Housebreaking (Potty Training) for Puppies and Adult Dogs

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2016


Housebreaking or potty training puppies and adult dogs

When you're frustrated with your dog about potty training problems, he can tell!

If owners could choose only one skill they wanted their dog to have, HOUSEBROKEN would probably be the winner.

Housebreaking problems are a chief complaint of dog owners who contact me for behavioral consulting.

Who is happy with a dog who's peeing or pooping in the house?

This is what I tell dog owners who are looking for housebreaking advice:

There are two rules for housetraining. 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?


So 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 hard 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 fix dinner or watch 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 tell yourself you're "watching" him, he can go to the bathroom MUCH more quickly than you can stop him – and the bad habit is begun.


Rule #2. Regular or constant access to the RIGHT place to go.

dog asking to go outYou have three options here. You can take your dog outside every 2-3 hours.

You can install a doggy door so he can take himself outside into an enclosed "potty yard." (Don't do this if you're not home, else he might stay outside and drive your neighbors crazy with his barking.)

You can provide an indoor bathroom such as newspapers or (for very small dogs) a litter box.

Your dog must have SOMEWHERE accessible so he can "go" when he needs to go. Otherwise he will "go" wherever he happens to be at the time.... what else can he do, right? It's not his fault.


Housebreaking success or failure is up to you

Some dogs catch on to housebreaking more quickly than others. But ultimately it is you 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!

Except for the details.

  • For example, when you take your dog outside to go to the bathroom, do you keep him on a leash or let him loose? What should you do if he just wants to play and won't "go"?
  • How do you teach your dog to use a doggy door?
  • What is the best kind of litter box (and litter) for small dogs?
  • When Puppy is beginning to catch on to the idea of housebreaking, when do you relax your strict confinement rules? 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, keeping your dog in a small indoor pen, newspaper training, litter box training, and doggy door training. There are right ways – and lots of wrong ways – to teach these housebreaking methods to your dog!


Dog training book by Michele WeltonIn 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 clean up 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 dog respects what you say. My book not only provides proven housebreaking programs, but also shows you how to get your puppy or adult dog to respect you.

To ensure success, housebreaking and respect training should be taught at the same time.