Is there a magic secret to housebreaking your puppy?

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Answered by: Carole, An Expert in the Care for Dogs and Puppies Category
The short answer is no — there is no magic formula for housebreaking your puppy. We all wish we could simply snap our fingers, twitch our noses, or maybe have a serious conversation with that fuzzy little creature, and then never have to worry about accidents in the house. Unfortunately it is not that easy. It is hard work, but if it is done properly, a few weeks of that hard work pays off with a perfectly housebroken dog.

All you need is a crate and a positive attitude. Choose a crate that will fit your pup for life. Make it smaller with a movable divider. A puppy will not potty where she cannot move away from it. The space should be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. The crate is not a punishment (Positive attitude, remember?) It is your pup's room, her safe and pleasant place. It is where she should be ANY time she cannot be closely watched during her housebreaking training. The key to successful house training is eternal vigilance.

The younger the pup, the more often she will need to relieve herself. First thing in the morning, soon after eating, and after waking from a nap or playing. Always go outside with her, even if you have a securely fenced yard. Watch her closely and praise her exuberantly every time she relieves herself. For now, while we are working on training, bring her back inside once she has finished her business. No playing now. We want her to understand that the reason she was outside was to potty.

Inside the house we will be practicing that eternal vigilance. You can connect her to you with a six foot leash as you go about your daily routine, and put her into her nice homey crate when you cannot watch her. Because you are constantly watching, she has no opportunity to make a mistake. If you see her start to squat, a simple "no" followed by a rush outside is what is required.

Watch for signals from your puppy. She wants to please you. If you are paying attention, you will see her look towards the outside door. She is thinking "I THINK that's where I'm supposed to go but...?" Praise that glance and hustle her outside. This is progress!

I have had pups as young as three months old grasp the concept of going outside. But do not relax your rules too soon. If no one is there to see that look, she may use the rug because she cannot let herself out. Any time she goes in the house without someone there to correct her and take her out, several steps have been lost on the path to total house training. (There is no such thing as a partially house broken dog. That is the equivalent of being a little bit pregnant.) She should still be crated when no one is watching her closely. As time goes on, she can earn her house priviledges. Begin with small time periods and gradually increase the time she spends without supervision.

So, no magic secret to housebreaking your puppy, but if you follow these instructions, keep a positive attitude, and practice eternal vigilance, you will have a dog who is 100% housebroken, and you will have earned the right to pat yourself on the back and brag about your super puppy training skills.

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