A guide to navigating the challenge and adventure of life with your dogs.

Housetraining 101: The Basics

Housetraining is not all that complex. But do a search on Google and you’ll find all kinds of sites proclaiming they have the “secret to housetraining,” or “ten potty training secrets!” All this complicates things way more than they need to be. If there is a secret to housetraining, it’s that there isn’t a secret at all.

Before we get started, there are a couple of things we need to get out of the way first:
One – Yes, you CAN housetrain your dog. It takes some commitment, but so does anything that’s worth doing, right? Take a deep breath. I believe in you.
Two – Accept that there WILL be accidents in the house. It’s not the end of the world, it doesn’t mean that you have a bad dog and it doesn’t mean that you are a bad owner.

Okay, so the anti-secret housetraining formula?

Prevent unwanted behavior (eliminating indoors) and reward good behavior (eliminating outdoors).

Yup. That’s about it. And notice I said unwanted behavior, not bad behavior. Because your dog has no clue that she shouldn’t pee in the house. She’s not being “bad” on purpose.

Prevent unwanted behavior: crate training and management

Letting an un-potty-trained dog roam unsupervised in your house is like letting an un-potty-trained toddler roam free without a diaper. Sooner or later, there is going to be a mess.

When your dog (or uh, toddler) is inside the house, she needs to be watched carefully to make sure she doesn’t go where she shouldn’t. We’re trying to prevent bad habits from forming (or if Sparky is already eliminating inside, stop bad habits in their tracks).

A crate is the potty training “weapon” of choice for most trainers today. Properly trained, dogs treat their crates like their bedroom. They won’t use their bedroom as their bathroom. When you can’t directly supervise your pup, put her in her crate to prevent accidents from happening. As soon as you let her out of the crate, take her directly outside so she can relieve herself.

When you are around to provide complete and total supervision, use baby gates to block off forbidden areas (i.e. areas that’ll be hard to clean if Sparky makes a mess), and use them to keep Sparky where you can see her so you can watch for any sniffing, squatting or leg-lifting. You can also try “umbilical cording:” Put Sparky on leash and tie the leash to your belt loop. As you go about your day, your dog will never be more than six feet away from you – all the better to supervise with, my dear.

Reward good behavior

Take your pup outside every hour. Bring treats or toys with you. When she goes, heap on the praise! Tell her what a good dog she is, then (AFTER she’s finished, please) give her some treats or play fetch or tug-of-war with her. The specific reward is not important, just anything Sparky really likes.

And that’s it! Nothing real complex about it. Of course, there are some specific steps you can take when potty training – here’s a step-by-step guide But don’t get too overwhelmed by the details. Remember the big picture: Be patient and consistent; don’t beat yourself (or Sparky) up over mistakes; prevent unwanted behavior and reward good behavior. You’ll do fine.

Check out these other posts:
I Just Got a New Puppy – What Do I Do With It?
43 Tips for New Puppy Owners
Puppies Behaving Badly: Jumping and Biting
Mischief Managed
Oh, Just Kill Me Now! Surviving Your Dog’s Teen Months