Before we dive into all of the details, it may help you to have a general understanding of what will need to be in place and be done for housebreaking to work. Then, we'll get into specifics.
1. Realistic expectations. Puppies do not have full control over bladder and bowel muscles. These will develop as the pup grows. So, needs can only be held for so long. In general, a 2-month old can go about 2 hours, a 3-month old for 3 hours, and so on.
This does not mean that your 3-month old puppy will pee and then not pee again for another 3 hours. It just means that this is the maximum time that should lapse between taking the pup out.
2. A supervision method. If your Yorkie is let outside alone, there will be zero opportunities to learn. And if you are not keeping a very close eye on your Puppy while inside, there will be pee and poo just about everywhere.
3. Exact adherence to housebreaking rules. Every element that is listed is here for a reason. If you halfheartedly follow these, if just some of the household members do the steps, or if some steps are done but not others, success will be limited.
4. Proper reaction to accidents. If you follow all of these steps to potty train your Puppy, there will be very few accidents. However, some will occur, and it'll be important that you react the right way.
For the best and fastest results, we highly recommend housebreaking a Puppy to eliminate outdoors. It is canine instinct to sniff around outside and choose 'just the right spot'. And, going to the bathroom outside is much easier for a dog than trying to hit the mark on pee pads set up indoors.
This said, if you do choose the indoor method of setting up pee pads, do follow all of the same advice here. The main difference will be that the 'designated area' will be the pee pads instead of a bathroom area outside.
STEP #1 CHOOSE THE BATHROOM AREA
ONE AREA should be chosen as the designated bathroom area. Here are some important elements about this:
A huge part of housebreaking a Puppy is that the pup will be brought to this area by you. This means that you will not just open the door and let your puppy outside. Not only is this very dangerous, but it brings the learning opportunities down to zero.
The area should be easily accessible in all seasons and in all weather. What seems to work well in the summer may be hard to reach in the winter. We will also cover some things you can do to make heading outside more tolerable.
This should be at least 10 feet away from any family areas, such as the barbecue, outdoor eating spot, etc.
Step #2 Have Supervision & Containment Methods in Place
During the housebreaking phase, your Puppy should always be supervised or kept in one spot. Not doing this is the downfall of many housebreaking attempts. An owner sees that their Puppy is rather close by, they turn to tidy up the room... or prepare lunch, and the puppy pees right in the middle of the living room.
Or, the puppy is playing with his toys, so the owner looks through the mail and makes a call, and the puppy leaves a poo behind the sofa.
So, unless you have your eyes directly on your Puppy with no distractions, one of two things must be happening:
1) Tethered supervision. If you cannot give your Puppy your undivided attention but can keep him by your side as you are doing other things, keep your Puppy tethered to you via a harness and a short 6-foot leash. Note that the harness is vital; do not use a collar as this can cause neck injury. In addition, the leash should be short; 6 feet (9 at the most) and lightweight (those made of climbing rope are incredibly durable but light, and work well).
Any time that your Puppy makes a motion to pee or poo, you will immediately pick him up and bring him to the designated area.
2) Playpen. For any times that you cannot keep your Puppy right by your side or for any times that you are not home, you'll need to keep your Puppy in one specific spot.
It is not recommended to use a crate. Crates are terribly confining, and can cause both physical and emotional stress. Since a dog will pee or poo regardless of the size of his area when he simply cannot hold his needs any longer, there is no benefit to keeping a dog in such a small cage.
It is also not recommend to use a gate to give a Puppy an entire room. This not only is potentially dangerous unless the room is fully puppy-proofed, but it also opens up a huge problem with destructive chewing (many pups being housebroken are also in the teething phase). And, the pup will end up peeing and pooing all over the room.
What is recommended is a properly sized indoor canine playpen (also referred to as exercise pens).
These offer just the right amount of space, and are often used to help cure separation anxiety (it offers a secure feeling of a 'den', while ensuring that all of a Puppy`s necessities are right there with him).
Step #3 Be Prepared to Give Praise & Reward
A huge part of house training is praise and reward. This combination is how dogs learn best, and what will motivate them to keep working at something.
Once a dog carries out a particular action enough times, it becomes automatic; at that time, reward will not be a 'must'; however, it does help to reinforce good behavior.
The praise. Choose a certain word or phrase that you will always use. This should be something that you do not mind calling out in public. Just saying 'bathroom' is perfectly fine; though, 'pitty-potty' or another like term will work as well.
You will say this each time you bring your Puppy to the designated bathroom area (Let's go pitty-potty) and immediately after your dog has done the deed (Good pitty potty, good dog!).
The reward. Special treats should be at the ready, in a zipped sandwich bag, and placed near the exit door that leads to the bathroom area. You'll want to be able to grab and pocket these as you are taking your Puppy out.
As you offer praise, palm a treat and allow your Puppy to mouth it.
The type of treat that you choose as reward for housebreaking plays a big role.
Here are 3 tips to keep in mind:
This should not be a snack that would be given out regardless. it should be reserved only for housebreaking successes.
It should be be highly tasty, giving a quick burst of flavor that offers immediate signal of a job well done.
It should be small (the idea is to offer instantaneous satisfaction and not something that a dog needs to sit down to chew on).
Step #4 The Actual House Training Rules
Now that you have prepared and have things in place to allow your efforts to be successful, it is time to implement the training. Here are 8 rules to follow:
1. Take your Puppy to the same designated area every single time. Stand in the center of that area, and allow your Puppy to choose the exact spot within the diameter.
2. Do not hesitate with praise and reward as soon as your Yorkie urinates or has a bowel movement. Say, 'Good, pee-poo!' (or your chosen phrase) with lots of enthusiasm (as if your pup just did the most magnificent thing in the world), while handing over the special training reward treat.
3. Bring your Puppy there before each walk. Allowing a dog to pee or poo while out for his daily walks is a missed opportunity for teaching housebreaking.
4. Be patient. Dogs can take anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes to relax bowel muscles. Bring a chair if you must, but do give your Puppy enough time.
5. Bring your Puppy outside often enough. This should be:
Right after your pup wakes up
About 20 minutes after each meal
Right after you arrive back home, if you've been out
Every so-many hours depending on age (3 hours for a 3-month-old, 4 hours for a 4-month old, etc.)
Right before bed
6. Bring your Puppy out any time that he/she makes a motion to pee or poo. Your Puppy should be right in your sights, be tethered to you, or in his playpen. As soon as you see a leg lift or a squat, give a loud hand clap to interrupt and bring your pup right out, even if you must carry him.
7. Time meals. Most Puppies do well with 3 meals per day, 2 to 3 snacks, and with the last meal or snack about 2 hours before bedtime.
But, if your Puppy is waking up and having a bowel movement super early, you may want to try adjusting dinnertime. This may lead to a bowel movement later in the evening before bed, as opposed to 4 or 5 AM.
8. React appropriately at night. Most young puppies will bark intermittently throughout the night and it will be important to try and ascertain if the barking at night is for attention or because there is a bathroom need.
Most very young puppies do not yet know to alert you to needs, so the majority of vocalization will be to gain your attention.
Since you do not want to your puppy to learn that he's allowed to wake you up 100 times, unless you highly suspect that he needs to poo or pee, barking should be ignored and the pup will learn to self-sooth.
If you do bring him out, you will want to strongly convey that this is a serious time and not one for play. Keep lights low and do not speak at all unless it is to offer praise for urinating or eliminating in the designated area.
Step #5 Reacting to Accidents
If you are home and always have your Puppy directly within your line of sight, tethered to you, or in his playpen, there should be essentially no times of accidents.
And, if when you are not home you have your Puppy in a playpen, since this is a defined space, pee and poo will be kept to one small area, and hopefully on the pee pads.
This said, if your Puppy does pee and poo in the house, you'll want to react the right way and clean it in the right way.
If you see your Puppy starting to pee or poo, interrupt him via a loud hand clap and a firm 'No.' Immediately bring him out, and if you feel that there is no time to walk him out, carry him (grabbing the leash and treats on the way out the door).
If you come across a puddle of pee or a little pile of poo but did not witness it happening, reassess what lead to this in the first place. Were you following the supervision and confinement methods?
Also, do not bother reprimanding; it will do little good and being scolded or yelled at may only serve to make your Puppy afraid of you.
GOOD LUCK & HAPPY HOUSE TRAINING
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