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Housetraining Your Dog
November 1999
By Devon Chan, top dog canine training services


    Housetraining your dog is extremely important, but it does not have to be difficult. You have many of the dog’s instincts on your side. Dogs do not like to soil their immediate living quarters, and will avoid eliminating if they are in a confined area such as a crate. As well, once they eliminate in a certain area, they have left a "scent post" and will return to the same area again. Before attempting to housetrain a dog or puppy, make sure that the dog is in good health. A puppy with diarrhea is in no condition to be housetrained.

Crate Training

    The easiest way to housetrain your dog is to use a crate or cage in order to use the dog’s instinct against soiling his or her den. If your dog is not accustomed to the crate, leave the door open and feed your dog one or two meals in the crate then close the door for the next meal. Once your dog is used to the crate you can start feeding outside of the crate. Put bedding in the crate to make it comfortable and tie the door open when the dog is not confined to the crate. As a final note you may have to make the crate smaller by bunching up bedding in the back of the crate if you have a large crate and a small puppy. If the crate is too big the pup may still eliminate in one corner and sleep in the other.

    The most important keys to housetraining are close supervision and a regular schedule. Feed your dog at the same times each day and only offer water at scheduled intervals of about two hours. Don’t give your dog any water for at least three hours before bed. Let your dog out to eliminate after every meal, nap, and play. If he does not eliminate, try again in a few minutes. Keep your dog in the crate at any time that you cannot supervise, and while your dog is not in the crate watch for any signs that he needs to eliminate (such as sniffing the floor, scratching the door, whining, and pacing). As a side note to this, do make sure that you have play sessions indoors and outdoors during the day. Once your puppy has eliminated, he should be good for at least 30 minutes, depending on his age.

    When you let your dog out to eliminate, you should go out too. When you see that your dog is about to eliminate, repeat a word or phrase (such as "hurry up") that your dog will associate with the act. You will definitely appreciate this tool when you have to take your dog on a long car trip.

    At night, keep your dog in the crate. If she whines after being quiet for several hours she probably needs to go out. Be patient, and you will find that the number of outings will decrease as your pup learns to control herself. If at any time you are having problems during housetraining (as with any training), simply go back a step – you were probably pushing your dog too far. Of course adult dogs can be expected to go longer without eliminating than puppies can.


    No matter how careful you are, accidents are bound to happen. When they do, do not use folk remedies and do not even punish your dog unless you catch her in the act. Your dog or puppy might not remember the accident and may only get confused. Consider it your mistake for not supervising closely enough. Just put your dog in the crate and clean up the mess with a deoderizing cleanser or vinegar. Don’t use detergent or ammonia because the smell of ammonia may encourage the dog to soil in the same place again. Don’t let your dog see you cleaning up the mess. If she does happen to remember doing it, you do not want her to see you as her maid.

    If you do catch your dog in the act, shout "No", clap your hands, or otherwise distract him from the act of eliminating. Take your dog outside and wait until he eliminates while repeating your chosen word or phrase. Once your dog has eliminated, praise your dog because he has now eliminated in the correct place.

City dogs

   In the city it is not always practical to housetrain a young puppy as described above. Eventually you will want your pup to eliminate outside, but if you live at the top of an apartment building you probably do not want to be taking your puppy outside every hour. As well, until your pup is fully vaccinated it is dangerous to let your dog walk where other dogs have been.

    In this case you will have to paper-train your puppy. Cover the entire floor of your pup’s confined area (eg. the kitchen) with newspaper. Praise your pup for eliminating on the newspaper and use the key word or phrase. Change the paper and remove some of the paper from the other side of the room. Continue this until there is only a small area of paper left. You may instead want to use special housetraining pads that can be bought at pet stores. After the pup is immunized at 16 weeks, take the paper away and use the crate to train your pup to go outside as described above. It may be necessary to take a sheet of newspaper outside so that your pup gets the idea.

    If you want your dog to scratch or whine at the door, you may want to try the following procedure. Once you are down to one sheet of newspaper, move the newspaper progressively towards the door. Finally, slide the paper under the door so that only a small corner is visible. Watch your dog carefully to see if he whines or scratches at the door to try to get to the paper and take him outside immediately. Praise him profusely once he has eliminated outside.

     If you are housetraining an older dog in the city you will find that paper-training is unnecessary because older dogs are usually vaccinated and do not have to go out as frequently.


Previous Articles:

    Should You Own A Dog?     September 1999

    Training A Low Confidence Dog    October 1999


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