Housebreaking your puppy requires time, patience and lots of consistent behavior on your behalf. If possible, start a regular housebreaking regime as soon as you bring your puppy home so both you and your pup get into good bathroom habits. Remember, a puppy can only hold his bladder for about one hour for every month of age, so keeping an eye on the clock and on the door when potty training is essential.
Make a Routine
To successfully get your dog accustomed to going to the door and letting you know when he has to go to the bathroom, develop a consistent routine and stick to it. If you can't be available on a regular basis when your puppy is first being trained, employ the help of other family members, housemates or a friend, neighbor or pet walker to help you ingrain good behaviors. For best results, your pup should be taken to the door on a leash every hour, or within 10 minutes of eating, drinking, chewing or energetic playing.
Going to the door and going outside to potty should be an exciting and rewarding activity for your puppy. Come up with a word that you always issue with enthusiasm, like, “Bathroom!” “Potty!” or “Outside!” This will alert your dog that when you or he goes to the door, it's a signal to go to the bathroom that is verbally supported and cheered by you. Consider hanging a bell from your door that you can ring when you use your special word. This will train your dog to not only go to the door, but to ring the bell when he wants to go out.
Get Down to Business
You want to get your dog used to the idea that when he indicates he wants to go to the bathroom, he goes to the door, goes outside and does his business, then comes back in. Try to maintain this consistency initially. If your dog thinks going outside is a combination of playtime and potty time, it can make it difficult for him to be focused on going to the bathroom and nothing else. In fact, some savvy pups may fake going to the door for a bathroom break, when in reality, they only want to go out and play. Consider using different doors, if possible, for potty, play and walks, or use different words for playtime.
Positively reinforce your puppy going to the door to indicate a potty break by giving him a treat, both when he goes to the door and alerts you, and when he does his business outside as instructed. Your puppy will develop an understanding that when he goes to the door, there's a tasty treat waiting on the other end. Verbally and physical praise as well, petting or snuggling your dog, to reinforce good behaviors.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.