Step-By-Step Housebreaking Process
A new puppy (or dog) that is not housebroken should be restricted to one of these three
situations at all times:
1. Inside under your constant and attentive supervision.
2. Outside with you.
3. Confined to his crate/den.
Situation 3 is where your puppy should spend most of his time during the housebreaking process.
Did you notice that we did NOT include a situation where you leave your dog outside all
the time? Many people mistakenly think that puppies kept outside will be less trouble—
after all, they won’t be peeing and pooping in your house, and they won’t need your
constant supervision, right? But here is the reality: puppies left outdoors and
unsupervised for long periods of time seldom become housebroken. They tend to
bark, chew, dig, and escape from your yard. Outdoor puppies also become so excited
on the rare occasions when they are allowed indoors (excited puppies tend to pee
without warning), that eventually they are no longer allowed inside at all. We don’t want
that. You shouldn’t want that.
Here’s how to housebreak your four-legged friend:
1. Determine where you want your dog to go potty. It’s best to pick a doggy toilet
area that’s relatively close to the door, so you and your dog don’t have too far to go
when he’s gotta go. Give the location some thought, because after he’s trained, your
dog will continue to use this place as his toilet. This is convenient for clean-up time,
especially if you have a large yard—and your family won’t have to be wary of little
“landmines” when playing outside in the non-doggy-toilet areas.
2. Know when your puppy needs to go. Until your puppy is trained to tell you when
he needs to go outside (don’t worry, that will eventually happen), you have to be an
expert at deducing this. Sometimes a puppy will need to go within 5 minutes of going!
Don’t assume you don’t have to watch him just because he’s just gone potty.
Here’s when you should take a puppy out to go:
* Immediately after he wakes up.
* Immediately after letting him out of his crate/den.
* Every 30 to 60 minutes while he’s awake, based on his age (see Fact 2).
* After he eats or drinks.
* When he’s been doing something for a while (like chewing on a toy), and then
gets up and starts looking around.
* When he starts sniffing the floor.
* When he goes to an area where he’s gone potty before.
* When he’s running around and excited more than usual.
* When he’s look at or wandering near the door.
* When he’s pacing, whining, or starts to squat (duh!).
Note: Male puppies squat
to pee just like female puppies (versus lifting a leg) until they are 4-9 months old.
3. Keep your puppy under your constant and attentive supervision, or confined
to his crate, when indoors. It only takes a couple of seconds for a puppy to squat and
pee, so you must watch him very closely. Don’t stare at him (it’ll make him nervous), but
keep an eye on him at all times when he’s out of his crate. This will be easier if you limit
his movements, either by keeping him on a leash or by restricting him to one or two
Don’t think you can watch TV, wash the dishes, or do something else and still watch
your puppy. If you become distracted or preoccupied, accidents will happen and this will
make housebreaking your puppy a longer, more difficult task. It’s your responsibility to
take him outside when he needs to go. Accidents will be your fault, not your dog’s.
4. Take your dog to his designated toilet area every hour or whenever he needs
to go (see Step 2), whichever is less, and teach him to go on command.
* Every hour, fill your pocket with treats, release your pup from his crate and
quickly take him outside to the designated toilet area. Encourage him to go
quickly by enthusiastically calling “Outside, outside, outside!” (If you take your
time, he may pee or poop en route. Also, hurrying him along tends to jiggle his
bowels and bladder so that he really wants to go the moment you let him stand
still and sniff his toilet area.)
Take your dog out every hour even if he’s old enough to hold it for longer than
that. This practice is as much to train your dog—in the shortest time possible—to use the designated toilet area and go on command as it is for getting him outside
in time to pee or poop!
* Use a leash (even if you have a fenced yard) to lead him to the correct place.
This will also get him used to going potty while on the leash.
* Stand quietly (don’t stare at him) and wait until he begins to go. (If he stares at
you instead of doing his business because he smells treats in your pocket, just
look away and pretend to ignore him; eventually he’ll start sniffing and preparing
to go.) When he does start to go, quietly (so you don’t startle him) say “go potty.”
(You can choose another cue. Make it something you wouldn’t mind saying in
public. Once you decide, be sure that you and your family use only this
word/phrase, and use it every time he goes.)
* After your dog is finished, immediately give him a generous amount of tasty
treats and lots of enthusiastic praise. Lavish rewards mean quicker results!
These steps are essential. If you just open the door and let your dog run out by
himself to go potty, then give him a treat when he comes back to the house, his
housebreaking will take longer and be less successful. Your dog will think he’s
getting the reward for coming back to the house (versus going potty), and you’ll
miss the opportunity to train him to go on command.
5. Spend time playing with or training your puppy, or take him for a nice walk (if
he’s old enough). If you take him outside to go, and then quickly bring him back in and
ignore him after he does so, he’ll learn that "after I go, my fun ends!" Consequently, he
may become reluctant to go potty when he’s outside (and end up going inside when he
can no longer hold it).
It is much better to praise your puppy for going potty and then take him for a walk as an
extra reward for a “job well done.” This extra reward will also encourage him to go potty
What if he doesn't go potty when you take him outside?
If your puppy enjoys the great outdoors but doesn’t go potty within a few minutes, take
him back inside, put him in his crate, and try again in 10 minutes or so. Repeat the
process until he does go. Your puppy will learn that if he doesn’t go potty when you take
him outside to do so, he’ll be confined to his crate again (no go, no freedom).
Eventually he will go in the appropriate place at the appropriate time, and you will be
able to give him appropriate rewards!
What about putting down newspapers?
Allowing a puppy to go potty on newspapers or some other kind of potty pad/material is
a mistake. He will earn that he can go potty indoors, whenever he wants, as long as it’s
on the paper. He will never learn to hold it; he may never be truly housebroken.
Control what goes in so you can predict when it will come out.
What goes into a puppy will come out with predictable timing (depending on the age and
size of your dog). Feeding your dog on a set schedule will help him to go potty on a
regular schedule. Generally, a puppy will need to go potty about 15 minutes after eating
or drinking. If you let your dog eat and drink whenever he wants, you’ll be less able to
predict when he’ll need to go out.
Feed your puppy at the same time each day. Leave the food there for ten minutes or so,
then pick it up and put it away if he hasn’t finished it. A puppy younger than three months should be fed three times a day; older puppies and dogs should be fed twice a day.
Do not leave water out all day and night; put it down at regular intervals and pay
attention to how much he drinks. Don’t let him drink water after 7 p.m.
Feeding dry food is better than canned food which contains more liquid.
Handling Inevitable Accidents
If you follow the steps in this report, you’ll have fewer accidents—but they will happen.
Expect them. Don’t get upset at your dog when an accident happens. Instead, try to
determine why it happened. Did you get distracted when you should’ve been watching
him? Did you forget to take him out at the right time? Figure out what you did wrong, so
it doesn’t happen again.
Despite what many people believe, dogs do not intentionally pee or poop in your house
because they are angry, lonely, or want to “get back at you” for something. Dogs don’t
think of pee or poop as something “nasty” to be used out of spite. And the so-called look
of “guilt” or cowering in “shame” when you scold him is actually your dog’s way of
showing appeasement and submitting to your obvious anger.
If you do not actually catch your puppy in the act, do nothing (except clean it up).
Do not—repeat—do not rub his nose in it, hit him, yell at him, shake him, or punish him
in any way. Dogs don’t think about time the way humans do. Your dog will not
understand that you are upset about something that happened in the past—even if it
was just a minute or two ago. He will think he’s in trouble for whatever he’s doing at the
instant you discover the mess and go ballistic… whether he’s happily coming up to
greet you or sitting quietly.
What if you do catch him in the act?
If you catch your dog squatting and about to go potty inside the house, make a sudden,
surprising sound—such as slapping the wall—not to scare him, but to get his attention so that he momentarily stops what he’s doing. Then urgently encourage your puppy to
run outside with you. “Outside, outside, outside!” And finally, reward your puppy lavishly
for going potty in the right place.
In any case, be sure to clean up all accidents quickly and thoroughly. You must
eliminate any lingering scent so it doesn’t invite your puppy back for a repeat
How Long Before He’s Housebroken?
When can you safely start leaving your puppy or dog alone in the house for a while? It
depends on many things, including his age, size and—most importantly—your diligence
in training him!
In general, if you follow these housebreaking guidelines, your dog should be making
good progress within two months.
But some dogs learn quickly while others take more time. Gradually increase the
amount of time you allow your puppy to be indoors, out of the crate, and monitor his
Adult dogs generally need to go out at least once every four hours—first thing in the
morning, around midday, late in the afternoon, and before going to sleep for the night.
If you can’t get be home to let your puppy or dog out often enough, consider
hiring a pet sitter.
Expect accidents and set backs; they’re normal. Continue following the above steps and
Be Alert for Special Circumstances
There are a few reasons why it might be particularly difficult to housebreak a dog.
Dogs who were raised in puppy mills or pet stores, or who were regularly confined
without the opportunity to go potty away from their sleeping area, will take longer to
housebreak and require more patience and understanding from you.
Sudden changes in dog food brands or overindulgence in treats or table scraps can
There may be physical reasons, such as a urinary infection. Be sure to get your dog
checked thoroughly by your vet.
If you’re housebreaking a puppy, remember he doesn’t know anything yet. If you’re
housebreaking an adult dog, there may be some old habits he has to “unlearn” first. Be
patient, be consistent, be encouraging. A few weeks of dedicated effort on your part will
result in a lifetime of clean floors and a beautiful relationship with your dog!