Tips for Housebreaking Dogs

When housebreaking a dog, the initial work invested early on is well worth the time and effort. The biggest mistake people make is delaying the process, sometimes as long as six months to a year. Dogs that are allowed to roam the house freely before they are completely trained almost always have accidents because, until trained otherwise, they don’t know any better. Once accidents occur, the scent of feces and urine is tricky to remove and the dog is repeatedly  attracted to the same spot, creating a difficult cycle to break.

The fastest, easiest method to housebreak a dog is with crate training. Dogs rarely soil where they sleep and eat, so using a crate during unsupervised times is ideal. If your dog squats, say, “Stop!”, even if they are midstream and bring them outside to a bathroom spot. Accompany this redirection with a word like, “potty” or “go”, and they will soon eliminate on command.

For best results, correct your dog immediately after an accident and, whenever possible, during the act itself. Use a urine neutralizer to clean up the mess and don’t let your dog watch; sometimes they derive enjoyment from seeing their master clean up after them.

Dogs benefit from repeated scheduling in their day to help set their internal clock, which helps them anticipate each day’s next activity. Their internal clock tells them what activity will happen next and they begin to anticipate it. A sample schedule would be: 7 a.m., out; 7:05 a.m., breakfast; 8 a.m., out; 11 a.m., out; 3 p.m., out; 4 p.m., dinner; 5 p.m., out; 7:30 p.m., out; and 10 p.m., out. During training, dogs must go out a minimum of four times a day, reducing the number of visits as housebreaking is established. Do not distract your dog by petting it during the elimination process, and when they are finished, give gentle verbal praise and a special treat reserved only for this purpose.

With diligence and the proper protocol, housebreaking can be a pleasant experience for both dogs and family members.

Abbey Brown is owner of Abbey’s Dog Training. For more information, call 781-891-5439 or visit A good source for information on crates is A Pet Owner’s Guide to Crate Training by Nikki Meyer.

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