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Housebreaking a Puppy in Five Easy Steps
You've just brought home your new best friend from the animal shelter or the breeder. Everything's going great until.... he has a little (or maybe big) "accident" on your carpet. Not so cute.
Dog urine and feces can permanently damage your carpet, flooring and furniture. Not to mention it will leave a terrible odor over time even if you are meticulous in cleaning it up! And the worst part is that once your dog gets into the habit of urinating or defecating indoors, he/she will think that is correct behavior and continue repeating the behavior and it will become even more difficult to break this learned behavior. You must start to housebreak your dog as soon as possible after bringing them into your home.
Get in the Right Mindset
The method I am going to describe is not the only method out there to teach your dog to "go" outside, but it is the method that worked for me and it was recommended to me by a friend who is also a dog trainer.
The very first thing you must do is get in the mindset that accidents are GOING to happen during this training period. No training method is perfect and your dog is not perfect either, so accidents will happen no matter how good of a teacher you are or how obedient of a dog you have. You must promise yourself and your dog that you will not get frustrated and angry when an accident happens. You must simply expect it to happen, clean it up, and move on.
Let's Get Started!
So, let's move on to the actual training part! You will need four things: a timer - a kitchen timer or your cell phone works just fine, dog training treats, a dog cage or crate, and a bell that can be hung from the doorknob of a door.
Hang the bell from the door that you will be using most often to take your dog outside. It can be a large bell or a small bell, just so long as it rings whenever you open and close the door.
Next, set your timer to go off every 20 minutes. Why? Well, unfortunately for you, you are going to have to bring your new pooch outside every 20 minutes. But, just for the first few days! :)
When your timer goes off, put your leash on your dog and take them outside. Bring the dog training treats with you. Walk around in a grassy area for at least 5-6 minutes. Your dog may or may not go to the bathroom during this time. If he does urinate or defecate during that time, give him a lot of positive feedback afterwards! Pet him, praise him and give him a treat! If she doesn't go to the bathroom during that time, don't worry about it. Just take them back inside and set your timer for another 20 minutes.
What you are trying to do here is be proactive. Bringing your dog outside as frequently as possible increases the chances that she will feel the urge to go to the bathroom when she's already outside. Then, when she goes, you will be there ready to give her encouragement and treats to reinforce good behavior.
Your dog probably won't understand what's going on at first and might go to the bathroom almost immediately upon coming back into your house or apartment. This can be very frustrating! If you catch them in the act, sternly say "no!" to discourage the act and let them know that what they're doing isn't good. Do not use physical force though like spanking or rubbing their nose in it.
If you do not catch them in the act, do not reprimand them at all. Telling them "no!" at this point will have no effect. They will not associate the reprimand that they are getting at this moment with the act of urinating or defecating 5 minutes ago. The two events are unlinked in their minds and there is nothing you can do about it. Only reprimand if you catch them in the act!
Obviously, you probably won't be able to be home all day, everyday to take your dog out every 20 minutes. No problem! That's where the dog cage or crate comes into play.
When you have to leave the house, simply put your dog in the crate. Make sure the crate is properly sized to your dog though! Your dog should have enough room to stand up, turn around, and lay down with his paws stretched out comfortably. But, it shouldn't be much larger than that. The reason is that you want to take advantage of your dog's natural instinct to not soil their sleeping area. If the dog has enough room to sleep comfortably on one side of the crate, he may begin regularly soiling the other side of the crate which will hinder your housebreaking efforts.
Even if you have the correct sized crate/cage, your dog may still soil in the crate a few times. From my personal experience, this will only happen a few times. But, be prepared for it because it will be VERY messy!
After 2 or so days of taking your pup out every 20 minutes, increase the time between walks outside to 30 minutes. Continue using the door with the bell so that the dog associates going outside with the ringing of the bell.
Everyday after that gradually increase the times between going outside by 10 minutes. So, on day 4 you will be going outside every 40 minutes. On day 5, you will go outside every 50 minutes, and so on. Repeat this until you are only going outside every 1-2 hours.
Continue taking your pup outside every 1-2 hours while you're home with them until you find that they are no longer having accidents in the house. Success!
So, what the heck was that bell around the door for? Well, like I mentioned previously, your dog will eventually begin associating "going out" with the ringing of that bell. As time goes on, you will find that when your dog needs to go outside he may paw at or nudge the bell on his own in order to make the ringing sound. Thereby informing you that it's time to go outside! This makes your life that much easier. At that point, you won't need to worry about whether it's been 20 minutes or 3 hours since you last took your pup out. He will let YOU know when it's time to go which frees you up to go about living and enjoying your life!
I've found the methods described in this article to be the most efficient, quickest and least messy way to housebreak a dog. My puppy was nearly completely housebroken in about a week and a half and was using the bell to let me know when he wanted to go out within a month or so. I hope this method works for you and makes having a dog even more enjoyable for you! Good luck!