House Training 101

by Jerry Bradshaw President, Tarheel Canine Training, Inc.
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There are 2 methods to housetrain your dog, the crate method, and the paper-training method. The crate method is preferred but requires constant supervision.

The Crate Method

The crate method uses the principle that the dog would prefer not to soil his living area. The dog is crated for a couple of hours at a time, then taken out to one place in the yard to use the bathroom. Introduce a command like “hurry up” while the dog looks for a place to go, as soon as the dog goes, praise warmly, and give a treat. The focus is on POSITIVE motivation. Things to remember for all housetraining:

Regulate food and water intake. Feed on regular schedules, do not leave water and food in the crate or in the little room. Allow the dog to drink as much as she wants at meal times.

Take up all water after 8:00pm, and use the crate for sleeping overnight.

If your house is not temperature controlled, you cannot remove water during the day if it is hot inside the house, as the dog may dehydrate. But this will destroy your schedule.


Do not hit or yell at the dog if she goes inside the house. Do not take her to a mess and scold her. This teaches the dog only to be afraid of you and will encourage her to go out of your sight. If she goes inside the house, consider it your fault for not properly supervising her. Take her directly outside even if it is after the fact, and give her the “hurry-up” command near her bathroom spot outside.

Avoid leaving the dog unattended, if you see her circling to use the bathroom inside, grab her and take her immediately outside. When not supervised, the dog should be in the crate.

Gradually lengthen the time the dog is crated between bathroom breaks, allowing for age and success. If the dog is still having accidents, or has an accident in the crate, you must give more frequent bathroom breaks. Always give a bathroom break initially directly after eating, or playtime, be patient and consistent. Be sure to over-do the number of bathroom breaks the dog needs at first to ensure she doesn’t have the opportunity to have accidents. Again, this requires a lot of supervision.

Be patient when taking the dog outside, you must be more persistent than the dog! Sometimes you may have to wait 10 or 15 minutes until she goes in her spot outside. Always remember to praise warmly and give a treat for each success.

Use a vinegar and water solution to deodorize any accident spots in the house so the dog is not drawn to them by smell, and incorrectly think that is where she is supposed to go.

The Paper Training Method

The goal in paper training is to teach the dog to use newspaper to eliminate. Then we gradually remove the newspaper from parts of the floor, then eventually move the newspaper outside when the dog is old enough to hold it. This method is only recommended for people who cannot give their dogs a break during the day while at work. The disadvantage is that it implicitly teaches the dog to go in the house. The crate method teaches the dog that in the house is never ok.


Confine the dog to a small room, like a laundry or utility or small bathroom. Puppy-proof the room, so the pup cannot chew or destroy anything you value. Place a gate across the doorway, rather than shut the dog inside. This will cause anxiety.

Line the entire floor with newspapers.

Be sure to put in lots and lots of toys, to keep her from destroying the papers.

Take her outside before you leave for work and try to get her to empty out. Leave the dog in the room, and when you return, notice where she used the bathroom. Take the dog outside to her bathroom spot, taking with you a piece of the soiled newspaper to leave in the outside bathroom spot.

When you clean the mess inside, leave a little piece of soiled newspaper in the far corner of the room. This will act as a scent marker, and encourage the dog to use that spot.

Gradually remove the newspaper from parts of the floor she doesn’t regularly soil on, always leaving a little piece of soiled paper in the same back corner.

Practice the crate method on weekends and days off, and evenings when you are home.

When the dog has been trained to only use the back corner, and all other paper has been removed, and the dog is old enough to hold it in (you may notice days when she doesn’t go on the paper all day), then move the paper outside for good.

If you need more advice in this area we offer telephone consultation services for your convenience. See the section on behavior.