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dog running with training ball

Housebreaking the Easy Way

The most important aspect of housebreaking a dog is the use of excellent management. Management involves the general care and supervision of the dog…control the dog’s environment to prevent mistakes (accidental training) until your training can install the behaviors you want in your dog. In this case eliminating outside.

Teach your dog to eliminate on cue (choose a word that the dog is unlikely to hear in everyday conversation) take your puppy/dog to his chosen elimination area on leash and wait…as soon as your dog begins to eliminate say your word, praise enthusiastically and give a small treat. Don’t play outside or begin your walk until the dog eliminates–once your dog eliminates then you may play with the dog, begin your walk etc. as your dog’s reward for a good performance. Many dogs become ‘trained’ not to eliminate quickly because as soon as they do they are scooted back inside again–they learn to ‘hold out’ for more time outside or for longer walks. Many puppies are so distracted by being outside they forgot what they were out there for. So go outside with your untrained puppy/dog everytime preferably on leash…taking them to their elimination area. Praise and food treat.

If your dog fails to eliminate:

Take him back inside. DO NOT allow him to have unsupervised time in your house, that’s asking for a mistake! Bring him in and put him in his crate or tether him to a table leg or even to you…wait 10 minutes and then re-try. Back outside and to his elimination area if the dog eliminates praise and cookies! He may now have some less strictly supervised free time in the house.

You must not allow an untrained puppy/dog out of your sight…train your dog to follow you around in the house. Supervision means one eye on the untrained dog all the time–use a crate, ex-pen whenever the dog cannot be supervised or one can actually have the dog on leash and attached to you so that when you move the dog will need to follow.

Create a signal so that your dog has a way of letting you know he needs to eliminate. I prefer to use bells hanging on the doorknob that the dog uses to go outside. Take your dog/puppy to the door say something like ‘want to go outside?’ in a very excited tone of voice…either hit the bells yourself or encourage the dog to do so–immediately go outside. Soon the puppy/dog will hit the bells themselves. One can also train a dog to bark or let the dog scratch the door (not a great solution).

If you catch your dog eliminating in the house:

One needs to catch this before or as it is occurring, not after. Interrupt, clap your hands, or a ‘ahhhhh’–giving an instructional correction (in a gentle tone of voice) say ‘outside’ pick up the puppy/dog or hurry them outside. Take them to their elimination area and praise them for eliminating…even if they did ‘most of it’ inside. Remind yourself to use closer supervision in the future.

Other Important Advice:

Get your puppy/dog on a fairly regular schedule (keep the same schedule on weekends). Feed at the same times, rather than leaving water available at all times make it available 5-6 times a day and then put it away. No food after 7 p.m., no water after 9 p.m. this will help your puppy/dog sleep through the night. When your dog is housebroken you can have water available at all times–it is always better to remove uneaten food rather than have it constantly available.

  • puppies need to eliminate as soon as they wake up from sleeping
  • puppies need to eliminate after vigorous chewing
  • puppies need to eliminate right after eating/drinking
  • young puppies under 6 months may need to eliminate as frequently as every hour when active and busy in the house…

Clean all areas the dog has eliminated on with an odor neutralizer specifically designed for the task…don’t use a household cleaner with ammonia the ammonia actually attracts the dog to the spot. Some oriental rugs have ammonia in the dyes used to make them–this doesn’t mean one has to remove all the oriental rugs just be aware of this and use ‘extra supervision’ until the dog is trained not to eliminate in the house.

Use a crate. It is sooo helpful for housebreaking. In general a puppy can remain in a crate for approximately one hour more than it is months old…a two month old puppy can be in a crate for 3 hours etc. All puppies/dogs can remain in a crate all night. No puppy/dog should be in a crate for 10 hour stretches…it is very hard on them mentally. Use a ‘long term’ confinement area like an exercise pen or dog proofed kitchen, bathroom, utility room.

In Defense of the Sneaky Dog/Puppy:

The ‘sneaky dog’ is the one that wanders off to find a nice remote location in your house to eliminate… however he does not do this because he is sneaky, angry or spiteful. It occurs because we have unintentionally trained him to do this. Often this is due to our training methods. If we correct a dog for eliminating inside – we haven’t taught him to eliminate outside – we’ve only taught him that it is dangerous to eliminate in front of humans! Rather we want to train our dog to eliminate in front of us, on command, on a leash…outside! Always remember to ‘over practice’ success. Don’t be in a hurry to housebreak the dog and supervise, supervise, supervise to prevent mistakes–continue to take your naive dog to his elimination area and remain with him until he eliminates. Once your puppy/dog has not had an accident in your home for a month or more you can relax your standards. Congratulations you have a housetrained dog!