© 2004 Ian Dunbar
Housesoiling is a spatial problem. Your puppydog has been allowed
to eliminate in the wrong place. Housesoiling quickly becomes a
bad habit because dogs develop strong location, substrate, and olfactory
preferences for their improvised indoor toilet areas. To housetrain
your puppydog: first, prevent any more mistakes; and second, teach
your puppydog where you would like him to eliminate.
Mistakes are a disaster since they set a bad precedent and create
bad habits, which can be hard to break. Consequently, you must prevent
mistakes at all cost. Whenever you are not at home, leave your dog
in a long-term confinement area, such as a single room indoors with
easy-to-clean floors (bathroom, kitchen, or utility room)—this
will be your puppydog’s playroom.
Provide your dog with fresh water, a number of stuffed chewtoys
for entertainment, a comfortable bed in one corner, and a doggy
toilet in the corner diagonally opposite from his bed. Your dog
will naturally want to eliminate as far as possible from his bed,
and so will soon develop the good habit of using his toilet. Good
habits are just as hard to break as bad habits.
For a doggy toilet, use sheets of newspaper sprinkled with soil,
or a litter box filled with a roll of turf, or a concrete paving
slab. Thus your dog will develop olfactory and substrate preferences
for eliminating on soil, grass, or concrete.
The purpose of long-term confinement is to confine your dog’s
natural behaviors (including urinating and defecating) to an area
that is protected (thus preventing any mistakes around the house
when you are not there), and to help your dog quickly develop a
strong preference for eliminating on soil, grass, or concrete.
Teach Your Dog to Eliminate in the
When you are at home, confine your dog to a short-term confinement
area with a number of stuffed chewtoys for entertainment. A portable
dog crate makes an ideal doggy den. Alternatively, keep your dog
on a short leash fastened to an eye-hook in the base board near
her bed, or attach the leash to your belt. This way your dog may
settle down beside you while you read, work at the computer, or
Every hour on the hour, say "Let’s go pee and poop"
(or some other appropriate toilet instruction), and hurry your dog
(on leash) to her toilet (in your yard, or at curbside outside the
front door of your house or apartment building). Stand still with
your dog on leash and repeat the instruction to eliminate. Give
your dog three minutes to empty herself.
When your dog eliminates, praise her enthusiastically and offer
three freeze-dried liver treats. Most puppies will urinate within
two minutes on each trip to a toilet area, and defecate within three
minutes on every other trip. Once your dog realizes that she can
cash in her urine and feces for tasty treats, she will want to eliminate
in her toilet area. Soiling the house just does not have comparable
fringe benefits. Moreover, after a dozen or so repetitions, you
will have taught your dog to eliminate on command.
If your dog does not eliminate during the allotted three-minute
toilet break, put her back inside her crate for another hour.
The purpose of short-term close confinement is to prevent any mistakes
around the house when you are home (but cannot devote undivided
attention to your dog) and to predict when your dog needs to eliminate.
Temporarily (for no more than an hour at a time) confining a puppydog
to a small space (e.g., a dog crate) inhibits elimination, since
the dog does not want to soil her sleeping area. Consequently, your
dog will want to go immediately upon release from confinement—especially
since hurrying to the toilet area will jiggle her bladder and bowels.
Since you choose when to release your dog, you may choose when your
puppy eliminates, and since you can predict when your dog needs
to eliminate, you may be there to show her where to go, to reward
your dog for going, and to inspect and immediately clean up after
Never confine a puppy or an unhousetrained adult dog to a crate
for longer than an hour. A dog confined too long will be forced
to soil her crate, making her extremely difficult to housetrain.
Once your pup is old enough to go on walks, make sure she eliminates
(in the yard, or in front of your house) before each walk. If your
dog does not go within three minutes, put her back in her crate
and try again an hour later. However, if your dog does go, praise
and reward her as usual and then say “Let’s go for a
walk.” With a no-feces/no-walk policy, you will soon have
a very a speedy defecator. Moreover, elimination close to home facilitates
clean-up and disposal; you will not have to stroll the neighborhood
weighed down with a bag of doggie doo.
If you require a more detailed description of housetraining, read
our Housetraining booklet and BEFORE You Get Your Puppy and watch
the Training The Companion Dog Video II: Behavior Problems &
Household Etiquette. To housetrain your dog, you need a dog crate,
a number of chewtoys, and some freeze-dried liver treats.