How To Housebreak A Puppy

How To Housebreak A Puppy

Rule number one.  If you don’t catch your puppy soiling in the house you can’t discipline them for it.  All you can do is clean it up and kick yourself in the butt for not paying closer attention.  An unsupervised puppy is a mischief making puppy.  Any shenanigans they get into are your fault.  Bottom line, supervise your puppy!


Most people who have never trained a dog with a crate think it’s cruel.  The fact is dog’s are den dwellers.  So when a crate is used properly dogs will value them as their own space.  They will seek out their crate when they want to be alone.  The trick is to introduce it in a positive manner.  Never use a crate as a punishment or link it to anything negative.  Introduce it slowly, put a treat inside and and praise your puppy when they go in it to retrieve the treat.

How To Housebreak A PuppyPick the right size of crate

A crate should not be so big that a puppy can relieve themselves on one side and sleep on the other.  All that would accomplish is your dog becoming desensitized from their natural instinct to be clean.  However it does need to be big enough so they can comfortably stand up and turn around.  Make sure you have the right size crate.

Crate training

Once your puppy is familiar with the crate, place it in a room where they will feel comfortable.  Make sure they have been fed, exercised, and have gone to the bathroom…….outside.  Take their collar off and put them inside the crate with a treat or a chew toy.  Close the door.  Don’t make a big fuss.  Go out of sight but make sure, for the first few times, you stay close enough to monitor their behavior.  They may start to whine, bark or howl.  Ignore it, attention will only reinforce the behavior.

After four or five unsuccessful attempts for a response from you most pups will settle down.  They may even fall asleep for a short nap.  After they settle down, leave them for about half an hour.  Come back to let them out when they are calm and quiet.  Your timing is crucial.  If you let them out when they’re fussing or carrying on they’ll think their behavior caused you to come back.  They’ll learn very quickly to keep up the fussing.  And you do not want that.  You want your dog to learn that crate time is a calm, quiet time.  When you go get them don’t make a big fuss.  Any excitement may cause them to pee.  So calmly get your pup, slip the lead and collar on and take them straight outside for a pee.

Taking puppy outside

Once you get outside you can be as hyper and happy as you want.  As a matter of fact, once you get outside it’s time for excitement.  Be happy and tell them to ‘go pee’.  When they do, offer tons of praise.  But then stay outside for a How To Housebreak A Puppyplaytime so your dog doesn’t learn to prolong the ‘going to the bathroom’ process just to avoid having to go back inside.  Let your puppy explore and have some free time before you repeat the whole process.

When do puppies need to go outside?

Puppies need to go pee immediately upon waking up and very shortly after eating, drinking or playing.  A good rule of thumb is a puppy can hold it one hour for each month old they are.  So if your puppy is three months old, they will need to go out ever three hours, day and night.  Having said that, puppies don’t need access to food or water after about 7:00pm.  So chances are overnight they’ll be able to hold it longer.  Keep in mind that young pup’s may need to be carried out in order not to have an accident along the way.

It’s important to not encourage your puppy to to cry by taking them out every time they make a fuss.  On the other hand you don’t want to encourage your pup to soil in the crate, so use common sense.   If their needs have been met and they’re fussy, they are likely just testing you.  Don’t hook in, consistency is the key!  Dog’s are naturally clean creatures.  So if your pup is soiling in their crate you have done something wrong.  Evaluate your actions, did you give water then put pup in the crate?  Was your pup in the crate for too long?  Etc…..

How To Housebreak A PuppyWhat if puppy soils in the house?

If there’s one particular spot your dog seems to like to relieve themselves in the house, change the association in their mind.  Feed or give them treats in that exact spot.  If your dog starts associating the spot with food they won’t want to soil there anymore.  Same rule applies for sleeping.  Put your dog’s bed there and they won’t want to mess.  Dog’s associate eat and sleep with cleanliness.  Remember, puppies need to learn that our entire big houses are ‘dens’ and they are not allowed to go to the bathroom anywhere inside their den.  For that reason I do not recommend the use of puppy pads, see blog post Puppy pads….pro’s and con’s.How To Housebreak A Puppy

As your dog gets older make sure you are either very aware of their signals or they have a way to tell you when they need to go out.  I’ve always had a bell hanging on the door.  When my dog’s need to go out they hit the bell and I let them out.  A bell is great because you will likely be able to hear it from anywhere in the house.  Easily enough taught, just ring the bell every time you take your dog outside.  It won’t be long at all until your dog learns how to hit it themselves.   Just make sure when they do you take them out immediately and offer tons of praise!

Cleaning up if your dog has had an accident in the house

Spray a mix of vinegar and water after you have cleaned up.  Vinegar is one of the only things that will get rid of the smell to a dog’s nose.  Ammonia actually enhances the smell of urine to dog so make sure any cleaner you use has no ammonia.  Again, once it’s clean feed them there so they associate that spot with food.  Dogs don’t like to eat near where they relieve themselves.

For more information on raising puppies see stages of a dogs life, and for teaching puppies house manners click here.

Written by Brenda McBurnie, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Natural Nutrition

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6 Responses to “How To Housebreak A Puppy”

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  1. lucas says:

    Lovely guide! Do you have more info specifically about using a dog doorbell?


  1. […] so a proper size crate with only one way for them to see out will comfort a stressed dog. (see housebreaking a puppy for crate training […]

  2. […] I’m assuming at some point you’ll want your dog to pee outside.  Here’s the problem.  As puppies brains develop they go through two what is called ‘imprint phases’.  The first is around 7 weeks old, the second is anywhere between 6-12 months old.  If you allow them to pee in the house or on material during those phases, they’ll be imprinted that way.  But also, what do you think it does to your dog when you change the rules?  Allowing them to pee in the house one day, then disciplining them for it the next is confusing and builds mistrust.  Why not just take them outside and train them the right way from day one?  They can learn.  They want to learn.  So teach them.  Dogs are naturally clean creatures, go with that!  For help with housebreaking click here. […]

  3. […] to sixteen weeks: More serious training can begin.  Any behavior problems, such as housebreaking, jumping up, begging or nipping should be addressed.  A great deal of positive reinforcement is […]

  4. […] I’m cringing right now!  The only thing you’ll accomplish by hitting a dog with anything for any reason is abuse.  And rubbing their nose in it will desensitize them to their instinct to be clean.  Furthermore, both ABUSIVE methods will only terrify your dog and teach them to be scared of you! To learn proper housebreaking methods click here. […]

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