How I Met My Dog

S#*! Happens: 3 Tips for Housebreaking your Dog

When it comes to housebreaking, accidents happen. These 3 tips will help make housebreaking a stress free, mess free (sort of) training experience.

1. Consistency and timing are key

Like any training experience, housebreaking your dog takes consistency and good timing. Reprimanding your dog for something they have previously done is confusing for your dog and does not teach them anything. You can only modify behavior that you witness. Keep a close eye on your dog as you housetrain them. This may require crating them when you’re not home, gating off the rooms that you can’t see from where you are or attaching a leash to your dog and clipping it on your belt loops so you can keep watch while moving about the house.

You must first teach your dog/puppy where you WOULD like him/her to “go” before you can teach them where not to go. Scolding your pup for going in the wrong spot is a waste of time if he/she does not first learn where the right spot is. Once you and your dog have successfully established a bathroom spot, then you can begin to correct mistakes.

Pick a spot (In the yard or on a pee pad) that is not in a traffic path. Once you’re at the spot, repeat the phrase “go potty.” By repeating the same phrase over and over again while your dog is relieving him/herself, you are actually teaching your dog to go “potty” when they hear the phrase.

When accidents happen, (they will!) the timing of your reprimand is just as important as the timing of your praise. If you can catch your dog right when they begin to go, you can praise them for finishing their business at their spot outside or on a pee pad.

2. Practice your “NO” voice

In order to be effective when training your dog, you’ll need a strong “no” voice to use when correcting negative behavior. While our dogs may not speak English, they do understand and react to tone of voice. A low, deep, strong “NO” is much more effective than a high pitched or high volume yell. When you catch your dog doing something you don’t approve of eg. peeing or pooping in the house, use your “no” voice to let them know that the behavior is bad.

When you reprimand your dog, be prepared to back it up with positive reinforcement. When you see your dog peeing or pooping in the house, and you’ve immediately used your “no” voice to reprimand them, pick your dog up (or snap a leash on if they are too large to pick up) and quickly bring them to their spot (as discussed above). Once your dog is at their spot, use positive reinforcement to let them know that this is a safe place for them to relieve themselves.

The whole sequence will sound like this:

“NO!” Fido -> “let’s go potty in your place Fido” -> “go potty” -> “good ‘go potty’ Fido!”

3. Be patient

Housebreaking your pup is not a game to see how long they can hold their bladder before you catch them. Take your dog to go to the bathroom often and reward them for the good behavior. Here’s a quick guide for when and how often your dog or puppy needs to use the bathroom:

Sleep- Your pup has to pee many times a day. EVERY time they wake up from a long sleep or a short nap, a bathroom break is essential.

Activity - the more active your dog/pup is, the more often they will need to pee/poop

Food - take a bathroom break immediately after every meal. Free feeding makes mealtime difficult to track, so designated meal times are the best. For more on feeding your dog check out our articles, Two Easy Things you Need to do Everyday When Feeding Your Dog and A Guide for Picking the Right Food for your Dog.

No matter how old or young your dog is when you adopt him/her, you may need to re-teach housebreaking by establishing a new bathroom spot as well as a bathroom schedule. For dogs that you think might already be housebroken, this new process won’t take long at all. But if your dog has not been previously or properly house trained, just be patient and consistent… You’ve got this!

New Dog, Same Tricks

Every dog can be trained to go to the bathroom in a designated spot, no matter how old, young, big, or small.

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