I have seen a multitude of posts regarding housetraining so thought I would construct information that would serve as basic guidelines of how to train and what to expect. We all get excited about bringing that new puppy home but remember, it takes lots of work to help that pup grow up to be a cherished companion. It doesnt happen magically and takes input, time, love and patience from you, the owner.
Generally pups come to their new homes between 8 - 10 weeks. This is quite an overwhelming time in a pups life as they leave their mom, littermates and the only environment ever known to them. They face many challenges as they enter their new home. They have smells they have never experienced, are exposed to sounds they have never heard and are being handled in a different way they ever before. Often times they will go off their food or cry due to such changes. They will also eliminate in your home. This will happen and in no way should this be a surprise for anyone.
Housebreaking is a plan that needs to be in place before the puppy comes home. Crate training is a viable option but depending on how it is used can also delay good housebreaking. The premise of the crate is that a dog will not soil the area in which he has to sleep. With that in mind one must remember the physical ability of the pup that is in this situation. Physically at such a tender age they have little to no ability to control their eliminations. When the urge strikes they go. Keeping such a youngster confined to a small space for hours on end offers them no other option then to soil in their sleeping quarters.
The plan that needs to be in place is a very strict routine of regular outings. The routine that has always worked best for me is first thing in the morning (yes, before you have your cup of coffee) and about once per hour thereafter. For the first few weeks this will teach the pup that outside also signifies time to eliminate. Remember letting them out the back door and not supervising will not be as effective. You need to learn what their elimination pattern is and you need to know if they went. I generally feed dinner no later then six p.m. so they have some digestion time prior to my retiring for the night. Their last outing is generally around 11 p.m.
As your pup grows and you become more familiar with their elimination patterns you will lessen the amount of times they need to go out. First thing in the morning, shortly after a meal and whenever they awake from a nap. A general rule of thumb is a pup has some sort of control for about an hour of each month of his age. ie 2 months, 2 hours, 3 months, 3 hours, etc.
Teach your pup an elimination command such a "go potty, do your business" or whatever. Use this command each time you take them out. Try to bring them to the same place each day as the smell will be a reminder of what happened there before. If they go praise, praise! Do not let a pup out to play BEFORE they have eliminated. He needs to learn to potty first, play later.
Generally pups are able to "hold it" at night before they are able to do so in the day. This is attributed to the much lower activity level at the time and the lack of food/water intake. My pups have always been clean at night far sooner then in the day.
Please be realistic. So many folks think their pup is near housebroken at 3 and 4 months of age. While they may be starting a pattern you can bet this is just not a reality. Most dogs are not consistently solid until they are near a year of age. You will have periods of great success only to be met with a return of soiling in the home. This is a normal part of training a pup.
Remember never to punish or reprimand a dog for soiling inside. If he did so it is a lapse in your training and supervision. Keep a close eye on your pup. When you see him starting to sniff a certain area you can bet he probably is looking to eliminate. Quickly get him outside and give the potty command. Praise, praise.
Potty training is easier when broken down in steps. The first is getting your pup to understand the chosen place of elimination. It is the repetition of going to this place that will get him to understand your desires. The next step is to learn his signal for wishing to go there. Some dogs will go to the door that leads to this place. You must be aware enough to follow through at this time to start a pattern. Once again supervision is the key. If you are not aware it makes it most difficult for a pup to express his desire to you. Some will learn to bark at the door, others have taught dogs to ring a bell.
As a pup reaches 4 to 5 months they usually have a fair understanding of what the routine is if you have been consistent. They are also increasing their ability to control their elimination habits. You may now relax the routine a bit scheduling the outings to after meal and activity times. Good supervision becomes the key now. Do not allow pups to wander off in to other rooms, try to keep them in your general vicinity. This will allow you to notice the sign they need to go.
Some folks try to be helpful and use potty pads. I do not like them and choose not to use them. One reason is generally a pup left alone for longer periods of time will become bored and shred them. Another is this adds confusion to the pup as to the proper surface to eliminate. Generally this makes the potty training process much longer.
Confinement - while I am a big believer in crate training I do not believe a dog should spend all day in a crate while one works then the entire night. I offer my pups freedom at night long before I do in the day time. I am also a big fan of exercise pens which give them more ability to move about. Some folks have rooms in the home that are fairly free of items that can be destroyed. A babygate at this door also serves as a good option. Remember a crate can keep a pup safe and help him learn his good potty manners but is no tradeoff for the human part of the training. I know of dogs that are great and always clean in a crate but will still eliminate in the home. This generally is a failure on the owners part to follow through with the training.
Generally I find my pups relapse at 7 - 9 months of age. I attribute this to a stage that brings them confidence and a strong desire to play. The brain is not thinking of potty training any longer and the accidents will appear once again. This should encourage you to refine your training until your pup gets beyond this stage. They are not being spiteful nor are they choosing to be bad. They are growing and learning.
If a male pup is not neutered early you may find that suddenly he starts urinating or "marking" in the home. This is not unusual as his hormones come into play. I always recommend that youngsters be spayed/neutered prior to reaching sexual maturity if they are to be house pets. This not only helps with potty training but also with many other areas of training as they age.
Most of all patience, practice and know what to expect BEFORE bringing that pup home. Becoming frustrated with a learning pup does little more then upset him and delay the process. To expect a youngster to not have accidents is not realistic. If there is a problem dont blame him but relook at your training routine. Never punish your pup as he learns but use this as a reminder that you need to do a better job with your training and supervision.