Housetraining A Dog Of Any Age

Excerpts from Way To Go! How to housetrain a Dog of Any Age, by Karen B London and Patricia B. McConnell.
This booklet is available through our Store.  We have captured only a few key points to help begin the process.

Let's face it - It's much easier to think kind thoughts about your four-legged friend when she's not depositing smelly things in your house.  That's why housetraining is one of the most important steps toward having a good relationship with your dog.

In one sense, housetraining is a relative straightforward process.  You prevent accidents in the house and you reward your dog for going outside.  Of course, as we all know, actually pulling that off day in and day out until your dog is fully trained takes some time, effort and attention to detail.  The key is to get off to a good start so that both dog and human alike can develop the habits that become a natural part of each day.

The Basics

Housetraining is a simple, step-by-step process.  All you need to do is to ensure that your dog (or puppy) is in one of three situations at all times during housetraining.  He should be either outside with you, inside with your constant supervision, or confined to a small, puppy-proofed space such as a crate, small room or gated area.  The bad news is that "simple" doesn't always mean "easy".  It takes some energy and planning to pull this off.  Most dogs prefer to have specific potty areas and like to avoid soiling their eating sleeping places, so they will respond to a well organized housetraining plan.

Outside With You

When you're outside with your dog, you are witness to is activities, so you know if he has or hasn't pottied before you bring him back inside.  Equally important you will be there to reinforce him for going potty outside so that he learns that it's the right thing to do.

Put treats in your pocket and take him to the place in your yard designated as his toilet area.  He'll seek out that area in the future on his own if you always take him to the same spot.  Once you are in the right place, stand still and quietly wait until he begins to go. 

When he starts to eliminate, wait quietly until he's done, then immediately praise him and hand him a treat.

Inside with Your Constant Supervision

"Constant supervision" means you are watching your dog very closely at all times.  Anyone who has ever had responsibility for a toddler knows the drill.  It only takes a moment for your little one to disappear from view, and it only takes a moment for your puppy to squat and urinate, so stay attentive.

it's your responsibility  to take you r dog outside when he needs to go.  Your puppy doesn't know yet that anyone cares where he goes, so don't expect him to tell you that he needs to go outside. 

Crated or Gated

Whenever you can't watch your puppy, he needs to be in a small puppy-proofed space.  There are two advantages to this.  First, dogs will try their best not to soil their sleeping area, so your puppy is likely to soil in a little, den-like place than any other area of your house.  Second, his crate or puppy room prevents the bad habit of going potty anywhere else in the house and housetraining is all about developing good habits and preventing bad ones.

Lots of people have great luck with crates, because many dogs feel comfortable sleeping in small, enclosed den-like places.  We like to put the crate in the bedroom, where they are calmed by your presence at night.

Some dogs accept their sleeping areas from day one, but others like to whine or bark for a bit.  There's a fine line to walk here, because you don't want to teach your pup that you'll let him out if he makes noise, but you don't want to ignore him if he is trying to tell you he needs to potty either.  Usually you're safe to ignore any whines and whimpers when he is first put into his crate - most pups settle down after a few minutes and go to sleep.

Most dogs learn to love their crates - they seem to think of them with the same fondness that many of us have for the tranquility of our own bedrooms.

Other Situations

There are none!  At least not until your dog is farther along in the process.  Preventing mistakes is key to making housetraining fast and efficient, so it's worth the effort.


  Knowing When to Head Outside

It is your job to take your puppy outside when she might need to go.  The faster you become an expert at reading her signals, the faster she'll be housetrained. 

Take your dog outside when:


- She just wakes up
- You just greeted her and released her from the confinement area.
- She  just ate or drank.
- She has been chewing on something for a while and gets up to find something else to do.
- She is excited, agitated, or much more active than usual.
- She is wandering away from an area where she was playing in, sniffing the floor.
- She is trotting over to an area she has soiled before, especially if she starts sniffing in that area.
- anytime she is sniffing the floor!
- She is looking a bit confused or distracted.
- She is looking in the direction of the door she usually goes out, pacing or wandering into that area.
- She is pacing or whining.
- She was playing hard, especially with a human or other toy.  Sometimes puppies can get so busy playing that they don't take time out to go find a spot.  instead, they just squat in mid-romp. 
- She is refusing a treat or favorite toy.
- She begins to squat (okay, so this is pretty obvious, but we couldn't leave it out!)

Don't expect a tap on the shoulder.  Some dogs give obvious signs that they need to go out, but many dogs give only subtle signals and sometimes they give none at all. 

Take your pup out even more than you think is necessary and you will be well on your way to having a housetrained dog.

Words to the Wise

As a general rule, dogs tend to be more metabolically active first ting in the morning and again in late afternoon and early evening.  these are the times you will want to be especially vigilant.

Puppies need to go out right after eating or drinking.  By "right after" we mean within a minute or two of finishing their meal or having a long drink.

Feed your dog on a regular basis so that they can defecate on a regular basis as well.

The scent of urine is a neon sign that says "restroom" to dogs.  That's why it's so important to clean up accidents completely and correctly.


Handling Accidents and Clean-Ups.

No matter how diligent you are, the occasional mistake is inevitable.  You got distracted, you turned your back for a moment, and all of a sudden you carpet has been decorated with something smelly.  If you didn't actually catch the dog in the process of making the mess, resist the urge to correct them.  Don't rub her nose in it, don't hit her, don't yell at her and don't punish her.  She won't understand that you are upset about something that happened in the past, even if it was just two minutes ago.  If you punish your dog after the fact, she is likely to think she's in trouble for whatever she was doing at the moment you got upset.  That could have been sitting quietly, chewing on a bone, or coming to your call.  There's no way to make her understand that the mistake was eliminating in the house.

Catching your dog "in the act" is a different matter.  If you do see you dog begin to squat in the house,  make an abrupt noise to startle her.  them immediately rush her outside, cheerfully, and give her a treat and tons of praise if she dogs potty.  Give the treat just as she finished going so she will know what it is for.  After you've whooped it up with treats and praise, come back inside and clean up the accident.


This booklet contains much more information on successfully house training a dog of any age and some of the problems and solutions that will be encountered.  It also includes sections for expanding the dogs freedom in the house, tips for cleanup, training for elimination on cue, training the dog to ring a bell, and much more.  This is a concise easy to read reference for dogs of all ages.



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