How to House Train Your Dog

Posted on June 5th, 2018 by FetchMasters in House Training, Positive Dog Training, Resources

Lack of house training is one of the top deal-breakers for many pet parents. Houses that smell like dog feces or urine are unpleasant to live in and embarrassing to have guests in. So, learning to quickly house train your dog is a top priority for most dog owners.

To house train your dog, you must build the preference for, and the habit of, eliminating outdoors. Preference is the product of making eliminating outdoors rewarding. Habit occurs when you manage the dog in such a way that he has a nearly 100% success rate eliminating outdoors.

Follow these principles to house train your dog quickly:

House Training Principles

  • Deep-clean all accident spots in your home with an enzyme-based cleaner. Nature’s Miracle works well. Surface cleaning a carpet still leaves odor in the carpet pad and on the sub-floor. You should use enough cleaner to penetrate everywhere urine penetrated. A dog’s nose is thousands of times more sensitive than yours, and if he can smell any remnants, he will return to that spot to eliminate.
  • Unless you catch your dog in the act of eliminating indoors, just clean the mess and blame yourself for not managing him closely enough. Science has show that dogs usually equate a reward or a consequence with something that happened no more than a second or two prior. Some people think a dog’s “guilty look” indicates he understands what he did wrong. But most likely the dog is reading your hostile demeanor and trying to appease you.
  • Harshly chastising your dog can produce some negative side-effects. If your dog associates your harshness with his accident, he may become afraid to eliminate in your presence. Not only may he try to hide his accidents from you indoors, but he may not eliminate in your presence when you take him for a walk or go into the back yard with him.
  • If you catch your dog in the act of eliminating indoors, simply interrupt the behavior with a finger-snap and a “no” and get the dog outside to finish his business. When he finishes, praise and reward him.
  • When your dog eliminates outside, praise and reward him and give him 5-10 more minutes to sniff around. Dogs often do not empty their bladders/bowels the first time. If he eliminates again, give him 5-10 more minutes.
  • Avoid bringing  your dog indoors immediately after he eliminates. This could teach him that eliminating causes his outdoor fun to end, which could cause him to hold his elimination for longer than necessary periods of time. After his final elimination, keep him outside for a few more minutes before returning indoors.
  • When your dog is in the process of eliminating, quietly repeat a cue word you would like to use to tell your dog you want him to eliminate. I like to use: “Hurry up. Hurry up. Hurry up.” Later, you can just say the cue word, and your dog will become excited if he needs to eliminate. 
  • Putting your dogs eating and drinking on a tight schedule. If you can control his input, you can predict his output. If you can predict his output, you can accumulate outdoor successes. And outdoor successes will lead to creating the habit of eliminating outdoors.
  • Link your dog’s freedom indoors to eliminating outdoors. If he eliminates outdoors, he can run free indoors. Otherwise, he must be tethered (to you or something else), crated or put in a play pen until you take him outside to try again. 
  • Log your dogs elimination times so you can better get your mind around his rhythms.

The key to quick success with house training is managing the dog’s activity closely and rewarding successes heavily. It is not uncommon for dogs to have regressions once they’ve been completely house trained. The above instructions will rectify those regressions in most cases.

Note: Dogs purchased from pet stores often come from puppy mills, which have a reputation for very unclean living conditions. The unclean living conditions can desensitize dogs to their own feces and urine and make house training much more difficult. In such cases, the above principles may still work, but the help of a professional may be necessary.