Housebreaking is really a lot easier than most people make it out to be. Dogs are naturally clean animals; they won’t drop a deuce in their den unless you force them to. All you need to do is expand the dog’s view of the den to include all indoor surfaces.
1. Put your pup on a schedule. Control what goes in and you control when it comes back out again.
2. Until the pup is about two months old, this means three feedings and waterings per day at regular times.
3. When the pup is not being fed or trained, he should either be in his puppy pen (outside if temperature allows) or in his crate. Outside, it’s fine to pee; in his crate, he won’t.
4. If your puppy does soil his crate, he’s doing it for one of two reasons: 1. The crate is too big and the pup thinks there’s enough room to turn one end into a bathroom, or 2. You’ve left the pup in the crate for too long. Most experts recommend no more than an hour of crate time unsupervised, but every dog is different. Main thing: Don’t leave your puppy alone in his crate for longer than you know he can hold it.
5. When you take the puppy out of the crate for feeding time, don’t put him down on the floor before putting him outside. It’s a near certainty that he’ll pee first thing.
6. Right when your dog is about to eliminate, give your elimination command, "Get it done." This is capturing the behavior, adding a cue to something the dog is doing anyway. Eventually, you’ll be able to tell the dog to go to the bathroom on command. Praise and reward lavishly.
7. You can see from this that housebreaking, crate training, and confinement are really all part of the same exercise. The goal is that by ingraining a routine at this age, you won’t have to worry about it later.
IN THE EVENT OF A WATER LANDING
If your dog does urinate on the floor or eliminate in the closet, don’t get mad or rub the dog’s nose in it. The mistake is yours alone. What was the puppy doing unsupervised? Why did he have a full bladder? Just work on setting your dog up to succeed.
This article originally appeared on Outside K9, the former dog blog of Outside magazine, on May 4, 2009.