If owners could choose only one skill they wanted their dog to have, HOUSEBROKEN would probably be the winner. Who amongst us is happy with a dog who's peeing or pooping in the house?
Housebreaking problems are a chief complaint of dog owners who contact me for behavioral consulting.
Here's what I tell dog owners who are looking for housebreaking advice:
There are two rules for housebreaking. Just two, but you have to get them both right. And I mean 100% right, not 50% right. Otherwise you're going to end up with a dog who is 50% housebroken, and who wants that?"
Here they are....my two rules for housebreaking
Rule #1. Confinement – so your dog can't go to the bathroom in the wrong place.
Confinement means that until your dog is housebroken, he is never allowed to walk freely around the house.
You can confine your dog in a crate, a pen, or by using baby gates to section off a small space (mud room, laundry room, kitchen). He needs to stay in this space every minute of every hour of every day – unless you're sitting with him, playing with him or watching him play, walking him, feeding him, grooming him, teaching him, or otherwise interacting with him.
This is a tough one for most people, I know. It is so tempting to just let the puppy loose to run and play while you chat on the phone or answer email or watch the basketball game on TV. But if you let a non-housebroken puppy (or adult dog) loose in the house when you're doing something else, even if you think you're "watching" him, he can go to the bathroom on your floor – and the bad habit is begun. It's far better to prevent the accident than to catch him and correct him after the act.
Rule #2. Regular or constant access to the RIGHT place to go.
You must take your dog outside on a regular basis – every few hours – or else install a doggy door for your dog to take himself outside at will, into a potty yard. Your third option is to provide an indoor bathroom – newspapers or (for very small dogs) a litter box.
Your dog must have SOMEWHERE to "go" when he needs to go. Otherwise he will "go" wherever he happens to be at the time....and this won't be his fault.
Housebreaking success or failure is up to you
Some dogs are faster or slower than others to catch on to housebreaking, but ultimately it is the owner who is responsible for housebreaking success or failure.
- If you arrange things so that the only place your dog has a chance to "go" is where you want him to go, that's the habit he will develop.
- But if you give him too much freedom in the house, or if you don't give him quick access to a bathroom when he needs to go, that's the habit he will develop.
Now, I've made it seem quick and easy to housebreak your puppy. Just two simple rules. One, two, and done! Of course there's more to it than that. When do you relax your strict rules as Puppy is beginning to catch on? And HOW do you relax them? You can't go from complete confinement to complete freedom. Transitions matter – a lot.
I can guide you through the transitions, as well as show you different techniques for crate training, penning, newspapers, litter box, and doggy door. There's a right way and lots of wrong ways to teach these housebreaking methods to your dog.
In my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, I'll show you the right way to housebreak your dog. Also how often your dog needs to go to the bathroom, how to go about letting your dog loose in the house, and how to deal with accidents. Follow my step-by-step housebreaking advice and you will have a housebroken dog.
And one final note: housebreaking is far easier when your puppy respects you. My book shows you how to get your puppy to respect you. With respect training, problems other than housebreaking are avoided or easily overcome. To ensure success, housebreaking and respect training should be taught at the same time.