House Training for Dogs and Puppies

Boozer sleeping

The principles of evolution say that puppies have a natural proclivity to eliminate outside the den. If they did not, then the probability of disease would be high. Eliminating outside the den carries with it a survival value. Thus the dog has an innate propensity not to foul his own nest. All the human needs to do is make it easy for the dog to exercise that innate behavior.  It is essentially a matter of schedule management. Here is how to accomplish this task:

  1. Get the dog a crate to be his “den”. The crate should be of a size that he can comfortably turn around and lie down. It should not be much larger. If the crate is too large, put in some cardboard boxes to take up the extra space. Keep pup in the crate when he is unsupervised. The basic principle is to adjust his environment so that he only eliminates when he is outside. This trains the behavior of eliminating outdoors. The act of eliminating is a reward in itself. If you take him to a particular area in the yard every time and give him a treat, he will form a preference for eliminating in that place. Whenever you want to let him out of the crate for indoor activity, always take him from the crate directly outdoors and let him eliminate, before turning him loose in the house.
  2. Established a fixed schedule. Feed the dog the same time or times each day. Let him outside on a fixed schedule. The only way a dog can predict what time to expect dinner is by what the schedule was yesterday and the day before, and the day before. The same principle applies to going outside.

An adult dog’s digestive time for canned dog food averages about 4 to 6 hours to move through his system. With dry food, it may take as long as 8 to 10 hours. A puppy’s cycle time will be much faster. Stress and many other factors will also alter cycle time. In other words it is quite difficult to pin down. It is best to err to the conservative side. My rule of thumb is two hours for young puppies; four hours for adults.

  1. Limit the intake. If you cut back 50% on the dog’s food for the first three days of housebreaking, you make it easy for him to “hold it”, and thus easier for him to adjust his schedule to your fixed and thus predictable schedule.
  2. The best regimen for night confinement for puppies is:
  • Give evening meal at 4:00 in the afternoon.
  • No water after 6:00 in the evening
  • Take out at 11:00 PM then put in crate
  • Wake up at 5:00 am and take outside

Most puppies over 10 weeks of age can adapt readily to this schedule if the schedule is regular and the puppy is on a sparse serving size of food. The major contributors to difficulty with housebreaking are:

  1. Irregular schedule imposed by the human
  2. Overfeeding
  3. Unsupervised puppy activities in the house.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                If you follow the above principles, you should be able to house-train a puppy or dog in three to five days.

10 thoughts on “House Training for Dogs and Puppies

  1. “The act of eliminating is a reward in itself. If you take him to a particular area in the yard every time and give him a treat, he will form a preference for eliminating in that place.” Give him the treat before/after or both to develop preference for eliminating a certain area?

  2. Robert,
    I just wanted to comment on how much I LOVE the Gundog chronicles, I check your site several times a week but it’s the first I noticed it. It’s very well done and concisely answers questions for us.
    GREAT IDEA!!!!

  3. Robert, we have a female pup from your Jake-Becca August litter, she is doing great but I am having difficulty with the potty training. I am following your plan listed on this page, but my pup seems to be defecating 5 to 6 times per day. With this many times it is very difficult to predict an accident. I changed food a week ago to see if this would limit the number of times per day, but has made no change. Any ideas?

    1. Go to once per day feeding. Cut total food intake by 50%. Add some probiotic. Feed at the same time every day. Make the going outside the same times every day. Frequently failure of house training is due to over feeding.

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