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This method of housebreaking is focused on preventing
"accidents" instead of waiting for accidents to happen.
The goal is to make it easy for the puppy to do the
right thing in the first place. Training in this way is
faster and more effective than punishing the dog for
mistakes. YOU play the most important part in the
success or failure of this method - you must be patient,
determined and reliable for it to work. If you already
own an adult dog with housebreaking problems, you can
use this method to start fresh just as you would with a
This method also requires the use of a dog crate
or at least, a small, confined area for the pup to stay
in when he can't be supervised. A crate isn't cruel!
It's your dog's own private room where he can rest and
stay safe, secure and out of trouble. Just like a small
child, your puppy needs to be protected from hurting
himself and destroying your furniture. A crate will
make the job so much easier!
The first few weeks of owning a puppy are some
of the hardest and most important. Spending extra time
and effort now will pay off in a big
way. Don't blame the puppy if you're lazy!
Before you start, here are some essential
1. Adult dogs can be housebroken in the same way as
2. Puppies have limited bladder control.
3. Dogs & puppies like to be clean and to sleep in a
4. All dogs do best when kept to a routine schedule
5. Dogs have to go potty when...
- they wake up in the morning or after a nap
- within 1/2 hour after eating
- before they go to sleep
If a dog and especially a puppy is not allowed to
relieve itself at those times, it will most
likely have an accident. Don't wait for the dog to
"tell" you that it has to go out. Just assume that he
does and put him outside.
Housebreaking Baby Puppies
Baby puppies, under 3 months of age, have limited
bladder control and reflexes. They usually don't know
they're going to "go" until the moment they do! It's
not realistic to expect them to tell you ahead of time.
If you're observant, you'll see that a puppy who's
looking for a place to go potty will suddenly circle
about while sniffing the floor. The sniffing is instinct
- he's looking for a place that's already been used.
If he can't find one, he'll start one! By preventing
accidents in the house, you'll teach him that the only
appropriate bathroom is the one outside!
Ideally, you're reading this before you've brought your
new puppy home. If you already have your puppy, just
pick up the schedule at an appropriate place.
Set up a dog crate or small, confined area (the smaller
the better.) Using a dog crate will be more effective.
The size of the crate is important - if it's too large,
the puppy will have room to use one end as a bathroom.
If you've bought a crate for him to "grow into", you can
also get dividers to reduce the inner space while he's
small. If he must be left alone while you're at work,
then a larger crate is okay. Put a stack of newspapers
at one end for him to use when you can't be home to let
Also in the crate should be a water dish (you can get
one that attaches to the side of the crate and is harder
to spill), sleeping pad and toys. Put the crate where
he isn't shut away from the family. If you're using a
confined area instead, a baby gate across the doorway is
preferable to closing the door and isolating your puppy.
Your puppy might not like the crate at first. Don't
give in to his complaining or tantrums! If you're sure
he isn't hungry or has to go potty, ignore his yowling.
If he gets really obnoxious, reach inside the crate,
give him a little shake by the scruff of his neck and
say NO in a deep, stern voice. Eventually he'll settle
down and sleep which is what crates are for! If you
give a tempting treat every time you put the dog in his
crate, he'll soon look forward to going in.
The crate is intended to be his sleeping and feeding
place and is where he should be when you can't keep a
close eye on him. If you give him the run of the house
at this age, you can expect accidents! Dogs
instinctively keep their sleeping areas clean. If
you've allowed him to go potty when he needs to, he
won't dirty his crate if he can help it. Once he's
developed better control, he won't need the newspapers
unless you're going to be gone all day. Change the
papers several times a day if they've been soiled.
Puppy's First Night Home
Get off on the right foot at the beginning! Carry the
puppy from your car to the yard. Set him on the grass
and let him stay there until he potties. When he does,
tell him how wonderful he is! After bringing the pup
inside, you can play with him for an hour. Plan on
taking the puppy outside every two hours (at least)
while he's awake. Don't wait for him to tell you that
he has to go!
Feed the puppy his supper in his crate. Don't let him
out for half an hour and when you do, carry him outside
to potty before you do anything else. Wait for him to
have a bowel movement before bringing him back in. Some
pups get their jobs done quickly, others may take half
an hour. If he's being slow, walk around the yard
encouraging him to follow you. Walking tends to get
things moving, so to speak!
***Always take the puppy outside first thing when you
let him out of the crate and always CARRY the puppy to
the door!! This is important. Puppies seem to have a
reflex peeing action that takes affect the moment they
step out of the crate onto your carpeting. If you let
him walk to the door, he'll probably have an accident
before he gets there. Part of this training method is
psychological - you want the puppy to feel grass under
his feet when he goes to the bathroom, not your
After another short play period, take the pup outside
before bedtime, then tuck him into his crate for the
night. If he cries during the night, he probably has
to go out. Carry him outside to potty, then put him
back in the crate with a minimum of cuddling. If you
play with him, he might decide he doesn't want to go
back to sleep! Puppies usually sleep through the night
within a few days.
Establish a regular schedule of potty trips and
feedings. This helps you to control the times he has to
go out and prevent accidents in the house. First thing
in the morning - before you have your coffee - carry the
puppy outside. He can then come in and play for an
hour. Feed breakfast in the crate and don't let him out
again for 1/2 hour. Then carry him back outside for
potty. Puppies usually have a bowel movement after each
meal so give him time to accomplish it.
Now he can have another inside playtime for an hour or
so. Don't give him free run of the house, use baby
gates or close doors to keep him out of rooms he
shouldn't go in. (Puppies are notorious for finding out
of the way corners to have accidents in - keep him in an
area where you can watch him). If you give him too much
freedom too soon, he'll probably make a mistake. After
playtime, take him outside again then tuck him into his
crate for a nap.
For the first month or so, you'll be feeding 3-4 meals
per day. Repeat the same procedure throughout the day:
potty outside 1st thing in the morning, 1 hour playtime,
potty, meal in crate, potty, playtime, potty, nap,
potty, playtime, meal, etc. The playtimes can be
lengthened as the puppy gets older and is more
reliable. Eventually the puppy will be letting you know
when he needs to go out but remember - if you ignore his
request or don't move quickly he'll have an accident!
I know this sounds like a lot of work and it is! The
results of all this running' in and out will pay off in
a well-housebroken puppy and clean carpets. Keep in
mind that some breeds are easier to housebreak than
others and how the puppy was raised before it came to
you has an affect, too. Pet store puppies who were
allowed to use wire-bottom crates have less inclination
to keep their crates clean. Puppies that were raised in
garages or other large areas where they could "go"
wherever will also be a little more difficult. Don't
give up though - you can train them, it will just take a
A word about paper-training: It seems harmless to
leave papers about "just in case" and for us who work
all day, it's a necessity. However, paper-training your
pup will make the overall job of housebreaking that much
harder and take longer. By only allowing the pup to
relieve itself outside, you're teaching it that it's not
acceptable to use the house. Using newspapers will
override this training. Also, be aware that many
puppies get the notion that going potty NEAR the papers
is as good as going ON them! If you must use newspapers
when you're gone, keep to the regular housebreaking
schedule when you're at home. Get the puppy outside
often enough and don't leave papers out "just in case".
Keep your dog's yard picked up and free of old
stools. Many dogs choose an area to use as a bathroom.
If left to become filthy, they'll refuse to use it and
do their business in the house instead! If your dog has
to be tied up when he's outside, keeping the area clean
is even more critical. If you could only move about in a
small area, you wouldn't want to lie next to the toilet,
would you? Picking up stools helps you keep tabs on
your dog's health as well. Stools should be firm and
fairly dry. Loose, sloppy stools can be an indication
of worms, health problems, stress or digestive upset.
Housebreaking Older Dogs
You can use a modified puppy schedule to train an
un-house broken dog or one that's having housebreaking
problems. Start from the beginning just like a puppy,
use a crate and put them on a schedule. An older dog
can be expected to control itself for longer periods
provided you take it outside at critical times - 1st
thing in the morning, after meals and last thing at
night. Until they're reliable, get them outside every
3-4 hours in between those times. Adopted older dogs
that have always had freedom may be unwilling to have a
bowel movement when on a leash. You can either walk
them longer or keep them confined until they really got
go. Just like a puppy, don't give them the run of the
house and keep them in a crate or small area if you
can't supervise them. You can give them more freedom as
they become more reliable.
What to do if the puppy has an accident
Remember, this method of housebreaking is based on
PREVENTING accidents. By faithfully taking the dog out
often enough, you'll get faster results than if you
discipline the puppy after the accident has already
happened. If you puppy makes a mistake because you
didn't get him out when you should have - it's not his
If you catch the pup in the act, stay calm. Holler NO
while you scoop the puppy up immediately - don't wait
for him to stop piddling - and carry him outside to an
area he's used before. As you set him on the ground,
tell him "THIS IS WHERE YOU GO PODDY!" and praise him as
he finishes the job. Leave him out a few more minutes
to make sure he's done before bringing him back in.
This is a little trickier with an adult dog especially
if he's new to you and you don't know how he'll react to
being grabbed and thrust outside. Holler NO and put a
leash on to take him out and show him where the bathroom
is. Make a point of getting the dog out more often in
ANY other corrections such as rubbing his nose in it,
smacking with newspapers, yelling, beating or slapping
only confuse and scare the dog. If you come across an
"old" accident, it really doesn't pay to get too excited
about it. Dogs aren't smart enough to connect a past
act with your present anger and he won't understand what
you're so mad about. He'll act guilty but it's only
because he knows you're mad at him. He has no real idea
why. Point the spot out to him and say "WHAT IS THIS?"
but that should be limit of your correction.
Keep in mind that health problems, changes in diet and
emotional upsets (moving to a new home, adding a new pet
or family member, etc.) can cause temporary lapses in
housetraining. Diabetes in adult dogs and urinary tract
infections in both puppies and adults can cause dogs to
have to urinate more often. Urinary infections in young
female puppies are common. A symptom is frequent
squatting with little urine release. If you suspect a
physical problem, please take your dog for an
Sudden changes in dog food brands or overindulgence in
treats or table scraps can cause diarrhea. Dogs don't
need much variety in their diets so you're not harming
yours by staying to one brand of food. If you make a
change, do it gradually by mixing a little of the new
food with the old, gradually increasing the amount of
new food every day. A sudden change of water can cause
digestive upset, too. If you're moving or traveling,
take along a couple gallons of "home" water to mix with
the new. Distilled water from the grocery store can
also be used.
Cleaning up accidents
If you've worked hard with this training method, you
won't have many! Put your puppy (or adult dog) away out
of sight while you clean up a puddle. Dog mothers clean
up after their babies but you don't want your puppy to
think that YOU do, too! Clean up on linoleum is
self-explanatory. On carpeting, get lots of paper towel
and continue blotting with fresh paper until you've
lifted as much liquid as possible.
There are several home-made and commercially available
"odor killers" that are helpful. In a pinch, plain
white vinegar will work to help neutralize the odor and
the ammonia in the urine. (Don't use a cleaner with
ammonia - it'll make it worse!) Sprinkle baking soda on
the spot to soak up moisture and to help neutralize
odor, vacuum when dry. At the pet store, you can find a
good selection of products that may be more effective. A
diarrhea stain on carpeting or upholstery can be lifted
with a gentle solution of lukewarm water, dishwashing
soap and white vinegar.
Puppies are attracted to urine odors and their
noses are much better than ours! Even when using a
commercial odor killer, a teeny residue will be left
behind that our dogs can smell. Keep an eye on that
spot in the future! This remarkable scenting ability
does have an advantage - if you must paper-train your
dog and he doesn't know what newspapers are for yet,
"house-breaking pads" are available at your pet store.
Treated with a mild attractive odor (too weak for us to
smell), your puppy will gladly use them!
Advice for owners of male dogs
Your male puppy will begin to lift his leg between 6-9
months of age. It signals the activation of his sexual
drive and instinct to "mark" territory. This is a
perfect age to neuter your dog and avoid the unwanted
behaviors that accompany sexual maturity - marking in
inappropriate places, fighting and aggression toward
other male dogs. Intact (un-neutered) males will mark
any upright object and are especially hard on your shubbery and trees. Some males will also mark inside
the house, particularly if another dog comes to visit or
if you're visiting in someone else's home. If you use
your male for breeding, you can expect this behavior to
get worse. Neutering your dog will protect his health,
help him to live longer and be a better pet along with
improving his house manners!
This housebreaking guide was written by Vicki Rodenberg
and published as a service of the Chow Chow Club, Inc.
Welfare Committee. For further information, contact the
Committee at 9828 E. Co. A, Janesville, WI 53546 or
visit their website at http://www.chowclub.org/.