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Housebreaking Tips

Updated on December 16, 2008




Dogs or puppies in the process of being housebroken need to be in one of three places at all times:


1) Outside on a leash with you, so that you can reward him/her immediately for pottying outside;


2) Inside on a leash attached to you, so you can pick up on your pet’s subtle signals that he/she needs to go out (sniffing, circling);


3) Inside confined to a small, easily cleaned area--a kennel is best, since most dogs will not go to the bathroom in their sleeping area.


Take outside: 

        right after the puppy wakes from a nap;

        every 15 to 30 minutes while playing; and

        after eating. 


Eating and walking/running stimulate intestinal movement, usually in a predictable manner.  For instance, some pups need to have a bowel movement immediately after eating, while for others it takes 30 minutes.  Once you find the right time interval for your pup, be sure to take it outside just before you expect the urge to strike.  Keep in mind that young puppies are like young children, in that they don’t always realize they have to go until it’s too late to signal you.  Taking them out frequently will help prevent accidents.



        With a treat WHILE the puppy is going to the bathroom, and say, “Good potty,” or whatever code word you want to use for that event. 

        Once he/she is done, reward with praise and play.  A puppy that has gone potty outside can be rewarded further by allowing play inside the house.  If he/she doesn’t go while outside, the puppy should be brought in and confined to the kennel until the next trip outside.


Punishing: Never! 

We don’t recommend punishing pups that have accidents in the house.  Occasionally this will stop them from using the carpet as a bathroom, but more often they are conditioned to believe that you get mad whenever they eliminate, so they just hide it better.  If you catch the pup in the act, make a

loud noise to startle them and stop them, then whisk him/her outside. 


Cleaning:  Use an enzymatic cleaner to completely remove (not just cover-up) odors.


Communication:  One common problem dogs have with housebreaking is that they don’t know how to signal that they need to go out.  Many will just sit quietly by the door, so if you don’t see them in time, an accident could happen.  You  can overcome this problem by deliberately teaching the dog a signal, such as barking (teach “speak”, then take outside every time the dog speaks), or ringing bells that are hung on the door.  You can encourage the dog to ring the bells by first smearing a bit of peanut butter on them; when the dog licks the bells enough to make a noise, say, “Outside” or “potty” (use the same word or phrase every time), then take them out.  Eventually they will learn that ringing the bells gets you to open the door.


Training your dog to eliminate on command can be useful and is easy to do.  Just use the same phrase or word every time you take the dog out, and say it again while the dog is doing what you’ve asked it to do, such as, “Good potty!”  If you do train your dog this way, make sure you tell any boarding facility, veterinarian, or pet sitter about it, or the poor thing may not want to go to the bathroom the whole time it is in someone else’s care!


Problems?  Finally, inability to housebreak a dog can sometimes be due to a medical problem.  Urinary tract infections or intestinal disease can make housebreaking difficult, because they interfere with the dog’s ability to control things.  If you are having trouble housebreaking your pet, please don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian.



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      Deirdre 9 years ago

      Do you think it is possible to housetrain a dog after it has been an "outside dog" for it's whole life? We are trying and we have great days , then really bad days. Some days no accidents.....then the next day she'll come in and run right downstairs to poop and pee where we can't see her. It's not that she's not getting out enough, cause she's out all the time with me or my kids. Help.