Housebreaking is one of the most important lessons you can teach your puppy. There are two types of housetraining methods: crate training and paper training. The crate method is the preferred method, since paper training teaches your puppy that it's O.K. to go to the bathroom in the house. However, many people who live in apartments have small dogs or who are unable to take their puppy out often, prefer the paper training method.

If you follow the crate method, your puppy should be housebroken in four to six weeks. Some puppies are housebroken sooner, others take up to six months, so don't be discouraged if your puppy takes a while. Just remain patient and persistent when housebreaking will reward you in the long run.
Four steps to housebreaking:
  1. Proper diet and scheduling. Always feed your puppy the same amount of puppy food at the same time of day. A puppy's stomach is sensitive to changes in food, so you should not vary its diet during the housebreaking period. Establish a routine to take your puppy outside after feeding. This will help teach him that he should be 'going potty' after mealtimes.
  2. Proper confinement. As soon as you bring your puppy home, begin teaching him that his crate is his "den" where he should sleep, nap and stay when he is left alone.
  3. Proper correction. If your puppy messes on the floor, take it to the spot and say "NO!" in a low-pitched, firm voice. Then clean up the mess with a paper towel. Take your puppy and the wet or soiled paper towel outside to his designated toilet area. Place the towel on the ground and let the puppy sniff it. Your puppy will associate the scent of the towel with the spot and will "go potty" at the spot next time.
  4. Use an odor neutralizer. Your puppy's sense of smell is much more acute than yours. If your puppy has a mishap in the house and the odor is not eliminated, he will return to the same spot later. Conventional housebreaking products, such as floor cleaner or window spray, will get rid of the odor for your nose, but not your puppy's. Most pet stores carry special pet-odor neutralizers that clean the area and remove the odor, so your puppy will not "go potty' there again.
Housebreaking tips:
  • Vaccinate your puppy before teaching him to use an outdoor area to go to the bathroom. Also, make sure your puppy is free of parasites, since an infested puppy may find it impossible to control his bowel movements.
  • Always take your puppy outside to the same spot after each meal. Stay with it and encourage it by using such words as "Potty Time" or "Hurry." Reward him with a hug and praise. After he goes to the bathroom, take him inside immediately. Do not extend this period to an outdoor play session, or your puppy will become confused about the purpose of the visit.
  • Always take your puppy outside when he wakes up in the morning, after he naps, after he finishes playing, after he drinks water and just before bedtime.
  • Use the same door each time you take your puppy outside. Once he learns to associate this door with going outside, he may scratch or sniff the door to tell you that he needs to go to the bathroom. Other signs that your puppy needs to go potty include sniffing the floor, turning in circles, or squatting.
  • Do not confine your puppy to his crate for long periods of time. To figure out how long your puppy can stay in his crate before he needs to go out, take your puppy's age (in months) and add one. For example, if your puppy is two-months-old, he should not be confined to a crate for more than three hours.
  • If you are away from home for long periods of time, ask a neighbor or friend to let your puppy out, play with him and feed him if necessary. Never leave older pups for more than eight hours. They will be cheated of proper exercise and socialization.

Paper-training may be a temporary solution before your puppy is vaccinated and able to be taken outside. It is also an alternative for a small dog, if you live in a high-rise apartment or if you have difficulty taking your puppy outside regularly. Paper-training works better for females than males, because once a male matures, he will lift his leg and may miss the paper.

Follow the same four steps to housebreaking listed above, except teach your puppy to eliminate on layers of newspaper inside the house, instead of outside in your yard. Be warned however, a paper-trained puppy may be difficult to housebreak at a later time, because paper-training teaches that it is permissible to go to the bathroom in the house.

Rather than simply placing newspapers on the kitchen floor, it's recommended that you use an exercise pen, which comes in panels and can be made into any size or shape. Place the pen in the kitchen, temperature-controlled garage or basement. Place your puppy's crate in one end of the pen with the door open. Put his food and water dishes next to his crate along with a few safe hard rubber or nylon chew toys. Place the newspapers on the other end of the pen as far away from his eating and sleeping area as possible.