Housebreaking a puppy can be a challenging and frustrating time for both the pup and his human companions, especially when it comes to training stubborn puppies. Don’t give up or think your puppy is untrainable. Throwing in the towel or failing to maintain a potty training schedule can lead to long-term problems, and you may even come to resent your dog for continually soiling your house and relegate him to outdoor-only quarters.
Create a Routine
Housebreaking a puppy takes time and patience. Young pups can only hold their bladders and bowels for about one hour for every month of age. This makes it vital that you work around your puppy’s needs rather than expect your pup to work around your schedule. Develop a feeding timetable and stick to it, and take your pup out shortly after he eats, drinks or chews for a length of time. If you can’t be there to do it, make sure someone else is.
Don’t waver from your schedule. Mixed signals can confuse a puppy, and consistency is important to establishing good habits. Put your pup on a leash and take him outside to his designated spot, using a word like, “potty” or “outside” to get him accustomed to associating the word with the act. Don’t play or interact when you’re in potty mode, just wait several minutes for him to use the bathroom. If he gets distracted or fails to eliminate, bring him back inside for a few minutes and try again.
Reward your pup enthusiastically every time he goes to the bathroom outside. Give him a treat or attention and positively reinforce his behavior. With repetition and consistently, even a stubborn dog can be potty trained. If you see absolutely no progress after several weeks of trying, consult your vet to see if your pup has an underlying medical problem that could be contributing to the problem.
If you catch your pup in the act of going to the bathroom inside, say, “No!” and immediately take him outside, even if the damage is already done. Clean up the accident spot right away using a commercial product that eliminates odors. Untreated stains will only attract the pup back to the same spot, and harsh punishments will only teach him to hide from you when he goes potty inside.
If you work or go to school, it’s not practical that you be home around the clock to potty train your dog. Ideally, you should devote several days of at-home training when you bring home a new dog, or employ the help of a friend, neighbor or family member to help maintain your pup’s schedule. If that’s simply not possible, crate your dog while you are away or barricade him in an uncarpeted area, like a kitchen, garage, bathroom or laundry area, so accidents are easy to clean up. When you are at home, stick to your regime without fail.
Some dogs simply take longer than others to potty train. Be patient and kind to your pet during the process. For especially stubborn dogs, keep them tethered to you via leash during the training stages and continually watch for physical signs that it’s time to “go.” Don’t leave food out around the clock, feeding only at designated times, and remove water dishes late in the evening to help reduce late-night accidents. Take your dog out every hour if necessary and reward every elimination to create good habits.
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.