The ideal time to start housetraining a puppy is 8-10 weeks of age, but any dog of any age can be housetrained if its human is consistent, positive, and patient. There are 4 ground rules for housetraining:
Never leave an untrained puppy unsupervised.
Feed on a consistent daily schedule (no free feeding).
Reward your puppy for good behavior.
Do not punish mistakes.
Always establish the same verbal clues during housetraining so that no matter where you are, you can give your dog the verbal clue to relieve himself. The first step is to find an outdoor grassy space you can consistently take your puppy to when it’s potty time. The puppy will begin to associate the smell and surface of his potty spot with elimination. Not only can most puppies at 8 weeks start to make these important mental connections, but they are also better able to control when and where they relieve themselves.
Housetraining your puppy is a two-phase Process
(1) He must learn to relieve himself in the designated spot, and then he must learn to hold his urine and feces until he's in that spot. Crates are the quickest and easiest way to house train a dog. Dogs are den dwellers by nature. Under normal circumstances, they enjoy and seek out small, safe, warm spaces in which to rest and feel protected against prey. If you provide your pup with his own little den in the form of a crate, and there's nothing forceful or punishing about his association with it, he'll learn to love it. Nature has arranged it such that a small, enclosed area will help your puppy learn conscious control of his urge to eliminate. In the wild, mother wolves teach their litters to potty outside the den. If you provide your puppy with his own den, you're working in harmony with his natural desire not to soil it. Other uses for a crate include keeping your pet safe from a long list of dangers and potential disasters — everything from electrical cords to the cat's food bowl to houseguests with small children.
Your puppy’s mother and breeder have already trained him not to eliminate in the area where he sleeps. Therefore, confining him in his crate encourages him to “hold it.” The key is to make the crate small enough in the beginning that he can only curl up and lay down. If the crate is too big, he will simply go to the back of the crate to eliminate. While you are crate training the puppy, be patient and expect accidents. Reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior! Introduce your puppy to his crate the first day he arrives home. The best time is when he’s tired. You can put treats and toys inside the crate, which will entice him to go in on his own. When he enters the crate give him a lot of praise. You can use a special word or phrase for his crate such as “go to crate” or “go to bed” and he will soon understand.
Your puppy will most likely NOT like the crate in the beginning. He will whine/cry for you to come and get him out. It’s critical that if you know the puppy has just eliminated and is only crying because he wants to be with you, you ignore the crying. It only takes 3 or 4 days for the puppy to get used to the crate and learn to love it. If you give in to the crying, it is game over. The puppy will always know that crying will get him out of the crate whether he needs to eliminate or not.
If you are using the crate for more than two hours at a time, make sure the puppy has fresh water, preferably in a dispenser you can attach to the crate.
Dogs are social animals, so the ideal location for a crate is in a room full of activity. By making the crate comfortable your pet will enjoy his new room while still being part of the family. Keep the crate in your common living area during the day so he can be part of the family activities. If possible, move the crate to your bedroom at night or get a second crate for sleeping. Dogs instinctively want to sleep near their pack. This will also allow you to correct him if he gets fussy in his crate. A crate is a very natural, normal habitat for a dog, providing your pup doesn't associate it with punishment. You never want to put your puppy in a crate as punishment.
(2) Feed Your Dog on a Schedule: A puppy normally needs to eliminate after eating, playing, and waking from a nap. As a general guideline, puppies can “hold it” one hour for every month of age, up to 8 hours. If you're feeding your dog or puppy on a consistent once-, twice- or three-times-a-day schedule (depending on his age), you know that within 30 minutes to an hour after eating, he'll need to go potty. Feeding your dog on a schedule makes potty breaks much more predictable and allows you to exercise more control over the situation. The more opportunities you give your pup to succeed in relieving himself outside, the faster he'll be housetrained.
(3) Reward your dog for good behavior — In order to successfully potty train your dog, it's crucial that you reward for good behavior, and praise him in ways he understands. Timing is also very important here. Your dog will pick up cues from the tone of your voice. If you're saying things like "Good boy," "That's what I'm looking for," and "Nice job," in a quiet, loving, calm tone immediately after he goes, you're reinforcing that behavior.
Almost all dogs speak the language of food, so treats are also a good reward during the housetraining process. When your dog eliminates in the right spot outside, praise him with words and give him a treat within 1 to 3 seconds of the behavior. Remember that consistency is crucial, so make sure you have treats with you to reward him within 3 seconds every time he goes in the right spot. You can use pieces of chicken or kibble. Another easy treat is small pieces of Kraft American Cheese slices.
After a short time, he'll recognize that he makes you happy when he eliminates outside, and in return, he receives a reward. You want to reinforce that good behavior every time it happens, and there's no better reward in the beginning than food treats. Food rewards are typically only necessary for a short time before both puppy and adult dogs respond to praise alone. Once your dog is fully housetrained, you can completely eliminate the need for treats if you wish, and offer just verbal praise instead.
(4) Don't punish your dog for mistakes — No shouting, absolutely no physical contact, and never, ever rub your dog's nose in his mess. For many people, this can be the most difficult rule to follow, but I can't stress enough how important it is.
Of course, it's frustrating when your four-legged family member just doesn't seem to want to get with the program. But to successfully housetrain your pup, you must avoid punishing any type of mistake. And mistakes are going to happen. Always clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleanser rather than an ammonia-based cleaner to minimize odors that might attract the puppy back to the same spot.
For example, sometimes first thing in the morning puppies will dutifully pee outside, but because their bladders are still developing, they don't realize there's still urine in there, and 10 minutes after they've done their business outside, they finish the job inside.
If this is happening to you, you must be smarter than your puppy. Take him out in the morning and then five minutes later take him back out again to get rid of the rest of the urine in his bladder.
It's important to adjust your attitude toward your dog when it comes to housetraining mistakes. First, don't give him a chance to fail. But when he does, recognize that your response sets the stage for everything that happens after. If you respond negatively, you teach your puppy to fear you. There's a good chance he'll respond in the future by going into another room out of your line of sight to potty, rather than learning to trust you and tell you when he needs to go outside. The pup will know you're upset at him, but he won't know why. He'll feel confused, and scared. From your dog's point of view, you're the center of his universe. It's really important that you role model trust as the foundational emotion in your. relationship.
It's important that every situation pertaining to housetraining is very positive. In short, you can't punish or frighten a pup into appropriate behavior. The important thing to remember is by the time your dog is relieving himself on your floor, your opportunity for a successful potty break outside has passed. Ensuring you're doing your part in helping your dog succeed is the most vital aspect of housetraining.
Establishing Verbal Clues: When it's time for your dog's morning potty break, grab some treats, put him on his leash, and bring him to a specific spot each time. Give him about 5 minutes to do his business. That's usually enough time for him to sniff around and decide to go. If you take him to his spot and he does everything but relieves himself, it's a good sign he's not going to do his business this trip. What you want to do in this case is bring him right back to his crate (or another confined space) and close the door to prevent him from roaming loose in your house with a full bladder and colon. That's a setup for him to fail, and the goal of housetraining is a success, not failure. In 10 or 15 minutes, treats in hand, take him back outside to his spot and let him try again. You shouldn't have to repeat this more than once before your pup really needs to go and will but be prepared just in case to go back and forth to the potty spot a few times.
Don't make the mistake of assuming if he doesn't relieve himself when you take him out the first time that he doesn't need to go. He needs to go, especially first thing in the morning. He should either be in his crate or outside in his potty spot until he has done his morning business. When he goes, mark his behavior with a verbal cue. For example, the second your pup begins to pee, say "go potty" in a low, reassuring tone. This marks the behavior you want. What you're doing is associating in your dog's mind the words "go potty" with the act of relieving herself. "Go poo" or some other short phrase is a good verbal cue for pooping.
Eventually, you'll be able to take your pup to a spot — ideally, any spot of your choosing whether at home or elsewhere — and give the verbal cue you've chosen, and as if by magic, he'll deliver! Within 3 seconds of your pup finishing his business, you must give him a treat and say, "good job." Give him a couple more treats and continue to praise him before you go back inside. Don't wait until you're back inside to give your dog a treat, because you'll teach him to associate coming back indoors with treats rather than relieving himself outside. That's why it's critically important that you remember the treats when you take him outside, and then reward him within 3 seconds after he completes the desired behavior.
If You Have a Fenced Yard: If you have a fenced and safe backyard, you can simply let your pup out on his own to relieve himself. However, I don't recommend you do this at the beginning. Number one, it's important to monitor your puppy's "output," his poop, in particular, to check for signs of diarrhea or ingestion of nonfood items like tree bark, rocks, or sticks. Puppies do like to chew, as we know. Number two, it's impossible to establish a verbal "go potty" cue if you're inside and he's outside. And finally, you can't give him a food reward within 3 seconds if you're in different places. More importantly, however, puppies that are 4 pounds or less can easily be picked up by a hawk or an owl. I recommend that you keep your puppy on one a leash. Don’t think that because you are in the backyard with your puppy that your presence will deter a hawk or owl from swooping down and picking up your pup.
Training Your Puppy to an Indoor Washable Pee Pad
What if you work or need to be gone for several hours: Many people housetrain their puppies using puppy training pads. I don't recommend disposable pads, as puppies love to shred them. They do sell plastic frames for them, but they really don't work all that well. They do sell cloth pee pads much like the hospital pads they put underneath the sheets to protect the mattress. These pads come in different sizes and colors.
My dogs are double trained to use the pee pads in the house and to also go outside through the doggy door. This is particularly great when the weather is bad outside or when you are going to be gone for a long period of time. Inside your puppy book is a flyer for the pee pads that we purchase from Lenny Pads. These pads hold a lot of urine, protect your floors, and are washable and durable. I prefer the green plaid pads for multiple reasons; They don’t show pee stains like a white pad, and the dog comes to associate the plaid color with where they are supposed to eliminate; Lenny Pad Link
When you are home, and you see your puppy go into his "pre-potty" routine - sniffing the floor, circling an area, etc., gently pick him up and place him on the pad. When you are at work, you can place the crate inside a bathtub. Leave the crate door open and place the pee pad in front of the crate. Simple Solutions makes “ Potty Training Aid”, which you can spray on the center of the pad to encourage the puppy to go. If your puppy has an accident in the tub, flip the pee pad over and use it to clean up the accident. Pups love to pee in the same place. Having his own urine on the pad will encourage him to pee there again. Place water and toys at the opposite end of the bathtub. After a few days, you can take the crate and the pad out of the bathtub and place them on the tile floor of the bathroom. Keep moving the pee pad further and further from the crate door. Make sure you take up all rugs and other chewable items off the tile floor.
Every time you leave your home for the first 2-3 weeks you can place your pup in the bathtub or bathroom with the crate, toys, water, and a Lenny Pad. Eventually, the pup will be double trained to both indoor pee pads and outdoors.
Double Door Crate: If you purchase this crate you will need to make the inside of the crate smaller in the beginning. You can find a plastic box that will fit inside and make it smaller.
This crate will also travel well in your car as you can run the seat belt through the carry handle on top of the crate. Soft-sided crates are not a good idea except for airline travel.
Wire Crate: Make sure you get the one that has a divider inside. They also sell covers for the wire crates to make it darker at night.
If you live in a high-rise apartment there are several options.
For example, the one below. You can also make your own area using grass pallets. There are also companies that will give you the box, and then come every week or two and change out the grass for a "fee".
Flow Chart of when to Take Your Puppy Outside
Potty training is the cornerstone to a happy and rewarding bond between a dog and its owner. Not only does it make life easier for all, but the sense of satisfaction enjoyed by both dog and owner alike is the cornerstone to building a solid foundation of trust and respect.
The good news about miniature schnauzers is that they are highly intelligent and catch on to potty training quite quickly.