Training Talk With Leslie Hayes: Housebreaking Your Puppy

Leslie Hayes is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the co-owner of, Inc. and the author of many Positive Reinforcement Dog Training articles. She is also the proud guardian of two curly coat retrievers. Submit your dog training questions to Training Talk via our Contact Us form. Due to the high volume of questions we receive, we cannot respond to everyone.

My 4 month old Chihuahua is still not housebroken. Help! – Michelle, San Diego

Don’t fret, Michelle. Your Chihuahua sounds perfectly normal. Until they are at least four months old, puppies simply do not have the muscle control to hold their bladder. With their super-fast metabolism, toy and tiny breed dogs simply have to “go” more often. Furthermore, many puppies tend to regress when they begin getting their adult teeth in (right around 4 1/2 to 5 months). While short-lived, this regression can be very frustrating!

Having the correct puppy supplies is a great start. One of the best things you can do to help housebreak your puppy is to invest in a Dog Crate or dog pen, also called an Ex Pen. Most dogs avoid soiling where they sleep which is why Crate Training is so effective. By using a crate you are also teaching your puppy self-imposed, self-control and the ability to remain calm and collected when you’re not there.

When you can’t supervise her, your puppy should be in her crate or ex pen so she cannot run in the other room and pee when you’re not looking. Allow for frequent potty breaks (at least every 2-3 hours) and try to take your puppy to the same spot to potty (either outside or on puppy pads). It’s advisable to use a Collar and Leash so that you can make sure your puppy eliminates. You might also consider giving your dog a verbal command like “Get Busy” or “Go Potty” so that you develop a cue system. When your dog does eliminate, give her lots of praise and yummy dog treats and then let her do something fun like play fetch or eat or see her doggy friends. Make sure to potty your dog first thing in the morning, last thing at night, before and after meals and before and after playtime. Sticking to a schedule is a good thing.

Never punish your dog for an accident. This can lead to a dog that is afraid to eliminate in front of you. If your pup does have an accident clean it up as soon as possible and then consider what you could have done to prevent it: “Did I give her enough time to eliminate in the proper spot?” “Was is super cold outside?” “Was it raining outside?” “Did I allow her the opportunity to potty inside when I wasn’t looking?” etc). If you work long hours or travel frequently consider hiring a dog walker or take your pup to doggy day care. Consistency on your part is key to housebreaking your puppy.

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