page header image

Housebreaking your new puppy takes time, patience

Original Publication Date: January 26, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Your new puppy is a bundle of joy. It wiggles and snuggles and loves you. It outdoes your expectations in the cuteness department, but it has a lot to learn.

A puppy has about the same intelligence and ability to learn as an 8-month-old baby.

That sweet cuddly puppy is centered on its own desires of the moment and doing what comes naturally. Your success at teaching them the rules of their new home will require consistency, positive reinforcement, and lots of patience and love.

Your No. 1 challenge is housebreaking. The good news is that momma dog has given you a head start in that department. Newborn puppies eat and relieve themselves right where they are. Their mother licks them clean so there is never a scent of poop or urine in the whelping box. A puppy picks up on this and comes conditioned not to eliminate where it eats, sleeps, or lives. They expect their home to be clean.

Your puppy's digestive system gives you another boost when it comes to setting up a housebreaking routine. Their digestive tract is very efficient and very quick. Five to 30 minutes after a pup eats, it will need to poop. A puppy cannot control its bladder and bowels until it is 6 to 9 months old.

The nerves that regulate these functions take that long to connect. It cannot even feel that it needs to poop until it is actually coming out.

You must take them outside shortly after it eats. Don't rush him. Trying to encourage it to "go potty" will only stress them. Be quiet and let it do their thing in its own time.

A puppy also needs to relieve themselves after drinking, sleeping, playing and every couple of hours in between. Regular trips outside are necessary to launch a successful housebreaking routine. You need to have a plan. A pup is usually quick to fall into a routine, but you are the one with the schedule and the watch.

Take your pup to the same spot each time you go out. A place that seems and smells familiar will make them feel comfortable and safe. Recognizable scents will trigger its need to go. Let them take its time and praise them for their successes. Rewards for good behavior promote future good behavior.

Sooner or later puppy will have an accident. Immediately take them out to the regular spot where you want him to go. Don't punish him. Scolding makes relieving themselves a negative event. It did not make a mess to annoy you.

You can housebreak a dog at any age, but it is much easier to start with a pup.

Stick to a regular routine and offer lots of praise, patience and love. You will be rewarded with a happy, loving, well-trained pup.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at