Pet Lady Article

December 20, 2005



Q:  We decided to get a puppy for our son for Christmas and are wondering how to go about housebreaking him.  He’s peeing all over the house and rubbing his nose in it doesn’t help.


A:  It sounds like your puppy may have a little too much freedom right now.  It’s best to keep puppies in only a small part of the house in the beginning and keep a close eye on them.  A crate is a useful tool during the housebreaking process as long as it is used properly.  Most dogs will not eliminate in their crate if it’s small enough for them to just lie down in.  If the crate is too large the dog may eliminate in one end and sleep in the other.  The other thing to remember is not to leave a dog in a crate too long.  A general rule is puppies can only hold their bladder the number of hours they are in months.  So if you have an eight-week-old puppy, two hours is about max for bladder control.  That means setting an alarm every two hours and making sure the puppy is taken outside.  In the beginning, the pup will not be able to tell you when he has to go out.  You will have to be the one on a schedule and watch closely for signs that the dog may need to go—circling, pacing, whining, and sniffing.  You will also want to take your pup out first thing in the morning, fifteen minutes after the pup eats or drinks, and after every play session.  When you take the puppy outside, pick a spot you would like the dog to eliminate.  Walk around in that spot and encourage the puppy to “Go Potty” or whatever word you would like to use for a potty command—just be sure everyone in the family uses the same word.  Once the dog eliminates, praise him and give him a treat and then have some play time outside.  Many people make the mistake of walking the dog while waiting for him to eliminate.  As soon as the dog goes, they take him back inside.  Soon the dog learns that once he goes potty, outside time ends, so the dog holds off longer and longer so he can stay outside.  To avoid this problem, don’t go anywhere until after the dog eliminates—then go on the walk or play.  If the dog doesn’t eliminate, take him back inside, put him in his crate for a few minutes, and then try again.  Soon the dog will learn that if he goes potty right away, the fun begins! 


If the pup has an accident in the house, don’t punish the dog.  Rubbing his nose in it will not help him learn to go in the proper place.  All it does is teach him that his human is a little psycho about urine on the floor, but he doesn’t understand that you are upset that he put it there.  If you catch the pup in the act, interrupt him with an “Oops” and take him directly outside—watch him closer next time.  Punishing a dog when he’s caught eliminating in the house will only cause him to hide from you the next time.  His little puppy brain is not capable of connecting the punishment with where he is eliminating, he just thinks his human gets a little crazy about the process of eliminating so he will avoid doing it in front of you.  Now you’ve got a big problem on your hands as the dog will wait until you aren’t looking and then eliminate.  Better to be vigilant and watch the pup closely at all times.  You also mentioned that this puppy is for your son.  I’m not sure how old your son is, but please be aware that most children are not capable of being solely responsible for an animal.  The major part of this pup’s care will fall to you.  All the promises made by children about caring for an animal usually fade by about week two.   A pet is a commitment for that animal’s lifetime.  That’s too big of a responsibility for a child.  Getting the puppy into a class and bringing your son (depending on his age) is a good way to involve him in the dog’s care.  Animals are a lot of work, especially when they are young pups.  A class will help you learn how to teach your puppy some wonderful manners so he will grow up to be a great canine citizen in your house and in the community.  For more helpful tips on raising puppies, log on to and go to “Behavior Issues” or call Center Hill School at 434-591-6113.  Puppy classes are starting in January.