5 Steps to Housebreak Your Puppy


The first thing on any new puppy owner’s mind is housebreaking. I recommend you switch the word ‘breaking’ for the word ‘training’. I will, however, sometimes use it in my writing because that is what people are accustomed to saying. Doesn’t ‘breaking’ lead you to think of doing something to your puppy to teach her? The word ‘training’ reminds you that this is a learning process for you and your puppy. There are five key concepts to teach:

  1. Teach your puppy where you want it to go potty
  2. Teach your puppy where you do not want it to go potty
  3. Teach your puppy to ‘hold it’ when it does not have access to the potty area
  4. Teach your puppy how to tell you when it needs to go potty
  5. Teach your puppy a phrase or word to go potty when you need for it to​

House-training your puppy is similar to potty training your child. If you would not do something with a child then please do not do it with your puppy! This process is easy unless you do things that make it difficult. Punishment has no place in house-training and will make this process both more difficult and take longer.

For ease of communication, this article will assume you are outdoor training your puppy. For indoor training simply substitute ‘outside’ for ‘potty area’.


Start by gathering the correct equipment. Think for a moment about your field of expertise. Does using the proper equipment make things easier?

You will need:

  • Good quality puppy food
  • Buckle collar or harness
  • 3-4 foot non-retractable lightweight leash
  • 15-foot non-retractable cotton web long line
  • A place to confine your dog—this is the largest area your puppy will keep clean and not chew up—typically a crate or exercise pen
  • A place to walk your dog for outdoor training
  • For indoor training either 2 dog litter boxes or 2 frames that hold potty pads and a good supply of potty pads
  • Small, easy-to-swallow treats
  • Carpet cleaner
  • A good amount of patience
  • A sense of humor

Think about these things before you start:

  1. Feed your puppy on a schedule. What goes in comes out! The puppy that eats all day will need to go at unpredictable times. Feeding on a schedule allows you to predict when your puppy needs to eliminate.
  2. The best place for your puppy to sleep is in a small wire crate next to your bed. It is a good idea to have a larger crate in the area of your house where you spend the most time. Consider using an indoor exercise pen if you need to leave your puppy for longer than four hours.
  3. Choose a keying phrase that the entire family agrees with. I use ‘be quick’ with my dogs. You might also say ‘business’, ‘go potty’, ‘or ‘ water the grass’. The only rule is that you are comfortable saying the phrase in public!

The Five Concepts of Housetraining Your Puppy

Let’s review the 5 concepts of housetraining your puppy. It is important to teach all five concepts to your puppy! There is no specific order to teaching these:

  1. The first is how to teach your puppy where to go potty. Decide where the potty area is and consistently take your puppy there. Remember to say the word “outside” as you go outside or “inside” as you go to the indoor potty area. Give your treat five seconds after your puppy has finished going.
    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

  2. The second concept teaching your puppy where not to go potty. Avoid frightening and/or punishing your puppy. Redirection without fear is the fastest way to results.
    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

  3. The third concept is how to teach your puppy to hold it. Use confinement to teach this when you cannot watch your puppy. Use your leash (safely) indoors when you can supervise its activity.
    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

  4. The fourth concept is to teach your puppy how to tell you it needs to go potty. I suggest teaching your puppy to ring a bell instead of barking, whining, or scratching the door.
    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

  5. The fifth concept is how to condition a keying phrase to get your puppy to feel the internal urge to go potty when you need for it to go.
    The Spruce / Kristie Lee

You will find that all five concepts weave together to patiently teach your puppy what you expect from it. I do not believe that there is such a thing as a partially house-trained dog. Your puppy is either house-trained or it is not. You can use these five concepts to teach a puppy or teach an older dog, as long as the dog is of sound mind and body. It is, however, much faster and easier to teach these concepts in puppyhood!

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