Housebreaking is about two things: preventing the dog from making a mistake and praising him like gold is pouring from his body when he goes in an appropriate elimination area. Housebreaking is actually very simple. No matter how crazy and out of control a situation may seem, it is always cured by preventing undesired behavior and rewarding appropriate behavior. Interpreted, housebreaking is about what you do, not what your dog does. If you do not allow your dog or puppy to have an accident in the house, he starts to respect that area as his living space.

By frequently taking your dog outside to an appropriate elimination area, you teach him where he should go potty, and you help him view the house as a living space, not for soiling. Schedule his meals and water so you have a better idea when he will have to eliminate. Watch everything he does, and when you can't watch him, put him in a crate. You must be completely immersed and involved with your dog or puppy during the housebreaking period, which includes teaching elimination, or "going potty," on command. Finally, when you take him out, you need to physically be there to let him know how brilliant he is for going in the right location.

[GET THE BOOK to read the rest of the chapter]


Dogs are creatures of habit, so be prepared. Before your dog or puppy comes home, pick an appropriate elimination spot.

Schedule all meals and water because INPUT = OUTPUT. Take away water three hours before bed.

Confine the dog when you cannot watch him. During the day, crate a puppy up to two to three hours and an adult dog up to four hours. At night keep dogs crated in the bedroom, laundry room, kitchen, etc.

At all other times, the dog should be with you on a leash, under strict off-leash supervision, or with you on a tie-down.

Potty times for puppies are:

  • after a nap
  • first thing in the morning
  • last thing at night
  • after playing
  • after chewing on a chew toy
  • after drinking or eating
  • after everything

Do not give a puppy a chance to make a mistake. Take him out every twenty to thirty minutes to one hour, depending on the puppy's age.

To teach elimination on command:

  1. Say "outside!" as you go outside
  2. Take the dog outside to your chosen potty area
  3. As the puppy eliminates, say "good potty."

When there is an accident:

  • If the puppy is caught in the act, say "outside" and hurry the puppy to the appropriate elimination area
  • NEVER punish after the fact
  • Remove the puppy from this area, and clean up the spot with an odor neutralizer.

Paper training and dog doors are crutches that usually make housebreaking more, rather than less difficult because the dog never builds up bladder and bowel control. The dog is not reliable in the way that most owners desire.

There are times when a dog just cannot help himself and soils inappropriately. The dog may be ill or may be responding in a submissive or excited manner to an overwhelming stimulus. Take the dog for medical treatment for the former, and work on confidence building and desensitizing the dog to whatever triggers the urination for the latter.

Click here to purchase the New Art of Dog Training

Copyright 2000-2011 Shelby Marlo