How to Housetrain Your Dog in Three Easy Steps

Let’s start the year off right by housetraining your dog!  Housetraining is all about creating a habit in your dog.  He will go to the bathroom wherever he goes the most.  It’s that simple! Your goal is to make sure he “goes the most” outside on the grass. 

Follow these three easy steps to housetrain your dog:

  1. Put your dog on a schedule.  Take your dog out anytime he wakes up, finishes a play session, and 20 minutes after he eats or drinks.  One of those things should be happening every 2-3 hours!
  2. Go outside with your dog.  Don’t just put the dog out alone in a fenced yard. Instead, put him on a leash and go out with him.  Stand in one general area until he goes to the bathroom. Reward him for completing his business and make the reward memorable—a piece of garlic chicken, cheddar cheese, or a walk.
  3. Prevent accidents by managing the dog’s environment.

    • When you’re home, tether the dog to your waist. That way, he can’t sneak into another room to go to the bathroom. If you choose not to tether the dog, you must actively supervise. Don’t allow the dog out of your sight, even for a moment.
    • When you’re out or when you can’t supervise, either use a crate or a puppy-proof room to minimize the chance of damage and accidents. Until the dog has gone three months without an accident, do not leave him unattended or unconfined.

Keep repeating these three steps until your house has been declared an accident free zone for at least three months.

What happens if your supervision falters and your dog has an accident?

  • If you catch your dog “in the act,” remain calm. Don’t bother punishing the dog. Punishment at this point will tend to teach the dog not to go to the bathroom in front of you…which is not a good plan for housetraining. Instead, just take him calmly by the collar and lead him outside. (If your dog is small enough, scoop him up and carry him out.)  Reward him if he finishes his business outside.
  • Clean the area thoroughly using an enzyme-based product (Nature’s Miracle, Simple Solution, etc.). Any remaining residue will serve as a marker for your dog, indicating that this is a good potty spot, so be thorough. After you’ve cleaned the area, make it inaccessible to the dog in some way—put a chair over it, block the doorway, etc.

With a little diligence and management, housetraining can be a breeze.  If you want to learn more, check out my favorite house training book:

What have you found helpful in housetraining your dog? 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

7 thoughts on “How to Housetrain Your Dog in Three Easy Steps

  1. RE: training to pee outside
    All dogs and puppies need to have positive reinforcement. A treat or a lot of praise in a friendly high pitch voice and gently clap your hands and let them know they did good. Puppies need to be picked up and taken outside first thing in the morning, after naps and after playing until they get the idea of where they are suppose to do they’re elimination. Next step is to carry them to the door, place them on the floor and let them walk outside with your encouragement. Always give them praise and let them know that they did a good job. Scolding when they soil in the house only confuses them and doesn’t solve the problem. I know it’s a lot of work but in the long run well worth it! I have trained my 3 dogs this way and anytime they had accidents in the house it was my fault.

    • No behaviorist would state that positive reinforcement alone is the solution for everything, but there is also the question of intensity or degree. Harsh scolding after or even when the bad deed is done can be harmful, with the former confusing on intent, and the latter on degree. A mild, calm and brief disapproval is enough to let the dog know it is bad, and increase their inhibition against eliminating in the house. I don’t usually start this until AFTER they have responded to reinforcement towards outside elimination, so that they have a learned alternative.

      Part of the confusion is a lack of understanding of punishment. That there is a difference between yelling at or hitting the dog, against using their name with “no” and a stern look for just a few seconds. That the latter will not make a dog afraid of your presence. That reinforcement of one behavior is far more effective if there is some inhibition of the alternative. Something that people often do in other situations without thinking or even noticing what they do.

      There are also practical differences in emphasis and methods between young puppies and older dogs, where I’d be more likely to restrict the movements of a young pup inside the house. I tend to have more older (>4 months) dogs here, with dozens needing potty training.

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  3. late in seeing this. So many people believe that just putting a dog outside will potty train them. I live in a town home community, and while walking my wonderful Keeshonds, I noticed most days, one of my neighbors had her puppy tied to the tree in front of the house. The puppy barked like crazy. The first time I actually saw the neighbor putting the dog out, I stopped and asked her why she was tying the dog up like that. She admitted not having a lot of experience with dogs, and was trying to housebreak the pup. I spent about an hour with her going over different things about raising a puppy. But she finally understood when I explained that just by tying the dog out, all she really was doing was teaching him to bark. Because when he would start barking up a storm, she brought him in the house. Best way was to only take the dog out to do his business, once done praise him and bring him in. Until he associated out with potty, don’t play with him outside. less than a month later, she had a house trained, well adjusted dog, who knew how to tell her he had to go out.

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