Tips to Housebreaking Your Dog

Unless your dog is an outside dog all the time, housebreaking is probably one of the very first things that we want to work on.  Nobody likes a house that smells like a dog’s toilet, not even the dog!  Regardless of whether you are training your new 8 week old puppy, or you are helping your older dog learn the skill, here are five quick tips to keep in mind:

Crates can be your friend!  

While your dog is learning the ropes of living inside your home, what his potty and play schedule is, and where he needs to take care of business, it’s your job as his trainer to make it EASY for him to understand.  By giving your dog free reign of the house when you are not there to monitor him, you leave him open to making mistakes that may set your training back, and may put some spots in your carpet.

Instead, having a properly sized, clean, and comfortable crate or pen for your dog to stay in while you are away will help him learn to hold it until he can make it outside.  Dogs, even puppies, are far less likely to soil a small area like a crate or pen than they are to go in a large room or the whole house.

Designate a particular area for potty time.

Dogs respond most strongly to scents.  If you have an area where your dog, or other dogs, have pottied recently, that is the area where your dog is most likely to go as well.  For some folks, this area is their whole backyard.  For others, it is a small, designated area.  Still others walk their dogs along the street or in the park.  Having a particular place for your dog to potty will help them to understand that home is not an appropriate area to go in.

Fun stuff happens after outside potty time!

Make sure your dog gets a reward for going potty!  Whether it’s a treat, a game of tag around the yard, throwing a toy, or whatever the two of you enjoy, do not make going outside a blah chore.  So many times, people will say that their dog will go out, never potty, and then come right back in and squat on the rug.  Perhaps it is because the dog knows that once he has gone outside, all of his fun time will be over.

So…make sure to have a celebration time when your dog goes out there!

It doesn’t hurt to point out your dog’s “mistakes.”

Some trainers will tell you not to acknowledge your dog’s indoor accidents, and just to clean them up.  Others will tell you to yell at the dog and put his face in it.  I prefer an approach that is in between these two.

I will bring the dog to his accident, and point it out to him.  I will say, “No, this goes outside.”  I won’t yell, or lose my cool.  Instead, I am disappointed and matter of fact.  If the dog has had a bowel movement, I will show it to him, pick it up with a bag, and take it out to the designated potty area.

Look at things from your dog’s perspective.

When you find that your dog is having trouble understanding the concept of housebreaking, it helps to stop, take a step back, and think about how your dog must be experiencing things.  If, right after he goes potty outside, all of his fun stops and he has to come back in, why in the world should he potty outside?  That’s like a death sentence for his fun time!  So instead, he will play around outside until you pull him in, and then potty in the house.

If he is refusing to potty outside and you bring him in and put him back in his crate for a few minutes, then let him outside again and he goes potty and then gets playtime, the dog will begin to connect the benefit of pottying outside and playing, and then being loose in the house with you again afterward.

Old dogs, young dogs, all dogs can be housebroken.  Sometimes it takes a lot of patience, creativity, and consistency.  Sometimes it seems that their mothers already taught them by the time you came along.  Either way, it is a key to having a happy, healthy, well mannered dog.

Questions?  Thoughts?  Feel free to leave those comments here!