The Down & Dirty Of Housebreaking Littermates [How To Potty Train Multiply Dogs At Once]

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What’s harder than housebreaking one dog? Housebreaking two dogs. Yep you read that right. I recently took on the insanely maddening task of housebreaking littermate puppies.*

*If you’d like more information about the challenges and possible risks of raising littermates check out my previous post here > Littermate Syndrome: Fact Or Fiction.

And it was little bit of what you were thinking and a LOT of structure. So today I’m going to breakdown the steps to housebreaking multiple dogs at once.

Whether you are training one dog or two, this is one blog post you don’t want to miss!

How to Housebreak littermates.  Twin chihuahua puppies, one black and one tan sit in an oversized armchair looking at the camera.

What Supplies Do I Need To Housebreak A Dog?

First things first, before diving into puppy ownership there are a couple of housebreaking supplies that I highly recommend you get before your puppy even arrives. 

Potty Training Supplies For Dogs:

  1. A crate
  2. Puppy Pee Pads
  3. Small Treats
  4. Specialized Urine & Pet Stain Cleaning Solutions
  5. Lots and lots of patience

Now that you have the necessary supplies to start training, let’s talk about why each of these items are essential for potty training puppies.

Dog Crates

I know, I know. Many of you just cringed when I mentioned using a dog crate. You hate the idea of putting your puppy in “doggie jail” and can’t stand the thought of confining your dog to such a small space.

So before you click out to some other potty training post, hear me out.  And since there is such an aversion to pet crates, I’m going to spend some extra time in this one.

Dogs are naturally den animals. They love cozy little spaces where they can hunker down and feel safe.  When using dog crates that is exactly the environment you want to invoke for your puppy.

So get a crate that is big enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around in, but not big enough from him to eliminate on one side and stay high and dry on the other side.

When crate training dogs, it’s important to associate the crate as a cozy little den where your dog goes to chill and sleep.  You can accomplish this by inserting some fluffy (and highly washable) pet beds into the crate.*

*For recommendations on my favorite pet beds for housebreaking puppies please see this previous post: “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie [Our 5 Favorite Pet Beds.

As you progress through training with your dog, you will be grateful for the association that your puppy will begin to make which is - “As soon as mom lets me out the crate, I go to the potty.”

Dog crates also lessen the likelihood of accidents overnight when used properly AND they really can be a temporary solution.

If you hate the thought (and look) of pet crates, there are a couple of things you can do.  You definitely can retire them once your dog has been fully housebroken.  In my experience, I’ve always waited until sometime in year two of training before trying out crateless overnight sleeping solutions. But that’s just me.

Or you can upgrade them to more aesthetically pleasing models.  Or you can do what I did, which is seek to disguise them within other pieces of furniture like I did.  I simply measured The Twins’ crates and then placed them under an upholstered bench. 
Standard size dog kennel recommended for potty training small dogs

Puppy Pee Pads

Whether your intent is to train your dog to eliminate outside or via another apartment appropriate indoor solution, having these pee pads around will make it easier for your puppy in the beginning. Especially since tiny puppies, have tiny bladders which can make them very accident prone.

Puppy pee pads have a smelly formatted scent in the fabric which at as a big “PEE HERE” sign.

This will be especially useful if you aren’t fast enough to get your dog outside or even when you have moved to the stage of leaving your dog free to roam the home when you’re away.

Small Treats

Stock up on pint sized treats. Why?  Because every single time your puppy eliminates in the designated area you are going to throw them the biggest mini party.  We are talking sparkler level celebrations complete with high pitched squeals, two-legged doggie dances and “bottle-service” treats.

So you’ll want to make sure the reward treats are bite sizes since you will be showering your dog with them literally all day.

Bit sized dog kibble for housebreaking dogs.

Specialized Pet Stain & Urine Cleaning Solutions

This is a critical supply item. No matter how smart your dog is or how diligent you are, sooner or later you are going to have yourself a pet stain.  It could be an overly excited to see you sprinkle or a you didn’t move fast enough shower.

Either way, when cleaning pet stains it’s critical to break down any enzymes which may be left on the surface. Something that looks and smells fresh to you could be a “you can pee here like last time if you need to” Bat Signal to your dog.

So clean all pet stains correctly the first time with a specially formatted cleaner.

Pet Urine and Stain Cleaning Solution For Housebreaking

Patience…Oh So Much Patience

This one is more for you than the dog. Proper housebreaking is not a race. Some dogs pick it up faster than others. I even saw that with The Twins. Delilah took to it right away and then relapsed later. Dylan was dimmed the Pee Pad Missing King for a long time because he just never seemed to get it right. And then suddenly one day it clicked.

The key is to be patient, positive and persistent. Don’t give up. You got this!

How To Use A Puppy Housebreaking Schedule

Whether you are potty training one dog or several the basics are the same.  The faster YOU are consistent, the faster your dog will get it right. Periodt. That’s the long and short of it.

All of those other blog posts that you are reading entitled “How To Housebreak Your Dog In 7 Days” are going to say the same thing. You must be consistent.

So if that means for your situation you need to take a week off of work, take it. If you aren’t in a race to get it done, then you’ll use the above tools and consistency to help your puppy get it right.

You need a system. And here it is: bookend every activity your puppy does with a potty break. What does that look like?

Puppy Potty Training

Recommended training schedule for housebreaking multiple puppies


Anytime puppy doesn’t eliminate after any of these activities, wait 10 minutes and then try again.

How To Use Pet Crates For Dog Housebreaking

Any seasoned dog mom will tell you that trying to communicate structure to a brand new puppy can be a wee bit challenging.  Crate training can help with that.

After adding a cozy bed into your dog’s kennel, I highly recommend adding an old T-shirt of yours into the crate and also covering the top and sides of the crate with a blanket or crate cover.

The t-shirt will help you puppy to settle into the crate more easily since it smells of you and the cover over the top will give it more den-like vibes.

When you bring your puppy home, I highly suggest her first stop be a accident-friendly flooring surface.  In my case, the kitchen was the best place for the twins to hang out during the day.  That’s because my kitchen is tiled, so cleaning up messes is a breeze.  Also, it allows for the use of puppy gates to keep the Twins in a confined area.

During the day, I set up two crates in the kitchen with the doors open along with pee pads.  In order to make the transition to eliminating outside easier, I placed the pee pads by the back door in the kitchen.  This way the puppies got used to going to that area when they have use the bathroom.

Consistency is the only way your dog will learn the housebreaking ropes.

Later on in their housebreaking training, once they were reliably going to the pee pad to eliminate (and they were better at holding their bladders), I would open the back door right before they used the bathroom and have them use the bathroom outside instead.

And of course they would get TWO treats for going outside!

In addition to using the above mentioned schedule, anytime one of The Twins made use of the pee pads on their own, I would also give them a treat.

Allowing them to play and roam in the kitchen, helped them to get used to going in and out of their open crates at their leisure.  And having old tshirts with my scent on them in the crates, made being in the crates feel more secure.

This comfort level with the crates also made it easier for The Twins to adjust to sleeping in the crates in the evening.

Bedtime Housebreaking Recommendations For Puppies

It should be noted that in order to help the puppies avoid overnight accidents in the crates, I personally did not give them access to any food or water starting 3 hours before bedtime.

I also made sure to keep The Twins active up until an hour before bedtime — having them eliminate several times during this period.

Every evening at 7pm a wind down period begins in my home where all of the dogs are expected to settle in and relax. At 8pm every evening for a whole year, I had the puppies eliminate one more time before placing them in their cozy crates for the night and covering both of them entirely with blankets.

During wind down time, I would move the crates into the sleeping area for the night.  And once the puppies were inside the crates, I would cover them with their blankets.

Now that The Twins are housebroken, their crates are permanently placed in the sleep area under an upholstered bench.  I waited until there no accidents for at least 30 days before making this transition.  
You can place dog crates under an upholstered bench to make them more aesthetically pleasing but still functional.

Additional Benefits Of This Littermate Housebreaking Plan A Year Later

After using this system for over a year later with The Twins several things have happened.  Every morning all of my dogs know to go straight to the bathroom as soon as they wake up.

They all know where the bathroom is and regularly go to the designated area even when I’m not home.

Puppy gates helped the dogs learn which rooms are doggy play areas and which ones are not.

Pet accidents are a rarity though they do still happen occasionally if someone gets overly excited.

The Twins now put themselves to bed before 8pm every night. That’s right. Through routine, they learned where their crates are and go there to relax before bedtime.

At 8pm, I close the crates and tuck them in.

And that’s how you housebroke littermates, or just one puppy, at the same time.

Happy housebreaking!