House Training

Dogs are instinctively clean animals. If they can avoid it, they would rather not soil themselves or their usual surroundings. Dogs naturally develop habits of certain areas where they would like to poop or pee. The key to house training a dog, is to rely on your dog’s natural instincts and tendencies. For example, most dogs will rather go on the grass or dirt than on concrete or gravel. You can use these natural tendencies for a successful house training. Here are some tips on housetraining a puppy or an adult dog and some insights on other problems with urination like marking their territory.


House Training a Puppy

The first thing to do is to establish a living area in your home for your dog. This area can be a room in the house, a part of the kitchen etc. This will be his or hers own personal space. Next thing to do is to put the bed or crate, the food, waterbowl and toys in that area.  In the beginning, the dog may poop or pee in their bed or crate but once they realize that this is their special place, they will try to avoid soiling it.

Next thing to do is establish your dog’s toilet area.  Try to find an outside area nearby with quick and easy access. When housetraining it’s a smart thing to keep his collar on and leave his leash nearby. Now all you have to do, is watch and wait. Put your dog in their place and watch it non-stop. Most dogs express the same behaviour when they are about pee or poo. They will start looking and sniffing around for a spot to go. When you see this, it is your time to intervene. Quickly attach the leash to it’s collar and go to the toilet area. Make sure when walking to the toilet area, your dog doesn’t go on the way, keep the leash tight and keep your dog close.

To make things easier on both yourself and your dog, you should put your dog on a regular feeding schedule. What goes in on a regular schedule, will come out on a regular schedule. If you know when your dog needs to empty out, then you’ll know when to take her to her toilet area. Healthy adult dogs should be able to control their bladder and bowels for eight hours.

It’s important that you do not confine your dog without access to her toilet area for too long. If she can’t hold it, she will be forced to soil herself, her bed or her den. If this happens, it may become a habit and will take much longer to housetrain him or her. A common mistake is to punish the dog when peeing or pooing in the house. It’s very important for you to remember that you have to intervene and snap him or her out of it so you can show where to go properly. If you do punish the dog for this behaviour, your dog will be fearful to go whenever you are around and will still poo or pee inhome when you are not there or not looking.

The best way is to anticipate when your dog has to go and get him or her outside, before you have to intervene. When they do go outside make sure to reward his good behaviour exuberantly. When your dog does make a mistake inhouse make sure to clean the whole area directly and thoroughly. Use a powerful cleaner, I recommend a cleaner with lemon fragrance, an enzymatic cleaner can help break down the proteins left over from the urine, thus removing the smell as well as the impulse for the pet to urinate in the same spot again. Dogs don’t like the scent of lemon so it will not only take the smell away but it will also work as a repellent. Of course the petstores are full of anti-pee products, but water with an enzymatic lemoncleaner works everytime and is a lot cheaper.

Some people use newspapers or paper towels to make a temporary inhome doggytoilet which they will slowly move further away and eventually outside. Personally I disapprove of this method. I think a better, easier and more effective way to housetrain your puppy or dog, is to do teach him to go outside from day one. This will also exclude the possibility that your dog will keep associating newspapers or other used materials as a pee-spot.

James Shit Happens

House Training an Adult dog

Some adolescent or adult dogs urinate or defecate inside the house. The first thing you have to do, is rule out any medical problems. If it is not a medical problem, there can be several reasons for an adult dog to show this behaviour. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • Urine Marking (marking territory)
  • Lack of house training (kenneldogs or strays)
  • A surface preference (dogs who will only pee on certain materials like beds, carpet, paper)
  • Age-related incontinence
  • Anxiety (urinating out of fear) or excitement urination

House training an adult dog is done in exactly the same way you do as house training a puppy. Let’s go over the most common reasons:

Urine Marking

If you find small amounts of urine in your home your dog might be marking. With urine marking, the dog deposits a smaller amount of urine. Marking in the house is usually done to an upright surface such as a doorway, table leg or other piece of furniture. The dog will lift it’s hind leg and mark urine on practically any object in your house. Quite often the object is something new or different with an unfamiliar smell that has come into the house but not necessarily so. He is also likely to mark items that he feels belong to him such as anything that he has become possessive about including you. Allthough female are known to mark their territory too it is more common in males.

We as humans tend to think of dog urine as something unpleasant but to a dog it is something of great interest. A dog leaves it’s scent in urine to tell other dogs a message. This message could be about whose territory it is, about the dog’s social order or advertising mating availability. Dogs use urine marking to show their dominance or to claim something. Dogs with feelings of insecurity or anxiety may also mark, as territory marking builds the dog’s confidence.

Some facts about Urine marking:

  • Most dogs that are neutered or spayed at an early age do not mark in the house, male dogs that are not castrated are more likely to mark than castrated dogs.
  • Although male dogs are more likely to mark urine than females it is not unknown for a female dog to scent mark too. Often a female dog coming into heat or during it will mark to advertise her availability. A dominant female will also mark.
  • Small breeds tend to mark in the house more than larger dogs.
  • Two or more dogs living together in the same house may regard each other as competition and are more prone to urine marking. Urine marking can be a dominance issue.

How to stop your dog from marking:

  • Neutering will stop marking behavior in the majority of dogs. For older dogs, neutering may still have the desired effect but marking in the house may have become a habit that you will have to break
  • Supervise and break the habit (just like in the puppy training mentioned above) Close supervision is necessary. You must be dedicated to stop the marking behavior of your dog and you must be consistent

Lack of House Training

If your dog was kept in outside kennels, was a stray or maybe has an unknown history it is likely the dog was never house trained at all. In these cases you adjust the behaviour by giving them the same training as the puppy training mentioned above with a sidenote that a dog that has had a certain habit for a long time, it might take a little longer than with a puppy.

Surface Preferance

If your dog has a surface preferance, you first have to remove those preferred items from his place. The second thing you have to do is to make sure your dog knows what rooms, items or materials are off limit to him. You will not accomplish anything by taking the items away from him. You have to confronte the behaviour. So if your dog pees on blankets or papers don’t give him any in his place, but put one in front of you on the floor. Now make sure your dog knows, you own that blanket and it is off limits. Try this with all the preferred items in different areasand and repeat frequently.

Age-related or Medical Incontinence

There is not really much you can do about this problem. Just like humans these are some of the symptoms of getting old. Don’t blame your dog for getting old.  Try walking your dog more often for short periods of time. Some older dogs completely empty their bladder while others may leak small amounts of urine when they are asleep or leak continuously. If there is no medical solution and short walks are not enough, you might consider doggy diapers.


 Anxiety and Excitement

Sometimes when a major change happens in a dog’s life (like a new family member or pet, a new house or losing a pet or family member) the dog may develop anxiety issues. This anxiety can cause a dog that has been housebroken for years to suddenly start urinating or defecating indoors. This kind of behaviour needs a different approach. You have to take the anxiety away before you can break their bad habit. A fearful or anxious dog needs a strong leader. By showing your dog that you are in charge and your dog can relax. Take him on daily walks, keep his mind aswell as his body busy and make sure your dog has a safe and quiet place to retreat.
If your dog has seperation anxiety and this results in urinating or defecating in the house it is crucial to gradually accustom a dog to being alone, by starting with many short separations that do not produce anxiety and then gradually increasing the duration of the separations over many weeks of daily sessions. In these cases you might consider getting a dog behaviourist or dog trainer involved.

What NOT to do

  • Do not rub your dog’s nose in it’s waste. First of all it does not work as a training method and second of all it is cruel
  • Do not get angry or physically punish your dog for eliminating indoors. Do not hit with a newspaper, spank or jerk on it’s collar. Realize that if your dog has an accident in the house, you failed to adequately supervise, you didn’t take her outside quick enough, or you ignored or were unaware of signals that it needed to go outside. Punishment might frighten your dog and will probably even worsen the problem!
  • Confining your dog is not a solution to the problem and is cruel
  • Do not crate your dog if she soils in the crate. This will just teach the bad habit of soiling the sleeping area and will make it even harder to house train your dog


House training is a process that takes time and patience and above all structure.  Don’t get frustrated, for some puppies or dogs it may take a little bit longer, but in my experience most dog are house trained in a few days even the adult dogs. Let’s end this blog with some related funnies 😉



Related Blogs:

Bulldog puppy Training
Raising a Bulldog
Leash Walking
The Bulldog Hall of Shame