Potty Training aka Housebreaking

Potty Training aka Housebreaking

Potty training your dog teaches it not to soil the home. It is often the first challenge dog owners face. Depending on your approach, you either have a good time with your dog during this phase or live through a peeing and pooping nightmare.

Housetraining a dog is not rocket science but requires consistency and commitment.

If you bring a new dog—puppy or adult—into your home, let it run loose, and it soils the place, it’s not your dog’s fault; it’s yours.

Any dog needs to learn the rules of the home and where you want it to eliminate. The best practice is establishing a controlled process for your dog, making it nearly impossible to eliminate inside by accident. As your dog learns the rules, it will earn more freedom over time.

Generally, any dog that eliminates in the home needs to be housebroken—there is no such thing as a partially housetrained dog. Even after one accident—assuming it’s not a health issue—you are back to square one of housetraining.

Body signals a dog exhibits when it has to go:

  • Starting to pant
  • Starting to sniff the area excessive
  • Whining
  • Pawing (at us)
  • Standing up and becoming restless when previously lying down
  • Getting a slight hump in the back (just before going)

Potty Training Puppies

Puppies have limited bladder control. Just like a newborn child, they can’t hold it for long. Accept that there will be accidents while your puppy learns. When accidents happen, clean them up with non-toxic cleaners to eliminate the smell and disinfect the area. My favorite commercial cleaner is from Seventh Generation (multi-surface spray cleaner). It’s free of harsh chemicals and cleans well without harming you or your pets.

Potty Training aka Housebreaking

The key to housetraining a puppy is structure. For the first two to three months of its life, keep your puppy on a leash or in a crate at all times except for the limited use of exercise pens. That way, your puppy cannot soil randomly. Housetraining should start the moment your puppy comes home and continue for at least four weeks.

Keep an eye on your puppy while on a leash. The leash should not be more than six feet long, so you can always keep an eye on your puppy. This also helps spot signs when it’s time for a bathroom break. It should go back into its crate when you can’t watch your puppy.

The crate should be big enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around and comfortably lie down. It should not be larger. By nature, dogs won’t soil where they eat and sleep, so the crate is the place to feed your puppy and keep it at night. You can move the crate to the bedroom or use multiple crates, but your puppy should be in a crate at night for its first two to three months in your home.

In the beginning, take your puppy outside on a leash to pee and poop every one to two hours. It should be taken straight from the crate outside to a designated elimination spot. Say something like, “go potty.” This will help it learn that this command means to go outside to pee and poop.

Night-time potty break intervals can be four to five hours. But initially, getting up at night is the only way to avoid accidents. Stay with your puppy during the elimination time.

When you take your puppy outside during the day to eliminate in the designated area—and it’s successful, reward it with petting and, possibly, play or food. Your puppy needs to learn that going in the right spot is appreciated. However, there is no point in reprimanding a puppy for an in-home accident. If there is an accident, accept it’s your fault, not your puppies. At night time, potty breaks should be “strictly business.” You clip the leash on, say, “go potty,” and take it outside. Once it finishes, you bring it back into its crate and return to bed.

Potty Training Adult Dogs

House training an adult dog is similar to puppies, but an adult has better bladder control, so the housebreaking process focuses more on establishing rules and a routine.

Potty Training aka Housebreaking

The principle of control remains the same as with puppies, including using leashes and crates to establish order.

For an adult dog, I recommend the following process:

For the first week, take your dog outside every two hours during the daytime and give it five minutes to eliminate at a designated area. Please keep your dog on a leash the entire time and stay with it. Say “go potty” every time you take it out. After five minutes, take your dog back inside, whether or it eliminated. It goes into a crate when you can’t keep an eye on your dog inside. At night you can sleep through and take your dog out once before you go to bed and then again first thing in the morning.

If the two-hour rhythm works well, switch to a three to four-hour rhythm for another week or so and then switch to a flexible schedule suiting you.

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Sarah started this journey because she had a trained dog to mitigate her disabilities. But Sarah needed additional tasking for a new diagnosis. The only option she could find was getting a second dog for the new diagnosis. She knew there had to be a different way to address this. Sarah's passion is changing the ways of the service dog training industry.