Housebreaking 101by Konnie Hein on 02/16/16
When we make the decision to purchase or adopt a puppy, we envision a fuzzy, warm, wiggly bundle of cuddling and fun times. We imagine playing with our new companion and developing a bond that will be rewarding and worthy of cherished memories.
In reality, the first few months of puppy ownership can have some frustrating moments. While the fun times definitely make bringing a new, young, canine companion into our homes totally worth it, puppy training can seem like a daunting task if our puppy starts to use the house as a toilet or chews on the furniture.
How can we make puppyhood easier to navigate? One thing that helps immensely is to have a structured housebreaking plan. Our primary role in this plan is to prevent accidents from occurring, and to guide the puppy to the correct toilet spot. We need to create a habit for the puppy of using the outdoors as a toilet.
A puppy's ability to "hold it" is very limited at 8 weeks of age, and gradually improves as he or she matures. A good rule to follow is this:
For every month a puppy is in age, we can expect the puppy to hold it for that many hours. So, a 2 month old puppy can go 2 hours without eliminating, a 3 month old puppy 3 hours, and so on.
This rule applies during the day, and the time between outside visits can be extended at night. And we should expect to take an 8 week old puppy outside at least once in the middle of the night to eliminate.
Some puppies can hold it longer than our rule, but it's a good place to start to prevent accidents from occurring. Puppies also usually have to eliminate immediately after waking up, after eating, after drinking a lot, and after a rowdy play session. So, trips outside to potty should occur at those times too. That's a lot of trips outside during the day, but it is what's required to prevent your puppy from developing the habit of using the house as his or her toilet.
Using a crate (cage) is also a great way to prevent a puppy from using the house as a toilet during the times when you can't directly supervise him or her. Most puppies naturally do not want to potty in a crate if they can help it, and we can use that to our advantage. Gating a puppy into an area or room where you can directly supervise him or her when not crated is also a great idea.
What about "puppy pads" (elimination pads) to give the puppy a place to go indoors if we can't get him or her outside right away? Puppy pads certainly do have their place in some training situations, however, using these pads teaches your puppy that going to the bathroom inside is an acceptable practice. If your schedule allows for it, you are much better off taking your puppy outside for every potty trip.
If you are experiencing housebreaking or puppy training issues, or just want to chat about your dog, please feel free to comment, call, or email. We'd love to hear from you!