Are you at the end of your rope (um, leash?) cleaning up from your new dog’s housebreaking accidents inside? Feel like you’ve tried “everything” and your new furry family member still can’t seem to figure out that going to the bathroom on the rug is fraying your nerves ragged? Not to fear, potty busters are here! We’ve reduced our tips down to our “lucky 7” that we’ve found can do the trick when all else seems to have failed.
This article is not meant to be a comprehensive step-by-step how to housebreak your new dog or puppy article. For that, we suggest you follow the steps in our Housetraining Your Dog or Puppy article. And if you haven’t tried Crate Training your puppy or dog as a housebreaking method, then you might find that cures your housebreaking blues instantly. But some dogs – especially dogs that spent too much time in a pet store cage, or in a puppy mill where they were confined in a tiny area without ever being let out – those dogs need extra help from us to get their housebreaking back on track.
In our tips below, we call your new puppy or dog “Buddy” to make these tips easier to understand.
Tip #1: Establish a Potty Area. Has Buddy ever gone to the bathroom where you want him to go? More than once? If he has, then that’s your potty area! That is where you should take him every time you want him to go the bathroom.
Tip #2: Establish a Gray Zone. This is an area where it’s OK that Buddy goes to the bathroom, though it may not be where you’d like him to go full-time in the future. Put Buddy in the Gray Zone whenever you aren’t directly supervising him – supervising means EYES ON BUDDY not just in the same room! The location of your Gray Zone depends on your dog’s size, your home, your climate, etc. A bathroom, outdoor dog run, or securely fenced yard are examples. If indoors, ideally use a space you don’t use much — many people use their kitchen, but then expect the dog to magically not go in the kitchen when they are home! A bathroom or other less-used hard-floored room (or safe area outside) is better. Lock the dog out of the Gray Zone when you are home and want them to hold it till you go outside.
Tip #3: Have a Treat pouch. Keep it filled with super high value treats (Buddy’s absolute favorites), and keep it right next to the door. Bring it outside with you every single time you and Buddy go outside, so you’re ready to give him the jackpot reward if he goes! For dog’s that aren’t interested in treats, try human food approved by your vet, such as roasted chicken.
Tip #4: Set your alarm. When you are home and awake, set your alarm and take Buddy to the Potty Area every hour on the hour every hour for 2 minutes. On a leash is better to keep them from thinking its play time, but some dogs are more likely to go when off leash, so follow your dog’s lead. This is not playtime. Just stand there, be boring, mediate for 2 minutes, and if Buddy goes potty, jackpot reward!
Tip #5: Dog diapers. This tends to work better on smaller dogs – but the biggest housebreaking challenges we know of seem to be smaller dogs! Belly bands for boys and diapers for girls can be a permanent, instant solution to a housebreaking problem. They are now found quite easily online and in major pet supply stores like PetSmart.com.
Tip #6: Tethering. Does Buddy only go to the bathroom inside when you’re not watching? Then attach his leash to your belt – yes, you’re now attached at the hip and aside from being best buddies, he can’t sneak off to go to the bathroom out of sight!
Tip#7: Vet check. Have Buddy checked by a vet if its just inappropriate urination in the house. Sometimes a low-grade infection can cause it to be uncomfortable for a dog to hold it. Especially if your dog is a new dog, stress of being in a new home can cause an infection to flare.