Dog Behavior Problems

Dog Housebreaking and Soiling in the House

housebreaking a puppy

Dog Housebreaking
11 Tips to Make it Work

Dog owners, particularly puppy owners can be quickly frustrated with dog housebreaking and dogs that soil in the house. Constantly cleaning up accidents in the house can be discouraging for dog owners.  Many people make a ton of mistakes trying to housebreak puppies and older dogs simply because they dog not have the knowledge to make it work for them.  This often results in dogs finding themselves surrendered to shelters or rescue groups.  Here are 11 tips to make housebreaking work for you.

Close Supervision Is Essential
Close supervision is essential any time your puppy is not crated indoors. It only takes a few seconds for your puppy to have a house soiling accident, so watch for signs that your puppy may need to eliminate, such as sniffing the floor, circling, or running out of sight suddenly. Be sure to take them outside immediately if you see these behaviors.

Confinement When Puppy Can’t Be Supervised
Crate training is recommended for puppies and most adolescent dogs when left unsupervised alone in the house. If properly introduced and used appropriately, crate training is an efficient and humane way to prevent house training accidents as well keep your puppy safe when you cannot watch him (or when you leave the house/apartment without him). The crate should not be used for excessive periods of time and should not be used as a punishment (although brief “time outs” in the crate are fine). Sufficient daily companionship, interactive playtime and exercise are very important to all puppies and dogs.

Note: Crate training and other forms of confinement must be balanced with sufficient exercise and companionship. Excessive periods of isolation can be very detrimental to your puppy, and can contribute to numerous behavioral problems including hyperactivity, destructive behavior, digging, self-mutilation, and excessive barking.

Frequent Access To the Great Outdoors
dog housebreaking training
Puppies need to urinate shortly after they eat, drink water, play, chew, or sleep. For most puppies over 10 weeks of age, that means somewhere between 5 and 10 times a day! Adolescent dogs (from 6 to 11 months. old) will need 4 to 6 walks a day. Adult dogs need 3 to 4 walks a day, and elderly dogs need at least 3 to 4 walks daily (incontinent dogs will need more).

Do Not Return Inside Until Your Puppy Eliminates
If your puppy has been confined overnight to a crate, take him outside first thing in the morning (before he’s had a chance to soil indoors.) Be prepared to stay outdoors with him until he eliminates. (This could take from a few minutes to as much as several hours!) As soon as your puppy eliminates outdoors, offer him lavish praise and a treat. If you take your puppy back inside the house before he’s fully eliminated, he will surely have an house soiling accident indoors! When you go outside, don’t go for a walk. Take your pup to the same area of the yard and stand still.

Note: If you absolutely have to return home before your puppy does his “business”, crate him, then try taking him outside again every 15-30 minutes until he “goes”.

Praise & Reward Your Puppy For “Going” Outdoors
Lavish praise, a trigger word (i.e. “potty”, “get busy”, “business”, “bombs away”, etc.) and a treat reward immediately following his eliminating in the right place (newspapers, backyard, or outdoors) will help you to communicate to your puppy that you are pleased with his behavior. Delayed praise is not effective, so witnessing him going in the right spot is important.

No Access To Inappropriate Areas To Eliminate
Many puppies and dogs prefer certain areas or surfaces to eliminate on, such as rugs, carpeting, etc. Keep your puppy away from risky areas or surfaces whenever possible. If your puppy suddenly runs out of sight (i.e. out of the room), he may be looking for a secret spot to eliminate, so close doors to rooms where he may sneak a quick pee or poop.

Neutralize Urine Odors With Enzyme-Based Deodorizer
Should your puppy have a few house soiling accidents despite your best efforts to prevent them, neutralize any soiled areas (carpet or floor surface) with an pet odor neutralizer such as Nature’s Miracle, Fresh ‘n’ Clean, or Outright Pet Odor Eliminator or even a  Water/Vinegar solution. Avoid using ammonia-based cleaners to clean up after your puppy’s urine, as ammonia breaks down to urea, which is a component of urine.

No Water After 8PM
Generally speaking, it is advisable to take up your puppy’s water bowl after 8 PM, unless he seems very thirsty or weather conditions are exceedingly hot. (But a couple of ice cubes are OK)

After-The-Fact Discipline Does NOT Work!
Never discipline (verbally or otherwise) your puppy or dog after-the-fact for house soiling accidents that you did not actually witness. (Even if you should see your puppy eliminate on the floor or carpet, harsh physical punishment is never recommended.) Remember, if your puppy eliminates in the house and you didn’t see it, it was your fault not theirs!

Never Discipline A Dog For Submissive Urination!
Submissive and excitement urination are completely involuntary, so never discipline your puppy for this. Eye contact, verbal scolding, hovering over, reaching out to pet your puppy’s head, animated movements, talking in an exciting or loud voice, as well as strangers/visitors approaching your puppy, may all potentially trigger your puppy to piddle. Disciplining your puppy for involuntary piddling must be avoided or the problem will simply get worse and can even lead to bigger problems.

Working For It!
Your puppy should earn the freedom to be in certain areas of the house. When your puppy is out of the crate, restrict them to certain, small areas of the house. As they improve with their housebreaking skills, allow them the opportunity to venture into other areas of the house and to stay out of their crate for longer periods of time.

At Highland Canine Training, LLC, we specialize in rehabilitating behavior problems and helping dog owners resolve problems with their dogs. If you need help or advice with housebreaking or crate training, please feel free to call us at 866.200.2207 or email us at We offer free in-home evaluations and offer affordable and effective solutions to all dog behavior problems. This article is the ninth in a series of information on Treating Dog Behavior Problems. Be sure to follow the links below to learn more about the topics in this series.

Leave a Reply