Press ESC to close

House training (potty training) your dog at any age

House training a dog takes the proper equipment, time and patience. It is not magic; if you do not have what it takes then hire someone who does. It will cost you far less than replacing your carpet. A half-hearted attempt that fails will cost you the price of a trainer and new carpeting.

Dogs DO NOT naturally house train themselves.

The crate training method of housebreaking is the most
effective method available. In addition, the crate will also become your best tool for preventing destructive behavior and keeping your pet from learning bad behaviors during the obedience training process. Dogs are den animals. They enjoy the security of a small area of their own. Most dogs have a natural instinct not to soil their den.

The first thing you need is a properly sized crate.

You should choose one only large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down. If the crate is too large, your dog can soil one part and sleep in another. He may not think he is soiling his den. If your dog is a puppy, you can reduce your cost by buying a crate that will be large enough for him when he is an adult and adjust the size as he grows. You will have to block off the rear of the crate so it is the correct size for the puppy. This can be done simply by inserting the divider that came with the crate or by using a cardboard box. If your dog continually soils his crate, you may be leaving him alone to long or the crate may be too large. (See our article on crate training.)

If, you are going to be gone for long periods of time you will also need a pen or gates.

Block off a larger area such as a bathroom or kitchen. As a general rule; puppies can only ” hold it” in hours for as many months old as he is, plus one. An example would be; a 4 month old puppy can “hold it” 5 hours (4mos + 1). Also, dogs cannot go as long without eliminating during the day as they can at night. When leaving your dog for long periods of time in a confined area you should put his crate (with bed in it) in the area with the crate door open and use only the crate when you are home. Paper the floor everywhere to begin with. Most dogs will eliminate as far away from the crate (bed) as possible. Gradually put down less and less paper leaving the area closest to the crate without paper until there is just enough paper for the dog to eliminate on in the area farthest from the crate. You may have no choice but to use this method. But remember, paper training and leaving your puppy for long periods may mean it will take a little longer to completely housebreak him. You might consider having someone come to your house to let the puppy out for you (a pet sitter) or find a doggy day care facility.  

Your next step is to feed your dog on a regular schedule.

If you feed him at the same times each day your dog will soon eliminate on a fairly reliable schedule. This will allow you to anticipate when he will need to go outside. Know your dog; some will have to go out immediately after a meal while others anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes afterwards. Young puppies and untrained dogs need to go outside as soon as they wake in the morning and after napping.  This means that the VERY first thing in the morning you MUST take him out of the crate before he has a chance to eliminate inside the crate. Young puppies often cannot make it to the door before they have to go. If this is the case then carry him outside until he can make it all the way to the door by himself. Excitement (visitors), drinking water and increases in activity (playing) also require a trip outdoors. These are all things that can trigger your dog to have to eliminate. If your dog cannot make it all the way through the night then he may be to young (under 12 weeks) and you will have to adjust your sleeping schedule for a couple of weeks (or use the paper training method at night). There also may be something waking him up during the night. Know your environment; watch out for neighbors that go to work at 3:00 a.m. and grandfather clocks that chime every hour.

Your dog will give off signals that he needs to eliminate, learn what they are.

Common behaviors are circling, restlessness and sniffing. If you see these behaviors, take him out! When taking your dog outside use a leash and walk him to the same designated spot each time. For young puppies, begin with every hour. This is not play time; stand in approximately the same spot each time and wait for your dog to eliminate. If he does, praise him and offer him a reward. Afterwards, unleash him and let him have at least a few minutes to play. If you do not have a fenced yard then take him for a short walk. If you rush back into the house with him he may learn not to go so that he can get more time outdoors. When cleaning up, leave a trace behind. This will be his reminder of what and where, next time you take him out. If he does not go after about 5 minutes; then take him in and return him to his crate. Wait 15 to 30 minutes and try again. Do not let him run around the house or play until he has eliminated outside. Keep your dog in the crate when you are not able to keep him in your sight. This will eliminate the opportunity for accidents. If he eliminates in the house because you were not paying attention, it may take longer to housebreak him. If you absolutely do not have the time to do this then try setting up a pen outside for him to stay in until he goes. Be sure to put the pen somewhere where you can tell if he has eliminated and don’t forget to reward him when he is done. Using the pen outside is not the best method, but it is better than him learning to go in his crate or on the carpet.

If there is an occasional “accident” in the house; don’t hit him, yell at him or rub his nose in it.

Attempting to punish or shame the dog after the fact will not work. The dog won’t make the connection between your punishment and his earlier behavior. The dog may learn to be afraid of you. If you are tempted to roll up a newspaper and hit someone then; hit yourself because it was your fault for not paying attention! Simply clean up the mess with a commercial product designed for pets. Don’t use products containing ammonia, since that smells like urine and it actually attracts the dog to eliminate in that place again.  If you catch your dog in the act of eliminating inside the house, interrupt him (it’s OK to act unhappy, just not mad) and take him outside to the proper place (without harsh words or punishment). If he eliminates outside, praise and reward him.

Remember to be patient.

Some dogs take longer than others to housebreak. 
If your dog is slow at housebreaking, check with your vet since dogs that are ill have elimination problems. If you are consistent, watchful, and use the crate, the dog will usually be housebroken in a couple of weeks. As he progresses you can gradually give him more freedom around the house but remember to keep an eye on him. For the most part, housebreaking depends on what YOU do. 

Good Luck, and if none of this works; give us a call!  You need “The Dog Lady”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *