Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire

How to housebreak a dog (puppy or adult)


As the excitement of bringing home a new puppy wears off, many owners face an annoying task of cleaning up the accidents and housetraining. The sooner you start teaching your dog appropriate toilet behaviour the better.  If you are lucky to have a garden or at least to live on the ground floor, you task is much easier. But don’t worry; living in a flat shouldn’t be a problem.

Most owners will face the task of housebreaking only once in their dogs lifetime. However, sometimes stress, moving to a new house or illness can cause problems in adult dogs as well. This post will cover the main principles of housetraining, which apply to both puppies and adult dogs.

Before you approach the task of housetraining, or, ideally, even before you bring a puppy home, think about the amount of time you will be able to dedicate to the dog.  In regard to housebreaking, your strategy will depend on how much time can you spend on it daily. How soon your dog will learn to hold will also depend on this to some extent.  Are you home all day, half a day or work nine to five? In the latter case you have to accept that your puppy won’t be able to hold for all that time.

Rule #1: Ignore all accidents.

If I were to say just one thing about housebreaking, I would say this: never ever punish your dog for an accident. If you make a fuss about it, your dog will learn only that:

-next he should hide it

-next time he should guard it

-this is a good way to get your attention

None of these sounds like something you would want to teach to your dog.

Rule #2: Clean it well.

Dogs tend to think that something that smells like a toilet is a toilet. In other words, they tend to mark the same places over and over again and it is very difficult, especially, for male dogs to prevent them from doing this. The only thing you can do is to clean it and kill the smell. Remember, that dogs’ sense of smell is much better than humans’. Therefore, even if you sniff the carpet and it seems OK, your dog would still smell urine. There are various products designed to neutralize urine odour, but I personally prefer diluted vinegar. It is cheap, easy, safe and doesn’t smell of chemicals. Yes, it will leave your room smelling like vinegar for a few hours, but I consider it a better prospect than the smell of carpet cleaner.  This how I clean urine stains from a carpet:

  1. Cover the stain with a thick layer of paper towels, put a plastic bag on top, put some shoes on, step on it and dance a little bit. This is the easiest way to blot a large stain.
  2. Combine 1 part of vinegar and 1 part of cold water.
  3. Pour the solution over a stain. Don’t be shy with it. You will need about one or two cups of this solution for an average stain. You will notice that it will be absorbed quickly in place, where there is urine, and will stay on the surface for a while in clean places.
  4. Let it sit for at least a couple of hours. I tend to just leave it dry. You may want to have good ventilation in the room, while it dries.

This should help to keep your carpet more or less fresh and your dog won’t be encouraged to revisit the same place.

Rule #3: Reward proper behaviour.

If you want to housetrain your dog as quickly as possible, make sure you reward appropriate behaviour like an Olympic gold medal. It could be praise or treats, just make sure that it is on time. The best way is to praise the dog, while he is “going” outside or in a designated place at home, and then to give him a treat immediately after. Be consistent and your dog will soon learn that this is the sure way to get the nice things, such as your attention and treats.

Rule #4: Learn the schedule.

One of the useful things to do is to keep a diary of your puppy’s toilet habits. Does he “go” after breakfast, every 2 hours or right after you get home? Monitor him for a few days, as this will help you to foresee his needs.  If you know that it’s about time for him, take him outside and don’t go back, until he’s done. Remember, that the more successes you have, the more set the behavioural pattern will be. In other words, the more failures you manage to avoid, the less likely they are to be repeated in future.

Rule #5: Know what’s normal.

Sometimes, it’s not just a behavioural issue. If your adult dog has started urinating (defecating is extremely rare) at home, and you can’t think of any possible cause, such as stress, consider visiting a vet.  Drinking more than usual, asking to be taken out at unusual times, small accidents, leaking and urinating in bed are all signs of possible health issues. It could be early signs of diabetes, issues with prostate gland or urinary tract infection. All in all, if you notice unusual toilet patterns, take your dog to a vet.

3 thoughts on “How to housebreak a dog (puppy or adult)

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  3. Pingback: A Guide to Your New Puppy | Milo's Dog Training

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