This Is The Best Way To Housebreak Your Puppy

Just have a little bit of patience — and follow these helpful steps 🐶

Teaching a puppy to do her business outside — rather than on the living room carpet — requires patience, organization and consistency. While many of us struggle to apply these principles to our own lives, they are essential when training a new puppy.

Pet owners who are wondering how to balance housebreaking a puppy with maintaining their sanity need not fear. Potty training a pupper may seem overwhelming at first, but can be a vital part of bonding with your new best friend. Working with your puppy on using the bathroom properly may even have the unexpected benefit of reinforcing your own time management skills (that’s right, the puppy is training you, too!).

So how soon should you start? Once a puppy arrives at her forever home, pet owners should hit the ground running, recommends Shelby Semel, senior trainer and founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training. “Housetraining should start right away! The sooner the better,” Semel tells The Dodo. “Good habits should be formed early on.”

Housetraining a puppy typically takes between three weeks and six months. Those looking to speed up the process should keep in mind that housetraining can have more to do with the owner than the puppy in some situations. “It varies by the dog’s specific habits and can largely depend on the owner’s consistency during the training process,” Semel says. “Having multiple homes, lots of travel or fear and nervousness [about] being outdoors can all create additional challenges on training.” It’s best to keep things simple when housetraining, so a routine can easily be established.

So what do you need to get started? Follow these simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to making those wee wee pads obsolete:   

Prepare your home for housetraining

When it comes to housebreaking, “being prepared” doesn’t mean covering your floors in newspaper and rolling up rugs. Instead, it’s important to focus on making sure your pup feels comfortable in her new home. An unfamiliar place can be frightening and overwhelming, Semel notes, so making a protected, safe environment for your dog with a crate, playpen and/or baby gate is vital. “An enclosed area creates a safe place for the puppy to hang out and feel comfortable, but also an area where you can trust them to be when you can't keep watch,” Semel notes.

Keep a regimented schedule and record everything

What’s the secret trick that makes potty training a puppy easy? “Consistency!” Semel says. “It really helps to have a schedule and keep track of everything — not in your head, but on paper, computer or even your phone.”

There are no shortcuts when it comes to teaching your pup this new behavior, and organization will be key in the process. “You should record frequency, duration of the walk and even the accidents, as it will help identify a pattern,” Semel explains.

Feeding your pup at the same time each day will help cement their walk schedule. (Keep in mind, they may need to eat two to three times a day.) “I suggest walks or trips to a wee wee pad within one minute of waking up from a nap, and 10 minutes after food, water or any major activity,” Semel says. “Be very hawkeyed! Monitor food and water consumption, as what goes in, must come out.”

Create consistency on your walks

When going on those (frequent) walks, establishing a special routine can help your puppy get the hang of relieving herself outside. Semel recommends picking a calm spot for your puppy nearby that you can return to during each walk, and establishing a gentle command to signal that it’s time to go to the bathroom. “Try saying your cue word in a monotone voice while your puppy goes, so they can connect the action with your cue word.” Whether that cue is “Business time!” or “Make your poopies, Mr. Pickles,” the choice is yours, just be prepared to stand at that spot for a while at first.  

Once your pup does her business, reward her good behavior with praise and treats. She’ll learn to love that fire hydrant in no time — especially when there’s a bite of chicken on the line.

Supervise your pup at home

Between walks and playtime, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommends keeping your pup tethered to a nearby piece of furniture by a 6-foot leash. Not only will you know where your pup is at all times, but you are ready to grab the leash and take the pup to her special spot when she needs to go outside again.

If you can’t monitor your pup at some point during the day, it’s important to keep her in a controlled environment. “I think a crate is a great tool to help a dog learn to hold their bladder,” Semel says. “Dogs are den animals and many appreciate the tight comfy space.”

Want to give your dog more room to roam while you’re away? Semel recommends keeping your pup in her own special area while you’re gone. “Many people use wee wee pads for their pups, in which case I still like to utilize a crate, but also a playpen. Then you don’t always have to shut the crate door and your pup will have access to the pad.”

Accidents will happen

Fluctuations in a pup’s schedule or home environment can complicate the training process, leading to some messy results. “Having multiple homes and frequent travel create additional challenges on housetraining a dog, which can add to your frustration during the process,” Semel says. “Since dogs do not generalize well, they will need extra help on training when routine and location change.”

Even if owners do everything by the book, they may still step in something unpleasant at some point — especially when their pup is teething. Like humans, dogs have two complete sets of teeth. Puppies grow their baby teeth between 3 and 6 weeks of age, and at around 4 months old, they shed their first set while their adult teeth grow in. This can be an uncomfortable process for your pup, and it can affect their potty training.

“Dogs tend to regress when they are teething. So your pup may be doing well on housetraining, but seemingly out of nowhere they can have accidents again,” Semel adds. “Patience is key for housetraining a dog.”