Your dog is 9 months old, a year old, 5 years old… and they aren’t house-broken. You’ve read and tried everything you could find, but to little or no avail. Before you continue reading – and if you haven’t already done so – a visit to the vet is recommended to ensure your dog doesn’t have a urinary tract or other infection. If you’ve done that and your dog is medically sound, let’s proceed.
Crate/Kennel: Kennel your dog for 30 minutes, then take them outside for at least 10 minutes [weather permitting]. If they do their business, reward them with whatever motivates them the most [food, a toy, etc.] and give them some unrestricted play time outside. If they don’t go after 10 minutes, bring them back in, put them back in their kennel for 30 minutes, then try again. Do this every 30 to 45 minutes, as often as is realistically possible. The dog learns that pottying outside is infinitely more rewarding than not getting any attention at all when they do their business inside.
Tethering: Hands-free leashes are awesome tools. They keep the dog close to you without impeding your movements, the dog has to follow where you go, and the chances of an in-house accident are decreased because you’re able to monitor the dog and respond more quickly to even the slightest possible signal that they have to go.
Watering/Feeding/Sleep Schedules: Putting your dog on a schedule can be an invaluable tool for successful potty training and house-breaking. Unless advised differently by your vet, no food or water at least 20 minutes before bedtime. Take the dog out for a final potty 10 minutes before bedtime. Take the dog outside 5 to 10 minutes after every meal, every nap, every big drink of water.
Acknowledge/Ignore: If the dog has an accident in the house, ignore them, clean up the mess, and then take the dog outside. It’s very important that you act as if nothing bad has happened. Yelling at the dog, rubbing their nose in their mess, or any number of other common but negative responses only teach the dog that doing their business is bad – which can lead to them holding instead of going when they need to go. Remember: dog is dog. He or she doesn’t have the ability to reason out that going inside is the problem. All they know is that they’re being punished for doing their business.
So, acknowledge the behavior you want. And if the dog doesn’t do their business outside after having had the accident inside, don’t sweat it. Give them 10 minutes, then bring them back in. Restrict their access either by setting up a pen for them with a pee pad or fake grass in one section, or by putting them in their kennel for 30 minutes.
Remember that consistency, patience, and calmness is absolutely essential to successfully house-breaking and potty training your dog. It may take a bit longer for your dog to “get” it, but if you’re willing and able to do the work and put in the time, he or she will get there.
Have an awesome day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.