House Training

Carol Comer on 6/6/2008

Useful Information:

  1. Most dogs will not eliminate where they eat, sleep or play. The exception to this could be a dog that has been kept in a small area where they have no choice and so they have no problem eliminating anyplace. This sometimes occurs in pet stores or with breeders that have unclean conditions set up for the dogs.
  2. Dogs will eliminate in the house mostly because they have not been trained to do otherwise. However, there may be other reasons and should be considered. There may be a medical cause for the problem, the dog might be marking his territory or the dog may urinate when excited, nervous, upset or frightened. So please take all of these things into consideration. When a dog's toilet habits change it may signal another problem.
  3. It is important to decide where you want the dog to eliminate. Do you want him to go on a training pad or outside? You need to send a clear message to the dog in the beginning of what a suitable place is for him to eliminate.
  4. Another consideration is confinement of the dog because this to is a key factor in house training. This should be kept to a minimum but it will be necessary in training the dog. What we are really doing is teaching the dog to ‘restrain from eliminating' until they are at their designated area.
  5. House training is a lot of work and requires a great deal of time, effort and patience. Patience is crucial because you must recognize the fact that the dog does not know the rules of the house because you are the one that established the rules. The one truth that will never change in this equation is that the dog will always act like a dog so if you don't train him he will eliminate wherever and whenever.
  6. With puppies sometimes they are not completely housetrained until they reach between 8-12 months. So don't think because things are going well that you can give the dog free reign of the house. Too much freedom too soon may set you back. Just remember the more times the dog is successful in his designated spot the quicker house training will be over.
  7. If you have a puppy you will need to know how long you can leave the dog during the day without a chance to eliminate. A good rule of thumb is for every month 1 hour so that would equal 4 hours for a four month old dog. However, this may be less for a small breed dog.
  8. If your puppy is less than 4 months they may need to go out during the night. Set your clock, get up and take them. You will be glad you did the next morning and so will they. By the time they reach 4 months they should be able to sleep through the night.
  9. If you have a rescue dog, adopted dog or stray dog you will need to implement house training rules. They may just need a refresher or they just aren't house trained period.

The Do's and Don'ts of House Training

  1. Food
    • It is important to schedule your dog's feedings. Which means don't leave food down all day for the dog to eat. Put the food down and give the dog around 10-15 minutes and take the food back up if the dog doesn't eat it and offer it again later. This is a math problem, input equals output so if you don't know when the dog eats then you won't know when he needs to eliminate. Also, make sure if he is a Puppy he is getting Puppy food and if he will be over 50 pounds as an adult feed him Large Breed Puppy food.
    • Make sure you check your current dog food to verify the ingredients and shop for a premium food. A good premium food will mean less clean up and better nutrition. Chicken by products and ground corn are not bad but they are not the best. You want to look for a product that is easily digestible for the dog and contains a good protein like chicken meal.
  2. Times when the dog needs a break
    • Do take your dog out often and stay on a consistent schedule. Puppies need to be taken out every hour and adult dogs around 4-5 times a day.
    • Do take the dog out first thing when you get up in the morning, after the dog eats (around 5-20 minutes), also after the dog has been sleeping, exercising, chewing, when you get home from work, and before you go to bed at night. Again if your puppy is less than 4 months you may need to take him out during the night. You may also want to take the water supply up around 3 hours before going to bed to help during the night.
  3. Accidents
    • If you catch the dog in the act tell the dog firmly "NO", pick him up or lead him to the designated area to finish up and reward him there not when you get back inside.
    • If you find an accident do not punish the dog instead clean it up. Punishing after the fact will not benefit you or the dog instead the dog will learn to hide and potty.
    • It is important to use a good enzyme cleaner because this will eliminate the smell by breaking down the feces and urine so the dog no longer smells it otherwise he may continue to use that spot.
  4. Supervision
    • Supervision is more than the dog just being in the same room with you. You need to watch the dog or put the dog on a leash and keep the dog with you. Remember supervision is one of the keys to success and that means knowing where your dog is and what they are doing at all times.
    • Each dog has a sign such as waiting at the door, running, being too quiet, walking stiffly, sniffing, circling, pacing, whining, etc. and every dog is different so you need to discover what your dog's signs are and take them out when they exhibit these signals. Also it is important to note that not all dogs will let you know they need to go out so that is why it is so important for you supervise them. If you have a dog that barks or scratches to let you know then that is a plus.
    • What if you can't watch the dog? Then a crate, baby gate or exercise pen may be useful to confine them. As things progress and the dog is doing well with house training you can start to give him more freedom but do this gradually and remember to supervise him.
    • Always confine an untrained puppy if you can't supervise them. Remember the less accidents the quicker you will get past potty training.
  5. Training your dog to eliminate while on a leash
    • Have your tasty treats, your dog on a leash and use a phrase like ‘let's go potty' each time you take the dog to the designated spot. Give the dog about 10-15 minutes and if he has done nothing then take him back inside. Don't stand outside for 30-45 minutes.
    • When you come back inside you must supervise the dog or confine him. After about 30 minutes take him out again.
    • If you go out and the dog does eliminate then you may want to give it a command. During house training I use the word ‘busy' or ‘potty' while the dog is in the process ofeliminating. Now you are training your dog to eliminate on command and yes it works.
    • Remember always reward right after the dog eliminates and not later so that you reinforce the eliminating outside and not inside. You can also use playtime and a nice walk as a reward.
    • Remember we ask our dogs to something we don't. HOLD IT! So be patient and consistent so they will get the message quickly.
    • Don't use the walk to get him to eliminate, instead get the dog to eliminate first then go for a walk. This way the walk is a reward otherwise you may end up walking a long time only to return home and dog poops or pees on the floor. His understanding is the longer he holds out the longer the walk is and new sights, sounds and smells are very stimulating for him. Our dogs don't live by the same set of guidelines we do. In fact the worse an object you find while out walking the more your dog will want it.
  1. Don't rub the dog's nose in his poop or pee. He already knows it is his.
  2. Don't punish the dog for any accidents and by this I mean no yelling, hitting, slapping or using a rolled up newspaper. Instead quickly run to the nearest mirror with the rolled up newspaper in your hand, look at yourself and say "bad owner, bad owner" while beating yourself with the newspaper because it is your fault he had an accident. It is easier to train the dog what to do and where to go than to punish him for every place he has an accident.
  3. Don't bring the dog inside the second he eliminates instead as a reward give him some time outside to play or maybe take him for a walk.
  4. Don't use household cleaners to clean up the accidents. You may not smell it but he still can and may continue to eliminate in that same spot.
  5. Dogs don't generalize well so don't assume they are house trained to some one else's house.

Training the dog to potty inside in a designated area

  • You will use the same principles to train as stated about but you will need to select an area in the house to set it up. Let's say a bathroom with a baby gate or an exercise pen with a potty pad or litter box and a crate. These are both good alternatives and work well if used properly. They need enough room to play, sleep and eliminate and that is all.
  • You will need to train the dog to a potty pad or litter box just as you would to take them outside. You must supervise them and at the right time take them to the pad or litter box, when they go you give them a command ‘Potty' and immediately a reward. Some dogs tend to tear up the pads but if you are gone for long periods of time you can't expect a two to six month old dog to hold it for 8 hours.

If you are patient you will be successful. Your dog does not have the same system of logic and reason that you do so he is not acting out of spite; he is not trying to punish you. Clearly he just doesn't understand yet and it may take more time to train. We all learn at different levels and we wouldn't want someone punishing us for going to the bathroom especially when we can go when we want to. So we are asking them to do something we ourselves don't do. The key facts to remember are supervision, frequent breaks, understanding the dog's signals, paying attention to the dog, rewarding the dog in the designated area and being consistent.

Training the dog to a bell

  • Show the dog the bell and if she touches it with her nose reward her. Once she is touching her nose to the bell every time you show it to her go on to the next step. Put the bell away when you are not practicing with it.
  • Show her the bell and only feed her a reward when she rings the bell by touching it. Once she is ringing it every time you show it to her go on to the next step. Put the bell away when you are not practicing with it.
  • Hang the bell by the door and show her the bell. Give her a treat when she rings it. Once she is ringing the bell by the door each time you point to it, go on to the next step. Put the bell away when you are not practicing with it.
  • Let her watch you as you place a treat outside the door. Close the door and then point to the bell. When she rings the bell, open the door and let her get the treat. Once she rings the bell right away when you place a treat outside go on to the next step. Leave the bell in place by the door.
  • Next time you think she has to potty, go with her to the door and point to the bell. When she rings it, open the door and let her potty. Reward her with a treat when she finishes. Each time you let her out to potty, ask her to ring the bell first and feed her a treat when she finishes.
  • Leave the bell on the door and when she rings it let her out to potty. If she starts to play or linger around outside, bring her in. This will prevent her from ringing the bell when she just wants to go outside. You don't want her to think she can ring the bell to go out and play. The bell is for potty only and play or a walk can be used as a reward after she goes to the bathroom.