Housebreaking 101

Housebreaking 101

Crate Method

This is the preferred method for house breaking a dog.  This will take their natural instinct of enjoying a “den” and their desire to keep it clean.  This will keep them safe and out of trouble while you are away or cannot watch them.  It will also teach them bladder control by not wanting to use the bathroom inside of the crate.

Choosing a crate:

You want to choose a crate that is not much bigger than the dog to prevent them from using a space in the crate to use the bathroom then have room to lie on the other side to stay clean.  There are crates with an adjustable barrier so that you can set it to appropriately fit the size of the dog without buying multiple crates.

In the crate:

You can put safe toys in the crate such as a Nylabone or Kong but not rawhides or stuffed animals (or anything that they can chew/swallow).  Do not put a towel or blanket in the crate!  These can also be chewed/swallowed which can lead to the need for surgery since they are tough for a dog to pass through their intestinal tract.  Some dog will also use these to absorb their waste and push them off to the side.  Also, it is safest to not wear a collar in the crate.  Plastic (airline) crates tend to be safer in my opinion as dogs have more to get caught on or bend with wire crates.

Paper Method

This method is not preferred because it encourages the dog that it is okay to go to the bathroom inside of the house.  With this method you will start with newspaper or puppy pads and take them to these whenever you see they have to go.  Once they start going to the paper then you will take them outside as soon as you see them head in that direction.  As they are consistently going to this area, you will begin to make the paper smaller and smaller then remove it completely.

When you are not home or cannot watch the puppy you will want to confine it in a laundry room, bathroom, exercise pen, etc with the paper so that they will only go on the paper instead of the floor.  Keeping the dog in a smaller space is best so it keeps their options smaller.  The goal is that they will learn to control their bladder and bowels as they get older and choose to go outside only.  This is not as solid as crate training.


It is best to put your dog on a regular food/water routine and stick to it!  Most puppies will have to empty shortly after eating/drinking so the more routine this schedule is the better and more predictable their bathroom schedule will be. Give your dog a certain amount of time to eat/drink, approximately 5-10 minutes.  If they do not finish their food, DO NOT leave it for them!!!  If you’re puppy is distracted while eating you can try feeding them in their crate but again, do not leave the food with them.  The next time they get food is the next regular feeding time.  Keep the amount of food the same each feeding;  if you’re dog gets ½ c of food each time but only eats half of that amount one feeding do not add another ½ C.  Only add ¼ C so that it totals ½ C for that feeding.  Dogs will not go hungry!!  When you are home, offer the dog water about every hour and immediately after play time.  Know that they will likely have to go shortly after drinking.

General Rules

  • DO NOT hit or yell at your dog for using the bathroom in the house!!!! This will only encourage them to hide when they have to go to avoid your scary behavior when they use the restroom and will make the housebreaking process more difficult
  • If you catch them going, you can try to distract them and immediately run them outside.
  • ALWAYS watch your puppy. If you are not watching your puppy, you will not see the signs that they have to “empty” to take them outside to do so.  If you cannot watch your puppy, put them in their crate or small space if you are using the paper method
  • If your puppy has an accident it is YOUR fault!
  • All dogs will behave a certain way when they have to “empty”; they may pace, wander, circle, etc. If you are always watching your dog you will learn these signs.
  • Learn your dog’s signs; DO NOT expect them to go to the door or hold up a sign or bark 3 times, etc.
  • Take them outside OFTEN until you learn these signs. You cannot take them outside too often but you can take them out too little.  Always take them out immediately after play time!  Activity will give them the urge to go.
  • When you take them out, give them a command to encourage them to go to the bathroom such as “go potty”, “hurry up”, “empty” etc
  • Have patience! At first your puppy will not understand what “go potty” means and may think they are just in this cool place with some cool smells and forget that they were feeling the urge to go to the bathroom.
  • While you are waiting for your dog to go to the bathroom outside, do not give into playing with them or petting them or letting anyone else do so until they have gone to the bathroom. You want them to think I go outside for this reason; play or attention will only come after.
  • You can reward your puppy with food when they go outside but you don’t have to. Always praise them so they understand they did what you wanted and so they are not scared to go near you.
  • If you know they have to go to the bathroom but will not go within several minutes you can take them inside and put them in their crate. Wait 5-10 minutes then try taking them out again.  Repeat until they go outside.  We don’t want them to think they can just go back in and play if they have not taken care of business outside.  This will prevent them from getting in a habit of going when/where they want, especially if the carpet is much cozier than the wet/cold grass.