How old does my puppy need to be before I can start housebreaking him?

If he’s old enough to join your family, he’s old enough to potty train. Start housebreaking your puppy as soon as he joins your family. If you wait, he’ll get in the habit of going potty in the wrong places and may find potty training confusing when you finally begin. It’s much easier to build good habits than it is to break bad ones.

Once my puppy can go all night without going potty, he should be also be able to make it through an 8 hour day without going, right?

Nope. Your puppy is able to hold it overnight because he’s not taking in any food or water and he’s not physically active. A puppy who’s moving around, napping and waking, eating and drinking will need to relieve himself every few hours. As your puppy gets older and gains more control over his bladder and bowels he’ll be able to go for longer periods of times between breaks.

How many times a day does my puppy need to be taken outside to potty?

The short answer is: as many times as he needs to. The longer answer is that the number of potty trips your puppy will need depends on his age.

Generally, if your puppy is less than 6 weeks old, plan to take him out every 30 or 45 minutes during the day. If he’s 6-12 weeks old, plan to take him outside every hour. From 12-16 weeks, he’ll likely need a potty trip every 2 hours and from 4-6 months, every 3 hours.

Remember, regardless of how long it’s been since he last went potty, your pup should be taken to his potty spot whenever he comes out of his crate, wakes up from a nap, finishes a strenuous play session or takes in food or water. Also take him out if he starts giving signals that he needs to go potty (sniffing, turning in circles, going into a corner, etc,) even if he’s recently been outside to potty.

My 4-month-old puppy is still waking me up twice a night to go potty and it’s driving me crazy.

Most puppies can make it through the night without a potty trip by the time they’re 3 or 4 months old. If that hasn’t happened for your puppy yet, try feeding him earlier in the evening. Remember, what goes in must come out. Also make sure your puppy’s not having too much fun with middle of the night potty trips. They should be all business, no pun intended. No talking, no playing, and no food or water for your puppy. Too much fun in the middle of night makes the trips something to look forward to and your pup will continue requesting them.

My older dog is perfectly housebroken. Won’t my puppy just learn to be housebroken by watching and following him?

To some degree, but I wouldn’t want to bet my rugs on it. Puppies often mimic the behavior of older dogs, but there’s no telling which behaviors and to what extent. It’s your consistent training that will instill good long term habits into your dog.

When I was growing up my parents told us to “rub his nose in it” if our dog had an accident. Do we not do that anymore?

We don’t. As with many of Mom and Dad’s parenting techniques (for dogs and humans,) we’ve found a better way. Rubbing your dog’s nose in his accident is not only unpleasant and stressful for both of you. Dogs associate correction with what they’re doing at the moment of correction, so dragging your dog over to a pile or a puddle after the fact will only confuse your dog. If you find an accident that’s already happened, clean it up and ignore your dog. You should only correct him when you catch him in the act. If you keep finding accidents, but never catch him in the act, you’re not supervising him closely enough.

Close supervision is important, because every time your dog has an unsupervised accident it reinforces that behavior. Think about it. Your dog’s uncomfortable because his bladder or bowels are full, so he empties out onto your carpet and feels relief. If going inside feels just as good as going outside, what’s your dog’s motivation to wait to go out?

I supervise my dog closely, but I never know he has to go potty until it’s too late.

Your dog is most likely to give a clear, readable signal that he needs to go out if he truly believes that going potty in the house is not an option and that he absolutely must get outside to go. When he’s uncomfortable because his bladder or bowels are full and he knows he can’t potty inside, he’ll get anxious and will likely start to pace, cry, scratch at the door or vocalize. If you let him right out when he asks, you’ll (correctly) reinforce his attention-getting behavior. Once he learns his behavior is effective, he’ll repeat the behavior every time he needs to go out.

If your dog has successfully had accidents inside the house, he likely won’t get agitated when he’s ready to go because he still has the option of relieving himself indoors.


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