsenal. Dogs inherently like rewards and are more likely to repeat a behavior if they receive something valuable in return. Keep treats at the ready when you walk your dog, and be sure to praise and treat them each time they potty outside.

#7. Have a verbal cue and a designated potty area

It’s important to designate a verbal cue and a potty area when housebreaking a puppy.

Take your dog to the same area of your yard to potty every time and use a verbal when you get there. The cue can be anything: “go pee” or “do your business”.

Whatever cue you choose, be consistent. Using the same spot and cue will create a pattern in your dog’s mind and hopefully make it second nature to potty in that spot.

Last but not least, be patient with your pupper while they are learning. Like anything, potty training takes time and patience. Your pooch will get it eventually. Keep at it, and they will be pottying outside like good woofers in no time!