Key Tips for Housebreaking Your Puppy or Dog

One of the largest misconceptions about house breaking is that your dog instinctively knows when you take it out that it must go to the bathroom. Bringing your dog outside 3 times per day and asking it to go pee is not an effective way to house break your pet.

Dogs love to please their owners. They are pack animals and thrive on pack structure. You must behave as your dog’s leader and show your best friend exactly what behaviors are expected. If your dog does use the bathroom in the house, it’s not because your dog is being defiant or can’t learn. It’s because you are letting your dog down as his leader.

Two things must happen in order to house break your dog successfully. The first is find a means to prevent your dog from going to the bathroom in your house and only allow him to go outside. The second is to teach your dog to effectively communicate when it has to relieve itself.

Doggy Habits

Dogs are hereditarily creatures of habit.  They learn by association, so if you train him consistently, it will be effective.  Dogs naturally desire to keep their sleeping area clean. One of the best things you can do for your dog or puppy is crate training.

Though many view crates as a cruel way to keep dogs locked up all day, dogs actually love having their own den.  Being that they are natural descendants from wolves, dogs prefer a shelter to spend time in when they are not active or eating.

Dog Crates

Dog crates are perfect beds for your dogs and they protect your dog from injury or harm. When house training a dog, purchase a plastic airline crate because they are easy to clean out and if your dog uses the bathroom in it, you can take it outside to spray it out.

Keep cleaning supplies by your dogs crate so if it does relieve itself inside, you can clean it out quickly. The last thing you want is for your dog to get used to having feces and urine in its crate. This allows your dog to associate his sleeping area with the bathroom, making it much harder for it to learn this is wrong.

By a crate that is large enough for your dog to turn around in and no larger. If you have a puppy that will grow into a large dog, but a crate that fits its size at the time you are training him. As it gets larger, you can purchase a larger crate to accommodate its size. However, putting your dog in a crate that is too large will allow him room to use the bathroom on one side and sleep on the other.

When you are housebreaking, do not put a bed or blankets inside of your dog’s crate. You can line to bottom with a rubber mat for padding and to eliminate noise when your dog turns around. Whatever material you use in the bottom of the crate, make sure it is easily washable.

If you are worried that your dog or puppy will be upset in a crate, understand that you are catering to its natural instincts. Your puppy or dog will whine and scream for the first 2 days of crate training if it is not used to this environment. But, soon your new friend will learn this gets him nowhere and he will grow tired of whining. After a few days, he will stop altogether.

When the whining and crying bothers you, remember that this will prevent your dog from using the bathroom on your carpet, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to allow him to work out the new situation. Soon you will find that your dog love his crate and will go to it often to rest or relax.

If your puppy or dog is reluctant to use the crate, keep a container of his favorite treats by the crate. When you use the “Crate” command, throw in a few treats to let him know the crate is a good thing.  If he gets a treat when he goes into the crate, he will know the experience is a positive one.

Everything You Need to Know about Feeding, Watering, and the Crate

Your dog should never have free reign over the house while you are training him. He should never ever be out of your site in your home. If you want to take him out of the crate, put him on a leash and keep him by your side.

Again, this may seem cruel, but that is a complete misunderstanding. Your dog needs to be in a safe environment, and until he understands the rules of your house, this is how things will work.

If you leave your home during the day, put your dog in his crate before you go. If you will be gone for an extended period of time, it’s okay to leave his water dish in his crate. When you arrive home, greet your dog, take him outside on a leash, and bring him back to his crate when you return.

Puppies will sleep 15 to 18 hours a day, so, they associate the crate with a nap. It should be in no way a form of punishment. If you want to keep your dog out of the crate during the day, you must be able to give him the right attention. You must also be willing to keep him on a leash near you at all times.

You can take him off leash to play, but if you have him in the kitchen while you are cooking or at your feet while watching the news, keep him on a leash or child gates up in the area. One of the best ways to housebreak your dog is to afford him no opportunity to use your house as a bathroom.

Feeding and Watering Your Dog

It’s a good habit to feed and water your dog in his crate. In fact, most dog trainers will not feed their dogs anywhere other than their crate. You must also feed your dog at the appropriate times with the appropriate amounts of food.

Never just fill up your dog dish and walk away. Dogs eat specific amounts of food according to their activity level and size. Your veterinarian or pet store associate can help you determine how much and how often to feed your dog.

Typically you will feed your dog in the morning and at night. Your dog does not need to eat more than twice per day. You can offer him treats as rewards between meals, but never feed him more than 2 full meals a day. Measure your dog’s food with a measuring cup to make sure that he is not over fed.

If you fill your dogs dish with food, this allows him to eat at his leisure throughout the day. He can eat several times per day and never get on a schedule to poop. Feeding him at the same time each day allows him a schedule for eating and relieving.

Your dog will need to use the bathroom around 15 minutes after he eats. When you take him out to relieve himself, do so in a confined area. You can take him out off leash at this time. However, if you do not have a fenced area, take him out on his leash. Praise your dog every time he uses the bathroom outside.

Leave water out for your dog from 8 am until 6 pm. Make sure his bowl is filled with fresh, clean water. Take the water bowl away at 6 pm so that he does not have access to it at night. This will prevent any urination in his crate while you are asleep.

When to Take Your Dog Out

When you wake up in the morning, let your dog out immediately. He has been holding it all night and will need to go right away.  Once he has enough time to do his business, bring him back in the house. You can take him into the kitchen while you prepare food, but make sure he is gated in or on leash.

Eat your breakfast first and then feed your dog. Always eat before your dog so he understands the pecking order in your home. He needs to know at all times that you are his leader and leaders eat first.

Once he eats, take him outside again. Do the same thing after his dinner. Dogs need to relieve themselves after sleeping, eating, and exercising. Once he goes to the bathroom outside after breakfast, put him back in his crate and go about your day.

For the rest of the day, keep him on a regular schedule. If you let your dog outside too often, then he will not associate going potty without outside. Take him outside again at noon and then put him back in his crate. Take him out again after dinner and before bed.

So, on this schedule, your dog should go outside first thing in the morning, after breakfast, at noon, after dinner, and before bed. That’s it. While he is out, make sure he gets plenty of exercise. You can also use this opportunity to interact with him, playing fetch or tug of war.

To get your dog used to going to the bathroom outside, praise him as he exits your home. Tell him “good outside” or another command that he will associate with going to the bathroom outside.

You can never take your dog outside too often or too much. Though you want him to be on a schedule so he gets in the habit of his routine, it’s better to take him outside often rather than not enough. If he goes outside, he will know it’s his chance to go to the bathroom. This will prevent accidents in his crate or on your floor.

Correcting Your Dog When Accidents Happen

The only time you should punish your dog or puppy for using your house as a restroom is if you catch him in the act. If you find a puddle or pile of feces in your home and did not see your dog doing the act, then do not correct him.

Your dog will have no mental recollection as to what he did wrong, even if he did it only a short while before. He will not be able to put your scold with his action together and this will only cause confusion.

If you do catch your puppy in the act, then a strong verbal correction is all you need. Do not physically harm your dog. And never rub your dog’s nose in his own feces or urine. You would not do this to a human, so don’t think that it is okay to do to a dog.

When you see your dog relieving himself in the house, run over immediately and grab him by the scuff of his neck. With a firm “no”, lead him outside so he can finish his business.

When you get back in, clean up the mess immediately.

Listen for cues

If your dog went out two hours before and he begins to whine, take him out. Don’t associate this with a need for attention. He may need to go again and will mess in his crate if you do not allow him the opportunity to go outside.

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise during the dog. Exercise allows him to rid of his energy and also encourages his digestion. Dogs usually have to use the restroom during exercise, so this is a good way to make sure that he goes outside.

Keep your puppy in his crate for the first 24 months unless he is out to play, go outside, or spend time with the family in a monitored situation. Many people complain that their dogs chew up household items, but the only one to blame is the owner.

When dogs are bored, lonely, or frustrated they will chew. It is your job as a responsible owner to protect your dog and your property at all times.

Points to remember

Keep your dogs diet consistent at all times. Varying your dogs diet will upset his digestion, causing diarrhea. Feed your dog the same food every day. If you plan to change your dog’s food, do so slowly by mixing it in with his current food for several days. Slowly add less of his current food and more of his new food over time.

It is best for your dog’s digestion and health to feed him a natural, raw diet. However, if you buy commercial dog food, buy only the best brands. Do not buy cheap brands because they are on sale. Spend the extra money to avoid fillers and other additives that will upset your dog’s digestion.

Praise your dog every time he goes to the bathroom outside. Treat him when he goes into his crate. Allow him to go outside, but bring him in once he goes.

Give him long walks during the day to help him get rid of his energy. He will likely go right to his crate to nap when you come back in.

If your dog does go to the bathroom in your house, clean it up immediately and use an odor neutralizer to get rid of the smell. If you don’t he will pick up the scent and may learn to associate that particular spot with relieving himself.

A final pointer is that older dogs and puppies housebreak using the same methods. If you adopt a rescue that is older and not housebroken, these methods work just as well. Dogs need guidance and nurturing just like humans. The only way your dog will ever learn is if you consistently work with him. He wants to please you, but you must teach him how to do so.

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