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page last updated March 19, 2015  

Housebreaking is not accomplished in one day, or one week.  It is a 24/7 responsibility.  How fast it happens is largely contingent on how old your puppy is, when you start.   

If your puppy is under 12 weeks old, then he or she does not yet have the ability to learn.  Your puppy is still a baby and as such will go whenever, and wherever, the need arises.  It does no good to get mad at your puppy, any more than you get mad at your baby.  Cause and effect are not rationalized in a baby’s mind.  So don’t make yourself crazy and think that something is wrong.  Take them outside as often as you can, and keep a newspaper (or something comparable) around, on the floor, so they have somewhere to go.  Just manage the situation.  Usually newspaper is a habit they bring forward from the whelping box.  Be forewarned, though, that area rugs, laundry on the floor, or anything like those, constitute a newspaper in your young puppy’s mind.  Since they are too young to connect going outside with “I have to go now,” they surely can’t reason the difference between newspaper and area rugs.  You are best served to remove the throw rugs, and just leave a newspaper.  Anyone visiting, that knows you have a new puppy, will understand your new décor completely. 

Your puppy will always need to go out when he, or she, awakens; immediately; day or night.  If your puppy has a period of play and suddenly drops off, walks away and starts sniffing, then immediately take it outside.  After your puppy eats a meal; take it outside.  These are times you can count on to take your puppy out. 

Once your puppy reaches 12, or 13, weeks old, they will begin to learn.  It will not be an epiphany; it will mean that they can begin to learn what you teach them.  It is far better to spend the time and be diligent regarding prevention of accidents, than it will be to have to un-teach the bad habits your puppy may learn.  As your puppy is now capable of connecting cause and effect, every time he or she has an accident in the house and you aren’t there to correct them while in the act, it tells your puppy that it is allowable.  If you correct him, or her, sometimes and allow it other times (through not correcting them), then there is no pattern for your puppy to connect.  Dogs learn through repetition.  The pattern of “sometimes,” is no pattern.   Once more, consistency is the key. 

Correcting your puppy after the mistake has happened is going to do nothing but scare the puppy.  Your puppy has no idea why you are angry.  Any correction for anything you want to train must occur when your puppy is in the act of doing something wrong.  The consistency of your verbal scolding every time your puppy makes a mistake is what teaches them not to make the mistake again.  Your profuse praise and excitement each time your puppy does something right is what makes them want to do it right.  There must be that dichotomy between right and wrong.  The difference between the two drives your puppy to the one that makes it content – excitement and praise. 

Your job is always made easier when you have a fenced yard for your puppy.  Whether you open the door to let your puppy out into the yard, or you take your puppy for a walk on a leash, be consistent about which door you exit when going outside with your puppy.  Be alert for signs that your puppy is moving toward the door.  Try to anticipate his, or her, moves.  By using the same door, your puppy will learn to go to that door when it needs to go outside.  Whether you put bells on the door and teach them to ring them, to go out; or whether you simply want your puppy to learn to go to the door; the idea of consistency in which door you use is important. 

Many people like to have a key word, or phrase (like “want go outside,” or “want to go for a walk”), that is used for going outside.  If you choose to do so, then use that phrase every time you go out.  They will detect the pattern and derive its meaning. 

Your puppy will begin to understand you schedule.  If it is consistent, and reliable, your puppy will begin to settle in with that schedule.  If there is not consistency to the schedule for going outside, then your puppy will have no way to anticipate when he, or she, will be able to relieve itself. 

Housebreaking is a journey.  The process of teaching it to your puppy will cause him, or her, to test the pattern(s) for weak spots, or for certainty.  Your diligence in issuing the timely correction will reinforce the right behavior.  It creates the certainty and prevents weak spots in the pattern.  This is how your puppy will test the boundaries of your expectations and create certainty in his, or her, behavior.  Certainty is reliability.  Being uncertain and finding inconsistencies will lead your puppy to continue to search for that certainty, which translates to more mistakes. 

Your puppy wants to make you happy.  He, or she, wants the safety and security of knowing that it is loved and included.  Always be clear and concise about what you expect from your puppy.  As they test boundaries, in everything they do, they are searching for the certainty of what you expect.  You are a parent raising a child; just a four-legged one.  Discipline is what makes them feel safe.  Your puppy will learn to trust that you will keep him safe by establishing the rules for behavior.  Absent those rules, your puppy will act out in search of boundaries, until it finds them.  Put them on the path to success through the very partnership that will make them a valued family member for many, many, years to come.


Many people like to use a dog door, we do! - these can be put in a wall or a sliding glass door (so no permanent damage is done to the house) these are a wonderful tool and definitely assist in house training a puppy - I would NEVER be without one....Lesley Hiltz

A crate is your best friend, when house training your puppy. And remember when out walking, be a responsible dog owner and pick up after your beagle.