Housebreaking a puppy can be a frustrating endeavor. Housebreaking should begin the moment Skittles joins your family, no matter how cute she is nor how small her piddles are. As a general rule of thumb, you can only expect her to “hold it” for an hour per month of age, plus one. That is, if Skittles is three months old, she will need to go out at least every 4 hours. However, she should be able to hold it longer at night while sleeping.
Always have treats near the door through which you normally take her out to do her business. Take her out first thing in the morning. If she is small enough for you to pick up, you may want to carry her so as to avoid accidents along the way. If you are unable to carry her, move towards the door quickly and with a purpose. You may even want to keep her leash and collar near you at night, so you can put it on her immediately when she wakes up in the morning and lead her straight to the door. As soon as you get outside and she does her business, praise her with a “good girl” or “good wee-wee” and give her a treat. You decide what words of praise you want to use, but make sure you use some and be consistent.
Skittles will need to go out every time she wakes up, even if she was only napping briefly. She will also need to go out as soon as she finishes eating, after a prolonged play or training session, and after a period of excitement – such as barking at the neighbor’s dog through the window. Learning to only poop when outside will be easier for her than learning to only pee when outside. Be consistent and patient.
If you’d like, you can also train Skittles to use a wee-wee pad indoors. Use the same method of training as you would to teach her to go outside, except that instead of taking her outside when she needs to go, you take her to the pad. You need to give her a treat and praise her when she uses the pad, even if she misses it. The wee-wee pad option will work best on small breeds, especially on females as they do not raise their leg while doing their business. (It’s probably not a good idea to train your male Great Dane puppy to use a wee-wee pad.) If you do train the wee-wee pad method, most dogs will still prefer to go outside when possible, so you will be able to transition to outdoor pottying.
Just as you must always praise her when she does her business outside or on the wee-wee pad, you must also always correct her when she does it inside away from the wee-wee pad, though only if you catch her in the act. You cannot correct her after the fact; she will not understand why you are correcting her. Therefore, it is imperative that you watch Skittles at all times or, if you are unable to, put her in her crate. Keep in mind that she will not be able to hold it longer than normal, just because she’s in a crate. You don’t want to put her in her crate for 5 hours when she’s two months old and then get mad at her for having an accident. As you read this, you’re probably thinking to yourself that you’d never get mad at an adorable, innocent little puppy, but trust me you will. You will rue the very day Skittles came home the moment you step on one of her accidents and have to wash between your toes to get it all out. Be reasonable in your expectations and kind with your corrections. A seriously spoken “no, bad girl,” if you catch her in the act, will get the point across without scaring, nor scarring her for life.
If you enjoy Christina’s writing, check her books out! She is the author of “Chester Gigolo: Diary of a Dog Star” and “Insider Training: Chester Gigolo’s Dog Training Secrets Revealed” for which she won the 2016 DWAA Captain Haggerty award for Best Training Book and the 11th Annual National Indie Excellence Award (Animals & Pets). She is also a contributing author to “Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors”. She has written multiple articles which have appeared in various international publications.