House training is the number one or number two topic of interest for bringing dogs into our home.

Nothing is more distressing than finding a present left by our pup especially if we find it with bare feet!  Whether it is number one or number two, it is a mess and we have to clean it up.  The next thought we may have is, “What am I doing wrong in house training with this dog that he insists on messing in my floor?”  We blame ourselves instead of our sweet little pup, but what if the blame is shared?  Can we really teach a wild animal to live in a civilized manner?  Of course, we can.



Pups are a lot like toddlers.

When raising human children, we find that consistency is key to all training.  If you want your child to sleep in his own bed, you must put him in his own bed each night and each time he gets up in the night.  If you ever let him just crawl in with you because you are too tired to deal with it, he will always want to come in the middle of the night when you are too tired to deal with it.  There are plenty of examples I could give you here, but I think this one hits home enough.

Parenting is not for the weak.

Dogs, as with toddlers, can spot a weak leader in a heartbeat.  You must stand your ground and enforce the rules.  Once you do, dogs and most kids will follow.  There is a hierarchy that dogs understand by nature and it has to be established in your home.  This goes for more than just house-training.

Follow the leader.

Showing your dog who is boss is probably the most important thing you can do as a pet owner, especially when it comes to house training.  Dogs don’t just give respect, it must be earned.  The top dog is the leader.  If you want a peaceful home, you must lead.  In our home, my husband is the top dog.  I’m second and Michael is third.  Oliver is the beagle; he’s the low man on the totem pole.  He has not always followed that order.  At first, Oliver thought he was the leader, but Teddy bumped him down.  Then Oliver thought he was second in line, I bumped him down.  For a long time, Michael let Oliver bite on his hands and tug on him, never really hard or anything.  Oliver had the upper hand and he knew it.  Michael did not want to be mean to Oliver so he let him have his way.  Oliver got more and more aggressive.  We kept telling Michael he had to stand up and take his place in the pack or Oliver would keep it up.  Finally, one night Oliver snapped at our son’s ear.  Michael realized after his dog really bit his ear that it had gone on long enough.


Take authority.

Once you realize that there is a hierarchy and you must take a leadership role, the rest is pretty easy.  Putting the dog in his place in the order of rank is the first thing.  Now, you’ll want to establish his borders and what is his area.  Dogs are territorial creatures.

Establish boundaries and territory.

For house training, a crate is a must.  You’ll want to get a crate that is not too big or too small.  Your pet should have just enough room to stand up and turn around.  For the most part, he will be lying down in it.  However, you want him to be comfortable.  A crate that is too big will allow too much room and encourage him to relieve himself in a back corner.  Too small of a crate and the dog will be in torture.  Nobody wants that.   The crate is his private domain.  With a crate that is just right, he will try to keep it clean and not want to potty where he sleeps. He will sleep in his crate and take breaks too.  When you take him out of his crate, take him out to potty.  If he won’t go potty in his predetermined area and then does it in the house, show him his error and put him in his crate.  When it is time to come out again, take him out.  If he won’t go potty, put him directly back in the crate for one hour.  Take him out to potty.  If he won’t go, put him back in the crate for one hour.  When he gets the message that he will go when you take him out or have to suffer the consequences, he will make up his mind he will potty when and where you want.  Remember sickness can cause him to not be able to go when and where you want.  Evaluate your pup in love and make sure you aren’t punishing him for being sick.

Know his limits.

A good rule of thumb for how long a dog can hold his need to potty is one hour per month old for puppies.  A six-month-old puppy is just able to be considered reliable in the potty department.  Eight hours is max a full-grown dog should be expected to hold it.  Although, he may go longer while sleeping at night.  Oliver goes to bed at 8:00 and gets up about 7:00.  That’s a full eleven hours and he doesn’t rush out to potty in the morning.  He usually wants to eat first, then go outside.  I guess his belly is more important to him.

Set a schedule.



For dogs to become reliable in-house training, you must set expectations and a regular schedule.  He will need to go outside or to his paper or potty box:

  • after eating
  • after playing
  • after sleeping/nap
  • first thing in the morning
  • last thing at night

Your puppy should be eating 2 to 3 times per day depending on age.  See the dog food bag for recommendations of amount and times per day.  Divide the amount over the entire day.  Your puppy should pee-pee each time you take him out.  However, he may only poo 2 to 3 times per day depending on how many times you feed him.

Choose a potty spot.

Whether you are using outside, potty paper, or a litter box, take your pet to his spot to potty.  Be consistent.  Be on time.  Now encourage him with a cue word or phrase.  I say to Oliver, “Want to go outside?” He understands it is potty time.  I open the door if it is not already open.  He goes out and hops through his doggie door.  I say, “Go pee-pee.”  He runs out to his spot and pee-pees.  Then I say, “Go poo-poo.”  He walks around a bit to find the perfect spot and then does his business.  It works really great for me because I can leave my door open to the screened back porch and he can come and go on his own most days when the weather is nice.  On days when the weather is not so great, Oliver will go to the door and sniff.  I usually keep an eye on him for his cue.  I’ll ask if he needs to go outside.  If he does, he will sit on the mat at the door and wait for me to open it.  If he was just snooping around and did not need to go outside, he will walk away from the door or go play with a chew toy.  He is about eight months old.


There will be setbacks.

We all stumble, we all fall.  The trick is to get back up and continue on.  The same is true for house training.  We went through a setback when Oliver learned he could get under the chain-link fence.  While I was waiting for his pet containment system to arrive, I would take him out on a leash.  That was so frustrating for both of us.  He had lost his freedom to come and go through his doggie door and I sometimes missed his cue.  We had a couple of accidents, but we survived and are doing okay again. If your pet has setbacks in house training, it may be beyond his control.  It may be he is stubborn and is trying to pull rank on you!  Decide what is the cause.  Sick dogs can’t control their bladder or bowels as a healthy dog can.  So some leniency may be called for in this instance.  However, try to get back on track once health is restored. If it is clear that the dog is in good health and is willfully soiling your home, it may be a power play.  Show him who is the top dog.  Point out the error, but don’t rub his nose in it.  Show him, scold him and let him think about it.  Clean the spot and use something to remove the scent.  On the tile, I use Clorox spray.  Think sanitize.  If you leave the scent there, he will be drawn to the spot to go next time.  If it happened sometime earlier in the day, you should still take him to the spot and show him, scold him and let him think about it.  Maybe take him outside or to his approved potty spot to reinforce the issue.


Some folks say dogs can’t remember or associate the error that happened in the past with the correction now, but I don’t believe that.  I mean, Oliver remembers his boundaries for his wireless fence since day one.  I don’t need to remind him every time he goes out where his boundary is.  If he tears up something in the yard, I can show him the destruction without saying a word and he hangs his head in shame because he did something wrong and he knows it.  If your pup poops on the floor and you show it to him, I bet he hangs his head too.  Be consistent, be firm, be the leader.  He’ll respect you for it and be a better pet in the process.