Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Housebreaking: This is usually the first and one of the most important tasks for a new puppy to learn. Having a puppy who can tell you what they need and their ability to distinguish the difference between your house and the great outdoors when it comes to toilet training is an important thing to learn and the beginning of the new dialogue you and your new puppy will share.

I think that crate training will help with housebreaking so I usually recommend teaching both from the beginning. (To learn more about crate training please see the following link ).


When you are thinking about bringing home your new puppy have a plan for how you want to raise them.  Be prepared for the new arrival by discussing the house breaking and training plans with the whole family to identify what might work best for you. Ask everyone who will be participating in the training to agree to the plan and work together to execute it.  My advice is to start training on day 1 for what you want your puppy to do 365 days from that.

There are a few items to think about with your family before deciding how to housebreak your puppy. If you want to train your puppy to use pee pads in the house then start training with pee pads and for pee pads. But be prepared for a lifetime of pee pads, or a tough time re-training when you decide you want to try training to go to the bathroom outside. If you reside in a place that has cold winters, then the smaller your dog is, and the closer to winter that you get your dog, the harder it is to housebreak them. It's is a big challenge to take a four pound puppy outside every two to three hours when it is freezing cold. They don't want to be outside, you don't want to be outside, and they don't understand why you are still outside one minute after you get there. When the whole purpose is to be training you have to start training on day one and winter makes that hard.

Here's how my family succeeded with housebreaking our puppies. Before the arrival of our little bundles of barking we placed jingle bells around the front door knob. We also got leashes and attached them to their harnesses. For puppies I like harnesses because I think they are safer. They do not tug on their throats (this is very important for small breed dogs because they are predisposed to tracheal  weakening) and they are less likely to be squiggling out of them. Alongside the leashes/harnesses are baggies to clean up poop and treats in a baggie. We call it our 'go kit'. When we came home we carried our puppies out of their crates and to the front door. We put their harnesses on and attached them to their leashes. Every time we took them outside we rang the bells very hard (to create a strong jingle) as we opened it. Once outside we carried them to their designated potty space. Once here we used our cue words to instruct them that it was "time to go potty." We would say this over and over until they urinated or defecated. As with every aspect of training we always reward good behavior, so as soon as they go potty we would reward them with a treat and lots of praise. Do this every single time. Consistency, patience, kindness, and rewarding all of the good behaviors are the simple formula for success in everything you do with your puppies. Puppies learn very quickly so make every interaction part of training.


Never scold if they soil in the house. They need some time and consistency to learn your house, and how to tell you what they need. Only correct your puppy if you catch them in the act of going to the bathroom in your house. If you catch them posturing to urinate or defecate just pick them up, carry them to the door, ring the bells, grab the leash and harness and take them to their potty spot. And remember to reward her for finishing there. If you find that they have had an accident in the house it’s too late to correct her. Never yell, scold, or rub their nose in it. It just teaches her to be afraid of you. If you miss the act of them gong to the bathroom in the house it is an accident and it is a reminder that they don't have your system of notifying you and understanding what you want from them.


If you find that your puppy is still having accidents in the house after what you feel has been an adequate and consistent training period then I recommend trying the tether line technique.  Puppies sneak off to go to the bathroom and finding it later won’t help you housebreak them. So keeping them tied to you at all times inside allows you to be monitoring them. If they posture to go to the bathroom you will know immediately and you can resume training by taking them outside. If they can't be tied to you then put them in their crate or on someone’s lap. This means that they will not be allowed to sneak off and disappoint you. I say all the time, “don’t give them an opportunity to disappoint you” by keeping them in one of three places; tied to you, on your lap, or in their cage. If you have a month of perfect potty attendance then you can go back to offering them free reign of the house.

OK, veterinarian peeve. You and I know when the last time we ate, drank, peed or pooped was. We also need to know these about our pets. They can’t tell me, so, you as their owner need to be monitoring and reporting back to us for them. Most of my clients will bring their pet in for constipation when in fact they have had diarrhea for days. They see their pet outside posturing repeatedly to defecate and think they are constipated. Also, I see tons of pets for “blood in urine” after the first snowfall of the season. I know these pets have likely had bloody urine for weeks, (god forbid since last spring), because they see the blood in the snow, but never saw the blood in the urine when they are peeing in the grass. The hope is that you are observing for any possible problem before they become a problem. If your dog is peeing 20 times a day, that’s probably a problem. If the stool is soft, abnormal colored, etc. we want to know asap.

The biggest reasons that pets are surrendered at shelters are for behavioral issues. I believe that any behavioral problem that becomes an issue with a puppy is solvable. Ask for help, ask early, and tackle it collectively. Your veterinarian, veterinary staff, friends, family, and adoption agents will help with anything you need, you need only to ask.

If you have a pet question of any kind please join us at We are a free open online social media platform dedicated to helping people take better care of their pets. Anyone is free to join, ask, or answer questions, share pet photos, or invite others to use your pet centered service.

I can also be found at Jarrettsville Vet in Harford County Maryland. Or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Related Posts;

Crate Training

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