If you’ve ever had a new puppy, you might have struggled to housebreak them. Puppies and sometimes older dogs, such as little dogs, are harder to housebreak than others. So, if you have a little dog, you may have noticed that they take a while to learn the ropes.
Why are little dogs so hard to housebreak? There are many theories as to why little dogs like to go potty inside the house:
- In their early days, they go potty inside
- They often get carried to their potty spot.
- They need to go more frequently than big dogs.
- Owners let them get away with it because they are cute, and their accidents are tiny.
No matter what theory or combination of theories you subscribe to, the fact of the matter is, little dogs tend to be hard to housebreak. So, then, how do you successfully housebreak them?
Reasons Little Dogs Are Hard to Housebreak
There may be different reasons depending on the dog, as to why they are hard to housebreak.
1. They get used to going potty inside.
One possibility dogbreedinfo.com points out, is that they were raised in a small box by their breeder and “they do not learn at a young age that there is a place to eat, sleep and a separate place to eliminate.” Bigger dogs are let out because they simply can no longer fit in that little box, but small dogs aren’t generally let out.
2. They often get carried to their potty spot.
Another possibility is that the owner of the dog is picking the dog up, carrying them directly to their potty spot, and then picking them back up and bringing them inside. This is a fatal flaw in housebreaking because the dogs need to walk to the spot on their own.
They need to learn how to recognize they need to go pee and that they need to get to the pee area on their own. Constantly picking up your dog and not letting it walk around on its own makes them not able to communicate with you that they have to do their business.
They may not even be able to recognize the urge themselves because they are constantly being prompted by the owner. They not only need to walk to the area to pee to themselves, but they need to learn to signal you by themselves.
3. They need to go more frequently than big dogs.
Little dogs may be harder to housebreak that they are so small that waste moves through them faster than larger dogs. So, they might need more trips outside worked into their routine.
4. Owners let them get away with it because they are cute, and their accidents are tiny.
Also, if you let a small dog get away with going in the house because it’s so small or they’re so cute, they learn that they can go with little to no punishment.
If a dog is constantly getting away with going in the house because of these reasons, they can be default be harder to housebreak than big dogs. If a big dog went number two on the carpet, it would make a much bigger mess than a small dog. So, people tend to not care as much or let the dog get away with it more because of their size.
So, we have some rational reasons a little pup may be making regular accidents in the house. Now, let’s talk about how to help fix that.
How to Potty Train A Small Dog
You can’t train smaller dogs in the same way you train big ones. If you let your dog out into tall grass, they can feel lost and confused in this overwhelming environment. This is why seeing the world how they see it is important.
There are a few important things you can do the same, no matter what size your dog:
Stick to a routine
Having a routine, where your dog goes potty at specific times, can help them realize that they only should be doing their business within these hours. As opposed to just peeing whenever they want to, inside your house.
Have a mantra
ODT suggests that having a word or phrase you repeat to your dog will encourage them to go to the bathroom. If before they go out, you always say “let’s go potty” to them, they learn to associate the leash, or the back door, with being able to go to the bathroom once taken outside. They start to learn what you’re communicating, which is: It’s time to “go!”
Potty time is not playtime
Not petting and distracting your dog once they are outside is important. The reason that you don’t want to do this while housebreaking them is that you want to teach them that this time outside is for potty. Not playtime, because if they think it’s time to goof around, they won’t want to go to the bathroom. There’s a reason we call this “their business!”
Tips and Tricks to Housebreaking A Small Dog
Now that you know the basics of how to potty train any dog, there are some special clues here about what can be done to give special encouragement to a small dog.
- The first thing that helps is when you take them outside, to bring them to go potty in a non-busy environment. If there is a lot of noise and other dogs and distracting things, especially when first being housebroken, they will focus more on these things and not want to go to the bathroom. Bringing your dog to a secluded, quiet spot is ideal for the best results.
- If the weather is bad, remember that small dogs can’t keep themselves warm as well as big dogs. Especially if they have a short coat, as even big dogs like greyhounds with super short coats need help in the cold. So, if it’s extra chilly outside, putting a sweater on your dog will help them greatly, it’s also recommended to use an umbrella if you can for them if it’s pouring or having them go on potty sheets under a covered sidewalk.
- Try not to get frustrated with your dog – they are really small and easily frightened. So, if you get really mad at your dog, they might be encouraged to go potty in the house as to not “bother” you with going outside. This is when a routine helps, where they know they can go pee no matter how mad you are. Also, some dogs pee themselves if you yell at them out of fear, and that doesn’t help either one of you.
- If you are potty training your dog inside the house and not outside, then having a specific, almost blocked off, area is crucial. They can’t think the entire house is a free zone to go potty in. When their potty space is no more than some pads on the ground, they might think the whole house is equivalent because it all looks the same. This means gating a little area with the potty pads would be a better solution.
- Here’s a great routine for your little pup:
- Number one and two in the morning
- Number one in the early afternoon
- Number one and two late afternoon
- Number one and two at night
- Of course, you’ll make little adjustments to this, depending on your dog and how often they seem to need to have a bowel movement. But, heed this advice: it needs to be at least once a day.
- Offer positive reinforcement! Having a treat hidden with you to give to celebrate when they’ve gone potty and telling them they’re a good girl/boy provides them the encouragement they need. This reinforces them to know that they are doing a good job when they go potty in the space you want them to.If they don’t get treats when peeing in the wrong spot, they will realize one is better than the other and prefer the one they get a treat in.
Note: Keep an eye on a small dog outside. If you have a fenced-in backyard and you let them out alone, you need to make sure to watch them in case a large bird or animal tries to get to them. They can feel unsafe if they end up getting attacked outside, where they are supposed to be relaxed enough to go potty.
Which Small Dog Is Easiest to Housebreak?
Small dogs are arguably as hard as puppies to housebreak, so you might be wondering if there are any easy small dogs to housebreak? They all have their difficulties but there are definitely some that are easier than others.
Terriers are known for their intelligence and good manners across the board. Here are a few that have high marks for being easy to train.
- AUSTRALIAN TERRIER
This is a super easy dog to housebreak. These types of dogs tend to be very independent which is good for their owners because it means they can manage on their own faster. They are hardworking and tenacious so learning a new trick such as potty training is easy for them.
- BEDLINGTON TERRIER
These types of dogs are energetic and smart. A smarter dog means an easier time with housebreaking, no matter what the size. They are easy to train and are good companions so they will want to please you and go in the right spot.
- BORDER TERRIER
Border terriers are alert and friendly. They are bred actually to hunt foxes and be outside in the open. So, bringing them out to train is relatively easy and they should adapt to the new schedule fairly soon.
- BOSTON TERRIER
Bostons are affectionate and smart. These dogs have a good temper and will listen to you when you tell them to go.
- FOX TERRIER
Another fox hunting dog on this list is named after their history as the fox terrier. Another terrier down on the books as a good dog to train. They are traditionally show dogs as well do they are used to performing and going out to potty to housebreak them is another performance if you think about it.
Other Small Breeds
- BICHON FRISE
Very cheerful and loving. These cuddly dogs will want to grab your attention, and please you. You’ll find no matter who is working with this dog they will love their personality. This good-mannered dog will work hard to learn the proper place to do their business.
- BRUSSELS GRIFFON
Fun fact, this little breed of dog was actually bred to hunt rats. They are very strange looking but don’t let that discourage you from them. These dogs are further down the list but aren’t the hardest to housebreak.
- CHINESE CRESTED DOG
These are alert, happy dogs that love to please their masters. Praising them when they do a good job peeing outside and not inside, will be essential for these babies.
The cockapoo is well-loved by many. This cute curly-haired dog is affectionate and kind. They’re easy to carry and cuddle and if you’d rather use training potty pads, they are still small enough to use them.
- KING CHARLES SPANIEL
Full name, Cavalier King Charles spaniel. This little smart dog is always happy, wagging its tail at your attention. When housetraining this dog, the main focus will be distraction factors.
Are Small Dogs Impossible to Housebreak?
It may feel like your small dog is pretty much impossible to housebreak, especially if you are, or have been, having a hard time with them. But don’t worry, small dogs are not impossible to housebreak. If your dog has a bladder issue, it may be beyond you and taking them to the vet to get medication is a possibility.
This is one thing to think about if you are doing everything right and they still seem to be having accidents. Making sure your dog is doing well and having them taken to the vet if the problem seems to not be able to be controlled can be the solution you need.
Small dogs without such problems are, of course, not impossible to housebreak so patience and determination in combination with these other factors will help you accomplish this task.
Try not to give up on housebreaking your dog and if they don’t want to go outside, they also make indoor potty pads for puppies that you can use for your dog in transition. Having a small plot of grass in a low raised, and big, puppy area in a garage can also be an alternative solution.
What If My Small Dog Has A Bladder Problem?
If you suspect the reason it’s so hard to housebreak your small dog is because of a bladder issue, you want to make sure to bring them to the vet as soon as you can. This isn’t a life or death issue if newly discovered, but you might find your dog needs medication to keep their waste in.
Medication for bladder issues usually can be crushed up for your dog and put on some bread by simply dipping the bread in water and getting the medicine to stick to it. You want to feed your dog the bread in small pieces, so they don’t choke or get sick. Some people debate using peanut butter to get the medicine to stick. But heed your vet’s recommended method.
Take care of your dogs’ issues right away if you find out that they need surgery. The most important thing besides house training them is their health.
The Take Away
Owners of small dogs do tend to need additional patience when it comes to potty-training. But house training isn’t an easy task for any dog owner. Your small dog will get the hang of it as long as you are persistent, patient, and regular in your training.
In addition to that, make sure you are offering your pup plenty of positive reinforcement in the form of affection, praise and treats. We all learn better when we feel we are doing well! And dogs especially love to please their people. Show them you are pleased, and the road will be much smoother.