Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Housebreak a Puppy

By Linda Cole

Puppies are so cute, until you find a little surprise waiting for you on the kitchen floor. Hopefully, you didn't discover it in the dark. Housebreaking a puppy can be frustrating, but it's not impossible nor is it the puppy's fault. Stay calm and committed and you'll be surprised how quickly you can train your puppy where to go.

A puppy can't control his bladder muscles properly until he's at least 12 weeks old, and he simply can't “hold it” for very long. He doesn't know going inside is bad. Housebreaking a puppy takes patience and consistent training to teach him where the appropriate place to eliminate is. Yelling at a puppy for going inside the house won't teach him anything positive. He will understand you're upset, but he doesn't connect his mess to why you are angry with him. Because dogs live in the moment, he relates your anger with whatever he was doing at that moment. If he eagerly greets you at the door and you respond by yelling at him, he learns greeting you makes you unhappy and he'll stop greeting you. You want your pup to have only positive thoughts about you. Inappropriate discipline creates unnecessary stress and a confused dog.

Housebreaking a puppy is more about you training yourself to know when the puppy needs to go outside. He should go outside after every meal, immediately after waking up from a nap, when playtime is over, and anytime you see him circling or showing signs he needs to go. Because dogs are individuals, as you get to know your puppy you'll begin to see little hints he uses to show you he needs to go outside. A bark or yip, sniffing, an agitated look, staring at the door or standing in front of it are pretty good signs he's trying to tell you something. Dogs can learn things on their own and they will learn how to communicate to you what they need. Pay attention to what he's teaching you and you will always know when he wants outside. Never ignore him when he's asking to go out, no matter what you're doing.

When housebreaking a puppy, take him outside often to the place where you want him to go. The scent from his last outing will tell him this is the place. Never allow him to roam the house when you're gone. Confine him in an area of the house with no carpeting and make sure to thoroughly clean up any messes or puddles. I'm not a fan of crating a puppy, but it does have a purpose if you don't have an acceptable area to keep a puppy in. Make sure the crate is just large enough for bedding and a few toys.

Take him out of the crate as soon as you get home and don't let him spend a lot of time locked up. Go home during your lunch break and take him out for a walk and if you can't get home, try to find a neighbor, friend or someone you trust who can. Changing your routine to accommodate a puppy will only last for a short time, but how you handle his housebreaking training will last for a lifetime. Once he learns where you want him to go and he's old enough to control himself, you can go back to your old routine.

Puppies understand our body language and our tone of voice. All you need to do to let them know you're disappointed is say in a firm voice “No, bad dog.” Pick up a mess or puddle with a paper towel. Take the paper towel and puppy outside and put both of them on the ground. Let him sniff the towel and if he goes again, praise him with enthusiasm. He will understand by your tone of voice how pleased you are and he will want to repeat it to make you happy. Praise him every time he does what you want.

Establishing a routine with your pup is important. Puppies need to go outside at least 6 or 7 times a day. While you are housebreaking him, don't play with him outside. Give him time to poke around and sniff the area. He may need to relieve himself several times before he's done, so don't rush him. When he's 5 or 6 months old, he won't need to go outside as often.

Housebreaking a puppy is about being committed, staying calm, understanding your pup and giving him lots of praise for going outside. It really isn't hard to housebreak a puppy. Keep your focus and stay patient. Stick to your routine and he'll learn the proper place to go. Then you can add something new and teach your dog how to ring a bell when he wants to go out.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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