by Stephanie S. Hedgepath
Copyright, 1993, All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be republished or used on another website without the express written permission of the author.
The easiest way to housebreak a pup is by establishing a routine. Prevention, not punishment, is the key to painlessly housebreaking a new member of the household. A pup needs to "go" when he first wakes up in the morning, after naps, after eating and drinking, playing or other stimulation, and just before bedding down for the night. This sounds like he needs to go every minute, which in a very young pup is quite true as this is just about all a puppy does all day! Just be sure that if it has been two or three hours since he last went, give him a chance to relieve himself.
When you first get home with him, let the pup eliminate outside and then let him explore the entire house or apartment, room by room. This helps him to establish the entire house as his territory, and he is less likely to soil an area in this territory. Let him do this with your supervision, don't just let him wander off alone. Try a little light play activity, such as fetching or playing with a toy.
CRATE TRAINING - I firmly believe that every dog needs his own "place" where he can go and get out of the way when he wants to. I use a dog crate. Get one that is large enough to house the animal when he is full grown, but not too large. A medium (20"W 27"D 19"H) for a smaller Corgi or intermediate (22 1/2"W 32"D 23"H) sized plastic crate is usually just right. This is where he will sleep until he is completely housebroken. Then you can move him into his own bed in your bedroom or wherever you think is best. We have found that our house pets really love the beanbag type beds for dogs. If you are going to leave him for any length of time alone, then you can confine him to his crate with a chew toy and rest assured that he is safe. If you work during the day, do not place him in his crate all day, instead, place the crate in a small area, such a bathroom or a sectioned off part of the kitchen. Leave the door of the crate open, and spread newspapers over the entire exposed floor area. Place his food and water near the entrance of the crate. This will give him a place to sleep (the crate) and a place to eliminate (the newspapers. Eventually, you will gradually eliminate the papers and train the dog to go entirely out of doors. This is a gradual process, especially with a very young puppy. When you are home, do not leave the papers down, as the pup may simply use the papers to eliminate on instead of waiting to be taken outside.
When you are unable to supervise the pup for short periods of time, you may place him in the crate. He may protest at first (quite loudly!) but will really learn to love his crate. Do not let him out if he is fussing. Only let him out when he has accepted the crate and is quiet. Keep him out of the crate as much as possible, so that he will learn to fit into the household routine.
HOUSEBREAKING TO THE OUTSIDE: This is by far the best method of housebreaking a pup. As mentioned above, the young pup needs to "go" often. Especially after he has been asleep and within an hour of eating. Other signs include an excessive sniffing of the floor, and circling as if starting to squat. Be alert to these signs. Newspapers are great for protecting your floors and preventing the pup from developing a preference for other surfaces, just remember that the habit of eliminating in the house is strengthened whenever the pup uses the papers in the house. Therefore, every effort should be made to reduce as soon as possible the number of times the pup eliminates indoors.
At first, always take the pup to the same spot outside, so that he knows by smell what is expected of him. Generally, a dog will urinate first, and then defecate. Be patient. Walk him around a little, but don't let him get distracted from the task at hand. Praise him lavishly when he has performed. I also tell the dog what I want him to do - phrase such as "Go potty" will eventually teach the dog what is expected of him. The first couple of weeks, be sure and take him where you want him to go and stay with him. Don't just push him out the door and hope he does the job. Remember, the only way you can reinforce the correct action is by praising him. Be consistent!
If you should catch him in the act, scold him with a disapproving tone of voice and immediately take him outside to the proper location. Tone of voice is most important in praising and scolding your dog. He really doesn't understand the words yet, but he sure understands the tone of voice. Do not discipline the pup if you find an accident later - only if you catch him in the act! No rubbing his nose in the mess, no hitting him with rolled up newspapers - just use your voice to scold!
If you do find an accident, clean it up with a 25% solution of white vinegar and water and any household disinfectant you choose. Block off the area with an overturned chair or other object until it is dry. DO NOT let your pet watch you cleaning up a mess. Letting the dog observe can be confusing for some and encouraging to the bossy, dominant types.
Once he has learned what is expected of him, take him to different places to eliminate on different surfaces. Dogs can become "fixed" on a particular spot or surface and refuse to go anywhere else! Let the pup know that he can relieve himself outside wherever he is led: on grass, dirt, gravel, or concrete.
Remember, be alert to signs that he needs to go, and be consistent in his training. If you are going to be invovled in some task, it is best to crate the puppy until you can keep him under observation again.