Congratulations on your new puppy! A dog can be an amazing addition to your family and a loyal companion for years to come. Housebreaking is something every dog that steps foot indoors will need to know, and if you follow a few simple rules it won't result in too many tears.
The first rule of thumb to remember is that your puppy can "hold it" for about as many hours as months he has been alive. If you have a four-month-old fuzz-ball, he'll need to be taken out to potty about every four hours. This includes at night! It's easy to forget that puppies are babies, and babies need around-the-clock care!
Be consistent. If you are flaky about your rules and something that was a cardinal sin yesterday is "sort of okay" today, but definitely not tomorrow, you are going to confuse the pup. Puppies that are unsure of your rules and direction get stressed out – which leads to accidents and bad behavior. You need to be someone that your dog can look to for the rules, and be steadfast in your directions and training. For example, don't correct your puppy for having an accident on the rug, but then just let a mess on the tile floor slide because it's easy to clean up
Don't use puppy pads or other indoor alternatives! Some dogs will just be confused by this and have trouble learning to pee or poop only in designated areas. Additionally, once they learn to use a newspaper or pad you'll still have to retrain them to go outside. Don't make more work for yourself – train them to go outside from the start.
Do not hit your puppy or rub their face in "it." Unless you actually catch your dog in the act, he will likely have no idea why he's being punished. If you do catch them in the act, a loud and sharp "No!" coupled with placing them in the appropriate area should be your first reaction. However, it's obviously best to avoid this situation all together by properly training them in the first place.
One important training method is crate training. Contrary to what some new dog owners believe, crate training is not cruel "puppy jail". The truth is that dogs aren't humans. In the wild, dogs make dens where they can snuggle up; domesticated dogs also prefer to have an area where they can go for safety and comfort. The crate should NEVER be used as punishment, not matter how angry you may find yourself over damage caused by an energetic pup. The crate should be small enough that the puppy doesn't feel like it's okay to poop on one end and sleep on the other. You want to encourage him to wait a little, but not too long – remember that your puppy is a baby and still has a very small bladder! If you have a large breed dog, invest in a crate with adjustable dividers. In the crate, your dog should be able to stand up, turn around, lie down, and stretch out. Give her something to do while she's in there – chew toys can be a great distraction and provide comfort for dogs of all ages.
When you are around to supervise your dog, it's OK to let them out of the crate – but don't let them wander too far (or you may end up with a "surprise" in the corner!) Try using an inexpensive baby gate to confine him to an area where he can be easily observed, or put him on a long leash tied to your belt. This way, you can take the puppy out often without risking him getting lost or feeling scared by new surroundings, which can lead to accidents.
When you do take your puppy out to go to the bathroom, be sure to praise her when she finally does her business. Get excited! Dogs respond well to encouragement and kindness from their owners, so be sure to shower your pup with affection to insure they learn that going outside is what you want. A treat may even be in order for such a good dog.
Housebreaking your puppy can be easy if you remember to be consistent, and always remind yourself that your puppy is still a baby. With proper supervision, crate training, and positive reinforcement when they start to get good habits, your puppy will be housebroken in no time!