How To Housebreak a Puppy in 5 Days
Not many people realize just how fast you can potty train a puppy!
Most puppies are hard to potty train, because their bladders simply aren’t fully capable of “holding it” for long periods of time.
However, once a puppy’s bladder is strong enough to hold it for a few hours at a time, I have successfully trained several puppies within 5 days, by simply focusing on the process of teaching puppies WHERE they can and cannot go.
Mastering the training of WHERE to go is the real key to quickly housebreaking your puppy, and if you’d like to know how to quickly teach your puppy this same skill (or an adult dog for that matter) this article might be one of the most sanity saving articles you read in a long time 😉
Now, before you can start the potty training process, you need to understand that dogs have a very specific way of determining where they can and cannot eliminate.
And this is where we need to start with your puppy.
How Your Dog Determines Where the Toilet Is
A mother dog plays a crucial role in the development of her puppies. One of the roles the mother plays is teaching them not to poop in the den. No mothers like to lay in piles of their babies’ smelly business, and mother dogs are no different. So, they are the ones that actually start the potty training process by shooing their pups out of the nest when they have to go and cleaning up after them when they have an accident… which they do.
This is why it is SO crucial that you NEVER buy a puppy from a breeder before 8 weeks of age. A ton of psychological development is going on that only the pups’ mother can give to her puppies, and you really shouldn’t try to get the pups earlier. A breeder that allows you to do so is unethical and is robbing your pup of learning this valuable lesson.
Now be careful.
Even if taught by a pups’ mother, this lesson can be UNLEARNED by making a puppy live in areas where it is forced to poop and pee. This is why you don’t want to buy puppies from those places that have them in small crates where they’re forced to eliminate where they live. Dogs raised like that are often NOT potty trainable. This is one of the reasons why indoor Potty Pads are such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. Learn to spot these operations by learning how to choose a good breeder; don’t accidentally support this dark side of the pet industry.
That said, if we let the puppy’s mother do its job and teach her puppies not to poop in their own bed, then when we bring our puppies home, there are some things we can do to really speed up the housebreaking process.
We Call it Den Training
What is Den Training? Here’s a video that gives you the full scoop…
Den training is hands down the best technique for house training your puppy, period! And it’s almost never talked about.
While you may have never heard of it, if you’ve ever taken a dog who you thought was potty trained over to a friend’s house, only to have him pee inside within the first hour… you’ve witnessed its effect. If you’ve wondered why that happens, it’s because the dog feels like it is okay to pee, because he’s outside his den. His den is HIS house, and he doesn’t pee in his house. But because your friend’s house is outside of your dog’s house, your dog thinks it’s a place that’s OK to pee!
Not teaching your puppy where their den is, is really the crux of the problem. That’s why taking your dog to a dog trainer and expecting the dog trainer to potty train your dog is so foolish. The potty training process has to happen in your OWN home first. Pet trainers can’t help you!
When potty training puppies you MUST do it in the place they live! And it starts by teaching them how to keep their own den clean, and then expanding their den to the whole house.
But in order to quickly potty train a dog, you need a process for helping him realize where his den is and where it isn’t.
And, fortunately for you, we have a process for how to teach this…
Step 1: Shrink Your Dog’s Den
The fastest way to get your dog to learn to hold his bladder longer is to shrink the size of the area he’s sleeping in and teach him to hold his bladder in that space at least until he’s slightly uncomfortable. We want to be sensible here. We don’t want to force your dog to hold it so long he ruptures his bladder; but we don’t want to let him out to pee before he has to go either. We want to train him to keep holding it, a little more each time.
The best way to do this is to crate train your dog and crate him on a schedule. You’ll find it SOOO much easier to potty train your puppy if you DON’T skip this step.
To find out how long you should leave your dog in his crate, here’s what we’ve found works best:
Don’t just stick him in the crate at night and expect him to make it until morning. That’s a great way to wake up to a mess.
First, and to avoid creating a ‘crate squawker’, make sure you play with your dog and let him get a lot of exercise before putting him in his crate.
Then start gradually increasing the amount of time your dog spends in the crate over the course of several weeks, so you gradually build up to being able to put your dog in a crate for the entire evening.
Put Your Dog On A Schedule And Stick To It (It Makes Life Waaay Easier)
Once you can start crating your dog for the evening, let him out to go to the bathroom in the morning, then bring him in to feed him and water him. Watch the clock to see how long it takes your dog to need to go to the bathroom. Scheduling meals allows you to prevent accidents by learning your dog’s ‘bowel rhythms’.
However long your dog takes to go to the bathroom after breakfast is a good starting point to how long you should leave him in his create to teach him to hold it.
This accomplishes a few things.
First, it trains your dog to learn how to hold it for a little longer than normal.
And second, it lets you know he has to go, when it comes time to let him out, which sets us up perfectly for the next stage of the training
Step 2: Teaching Him Where to Go
When you let your dog out of his crate, take him straight to the door that leads to where you want him to do his business.
But instead of just letting him go right outside, we recommend hanging potty bells on your door.
Potty bells are bells that your dog can bump with his nose that become a way for your dog to tell you he has to potty.
Not everyone realizes this, but most dogs will try to tell you they have to go by standing by the door to be let outside. But if you’re sleeping in the morning, or outside and don’t see them, they’ll only hold it so long before letting it fly.
But if you install a potty bell, you can be in the other room and hear your dog telling you that he’s about to burst. It’s the BIG key to getting your dog potty trained in 5 days.
But for it to work…
…You have to train your dog to only bump the bell when he needs to go potty.
And this is done by taking your dog straight from his crate after an hour (with a full bladder) and bringing him right to the door with the potty bell… where you follow one rule.
Your dog (who wants to go outside to pee) can only be allowed to pee, if he first hits the potty bell with his nose.
NOTE: don’t let your dog out if he PAWS at the bell. This will reward your dog for scratching your door to pieces. Only let him out by training him to bump the bell with his nose.
Then make sure you Go OUTSIDE with Your Dog
So many new dog owners pop the back door open and let the dog go outside by himself, and therefore have no idea if the dog has gone potty. Potty training a puppy is really frustrating if you make this mistake.
Unfortunately, dogs get distracted by different sounds, smells, bugs, butterflies, or whatever, and they can stop mid-pee or poop.
If you aren’t outside to witness his schedule, you won’t know when you let him inside that he actually never finished going potty outside.
I have 2 dogs that are very different.
My girlie poops at least twice and sometimes three times a day (if she has been super active). Ironically, she eats very little.
My boy is a “once a day pooper”. He poops once in the morning after breakfast.
So I know if one of them misses an opportunity, I need to make sure that they are given another.
I also know that my female drinks A LOT of water and has to urinate every few hours, but my male is good just going out about 3 times a day.
I still utilize a crate in these instances if I need to; for example, if we are at someone else’s house.
And if that wasn’t reason enough, there’s another reason.
After you know your dog is done you want to use a ‘clicker’ to ‘click and reward’ your dog for doing their business in the right spot. Don’t buy into the myth that you can just pet your dog and that will be a good enough reward (as this research points out).
A clicker is a device that makes a very interesting sound, and when you pair the clicking sound with giving your dog a treat… pretty soon your dog learns that every time he hears a click he gets a treat; which means he’ll come running back inside. And inside this course, we show you all the ways to use it to help potty train your puppy faster.
Over the course of about a week, your dog will also start to realize that he only gets clicks and treats when he goes outside. And that he gets clicks and treats if he hurries up and goes to the bathroom, vs. taking his sweet time and becoming distracted.
This constant receiving of rewards every time he goes potty/poo rewards the dog for going in the right spot and dramatically decreases the time it takes to potty train, especially when combined with the potty bell.
Now obviously this is just the first bathroom break of the day, so to make the rest of the day go smoothly here are some tips.
#1 – Make Your Dog Earn Freedom
The quickest way to make sure your potty training efforts fail is to let your dog have free reign over the whole house when he comes back in. So, make sure you use leashes, gates, and crates to reign him in.
Remember, your dog does not yet think of your whole house as a den. And in order to get him to think of it as his den we need to slowly increase the amount of space your dog has access too.
Learn To Spot The Warning Signs
Dogs give off warning signs right before they need to go potty, like excessive sniffing. We need to make sure we set up our dog’s environment so that we can spot these warnings signs. The higher percentage of times you spot the signs and take your dog outside to pee and poo without having an accident, the faster you’ll be able to teach your dog to be housebroken.
To do this we like to use one of two approaches.
- We believe in a strategy we call ‘The Week on a Leash Challenge’ – in this challenge we use waist leashes to keep our dogs tethered to us for a solid week. This ensures that our dog is never left unsupervised. If we need to leave him unsupervised, we leave him in the crate.
- Use gates to give dogs access to half a room at a time. Only after the dog proves he can be in that room without peeing, and rings the potty bell when he is in that space and needs to relieve himself, do we ever think of expanding it.
This is a process that goes much quicker if you…
#2 – Stick to a Routine
Feed your dog at the same time every day, morning and night. This process can be made easier by using an automatic feeder to feed your dog at the same time every day.
Don’t just leave the food out 24 hours a day; then you won’t know when he eats and, therefore, when he might have to go potty.
By sticking to the routine, you’ll learn your dog’s natural rhythms and can go to your dog when you know its about time to go, instead of waiting till it’s too late.
Remember, a good rule of thumb is to take your dog out about 20 minutes after he eats; he will likely need to go out and poop.
If your dog or puppy needs to go out in the middle of the night, I would try and feed him earlier.
A good walk before bed, or a game of retrieve in the back yard, can also help move things through the bowels and stimulate the body (plus it will help him sleep).
If he seems to have to go out a lot at night, pick up his water so that he is not filling his bladder.
By learning your dog’s natural toileting routines…
Using gates to keep your dog in a smaller space/den until he learns to use the potty bell when he needs to go…
And using the click/treat philosophy to help your dog understand where you want him to go through positive reinforcement….
…you too can potty train your dog in 5 days.
House training puppies really can be this fast… and a clean smelling, urine free home really can be in your future 😊 I’ve seen it happen time and time again. In fact, we’ve done it so many times that we actually recorded a potty training program, specifically for potty training your puppy that you can check out here.
It’s full of videos that show you exactly how to train every step of the process!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.