The very thought of housebreaking puppies sends waves of terror through even the mightiest of men!
However, the process itself isn't very complicated. It does take time and the length of time needed seems to be where many families start to believe that they must be doing something wrong because their puppy isn't suddenly housebroken within a week or two.
©Photo Courtesy of Ana-Maria Burada
A puppy can be well on her way to being housebroken, but her bladder isn't fully developed before 4 months of age, so accidents can and will happen.
There are a couple of things that need to be done before you can begin properly housebreaking puppies.
Your Golden Retriever will need to be leash trained. It is close to impossible to teach housebreaking, if you just tie a puppy outside and then later go back and get her. You will need to go outside with her, and have her close to you. If you have not worked on leash training, you need to start this immediately.
The easiest and most effective way of housebreaking puppies is to use a crate. Puppies do not like to sleep where they urinate, so being in a crate helps her to learn how to wait, and thereby helps with the housebreaking process.
If you have decided not to do crate training, then follow this guide, but you truly will need to at least have your puppy confined to a small area of your house by the use of baby gates.
©Photo Courtesy of Annie Delano
Whenever your puppy is tired from playing, or you can not properly watch her, she needs back in her crate, or designated area.
Do not leave food or water in the puppy's crate, as this only defeats the purpose of using a crate, and will unnecessarily prolong the housebreaking, or house training of puppies.
Puppies pee and poop a lot! Young Golden Retrievers will usually have about 4 to 5 bowel movements a day, and what seems like unlimited and impossible amounts of urine! Never reduce the amount of water or food that you give them, in the hopes of making housebreaking go faster. You will only end up with a sick or unhealthy pup instead.
However, in the evenings, it is fine to limit their intake. I never feed my puppies or even adult Golden Retrievers, after 6 pm. I also limit the amount of water that my puppies get after 8 pm. Because of limiting their water in the evening, I also reduce playtime to a minimum, as you can not wear your puppy out by playing fetch, and then put the pup to bed thirsty.
Young puppies need to urinate as soon as they wake up, right after they eat, and several times during play. It is during their playtime, that it is the hardest to judge when they will need to go to the bathroom, but the other times are fairly easy and predictable.
As soon as you get your Golden out of her crate, snap a leash on her and take her outside to the bathroom. Use the same sentence as you are doing this. Such as, "Go potty". I also add the words, "Hurry up".
©Photo Courtesy of Lee Graham
The "Hurry up" is a reminder to her that we are not outside just for the fun of it, especially in the rain, or before I've had my morning coffee!
Always take her to the same area when you are training her, as her sense of smell and memory will help her to learn faster.
This is when I like to use two leashes snapped together, as this will give her plenty of room to walk around and smell, but will still be close enough for you to watch her closely.
When she squats to pee, and actually starts urinating, use your "praise voice" and tell her good girl. Do not wait until she is finished to tell her, tell her when she is in the act.
However, do not make your praise voice so animated and enthusiastic sounding that she stops what she is doing to run over to you to see what you are so excited about!
As soon as she has done her business, bring her immediately back inside the house. Do not let her play outside.
This is an extremely important step in housebreaking puppies. If you take her outside to the bathroom, and then allow her to play outside, she will not remember her purpose in going out in the first place. She needs to associate that the reason for going out is for bathroom purposes and not play.
If you do want her to play outside at that time, then either bring her back inside the house and take her out another door for play time, or wait a few minutes before re-taking her outside to play.
When she is outside for play and naturally relieves herself, I just ignore it. I don't tell her "good girl" at that point, as I believe it doesn't help her in the association of when and what I want her to do.
©Photo Courtesy of C. Lehman
Every time that you get her out of her crate, follow the same routine. Also, within 5 minutes or so, after feeding her, take her outside.
During in house play time, take her outside every 15 to 30 minutes. If you are watching her closely, she will usually but not always, smell for a second and possibility turn around a time or two, right before she is getting ready to go to the bathroom.
Immediately get her attention by saying, "Let's go potty", and then snap her leash on her and run her outside to her designated spot. If she doesn't go this time, just bring her back into the house without praising her and try again later.
This is the beginning process of housebreaking puppies, or what some refer to as house training puppies. It is a process, and will take some time for both of you to adjust to.
As this can be a lot of information to absorb if you are a first time dog owner, I've broken the process into separate articles, housebreaking puppies, and house training puppies.