Housebreaking Your Puppy

There’s no such thing as an almost housebroken dog,
Either he is or he isn’t. When a dog is housebroken he
never uses the house for his toilet.

Let me say a few words about “paper training”. Puppies learn by association. If you allow him to do his duties in the house on paper you are telling him in effect that it’s alright to do it within the four walls of the house. You are then making this association in his mind, so later when you expect him to go to the bathroom outside, he may think you are a little crazy and you can’t blame him. Any healthy puppy 8 weeks of age or older, even in cold weather can go outside to go to the bathroom. Of course you don’t leave him out long enough to get chilled. You take him out long enough to go to the bathroom.

Many people do not understand why their dog does not know what to do when taken outside. Merely taking him outside does not mean he knows what he’s being taken outside for. The biggest problem that the dog and owner have is that the dog would love to please, but doesn’t know how, and the owner would love to teach the dog but he doesn’t know how.

Housebreaking in theory is simple. It’s finding a means of preventing the puppy from going to the bathroom in the house and giving him an opportunity to do it outside. A dog is a creature of habit and because he learns by association, he will soon know that there is no other place to relieve himself but the great outdoors.

We take advantage of a very natural instinct of the dog, his desire to keep his sleeping quarters clean, so if we devise a bed that he cannot get out of, then presto, he going to stay clean.

The crate is a perfect, natural bed for the dog and a safe natural spot to place your pet whenever necessary for the dog’s safety or the owner’s peace of mind.

If your appalled by the idea of confining him to a crate, let me dispel any ideas of cruelty. You are actually catering to a very natural desire on the part of the dog.

Dogs are and always have been den and pack animals. Canines naturally and instinctively prefer the shelter of a den. The young are raised in dens.

In the wild state, where does a dog bed down for the night? Does he lie down in the middle of an open field where other animals can pounce on him? No!

He finds a cave or a trunk of a tree where he has a feeling of security. The correct use of a crate merely satisfies the dog’s basic need to feel safe, protected, snug and secure.

When thinking of the size of the crate needed for your pup, think small. Think den not condo! The use of too large a crate for a puppy will encourage the pet to use a small portion of it for a bed and the remainder as a relief station.

A crate should only be large enough for a dog to lie down comfortably, and no larger. Don’t put any towels or bedding in the crate with the puppy, I’ve found that when there’s anything else in the crate besides something for the puppy to chew on, the puppy he has a tendency to go to the bathroom on it.

Start crate training while you remain in the same room with the crated dog, verbally praising him and letting him know it is pleasing to you that he remains in the crate, quietly. Frequent trips out of the room with quick returns condition the dog to your comings and goings. Gradually extend your absent periods, and in a short time, you can be gone for several hours. While in the crate the dog should not be scolded. Whining and barking must be ignored. Crate confinement works so well that most dogs soon choose the crate for naps and, in general, consider it their own private den.

We’ll start with the last thing at night. Take the puppy out and give him an opportunity to do his duties and if you are in a protected area let him go free of the leash. I don’t walk around and I don’t stay outside with the pup more then 10 minutes. If he doesn’t go to the bathroom during that time, I bring him back in and crate him. Be sure to praise him when he has completed his duties. Take him inside at once and put him in his den.

First thing in the morning (and I mean first thing) take the puppy outside.

He’s been clean all night, and holding it all night, he should go to the bathroom in a hurry. Now bring him in and give him his freedom, but in the kitchen only. A child’s gate at the kitchen’s doorway is an excellent barrier to the other rooms in the house. Give him his freedom while your breakfast is being prepared and then while your eating breakfast. After your breakfast, and when you have time to take him out, feed him his breakfast ONLY LEAVING THE FOOD DOWN FOR 20 MINUTES. After that time pick it up, put his water down for 1 minute and then pick that up. Take him outside immediately. Remember the rule outside after each meal and each time that you give him water.

Now bring him in and put him in his den and go about your normal routine of the morning. He should stay in the den until 11:00am to 11:30am. Then out of the crate and outside. Bring him in, and while you’re preparing and eating your lunch, give him his lunch and then some water, then take him outside again to relive himself. When you bring him in let him have the freedom of the kitchen for about an hour. Give him water, followed by a quick trip outside, and then back in and into the crate until 4 pm and then outside again.

It is now time to feed him his dinner. I try to feed him by 4:30pm if possible. As soon as he is finished his last mouthful (remember LEAVE THE FOOD DOWN FOR 20 MINUTES) then pick it up, then give him water for 1 minute and pick that up, then take him outside. After he has gone to the bathroom, bring him in and again give him his freedom in the kitchen, while you are preparing dinner and during the dinner hour, as long as you can keep an eye on him. Then around 8 pm and then again before your bedtime take him outside again.

If he doesn’t relieve himself in 10 minutes, bring him in and confine him to his crate. He will soon understand what is expected of him. A long walk before and after he has relieved himself will destroy his understanding of why he is being taken outside.

  1. When the pup is out of the crate, he should never be out of sight.
  2. Puppies have to relieve themselves after they wake up, after you play with them, and after you feed them.
  3. Do not vary your puppy’s food. Snacks and treats are forbidden for now.

Using an Odor Neutralizer and Indoor Spray Repellents:

The second phase of housebreaking is getting rid of the pups past mistakes from the house. This is accomplished with an odor neutralizer, which is available in most pet stores and veterinary hospitals. DO NOT USE HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS as they contain ammonia and since dogs urine has ammonia in it, it will attract him back to the same spot, and he’ll think that it’s all right to go to the bathroom in that area, then spray the area that he has soiled with an indoor pet spray repellent.

Proper Correction: 

The final phase of housebreaking is the technique for correction. Under no circumstances should the puppy be punished for relieving himself in the house, unless you catch him in the act. The puppy has no mental capacity to connect your anger with whatever he did wrong even a few minutes earlier.
Catch him in the act or the correction is no good.

When the pup messes in the house and you catch him, (Do not rub his nose in it) run over and take him by the scruff of his neck and shake him. This is exactly what his mother did when he did something wrong. All you’re doing is reinforcing what his mother already started. This should be accompanied with a harsh “No”, immediately take him outside to finish what he has already started. You’re catching him in the act, you’re stopping him, and taking him outside to finish and then giving him a lot of praise when he finishes.

Many people are mistakenly convinced that a dog messes in the house for spite, usually for having been left alone. This is not so. It is for reasons of anxiety, nervousness or fear or simply that he is not properly housebroken.
Very often the owner comes home and finds the dog behaving in a fearful, shameful guilt ridden manner. It’s because of this behavior that the owner is convinced that the dog messed in the house for spite. It’s simple not true. The dog cringes when you come home because he associates your arrival with punishment.

With a little effort on your part and the use of this method your puppy can be housebroken overnight.

And don’t forget to start Obedience Training between 3.5 and 4 months of age.


Dan Gentile Dog Training Center
692 Lakewood Farmingdale Road
Howell, New Jersey 07731