Potty-training is one of the main concerns when adding a new furry family member. All dogs are different, and some may get the concept of eliminating outside much quicker than others. You're the driving force behind the training, and your actions could make or break the outcome.
Most vets and behavioral experts agree that the proper age to start housebreaking is between 8 and 12 weeks old. Although this is an ideal age, it's not always possible. You may adopt a dog who's older than this who has never been given the opportunity to live in a house, and other factors might come into play as well. Most dogs can successfully complete potty training by 14 to 20 weeks old, if not before. It's not unusual for a dog to become potty trained in as little as a week or two with diligent training, or for a pooch to not "get it" in this amount of time. Puppies are like human children: they need a bit of extra care and patience. Older dogs may get it right away, but then again, they may be thoroughly confused by the process if they are used to living outside or in a cage.
In general, crate training is the most recommended form of housebreaking by veterinarians, animal experts and behavioral experts. The idea behind crate training is that a dog is a den animal and doesn't wish to soil his sleeping quarters. Crate training is effective and quick when done properly. Crate training also gives you other benefits, such as having a safe, reliable place to house your puppy when you're not at home. Your pooch benefits, too, as most dogs prefer having a place to call their own.
Puppy Pads and Newspapers
Puppy pads, also known as training pads or potty pads, are semi-large, paper-like pads that are treated with a chemical to help stimulate eliminating on them. It's similar to the trusted, old-fashioned newspaper training that is still somewhat common. You have to place the puppy on the pad when he shows signs that he has to go potty. This method sometimes takes longer than crate training because your puppy doesn't start associating eliminating with only the outdoors; he's been trained to go in specific spots in the house. This method is ideal for people who live in high-rise apartments or who don't have the opportunity to take their puppy out at the first signs of elimination.
Some behaviors may delay potty training. One of the most common mistakes puppy and dog owners make is punishing the dog after they've noticed an accident. Your dog's memory doesn't work like yours; he won't connect being punished to something he did even a short while ago. Punishing in this fashion can make your pooch fear you. Even punishing while you catch him in the act can backfire, as your dog may associate the punishment with eliminating in front of you, resulting in him hiding it in a corner or back room. Instead of punishment, make a loud noise and swoop your puppy outside as quickly as possible. The loud noise can startle him -- sometimes even mid-stream. Other mistakes are waiting too long to go outside, not watching for your pup's cues or not putting him on a regular feeding schedule.
By Jasey Kelly
Hilltop Animal Hospital: A Practitioner's Guide to Housebreaking Puppies
ASPCA: House Training Your Puppy
Doctors Foster and Smith: Housebreaking Puppies General FAQs
Partnership for Animal Welfare: Dog Tip: Housetraining
About the Author
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.