puppies prefer to "go" away from their eating and sleeping areas. Use
this knowledge to set up a schedule to aid you in housebreaking.
Use a crate
as your number one training tool!
Always take your puppy out first thing in the morning,
5 minutes after he eats, and when he starts "winding down".
When taking him out of the crate, coax
him to follow you outside to relieve himself. (It is better to
coax him than carry him because, this helps him to learn to run
to the door when he needs to go out).
Choose a command such as "go
potty, or hurry up, or go bathroom". Ignore him until
he does go. Do NOT talk to him, pet him, or even
acknowledge him until he goes. Turn your back on him and
step away from him if he starts jumping on your leg for
attention. But, when he does go, praise him lavishing for going. Give the command
each time he goes out to the bathroom -- at this stage he's not really minding
your command, but you're associating the act with the words, which will
come in handy in the future.
Don't give him full run
of the house. Close doors or use baby gates to keep him where you can
see him at all times.
If you work and cannot come home for lunch, get a friend or neighbor to
take him out about midday if possible. If that's not possible, set your puppy up in a safe
area like the kitchen (not in his crate -- you do not want him to
get accustomed to peeing where he is sleeping), and realize
you'll be cleaning up a mess when you get home. Don't punish
your puppy for the mess, because he can't help himself.
Feed your puppy at dinnertime, take him out, out and let him
play. But, do not leave food out for him after dinner. Try to feed
him about 6:00-7:00 p.m. so that the food has a chance to
traverse the GI tract before you go to bed. That way, he
won't have to keep getting you up during the night. Also,
offer him a little water a couple of hours before bedtime,
but do not leave water in his crate with him. If he does have to
get up in the middle of the night, you can offer him so then but
don't leave it out.
Take a last trip out right before bedtime. Give your command, and after your
puppy does what you want, praise him like the dickens. Then bring him
inside and put him in his crate for the night. For the
first month or so, you may also have to add a "wee-hours" outing to the
schedule. If he wakes up and fusses at 3 a.m., take him out.
If you're patient, positive and consistent, your puppy will start
getting the idea right away, even if his body won't allow him to be
"perfect" for a few months yet. (Don't punish for "mistakes" -- just
clean them up thoroughly.) If he doesn't seem to understand what you
want, feel free to give me a call and I will be glad to help with work
though the problem with you. If we can't get you back on
track, then I will be happy to refer you to a behaviorist to figure out what the problem
Housebreaking the Adult Dog
There's no such thing as a "partially"
house-trained dog. He either is or he isn't.
If your dog is only
"sometimes" reliable, you have a dog that is not truly
housebroken. You may have a dog who doesn't actually understand
required of him. Was he ever completely taught "The Rules"? You
have to go back to square one and teach him properly. No shortcuts here.
Before you start training, though, you must be sure that what you
have really is a behavior problem and not a physical problem. This is
especially true with a dog who has been housebroken in the past but has
only recently started "going" in the house. If he has a physical
problem, you will find housebreaking unrewarding and he will find it
frustrating and scary, especially if he is also struggling with an illness.
You need to check
with your veterinarian first for a complete checkup including a
urinalysis, a fecal, and possibly bloodwork and/or consultation.
(Some dogs may also suffer from separation anxiety when their owners
leave -- make sure that this is not the case with your pet!)
If you've ruled out medical problems, house-training an adult dog
uses the same principles as house-training a puppy, except you have to
be even more diligent because you need to do some un-training, too. You'll need to teach your dog what's right before you can correct him
for what's wrong. To do this, spend a couple of weeks ensuring that he
has nothing but successes by never giving him the opportunity to make a
Leash him to you in the house so you can monitor his every move
during his training period. You can also lock him in the room that you
are in with a door or puppy gate. If he starts to mess, tell him "no," take
him outside, and give him his command for going (I use "go potty" or
"hurry up" with my
dogs; Southeastern Guide Dogs uses "get busy"). Then praise him for doing right, so he starts to understand what
Put him in a crate whenever he's not on leash with you. It's
fine during training to leave him in a crate for four or five hours at
a stretch -- assuming, of course, that he's getting his regular daily
If you continue to have problems, check with your local veterinarian for a
referral to a veterinary behaviorist. One-on-one assistance can
the problems in your training regimen and get you both on the right
Don't shove your puppy's nose in any messes he might make. Old ideas
are not always the best! If you catch your dog in the act, a
stern "no" will suffice, followed by an immediate trip
Learn about crate training -- it is not cruel. It is in
fact the easiest way to housebreak.
Always use the same location for bathroom breaks. Don't pet
him or talk to him until he goes.
let a whining puppy or dog out of his crate until he quits whining.
Otherwise, you will have just successfully taught your canine friend
that he will be rewarded for the noise. And, next time he will
whine even more insistently.
still having accidents in the house, and you aren't catching him, you're not keeping close enough tabs on
him. Go back to the crate and leash, and start over.
I find that people never seem shy about
punishing their dogs, but too often forget to praise them -- they take
it for granted the dog should do the right thing. Never, ever forget the
If you've been consistent, your dog likely will get a good idea of
what's expected of him within a couple of weeks, and you can start to
give him a little freedom. Don't let him have the run of the house yet.
Keep his area small and let him earn the house, room by room, as he
proves his understanding of the house rules.
Eventually, your pet will be spending more of his time loose in the
house under your supervision, and he will start asking to go outside.
You must always remember to reward this behavior with either praise and treats.
The lessons pay off for life, too: A dog who is used to being
comfortably confined will be less stressed by being caged at the
veterinarian hospital if sick and also will have more options for
housing when you go a vacation.