02. Housebreaking a Puppy

If your puppy has an "accident" in the house, here's the sure fire way to fix it: 
  1. Find a big, thick newspaper. 
  2. Call your puppy over to you. 
  3. Roll the newspaper up as tight as you can. 
  4. Get your puppy's attention.  
  5. Take the newspaper in both hands, swing it as hard as you can and hit yourself over the head with it. 
  6. Repeat step 5 until you've learned your lesson about not watching your puppy in the house.
Every puppy is capable of being housebroken if you do your job to teach him.  You'll need to do some serious reading if this is your first puppy but here are a few helpful tips:
  • Successful housebreaking starts with crate training.  You absolutely MUST crate train your puppy from day one and stick with it if you're going to housebreak your puppy. 
  • Keep your puppy's crate clean.  Crate training works because your puppy has been taught by his mom to prefer being clean.  Keeping him in a dirty crate can undo this training.  On a similar note, the puppy's crate shouldn't be so large that he can have an accident in one end and sleep in the other.
  • When your puppy is loose in the house, he needs to have 100% of your attention.
  • If the puppy does not have your 100% attention, put him in his crate.  So long as you're taking him out frequently to go to the bathroom and play, it's not cruel and won't hurt him to be in his crate.  Yes, he'll protest at first but soon his crate will be where he's most comfortable.
  • Disciplining a puppy after he has an accident does nothing except confuse your puppy.  If you don't catch him in the act, see my advice at the top of this page.
  • If your puppy starts to have an accident while you are watching, say "NO!" loud enough to surprise him and quickly carry him outside to do his business.  When he goes to the bathroom outside, give him lots of praise and a treat.
  • The puppy needs to be crated at night.  If the puppy cries at night, take him outside until he does his business, then put him right back in his crate.  Don't play with your puppy at night.
  • A puppy can only hold it for about an hour for every month old he is (i.e. a three month old puppy can't hold it for more than three hours).  This rule of thumb applies mostly during the day.  A three month old puppy should be able to make it through the night but won't be able to do 8 hours during the day.
  • If your three month old puppy can't make it through the night, try restricting his food and water for an hour before bedtime. 
  • Once your puppy seems to be housebroken, don't suddenly give him free reign of your house.  Transition your puppy by tethering him to your belt with a leash as you go around the house doing your chores.  Yes, he'll be underfoot at first but soon you'll learn not to step on each other.  This is also a good bonding exercise for you and the puppy - it teaches him to anticipate your movements and gets him used to staying with you.
  • After a few weeks of accident-free leashing in the house, block off a room or two where you can trust your puppy. 
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