You may love the smell of puppy breath but may not be too fond of the "eau de toilet" smell coming from the other end. At 6 weeks, puppies are peeing and pooping machines, but fortunately there are strategies to save your carpet from unsightly yellow and brown "decorations."
Determine if you really want to take home a 6-week-old puppy. Generally, puppies should stay with their mother and litter mates until they are at least 8 weeks old. A study conducted by veterinarians L. Pierantoni, M. Albertini and F. Pirrone found that puppies removed from their mothers and litter mates and adopted out between the ages of 30 and 40 days were more likely to develop behavioral problems than puppies adopted out at 60 days.
Set up realistic expectations. Consider that 6-week-old puppies are still not able to control those muscles responsible for allowing them to "hold it," according to Dog Breed Info Center. However, don't despair yet; even though puppies generally get better at this once they are about 12 weeks of age, you can still introduce some basics that will help make the house-training process smoother.
Organize a plan to help set your puppy up for success. Your puppy should always be either in an area with you, so you can you actively watch him, or outside with you, going potty. If you must leave home and are unable to actively watch your puppy, don't leave him in a crate; at 6 weeks, and with little bladder and bowel control, he will need to eliminate and will be forced to lie in his mess. At this age, your puppy may do better in a small barricaded area or playpen where he can eliminate as needed. Although your final goal is to train your puppy to eliminate outdoors, it is normal for him to have a few mishaps in the beginning.
Set up a small area for your puppy by closing off a corner of your home with baby gates or using a small exercise pen. Ideally, at 6 to 7 weeks old, you should create an area 8 feet by 10 feet for a small-breed puppy, or a larger area for a larger breed. Choose an area with an easy-to-clean surface in case of accidents; vinyl floors are generally easier to clean than carpets and hardwood floors. Create distinct areas for eating, sleeping and eliminating. Puppies by nature tend to avoid soiling the areas where they eat, sleep or play.
Establish a feeding and elimination routine. By feeding your puppy at the same time each day you'll develop a routine so what goes in at a certain time comes out at a certain time. More predictable poops and pees will help protect your nest from messes and will speed up the house-training process.
Learn how to recognize early pre-potty signs. When a puppy is playing and suddenly stops, he may be starting to search for an area to potty. Same goes with sniffing, circling and whining. These signs become more and more evident as the puppy grows and attains better bladder and bowel control.
Make frequent trips outside. Generally, the younger the puppy, the more trips you will need to make. Consider that puppies under the age of 6 weeks usually need to be taken outdoors every 30 to 45 minutes, whereas puppies between 6 and 12 weeks of age may need to be taken every hour, according to the Housebreaking Bible.
Keep treats near your door. When you take your puppy outdoors to eliminate, make sure you carry some out with you. Throw a party by praising lavishly and immediately rewarding your pooch with a tasty treat when he successfully eliminates outside. With time and repetition, Scruffy will learn that great things happen when he uses the outdoors for elimination purposes.
- Journal of the British Veterinary Association; Prevalence of Owner Reported Behaviors in Dogs Separated From the Litter at Two Different Ages; L. Pierantoni et al.
- Dog Breed Info Center: Housebreaking Your New Puppy
- Dog Breed Info Center: Puppies at 3 to 3 ½ Weeks
- The Housebreaking Bible: Puppy Housebreaking Questions
- petMD: House Training Your Puppy
- Take your puppy out immediately after he sleeps, plays, eats or drinks.
- Because puppies are less active in the night, they generally can hold it for a longer period.
- If you work outside the home, the ideal solution is to hire a dog walker or pet sitter so your puppy gets his deserved potty breaks.
- Quickly clean up any messes in your home with an enzyme-based cleaner. These are available at pet stores.
- Once your puppy attains better bladder and bowel control, you can introduce him to a crate.
- Some state laws restrict the sales of puppies under a certain age.
- Avoid using products containing ammonia to clean up messes.
- Puppies purchased from pet stores or adopted from shelters are known for being more challenging to housebreak.
- Punishing your puppy for soiling is an absolute no-no. You'll just confuse or even scare him and make training harder.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.