|Housebreaking The Puppy
by Dr. Roberta Lee, PhD, ND, Values Editor
If you and the puppy fail this first learning/teaching opportunity, he’s destined to be a yard dog instead
of a 24/7 pal for you or your child.
It’s up to you to prevent pee and poop accidents rather than allow them to happen even once because
each time the puppy empties bladder or bowel inside, it slows the housebreaking process.
If he is a “Toy” breed and/or you live in a high-rise, you must have a good supply of pee-pee pads
which you can purchase online if this was not a spur-of-the-moment puppy purchase. House training
aids are available at Walmart or any local pet supply. The absorbent, disposable pee pads can save
your patience and soiled carpets. Unless you live in a high rise apartment or have no grassy area, limit
the use of house-training pads to only a couple weeks or until he is old enough to have good bladder
Pee pads are not practical for long term use unless you have a small breed that will be alone during the
day. For bigger breeds, an in-out door installed that give access to a securely fenced, theft-proof yard
is a life long solution for working families.
But to start with, the best setup for nap and night time is his crate or cuddle bed inside a little pen that
has a pee pad in case he has to relieve himself during the night.
Also advisable before you get the puppy, purchase two wire or plastic “crates” appropriate to his size
now and to the adult size of the breed. Not too big! That is a common mistake but this is his “den” to
curl up in and if the fit is right, he will never soil his den.
Also order a folding X-pen to put him (and his crate in) so that he promptly “does his business” instead
of running off to the far corner of the property where your voice prompt is of no use in training. The
collapsible exercise pen is essential if you don’t have a fenced yard and even if you do, it will be handy
when you travel. You can buy a crate at any discount shopping center but you will have to go to a local
pet supply store (pricey!) or look for an appropriate sized “exercise pen” online.
House training a puppy (or even an adult dog) depends on your commitment to the first four or five
days. If you follow this schedule you will be successful. No puppy is “stupid” or “dirty” so it is you
who must take responsibility from the very beginning.
It is easier to train a dog correctly initially than to re-train him later and that especially applies to house-
breaking. I am not a breeder but my editor taught me this - Take puppy outside as soon as he
awakens. That does not mean open the crate and say “c’mon puppy” as you walk towards the door.
He will be excited and happy to see you and probably he will urinate before getting to the door. Not a
good way to start your day. You are the one with superior intelligence so here’s how to use it. When
you bend down to open his crate, speak softly, a reassuring “Good morning little puppy” as you ignore
the wet spot. Control your urge to scold him, which does absolutely no good and ruins your good
Quietly but quickly pick him up and carry him directly from the crate to the same potty place whether
inside or outside. Do this first thing in the morning and last thing at night before going to bed. That’s
the easy-to-remember part. You must also diligently take him out (or put him in the little X-pen you’
ve set up with pee-pee pads) after every meal, during playtime (which stimulates bladder and bowel)
and when he wakes up from nap time. Like all babies, his bowel and bladder will grow as he does and
within a few months he’ll be able to hold longer - and he will.
Here’s Barbara Andrew's training secret. When he circles and sniffs, quietly prompt him (“go potty”)
and then praise him (“good boy”) to softly affirm that he’s doing what you want but do this after he
begins to eliminate. Otherwise do not distract or talk to him. Just stand there and look at the sky until
he has done both. Don’t pick him up as soon as he urinates. Puppies, like children, have multiple
bowel movements in a day. So don’t distract him until, having taken care of the most immediate urge,
he sniffs around for another perfect spot and finally, he poops. When he is almost done, praise him
again, and this time you can get excited about the wonderful “potty” he did.
It is astounding how quickly puppies learn the “go potty” command. A few days of consistent training
now will be a blessing when it’s rainy, cold, or you're in a hurry. My beloved Doberman went
everywhere with me and I promise that the house breaking “command” you use now will be helpful
later when you are on the road as I often was or you at the dog show grounds.
When he has been allowed to explore his new digs and you’ve played with him out in the yard or given
him the run of the house for no more than 30 minutes, put him back in the crate. Give him a favorite
toy or chew bone (a real, raw beef bone really is best) and let him amuse himself until as all dogs do
when bored, he goes to sleep.
If you keep him in the crate when you can't actively supervise him and you do this housebreaking
routine without fail for four days your puppy will be trained forever. Now that doesn’t mean that he
will be able to “hold” all day. If you work or will be away more than six hours, plan how you will
allow the puppy (or adult dog) to empty bowel and bladder.
If that sounds like a lot of responsibility, it is and you should plan ahead. As a teacher I can promise
you that by doing this for four days, you are creating a lifetime of devotion and personal comfort
unmatched by any other acquisition. Only a spouse or child can give you that much love and let’s face
it, it’s a lot harder to train people to do exactly as you want…