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Merlee will be 7 months on October 5th. Her last accident in the house was back in July - one of only 2 that month. But I realized they happened because I was relaxing my guard in the house too soon, so I've be ultra-diligent since. She's in a crate or we're outside (and we're outside most of the time since it's summer). And every piddle outside earns her a favorite treat and a big praise party.

I read a couple posts where people said they housebroke their dogs by simply never letting them have an accident, but they didn't say how long they kept that up.

Ok so at what point is the dog housebroken? Seems silly but with Fall in the air and shorter days, I'm starting to wonder how much longer I should continue to never give her any opportunity. Another month?
 

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This will sound really weird, but I knew Tyson was house trained when he started having really, really long pees outside (not the most sophisticated indicator or description, I know). Basically, it signaled to me that he understood that pee happened outside even if he had to go. Still, it was mostly by keeping him confined, closely supervising, and doing my best to prevent accidents.

I couldn't tell you what age. He's not trustworthy for other reasons, so he's (almost) always within sight or crated.
 

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IMO, they are housebroken when they dont have any accidents inside.

Im not talking you were gone 8hrs and come home to a puddle. Thats an accident. Im talking you can be in the living room and not have to worry about the dog finding a corner to pee in.
 

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For me a big indicator is if they find some sort of way to communicate they need to go outside. Maybe that's not reliable because I guess not all dogs will ask to go out, but all mine have lol so that's what I go off of. My puppy *just* turned 4 months old and I've considered him housebroken for at least a month now, he lets me know when he needs to go out (goes and sits by the door) and any accidents are true accidents - and very rare. I can feel comfortable letting him roam the house without my direct supervision.

You'll never really know unless you give freedom. Which is tough I know haha. I'm not super strict during the housebreaking phase, yeah I try to prevent as many accidents as I can of course, but I also give them some free reign so that I can start to recognize and reward any sort of sign they might give me to ask to go outside. By 7 months I definitely expect a good amount of reliability in that department.
 

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You don't ever let accidents happen... they're housebroken when they can tell you they need to go. If the dog chooses to be in discomfort rather than pee inside then you know its housebroken.
 

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I think there's a difference between being house broken, and having full bladder control. I think my puppy was house broken within a few weeks of bringing her home. She was asking to go out, and peeing immediately when we took her out. She knew that she was supposed to pee outside. She still had accidents constantly though, because she was just too young to have much bladder control. She would be in the process of asking to go out and then would just pee right where she was if we weren't quick enough. She still needed to go out every 10min for a while and it was hard for us to keep up with.

At 5.5 months she finally has decent bladder control and she hasn't had an accident in a while, but she sometimes asks to go out twice in an hour and gets pretty frantic about asking if I try to put off taking her out. So while I consider her house broken, because she knows where to go and doesn't go inside if she can help it, her bladder control is still not good enough that I would trust her to hold it in for very long when she has to go.

So yeah, hard to tell or to give a black and white way to know.
 

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With Kuma, it was when he was close to a year old and figured out he could jump the baby gate to the bathroom where we kept him while we were at work. We came home to a loose Pug and no accidents, so he was allowed to be loose after that.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
IMO, they are housebroken when they dont have any accidents inside.

Im not talking you were gone 8hrs and come home to a puddle. Thats an accident. Im talking you can be in the living room and not have to worry about the dog finding a corner to pee in.
Ok, but you *do* see that it really can't be both ways, right? People who say they never let their puppies have accidents had to stop preventing and start trusting at some point. But if there's an accident past that point, then those puppies *aren't* housebroken AND those people can no longer be the ones who claim to have never allowed an accident. So at what point did they start to trust and maybe luck out?

I know every puppy is different, but people must have guidelines in mind. So I'm still wondering if 7 months (coming up in a couple weeks) might be reasonable or maybe give it till 8 months since we probably have another month of decent (non-polar vortex) weather ;)

I appreciate all answers! I'm in a 2-story house now and all living/dining/tv time is upstairs, so she needs to hold it until we can get downstairs and thru 2 rooms to the back door, which is asking a lot for a puppy imo. Hence why I'm trying to gauge a good timeframe for setting her up for success.
 

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Ok, but you *do* see that it really can't be both ways, right? People who say they never let their puppies have accidents had to stop preventing and start trusting at some point. But if there's an accident past that point, then those puppies *aren't* housebroken AND those people can no longer be the ones who claim to have never allowed an accident. So at what point did they start to trust and maybe luck out?
That's what I was getting at in my post. You can have a dog who understands where to use the bathroom, but you still have to wait for the bladder control to kick in. IME, if a dog knows where to go and doesn't have accidents, once the bladder control is there the dog doesn't have accidents in the house. So if you think your dog is house broken, you leave for 5 hours and he's peed on the floor, he's probably too young to be able to hold it that long.

My dogs have full bladder control long before I would trust them to be out of their crates though. When I left my 1.5 year old dog loose in the house I had no worries about his potty training, just about whether he would find something to destroy
 

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Bowie is 7 months and he hasn't made any mistakes since he was 3 months. its down to luck. it must be. Why don't you do a few days of super duper rewards for peeing and pooping outdoors and then start 'trusting'... although i think the whole trust part comes when it has been long enough that nothing has happened. maybe the right word is testing. a pup should definitely have figured it out by 7 months. Bowie is currently working on heel at 7 months. i think you can aim a little higher...
 

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Thanks! Merlee's great in her crate and holds it in for 5-6 hours no problem when I'm at work. But that's not the situation I'm most concerned with: I'm trying to gauge when I can trust her to have freedom in the house while I'm home (especially upstairs, far from the back door) and not have to worry about finding a puddle or seeing her pee in front of me because heading downstairs to the back door is beyond her scope.

Since I'm simply not sure, I continue to crate her at all times when we're upstairs. I'd love to not do that, and that's the magic moment I'm searching for here. Again, setting her up for success is my goal (plus I'd love for her to be able to hang out and watch TV with me :) ).
 

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I think you just have to try it and see. I would let her out right before going upstairs, and then take her out more frequently than you might if you were downstairs. If she's still peeing every time you take her out, keep taking her out. If sometimes she doesn't have to pee at all, then extend the time a bit. There's no real way to know without just giving them incrementally more freedom and stretching the time out little by little.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Bowie is 7 months and he hasn't made any mistakes since he was 3 months. its down to luck. it must be. Why don't you do a few days of super duper rewards for peeing and pooping outdoors and then start 'trusting'... although i think the whole trust part comes when it has been long enough that nothing has happened. maybe the right word is testing. a pup should definitely have figured it out by 7 months. Bowie is currently working on heel at 7 months. i think you can aim a little higher...
Thanks!! Yes, it's the trust part I'm having issue with given the house layout, Merlee's small size (she's 11lbs now), and how much distance there is + stairs and rooms to go through to get to the yard :)

Cobber is now 2.5 and completely trustable, but it was hard even for him to learn all this downstairs and thru 2 rooms to the back door stuff when we moved into this house last fall. He had a few accidents even though he'd been (imo) totally house broken for more than a year in our previous single-story house. I want Merlee to succeed vs me feeling she's backsliding because I didn't wait long enough.

Thanks again, everyone!
 

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Yeah like elrohwen says there's a difference between housebroken and having the ability to control their bladder.
My foster puppy that I got at 5 weeks understood that outside is where she should go pee by 8 weeks, but needed to be let out about every half an hour. She would go to the door and whine or scratch at the door or start barking to ask to go outside, if I mistook her whining as something else she'd still have an accident near the door, but I knew she understood the concept.

Sans was probably 5 or 6 months before I'd say she had complete control over herself. She could last all night from the moment I got her at 3 months. But wouldn't last all day (on occasion) during the four hour periods I was at work. She has never asked to go outside in her entire life so I just tried to take her out regularly and more frequently after eating, but if I wasn't watching and she was doing the tell-tale signs she'd break her No Accident Streak. We actually had it written on the white board in the house how many days she had went without an accident. I lost count at around day 36 just after 5 months and stopped counting.

I gave quite a bit of trust to her though from day one (three months old though, to be fair). I wanted to see where she was at in the whole scheme. Occasionally she'd fool me and have two weeks with zero problems and I'd give her more slack (allow her to go out of my sight, my house is open concept except I can't see into the kitchen from the living room) and she'd have an accident. Back to step 1. Even if you started trusting him tomorrow and he has an accident it's not going to ruin anything. One accident isn't going to remove all the training and practice you've put in thus far.
 

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With my dog Molly, I took it to be a good indicator that she really was housebroken when she started signaling by the door. She starting pacing by the door and staring at me and lately also scratching at the door. I took that to mean that she understands that, if she needs to pee, she needs to go outside and tell me that she needs to go. Another indicator was that Molly stopped sniffing around on the carpet in the house. Sniffing and walking around on the carpet usually meant that she was looking for a spot to pee. She stopped doing that completely. Since you keep your dog confined, however, it seems those indicators would not work for you (since the dog doesn't have a chance to scratch the door, for example). Maybe you can try letting her out of her crate and just watching her closely for a while to see if she walks towards the door or if she starts sniffing around.
 

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Our living situation is the same as your's so I fully understand your dilemma (we have a very precarious staircase so have to carry the dog downstairs). We trained him to use bells on the door to outside then when he was around 7 or 8 months old we decided to risk trusting him and got a set for upstairs which he initially used them to tell us that he wanted to go out. At first we watched him very closely for any signs but he didn't have any accidents so we gradually relaxed. For the last year (he's almost 2.5) he's run to the only door in the upstairs living area and as soon as we acknowledge that he wants out he runs to the top of the stairs and waits to be carried down. We also take them when we go to vacation rentals but he does prefer to go to a door when he wants out.
 

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For me it was when the dog demonstrated both an understanding of where to go and the ability to hold it so as not to go inside. I won't call potty trained based on one without the other, personally. Kylie knew WHERE to go before she was 8 weeks old and demonstrated that by toddling her wobbly self out the open backdoor of the kitchen (where she was restricted because tiny baby bladder). Lack of accidents won't do it, either - neither Kylie nor Molly EVER had an accident. I take the credit for that, not give it to me.

So, yeah. For me it's when the two come together. How do I know those things happen? When the dog interrupts play and makes their way to the backdoor on their own, without being picked up and carried is the start of demonstrating both. (Because getting to the backdoor from downstairs takes some time - they can't notice, yo, I've gotta go' and be there in three steps). After that, I back off slowly, see if they keep making their way that direction, and ultimately stretch out potty breaks I instigate until we're on a schedule.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks again, everyone!

@mcdavis, thanks I appreciate your explanation of the same house setup! Cobber now goes to the top of the stairs and looks at me, and previous dogs have done the same thing in previous 2-story houses. But for the life of me I can't remember at what age they were all able to do this. Plus those were all bigger dogs with bigger bladders. Merlee is the first pocket-pal puppy I've ever had, and things just seem to be progressing differently with her (mostly in a good way).
 
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