Housebreaking your dog – this is how it works

Getting a puppy housebroken can be quite a test of patience. However, even once this is accomplished, it is possible that you will have to deal with it again at some point, as quite a few dogs have problems with compliance again, especially as they get older. Shelter dogs and especially shelter dogs from foreign countries can be a challenge for their new owners, depending on their history. Here you will learn how to house-train a puppy and how to proceed when your adult dog goes into the apartment (again).

Housetraining puppies

When a puppy moves in with you, it is important that you start housetraining immediately so that he doesn’t get used to the idea that it is okay to pee on the living room carpet every once in a while. Consider the following points – this is how you get your puppy housebroken!

Have the dog solved regularly

Unlike adult dogs, puppies are physiologically unable to consciously control their bladder and bowels until they are about 16-20 weeks old. What does this mean for you? Your puppy does not realize that or when he has to go. It "comes over" him as if out of nowhere, he can’t even comply yet. Therefore, it is especially important that you regularly give him the opportunity to get out of the house. But how often should you take a puppy outside?? The following rule of thumb can be a guide:

  • always after sleeping, eating, drinking and playing
  • Puppies up to three months: every hour
  • Puppies from three months: about every three hours

Of course, these are only rough guidelines, because every dog is different. Soon you will develop a feeling for how your puppy behaves when he has to go. Signs include frantic running and sniffing, spinning in circles, restlessness, going to the front door, pawing at a certain spot, or squeaking. Then it means: be quick! It’s best to have everything you need ready – keys, coat, poop bag, etc. -, because when your puppy indicates that he must times, you do not have much time.

TipRemove expensive carpets during the time of housetraining, because it will be unavoidable that something goes wrong.

Possible variant

Training pads for puppies are absorbent pads – similar to swaddling pads for babies – that are placed in a flat plastic dish, such as a litter box, or even directly on the floor. Many puppies instinctively look for such a "soft" surface to do their business on. Gradually place the improvised "dog toilet" closer to the front door, until the dog is practically already at the door when he has to go. Then quickly going outside! This variant is particularly suitable if you live in an apartment on a higher floor and simply cannot get outside fast enough when your puppy needs to do its business.

Punishing is taboo!

Fortunately, word has spread that it is an absolute no-no to scold dogs for going inside the house, or even to push their noses into their messes! This supposed "training measure" is completely outdated and can permanently damage your trust and relationship. In addition, your puppy learns that it is better not to do his business in your presence, but to stay outside. B. to retreat into a side room or to pee behind the couch – the main thing is that you don’t see it! This can become a problem, because punishment creates fear: Your dog may not dare to get loose outside – after all, you are there and could scold him!

Even if the pee puddle annoys you: Be aware that your dog does not do it on purpose or to annoy you, and wipe it away without comment and without punishment. Avoid giving the puppy a nasty look, sighing loudly or scolding him during this time. Be unemotional! Everything else the puppy gets along and becomes unsettled. It is best to use an enzyme cleaner for cleaning so that all odors are removed. This way you reduce the likelihood that your puppy will consider the spot as a suitable place to pee. If you catch him "in the act" – and only then (!) – a simple "No" or "Fie" is allowed to signal him that his behavior is undesirable. Then take him directly outside so that he can relieve himself in peace there. However, if you discover a puddle only after some time, a reprimand has no sense and should be absolutely omitted, because your dog will not understand the context.

Praise, praise, praise

As soon as your dog does his business outside, praise him in a friendly, calm tone and reward him with a treat. In this way he learns that his behavior is correct. This principle is called "positive reinforcement" and is a central pillar of dog training.
You can also combine housetraining with clicker training: Use the clicker whenever your dog has done his business and reward him with a treat.

Pee rounds should be boring

How please? Yes, you heard right: make the peeing rounds as boring and stimulus-free as possible for your puppy – a busy street is not the place to be. Why? For many young dogs it is simply much too exciting and thrilling outside, they simply forget that they have to go. Or they do not feel safe enough to come off. Here it helps to deliberately seek out a quiet place with as little stimuli as possible and stay outside until the dog calms down a bit. Mostly it works out then. Never end the walk immediately after peeing. Your dog could then memorize "When I’ve relieved myself, it’s straight back home" and stick to it next time for more adventures.
Of course, this only applies to the actual pee rounds. Of course, your puppy should be allowed to meet other dogs, discover new things and romp around!

. and at night?

The nights are a special challenge. It is exhausting, especially in winter, to get up every few hours at night and go out into the cold. But you have to go through it, this time will pass as well! Even if it’s exhausting: It’s important to do the housetraining consistently at night, too, because if your dog is only encouraged to do it outside during the day, it will take him longer until he is housetrained. Dogs are highly social creatures and need the close connection to their family. This is not the only reason why it makes sense to let your dog sleep with you in the bedroom. If he is close to you, you are more likely to notice if he gets restless. In the beginning it may be necessary to set the alarm clock at regular intervals to go for a short walk.

Possible variation

A dog crate for the night is an alternative that is often recommended, but should be considered critically. The idea behind this is that dogs instinctively don’t want to soil their sleeping area. So if the dog gets restless in his box at night, you can quickly go outside with him. Sounds logical at first. However, there is a "but": If the puppy learns that he gets attention when he whines in the box, he can possibly memorize this and make himself noticeable not only when he has to, but also simply to get attention. It makes more sense to take the dog outside regularly at night.

In addition, the boxes are often used to "immobilize" the puppy, if he is just "annoying" or demands attention. This is to be strictly refused. Dogs are highly social animals that need to be connected to their family – locking them away can upset them for a long time. Perhaps they would like to stretch their legs at night – this is also denied them by being locked in the box. It is therefore important to consider the purchase of such a box well and never use it as a punishment!
If you still want to use a crate, make sure it is the right size – your dog must be able to lie, sit, turn and stand comfortably in it. If in doubt, buy one size larger, because puppies grow quickly. Getting used to the dog crate requires its own careful training, so that your puppy perceives it as a safe place of retreat and does not feel any fear. How to accustom a dog to the transport box, you will learn here.

Puppies must first learn that they should do their business outside. This can happen quickly, but it can also take several weeks or even months. In general, whenever the dog does what he is supposed to do, which is to do his business outside, he is praised and rewarded in a friendly and calm manner. If something goes wrong, he is basically never punished or scolded. Always be aware that it is your responsibility to walk your dog at appropriate intervals! Your dog does not go into the apartment to annoy you, so any punishment and scolding is absolutely taboo.

Housetraining for adult dogs

It’s not that uncommon for adult dogs to be reliably housebroken either. The key here is to investigate the cause: Does he simply not find a suitable place outside because he z. B. has learned at the breeder or the previous owner to make only on certain surfaces? If he has an undiagnosed disease? If he is afraid and cannot relax outside? Does he suffer from separation pain and stress when you are not at home? There can be many reasons, but one thing is certain: he does not do it out of stubbornness, malice or protest.

1. Dogs from animal protection/foreign dogs

If you adopt a dog from a shelter, you may have to start cleanliness training all over again, just like with a puppy. Dogs in the shelter usually do not have the opportunity to regularly relieve themselves outside their kennel. So you have learned – sometimes over years – to relieve yourself on the spot.

Be understanding of any mishaps: your dog must first learn that you expect him to do his business only outside the apartment. Follow the same procedure as recommended for puppy housetraining: Schedule regular walks and praise your four-legged friend when he relieves himself outside. You will quickly develop a sense of how long your dog can hold in and when it needs to go fast. Again, never punish or scold if something goes wrong! It makes sense to always feed the dog at the same time and to go out at regular intervals, coordinated with the feeding times.

Dogs from abroad are often a special case: Many of them have lived on the streets for years – so the concept of housetraining is logically foreign to them. It may take some time for your foreign dog to learn that he should not do it in the apartment. Depending on his history, he may also be very anxious outside – especially in cities – and simply not be able to find the calm to get out because of all the new smells, impressions and people.

It can happen that you take him for a walk without him getting loose, only to head for the carpet as soon as you enter the apartment. This is often the case especially with fearful dogs. And here applies more than already: Scolding is absolutely counterproductive and will only make your already anxious dog even more insecure! Praise him in a calm voice when he does outside and fix mishaps without comment or punishment. Especially in the beginning it is important not to overload the dog: make sure that he sleeps enough (17-20 hours)./day), and limit yourself to several, but shorter and low-stimulus walks.

TipMany dogs from warmer climates don’t like to walk in the rain/snow and cold temperatures and prefer to go indoors. Appropriate dog clothing can help here.

2. Illnesses

If your dog has been housetrained up to now and suddenly starts to go indoors, you should have him thoroughly checked by a vet, because illnesses can also be the cause, for example urinary tract infections such as cystitis, kidney problems, tumors, a weakening of the sphincter muscles, dementia, intestinal infections, etc. This is especially true if your dog is leaking urine or wetting his basket while sleeping. Here it is important to find out the cause in order to help the dog. With incontinent dogs it can be useful to put an absorbent pad in the basket.

3. Seniors

Older dogs often can not keep as long as in younger years. Therefore, give your senior the opportunity to get loose in shorter time intervals than before. It is possible that a short pee round at night is also necessary. If you notice problems with your senior dog’s housetraining, have him examined by a veterinarian in any case! And also here applies of course: Be understanding, your senior does not want to annoy you, he simply can not help it.

3. Breed specific characteristics

There are some dog breeds that are known to become housebroken relatively late, z. B. French Bulldogs or Italian Greyhounds. In general, smaller dogs seem to have a harder time with housetraining than larger dogs. Here you need a lot of patience to successfully master the housetraining together.


Getting puppies housebroken is a challenge, but with a little patience and consistency it can be done. Even if it takes longer: every dog will eventually become housebroken, as long as you give him the opportunity to go outside regularly. In shelter dogs and especially foreign dogs, housetraining can be a problem at first: They have never learned to do outside, or are scared. A lot of patience and empathy is needed, especially with fearful dogs.

Seniors are often not able to stay out as long as they used to – in this case it is urgently necessary to increase the frequency of walks for the benefit of the dog. In every case of a suddenly appearing uncleanliness the veterinarian should be consulted, in order to exclude organic causes.

What is true for all these cases: Do not be angry with your dog and do not punish him – this undermines your carefully built relationship of trust. Be patient, you will manage!

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