The key to housebreaking your dog is preventing accidents from happening in the first place. With each day that your dog has eliminated only outside, you are one step closer to having a housebroken dog. Whether you are housebreaking a new puppy, a rescue dog, or a dog you have owned and never yet completely trained, you would follow the same rules.
First, supervision is the most important step. Do not get into the habit of leaving your dog gated in the kitchen when you are home just to prevent accidents on the carpet. From the start, allow the dog to be in the same room with you when you are home. Close the door behind you and be sure to keep the dog busy with interesting toys to play with. It is smart to take your dog out every half hour to one hour depending on his activity level when first training him. Set your dog up for success and take him out to eliminate before he has an accident. These frequent trips outside are not forever but just for a few months while training your dog.
When you take the dog outside, consistently bring him to one spot to eliminate. When the dog does urinate or defecate, calmly praise him. If the dog does not eliminate within five minutes, bring him back in the house and supervise. Be sure to remember that he is still due to go and should probably be taken out again in fifteen minutes vs. an hour.
If in the house, the dog starts to have an accident in front of you, make a noise (clap your hands once). Then tell the dog “outside,” letting him know how he can fix his mistake, and take him to his well known potty spot. Praise if he eliminates outside.
If you are not able to catch your dog in the act of urinating/defecating in the house, you should not reprimand him for it. Clean up the mess and realize you were lacking on supervision at that point. A dog whose owner reprimands him after the fact, will only realize that the owner is upset with sight of the puddle or stool, not the act of urinating or defecating two minutes or two hours before. The dog will only be upset and confused if reprimanded at this point.
Finally, when you are unable to supervise your dog, he should be crated. The crate should be used for times when the owner is not home or simply unable to supervise the dog (ex. when the owner is in the shower). The crate is designed to keep dogs safe and out of trouble. Because dogs have a natural instinct to eliminate away from their sleeping area, the crate needs to be only big enough for the dog to sit, lie down, and turn around in. The age of the puppy or dog will determine how long they can spend in the crate without having to be let out to eliminate.
With each day that your dog does not have an accident in the house because you were able to follow these rules, you are one step closer to having a housebroken dog.
Nancy Suhr, of For Christy Dog Training offers private, in-home training sessions as well as small group puppy classes and private training sessions by appointment at Oldwick Animal Hospital. Nancy can be reached on 908.797.7144. Oldwick Animal Hospital can be reached on 908.439.2470.