Suggestions for Housebreaking a Dog

When a dog is brought into a new home, housebreaking can make or break the relationship. Many dogs wind up at the humane society because they seemed to be unable to be housebroken. Too often this is the fault of the dog owner and not the dog. No matter what method you will use to train your dog, there are a few solid rules that you should follow:
  1. Get a crate. The crate should be big enough to allow the dog to stand, lay down, turn around, and have a dish of food and water. Any larger and they may use extra space to go potty.
  2. The crate should be placed in a location near family activity. In the living room or in a bedroom near his master is good. This allows the dog to feel close to you while still being in his own space.
  3. Do not use the crate for punishment. The dog should feel comfortable in the crate. Dogs are den animals by nature and, so long as it is not used for punishment, will view the crate as their home. They will not (unless you leave them in it too long) mess in their crate.
  4. Do NOT let your dog have run of the house until he shows he is able to control himself. The dog should sleep in the crate until he is able to go all night without messing in the house. The dog should be in the crate when you are not there.
  5. Don't punish the dog after the fact. If you find a mess inside, the most you should do is point at it and say loudly "What is that?!" Then clean it up and reprimand yourself for not being on the ball with your dog.
  6. If you catch your dog in the act, as quickly as you can (and BEFORE he's finished) pick him up and take him outside where you want him to go and let him finish there.
  7. DON'T HIT! If you catch your dog eliminating inside and hit him, he will only learn not to do it when you can see. He will also learn an unhealthy fear of you.
The IDEAL Situation:

Too often, the ideal is not feasible. However, this is truly the best way to train your dog to go outside and if it is a feasible option for you, by all means!

If you have a backyard, GET A DOGGIE DOOR1. Place the crate at the doggie door, with the crate door open and the crate facing the doggie door. This will give your dog two options: pee in his crate or go outside to pee. They will naturally chose NOT to mess their bed. This is NOT to say leave the dog there all the time. Leaving the dog there all the time will only teach them to go OUTSIDE the crate, and when the crate is moved from the doggie door, he may choose to go anywhere outside it's confines. When you are home, leave the dog out in the house, and periodically lead him outside where you want him to go potty. Reward him immediately after eliminating with hugs and treats, and say "Good potty!" repeatedly (to teach him the word "potty").

If you don't have a backyard, or if for some other reason you cannot do the ideal, then move on to

The Less than Ideal Situation:

If you live in an apartment or plan on having a dog which you will walk instead of leaving outside to go, then here are some suggestions. GET YOUR DOG ON A SCHEDULE. This will take a few days (or weeks sometimes) for the dog to adjust to when you want him to go. Follow the schedule dilligently and do not waver from it. Walk him in the same location every time. This will allow his scent to be all along the route you will walk and he will begin to feel that this is his spot to go. As you walk, say "Go potty!" repeatedly, so he learns the word and understands what you want him to do.

Leave the dog in the crate at night and when you are not there (Some dogs can't make it through the night when they are young. Living in a crate that they don't want to mess, they will whimper to go out. You will have to suck it up and walk him at ungodly hours until he has more control. If you sleep through the whimpering, set your alarm clock). To ensure he will have to go the next time you walk him, give him a fresh bowl of food and water in the evening before bed (so he will go in the morning), and in the morning (so he will go around 5:00pm). As you take the dog outside, say "Wanna go outside?!" enthusiastically and repeatedly (to teach the dog the word "outside"). Walk the dog until he goes, and when he does go, reward him with hugs and treats and say "Good potty!" repeatedly. If you walk the dog for a half hour and he doesn't go, when you come back inside put him back in the crate for an hour, then walk him again.

After the dog has eliminated outside, take him inside, give him a treat (and a "Good Dog!") and then let him have the run of the house. But keep a close eye on him. If you catch him in the act, don't let him finish, holler "NO!", pick him up and take him outside to his spot.

A good walking schedule is in the morning, around 5:00pm, again at 8:00pm, and then before you go to bed. Eventually you should be able to remove the 8:00pm walk.

After crate training the dog for a while, you will want to try letting the dog roam at night... Place the pup in his crate as you would normally at night, but leave the door cracked open. In the morning, check for mess. If there are messes, then go back to crating him at night and try again in a few weeks. Eventually (sometimes after as long as a year), you can try leaving the dog out of his crate during the day while you are gone. Reduce the scope of mess by restricting the dog to one room.

The main goal is to make it VERY apparent to the dog that going outside is better and more rewarding than going inside. You do this by expressing pleasure when he does the right thing, and displeasure when he doesn't. Hugs, happy words, and treats will make going outside far more advantageous for him than going inside and recieving a sharp "NO! Bad dog!"

Repetition of key words is important. You want your dog to know the words "outside", and "potty". This will help your dog to learn what it is that you want him to do, and also give him words to respond to. So when you say "wanna go outside?" or "wanna go potty?" and he runs to the door, you know that means yes.

If you follow recommendations and your dog still has trouble with messing inside, either you haven't given it long enough to become habit or your dog could have health problems, such as diabetes or a urinary tract infection. Take your pet to the vet and get a checkup. If the dog has a clean bill of health, ask your vet for more recommendations.

If either of these methods for housebreaking a dog sound like too much work or hassle, then you probably shouldn't own a dog. It is work and it is hassle. But the work you do now means that in the future you should have a well housebroken dog. A dog which can be left in the house alone without risk of mess (unless you stay out too long).

Most Important:

Love your doggie. And be patient with him.

1 There are many types of doggie doors available, including types which fit into sliding glass doors and still leave the door accessible to humans.

House"break`ing, n.

The act of breaking open and entering, with a felonious purpose, the dwelling house of another, whether done by day or night. See Burglary, and To break a house, under Break.


© Webster 1913.

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