Having raised alot of puppies I have very realistic goals when it comes to the housebreaking process. I do not expect any puppy to be housebroken, meaning absolutely no accidents until they are close to 6 months of age. This can vary based on breed as toy breeds tend to require even more time. Then you can factor in any health issues like UTI's or intestinal parasites and BAM.......all your best efforts can be derailed.
If there is one thing my puppy clients talk about it's the importance of getting their puppy housebroken immediately. Of course no one enjoys a puppy eliminating in the house, but most people have set the bar way to high for their little pup which results in frustration for all involved. It's just not realistic to expect a young puppy to be housebroken no matter what you've read on google :) If you are one of the very few people who've experienced a completely housebroken 8 week old puppy, you're in the minority. The average pet parent, myself included can plan on doing lots of 'clean ups' the first few weeks, if not months.
Let's first look at the process the puppy is going thru when learning to follow the rules for housebreaking. ]
- They have to be physically able to hold their bladder/bowel for extended periods of time.
- They have to learn to connect and execute the message from their bladder/bowel to their brain that says 'hey I gotta go'
- They have to share this information with the humans in a way that is understood
- They need the humans to give them immediate access to the bathroom area
- The Humans need to be consistent and available for this process to work
When housebreaking goes sideways there may be a number of things happening:
- The puppy may have too much freedom and/or lack of supervision. By using crates, gates and other barriers, you restrict your puppies ability to wander and have unsupervised accidents. Being confined also allows them to feel the 'need' to go and notify the humans rather than just having accidents on the floor. As your puppy slowly graduates to freedom you want to limit the area in your home to a single room, gradually expanding the area as the accidents decrease.
- There is not a consistent schedule of getting the puppy outside as often as they need. Puppies need to have access to the bathroom area throughout the day and often at night for many weeks.
- The puppy is being taken out too often......yep that can be problematic too as the puppy is not slowly learning to hold their bladder/bowel. Too often people think that by taking their puppy outside every 30-60 minutes during the day and waking them up at night, that they are speeding up the housebreaking process. I personally never wake a sleeping puppy unless I'm going somewhere and need to give them the opportunity to eliminate before I leave. I don't wake puppies at night either, I let their body decide when they need to go out and act accordingly.
- Any type of infection or illness can make it physically impossible for a puppy to hold their bladder/bowel. If you were having good success and it suddenly goes backwards, a trip to the Vet is warranted.
Things you can do to help your puppy:
- Be patient and available :) If you can't be home for long stretches of time get backup help
- Keep them away from areas that are hard to clean such as carpet and area rugs. This will keep them from smelling their scent and wanting to return for their next bathroom break
- Develop a clear exit route that has easy and quick access, using the same exit will help the puppy learn the routine
- Keep them on a feeding schedule and remove water 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- NEVER scold or punish them for having accidents
- ALWAYS reward and praise them for getting it right!
- Don't go barefoot for a while........*grin*
If you find yourself struggling with the process seek help from a dog professional, sometimes all you need are a few tweaks in your routine.