Whether you have a new puppy or an older dog, you are going to find that the essential lessons and methods of housetraining are the same. Age does not apply to how you get your dog to urinate and defecate outside. The positive reinforcement and routine is going to be what teaches your dog to become housebroken, not anything else.
When you begin housebreaking your puppy, you might think of it as you would if you were training him to behave. Training is teaching a new behavior. You might train your dog to sit or stay. The puppy obviously knows how to urinate and defecate. You are just teaching it where he will need to go to do it.
Think of your dog as you would a child. Would you say you trained your child to use the bathroom? If you're like most people, you probably would not say this. Your child was going potty in a particular manner and you taught the child a more acceptable way to go on his own. This is what you will be doing with your dog. It is also good to think of your dog as a child because you would not punish your child for relieving himself in his diaper when you were teaching the child to use the toilet.
Likewise, a dog should not be punished for going in the house. It could have been that you were not available and the dog had no choice. If you catch the dog in the act, tell the dog "NO" firmly, and then take the dog outside. Physical punishment should never, ever, be an option.
It should be noted that like a child, a new puppy does not have control of his bowels until the dog is around 12 weeks old. Some gain control at a younger age though this is the average. You should not begin training until this time. It would also be unfortunate if you began to lose hope, thinking the training wasn't working, when there was no way that it could until the dog gained the control necessary to be housebroken.
- Crate your puppy - A dog that is allowed to roam around the house whenever it feels like it usually has a harder time being housebroken. Crates will appeal to your dog as a safe haven. This should be the area that your dog sleeps in every night and where your dog will stay when you are not home. You want to ensure that the crate you choose is large enough for your puppy to be comfortable but small enough that your puppy cannot relieve himself at one end and be completely comfortable and away from that area in the other end. You should never leave your puppy in the cage if you realize the dog has urinated or defecated in the crate. You should take the puppy out as soon as this happens and see if the puppy needs to continue relieving himself. You should also clean the dog and the cage immediately.
Do not get angry because it is likely the dog could not help it. It is rare that someone or something, even a dog, would urinate or defecate knowing he will have to sit in it, if he did not really have to go. Once you have cleaned the dog and the cage and taken the dog out, then it is time to place the dog back in the crate until later.
- Put the puppy on a schedule - When the puppy wakes up, take him out of the crate and directly outside. Do not bring the puppy back in until the puppy has urinated and/or defecated. You should also take the dog out right before bedtime. This will help to ensure that your puppy makes it through the night without urinating or defecating in his crate. You should keep the crate in your bedroom at night. This way, if your puppy cannot make it through the night and tries to alert you of the need to relieve himself, you will be able to get up and take the dog outside.
Your goal when you take the dog outside is to get the puppy to eliminate. Do not speak or play with the puppy during this time. Just walk around the yard or stand in a particular spot where you would like the puppy to go until the puppy has eliminated. Once the puppy has eliminated, then it is time to offer praise.
Give your puppy tons of praise because this positive reinforcement is going to help. From there, you can give your puppy water and food. Once you feed him, take the puppy out about 30 minutes later. While you are waiting to take your puppy out, give him a little free playtime. However, when you leave your puppy out of the crate, you need to keep an eye on the puppy. If you walk away and the puppy relieves himself in a spot in your home, and you do not know what the puppy has done, then the puppy will be likely to repeat this process whenever the puppy has a chance.
You want to make sure this does not happen, so keep an eye on the puppy when the puppy is roaming around your house freely. When you go outside, repeat the process mentioned above when you take the puppy out. Offer the puppy a treat for relieving himself outside when you put the puppy back in his crate.
- Make your schedule realistic - Having a schedule is wonderful, but you are going to need to compromise with the needs of your puppy in the beginning. The older your dog gets, the easier it will be for him to go longer periods without using the bathroom. A puppy under 12 weeks will need to go out every 2-4 hours, a 12 week old puppy can go 4-5 hours, a six month old puppy can last up to 7 hours, and a dog around a year old will be good for about 8 hours. A schedule is important but you should not make it a highly specific schedule. Do not list 8:15 - 8:30 for bathroom time because it might happen before, during, or after the time you set. You can have a general idea, but do not expect to fit it into one little frame because it probably will not be exact every time. You want to get your puppy on a comfortable, but not overly rigid, schedule.
- Handling punishment - The easiest way to do this is to not punish your puppy. Punishment is negative reinforcement and will breed bad behavior. If a puppy relieves himself in the house, take him out immediately. You can tell the puppy "no," but you should not rub the puppy's nose in it or hit the puppy for any reason. Once the puppy has gone to the bathroom outside, you should then praise him for going. If your puppy goes to the bathroom in the house, use an odor neutralizer to remove the stain and scent.
Do not use a household cleaner because there are chemicals in the cleaner that have a specific scent. This scent will attract the dog. It will encourage your puppy to relieve himself in the same spot again. When this happens, it becomes habit and you will have to spend more time teaching your puppy the right places to use the bathroom.
- Regulate the puppy's diet - You want to keep things as normal for your puppy as possible. Changing his food or diet can mean the puppy needs to relieve himself in different ways. The puppy may need to go more or less. However, if you are changing the puppy's food often, you may not know what to expect, which will make it much harder to housebreak your puppy. Let the puppy continue eating the same food because you will receive the same bathroom results.
This also allows you to spot a potential health problem if your dog begins going more or less for no reason or if the puppy has runny eliminations. As for treats, your dog should have one after he goes into the crate as a present for going potty outside. This only encourages the puppy to continue relieving himself properly.
- Understand his or her exercise needs - If your puppy goes outside, wants to walk around but does not relieve himself, and then goes inside and goes in the crate, then it's likely your dog is not getting enough exercise time. The puppy is associating outside time as exercise time and not bathroom time. A good cure for this is to take your dog for a walk before taking him to urinate and defecate. After the walk and after the dog has eliminated, you can praise the dog and put him back in his crate until feeding time. You should come to find that the walks stop the puppy from going in his cage because the puppy is receiving sufficient exercise.