Start at the ideal age
The best time to begin housebreaking a puppy is when it is 7 ½ to 8 ½ weeks old. At this age, you can teach
the puppy where to eliminate before it has established its own preferences. But don't worry if your puppy is
older when you start housebreaking; it will still learn, though it may take a little longer.
Six to eight times a day, take your puppy outdoors to eliminate.
Choose an appropriate spot to take the puppy immediately after it wakes up, after play sessions, and 15 to 30
minutes after meals. If you take your puppy to the same spot every day, pervious odor will stimulate it to urinate
or defecate. Many puppies need 15 to 20 minutes of moving around and sniffing before they eliminate. Stay with the
puppy the whole time. Housebreaking problems can result if you're unsure whether the puppy actually eliminated and
you let it return to the house too soon. And remember the puppy needs to focus on the job at hand, so don't play
with it until it has eliminated.
Use key phrase while your puppy eliminates.
If you repeat the same phrase (e.g. "go potty" or "take care of business") every time your puppy eliminates outdoors,
it will learn that this phrase means that it is the right time and place to eliminate.
Once puppy eliminates outdoors, immediately reward it.
Reward the puppy by praising it, giving it a treat, or playing with it. But remember to reward it right away. The
puppy will not learn to eliminate outdoors if the reward comes when it returns to the house. Instead, the puppy will
think that it is being rewarded for coming inside.
Supervise the puppy indoors as well as outdoors.
Find a room in your house that allows you to watch your puppy as much as possible. This will help you catch the puppy
if it starts to eliminate indoors. You can also leash the puppy or place a bell on its collar to help you keep track of it.
Don't punish after the fact.
If your puppy has an accident in the house, don't go get the puppy and rub its nose in it. This doesn't do any good because
the misbehavior already occurred. Instead, try to catch the puppy in the act. If you see the puppy getting ready to housesoil,
don't swat it, but stomp your foot, shake a can filled with pennies, or startle the puppy by yelling "outside!" The puppy will
likely stop what it's doing, and you can take it outdoors to eliminate.
Don't leave food out all day.
Feed your puppy at set times every day, and remove the food bowl after 20 minutes. This will create regular intervals at
which the puppy will need to eliminate.
Thoroughly clean areas where the puppy has pottied in the house.
Your veterinarian can recommend a safe, effective product that removes both odors and stains. It's important to clean a
soiled area completely, otherwise your puppy may return to it and housesoil again.
Stick with the training program.
Most puppies can be successfully housebroken by 14 to 20 weeks of age. But a pet may take longer to housebreak for several
reasons. Consult your veterinarian if you're having difficulty.
Information provided by Debra F. Horwitz, DVM, Dipl. ACVB, Veterinary Behavior Consultations,
12462G Natural Bridge Road, Bridgeton, MO 63044.