Puppy and Kitten housebreaking

Puppy and Kitten housebreaking

Are you intentioned to bringing a new puppy to your home?

Read carefully our suggestions!

Housebreaking your new puppy properly is often a frustrating ordeal for both pet and owner. Yet, when done properly, the end result will be a dog that everyone is happy with! When done improperly, however, the end result may be disappointing and stressful.

First: Keep in mind that dogs must be taught the appropriate places to relieve themselves. Prior to bringing your new puppy home, the likelihood is that he has been accustomed to relieving himself wherever and whenever he felt the need. Also, the age of your puppy will determine how amenable to the training he will be. A 6 to 8 week old pup will not be able to remain dry for more than 4-6 hours, although this is the beginning of the time period that a pup will begin to select a place-preference. You are actually teaching your puppy the location that is acceptable. This is what housebreaking is all about. And this is also known as "substrate". The substrate is what the puppy is using to relieve himself - whether it's on newspaper or grass. Location preferences are left to your dog. Since the brains of pups are optimally primed to select a substrate at approximately 8 weeks of age, this is the best time to expose him to the area you eventually want him to use.

Here are some helpful pointers:

  • Housebreaking will be an uphill progression by using positive and negative reinforcements in an appropriate manner. EVERYTIME your puppy urinates or defecates; he self-rewards himself that that was a good thing to do. When the puppy has to relieve himself he will feel a discomfort; relieving that pressure is a positive, good feeling, which reinforces that the action was a good, positive thing to do.
  • The objective is as follows: Provide continual negative reinforcement when the puppy uses the wrong place AND provide positive reinforcement when he goes in the proper spot. This is the key to housebreaking that will result in success.
Appropriate Negative Reinforcement
----- Verbal reprimands
------ Forcing pup to lay in the mess

Your verbal reprimand is the MOST effective way to impress the puppy that using the inappropriate area is wrong. The importance of a loud and deep tone that will result in helping the pup to abort the activity cannot be overstated. (Ex: "No! BAD DOG!") Always assume a tall, authoritative posture. A gentle, yet firm scruff of the pup with a SLIGHT shake will further reinforce your disapproval if you are close enough. Caution: "Shaken puppy syndrome" is not the goal of this mild correction. Once your pup has aborted the offending behavior, take him out or to the paper IMMEDIATELY. (See the selection below entitled: "Taking Puppy Out").

Remote Corrections: Another method of correction is to use a throw-can or a heavy book which you throw AWAY from your dog (only!). This should be thrown near enough to cause him to startle so he will stop relieving himself in the wrong place. The objective is to cause him to abort the behavior. Position the items strategically around the room so if pup is going and you aren't close enough to scruff his neck, you can pick up one of these objects and stop him. Once your pup has stopped, put him on the leash promptly and take him to the acceptable spot.

Note: The only time a verbal or remote correction will work is when the pup is IN THE ACT of going. Proper timing is critical. If you see the pup even 1-2 steps away from the mess, you have missed your chance to discipline. It is therefore extremely important for you to make time to spend with the puppy and watch and teach him.

Crating: This is used when you are not able to watch your pup, whether it's because you're not home, are sleeping, or simply too busy to watch him closely. This is a method of teaching housebreaking, but it is not the preferred method. If circumstances demand this method known as crating, it is carried out by having the pup lay in the mess. This is best accomplished with a crate that contains no other items such as blankets, towels, newspaper, etc. These items hide or absorb the mess which will defeat the intention. The crate cannot be so large that the puppy will simply move from the mess to the other side and be comfortable.

Positive Reinforcement

The most effective way to train is through positive reinforcement, allowing for a pleasant transition into the appropriate place for housebreaking. The proper timing is critical. The time to reward is when the pup stands up from the squatting position. A tasty food reward such as a piece of cheese, or freeze dried liver which is easily found in pet stores and doesn't dirty the owner's pants pockets, will make a big positive impact on his mind! It's important not to overdo the amount of the treat/reward to avoid diarrhea. During the first week, food reward and verbal reward given promptly and consistently are in order. Afterward, verbal rewards are given each time, but food rewards are given intermittently.


This point cannot be overemphasized. Most dogs never tell you that they need to go out (some do!); they simply wait for you to take them. A new puppy who doesn't even have the skills to know where to go, is especially not able to understand this. Therefore, it's important to put your puppy on a schedule so it can begin to anticipate when it is going out. This will facilitate housebreaking a great deal and you will get a better outcome! It is suggested that you take your pup out every hour that you are home with him. In addition, take him out immediately when you notice him making a mistake inside. These times should remain the same each day.again.so that your pup can begin to anticipate the chance to relieve himself. When the puppy control gets better, you can gradually increase the time between trips outside.

Food and Water:
Feeding and watering free choice makes housebreaking more difficult. Random food or water going in, results in random feces and urine out. Food should be restricted to twice or three times daily, depending upon the age and breed of the dog. Water should be restricted to five or six times daily. If the pup's environment is hot - perhaps without air conditioning - then water should be available as FREE CHOICE. Also do not offer food or water one hour prior to bed or leaving the pup alone.

Taking Puppy Out:
Your living circumstances may not allow you to do this with your puppy when you first get him. We do not recommend that any puppy is taken outside before he is four months old and all his shots are complete, unless you have a fenced in yard. Young pups do not have mature immune systems and even if they are on par with their vaccines, they have a chance of acquiring a serious or even deadly disease if allowed to play where there are other dogs. Realize that you do not know what has been roaming your street or sniffing on your front lawn or stoop which could be dangerous to your pet. Even without seeing actual evidence, there could be remnants that are not visible of disease that could be fatal to your dog. If your dog is inside for these reasons, simply follow the instructions below for housebreaking within the house until he is old enough to be completely vaccinated and go outside.

Housebreaking should be an active event. Simply opening your back door and letting him out does not teach your pup what to do when outside. He needs to be on the leash and taken to the same spot each time. He should be given a command like: "Hurry Up" or "Get Busy" when you're in this spot. This is not play time; your interactions should focus on that only and reward him when he has gone. In this way, the pup knows that something is expected of him when he is at this spot and the command will reinforce this. If the dog hasn't gone in 10 minutes or so, he probably won't go, so the lesson must end. Be sure to watch him closely when you come home, and take him out again at the next scheduled time or as soon as he looks as if he needs to go.

How long is this going to go on?
Every dog is different and unique. Some may seem to be housebroken as soon as you take them home, but generally, do not expect this to happen quickly or even in a week's time. It will probably take several weeks for some consistent reliability; but it may take a few months before you feel comfortable leaving him home without being in the cage. Patience, consistency, and commitment are the key words to housebreaking.

Housebreaking takes TIME, and it is important to train the SAME way at the SAME times every day according to schedule. This is time consuming, but worthwhile. While some would view keeping the dog in a cage as somewhat unkind, it's important to realize that the proper training now will result in a happier dog later on and a better pet for you!


The number one reason dogs are brought to animal shelters by owners are: Behavioral problems. Sadly, the majority of these animals are euthanized, which is why we can conclude that behavioral problems is the number one killer of dogs, far surpassing diseases or accidents. Poorly housebroken dogs often end up at the pound because most owners no longer can or will cope with the mess. Unfortunately, many of these owners would not need to struggle with this decision if they had adhered initially to an appropriate and proper housebreaking method for their pet.

If you are having trouble, do not despair! It's not unusual to need guidance and support to become adept at housebreaking your dog. There are professional trainers who can help you, and we urge you to speak to your veterinarian for referrals and/or advice. The more promptly you move in that direction, the better the prognosis and outcome. Seeking professional help will equip you with knowledge and skills and assist you through this challenging time.

Above all, research has shown that many past methods were counter productive, illogical, and often harmful. We urge pet owners to move forward, find professionals to assist you, and explore current and dramatically improved methods for successful days ahead with your loving pet!

A puppy/kitten, like a young child, is very curious and will want to taste everything in your house. It is important to make sure that readily eaten objects such as electrical wires, garbage, insecticides, meat bones and other foreign objects are not accessible to your puppy or kitten. Sometimes even non-toxic objects like shoes laces can kill a puppy/kitten. Try to be aware of what your puppy/kitten has in his or her mouth at all times. Teething at about 1-2 months of age is normal puppy/kitten behavior as adult teeth come in. Giving your puppy chew toys and disciplining him or her will help keep your puppy from chewing on things they are not supposed to.

If you have any questions please feel free to call.

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