The Minimum Age for Housebreaking a Puppy

Once your pup learns where to potty, you can focus on funner training.
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Puppy messes, sorry to say, mitigate the joys of ownership. So housebreaking your puppy is undoubtedly on your mind when you first get her. While you may have heard -- and experienced -- more than a few pup-poop horror stories, fretting over it is unnecessary if you know the right times to take her outdoors.

Elimination Basics

Up until about 2 weeks old, puppies need stimulation to go to the bathroom. Their mother gently licks their lower abdomens and anal regions to stimulate their bowels. Before long, the puppies start going on their own; they'll learn to somewhat control their elimination and instinctively begin to go somewhere other than where they sleep or eat.

Housebreaking Age

While you can start taking puppies 5 or 6 weeks of age outside to encourage elimination, true housebreaking should start around 7 or 8 weeks. This is the age at which puppies are able to start understanding routines and rules, so the learning process is easier for them to comprehend. This is also the age at which most puppies are able to be separated from their mothers.

Getting Started

As a general rule of thumb, puppies can hold their bladders for one hour per month of age, plus an hour. So at 8 weeks old, or about 2 months, your puppy can hold her bladder for approximately three hours, max. Take your pup outside on a leash to a certain spot in the yard so she can do her business. Take her to the same area every time. If possible, don't let the puppy go more than two hours at this age during training; when she fails to eliminate in short order after two hours, you can begin letting her go longer. As you're taking her outside and while she's doing her business, say something like "potty" or "outside," sticking with your chosen phrase every time. Immediately after she's done and while she's still in the potty spot, praise her lavishly and give her a treat.

General Guidelines for Housebreaking

Keep your pup on a schedule; house-training will be easier. Feed her at the same times every day. It's easier to know when something is going to come out of her when you know what time it went in. Taking your puppy outside a half-hour after she eats or has an energetic playtime is wise during training and throughout her life. Crate-training is also ideal; a dog doesn't like to soil the place she sleeps. You'll learn to recognize the signs your pup gives when she needs to go. For many dogs, these signs include sniffing, walking around in a circle, gesturing to you anxiously for no apparent other reason, or pacing to the door and back.