One of the first things to think about when trying to housebreak your dog is to set up an area to limit his space. It is a natural instinct for dogs to want to keep their area or “den” clean. Until your dog is fully housebroken, he should never be left to walk freely around the house unless he will be supervised and watched over by an assigned “potty patrol” person.
You’ll want to find an area in your home that is just large enough for him to turn around and lay down. If you can, purchase either a puppy playpen or crate at your local pet store. Playpens are wire-meshed cages with no top or floor. The pen has eight sides and can be shaped into different sizes and configurations as your dog grows. This is best for small dogs that cannot jump out of the enclosure. For larger dogs, you can purchase a crate that will allow you to adjust the interior size as your dog grows.
Is you introduce your dog to the crate, make it a fun experience. You should never put your dog into the crate as punishment for something he may have done. You can feed him with the door left open in the crate, you can put his favorite toy and bed in there with him and if they fit, you or kids can go in there and play with him! Make the crate a safe haven for your dog.
The next thing to remember is to forget the things your parents did when trying to housebreak a dog. There will be no grabbing a newspaper and yelling at the dog and absolutely no hitting the dog for soiling in the house. Also, there will be no pushing the dog’s nose into the mess and yelling. These "methods" don't work because they are inconsistent. As a rule, you need to get 7 to 14 days in which the dog goes to the bathroom outside and gets praised for it. Even if you do everything correctly, housebreaking a puppy can sometimes take a month. Some dogs mature and learn faster than others. Remember, 90% of housebreaking is positive reinforcement of your dog's behavior when he goes in the appropriate place.
The best method for housebreaking your puppy is the "den method". Puppies instinctively do not like to soil on themselves. This is where the crate comes in. While in the crate, dogs will hold it as long as they are able. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PUPPY CRATED FOR MORE THAN 4 HOURS UNLESS IT IS BEDTIME. This is critically important.
All that is required now is to set up a schedule.
The dog should sleep in the crate. Take water away 3 hours before bedtime and take him out several times before crating...DO NOT PUT THE DOG TO BED WITH A FULL TANK!
Get up early in the morning and take the dog out of the crate and immediately accompany him outside. Watch the dog. If he goes, praise, praise and more praise. Delayed praise is not effective, so witnessing him going in the right spot is important. Sometimes give him a terrific, tasty treat. Wait five more minutes (to let him finish his business) then bring him in, feed him and give him 15 to 30 minutes of supervised free time in the house.
At the end of the dog's supervised free time, you have a choice. First, you can take him out again and if he goes, praise, praise and more praise, give him five minutes more outside and another 15 to 30 minutes of supervised free time in the house. If you have the time and the dog has the pee, you can do this all day.
Your other option at the end of the 15 to 30 minutes of free time is to re-confine the dog in the crate. If you leave the house during the day or evening, you may crate the puppy for up to 4 hours (be careful not to give him lots of water before crating).
If you will be gone for more than 4 hours, and have no one to help you, you can leave the dog outside in a safe and secure area and upon returning home, place the dog in the crate without free access outside. (Please be careful of leaving a dog unsupervised outside. Do not tie him up as a dog can strangle himself on a leash and be sure he cannot dig out of the yard.) The regular schedule of taking the dog out and either giving him supervised freedom or re-confinement, depending upon the housebreaking schedule, will be upheld. If you cannot leave the dog outside, you will have to leave him in the playpen and do nothing about an accident if he has one. If you work and will be out of the house every day for extended periods of time during his housebreaking training, you may need to find a friend or neighbor to come in and let your puppy out. If necessary, you may need to hire a dog walker for a week or two to help with the training.
This all may seem confusing, but it's really quite simple. The dog must not have free time in the house unless you have seen him go to the bathroom outside. When you take him out, if he doesn't go, he must be re-confined. When you take him out and he does go, he must be praised, praised and praised again and given a small amount of time to assure that he has done everything he has to outside. Then, no more than 30 minutes of free time in the house before either re-confinement or being taken back out.
If you’re on “potty patrol” and your dog pees in the house, immediately pick him up, loudly say “No, No, No!!, go immediately and quickly outside, put him down and gently and lovingly and sweetly say “go potty” or “outside” or “hurry up” or “bombs away” or whatever word you are using as a command to go to the bathroom. Again, of course, if he goes outside, praise, praise and more praise and maybe even a special treat. When you get back in the house, put him in the crate while you clean up the “mess” with a pet odor neutralizer such as Nature's Miracle, Nilodor, Fresh 'n' Clean, or Outright Pet Odor Eliminator. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners to clean up after your puppy's urine, as ammonia breaks down to urea, which is a component of urine.
If your dog urinates or defecates in the house and you were not supervising him and you did not catch him “in the act”, get the newspaper and hit yourself in the head with it. Say nothing to your dog, just clean up the mess with the neutralizer cleaner. Important: you must catch your dog in the act and immediately and quickly grab him, and say “NO” and quickly, quickly, quickly go outside. If you don’t catch him in the act, it’s your fault, not his.
If the dog is on supervised free time and you cannot watch him, place him back in the playpen or crate with his toys and water until his 15 to 30 minutes is up. If he is in the playpen, he cannot get into any trouble and neither can you!
Maintain a personal housebreaking schedule. Write down the times your dog is taken out and what he does. This will be important several weeks down the road when you begin increasing his supervised free time. If you get 10-14 days of perfect behavior, you can increase his free time accordingly. After you determine the minimum interval between elimination, subtract 15-30 minutes from this period of time and that will be your puppy's temporary "Safety Zone". This is the duration of time he can generally be trusted to hold his urine after he is taken for a walk, provided he does not drink a ton of water during this time. Make sure however, that he is still closely supervised any time he is not confined to his crate. It only takes a few seconds for your dog to have an accident, so watch for signs that he may need to eliminate, such as sniffing the floor, circling, or running out of sight suddenly. Many dogs prefer certain areas or surfaces to eliminate on, such as rugs, carpeting, etc. Keep your dog away from risky areas or surfaces whenever possible. If your dog suddenly runs out of sight, he may be looking for a secret spot to eliminate, so close doors to rooms where he may sneak a quick pee or poop.
One last word of advice: As I previously stated, the crate should never be used as a form of punishment and the crate should not be used for excessive periods of time. Sufficient daily companionship, interactive playtime and exercise are very important to all puppies and dogs. Crate training and other forms of confinement must be balanced with sufficient exercise and companionship. Excessive periods of isolation can be very detrimental to your dog and can contribute to numerous behavioral problems including hyperactivity, destructive behavior, digging, self-mutilation, and excessive barking.
If you have any questions, need basic obedience training, trick training or have other behavioral issues, you can reach Janice at 863-557-0564.