Isaac vom Geistwasser

A BLOG about a DOG

10 Commandments of Housebreaking

this was all taken from here

Commandment #1:

THOU SHALT MAKE SURE FIDO IS IN GOOD HEALTH

Before starting a housebreaking program, please be sure Fido has a clean bill of health. A veterinary exam including a fecal exam (stool sample) will allow you to be sure that none of Fido’s housebreaking issues are caused by a medical problem. This is important for all dogs, but especially for new puppies, senior dogs or dogs who have symptoms of digestive problems or other health issues.

If Fido has digestive issues caused by parasites, allergies or other medical problems, he may have a hard time controlling his bowels, which will make it hard for him to get to the right place every time he needs to go. Some symptoms to watch for:

Essential Pet

* Excessive gas

* Bloated tummy

* Tender tummy

* Diarrhea

* Soft stools

* Straining to go

* Mucus in stools

* Blood in stools

* Worms in stool (may look like moving pieces of white rice or

like long pieces of spaghetti)

NOTE: Fido may have worms even if they’re not visible in his stools. Sometimes the only evidence that your dog has a parasite infestation is the presence of microscopic worm eggs in the stool that can only be detected by having your vet test a stool sample.

Urinary problems caused by bladder or urinary tract issues which can make housebreaking nearly impossible. Some symptoms to watch for:

* Frequent urination

* Sudden increase in urination

* Housebroken dog that suddenly starts having urine accidents

* Blood in urine

* Dog attempts to urinate but nothing comes out

* Dog attempts to urinate then jumps up in pain

Fido’s housebreaking can also be adversely effected by other medical issues including arthritis, hip displaysia or any other kind of painful condition. If he appears to be in pain, you should resolve the issue with your vet’s help so you can be sure he is healthy and comfortable enough to be successfully housebroken.

If Fido is on any kind of medication and is having housebreaking issues, check with your vet to see if your housebreaking problem might be a side effect of his medication. If it is, your vet may be able to switch him to a different medication, change the dosage or offer other suggestions to lessen the impact of the side effects.

Once you’re sure Fido has a clean bill of health, you can safely proceed with his housebreaking program.


Commandment #2:

THOU SHALT START FIDO’S HOUSEBREAKING WITH A CLEAN SLATE

Whether Fido’s a new puppy who hasn’t had a chance to make any mistakes or an older dog who’s been driving you crazy with housebreaking mishaps for years, he deserves a fresh start.

It’s hard not to be resentful and angry when Fido is peeing and pooing everywhere in spite of your attempts to teach him to do the right thing. Many owners begin to believe that their dogs are intentionally having accidents to be spiteful. Even more seem to believe that their dog “knows better”, but has accidents anyway.

Remember, housebreaking doesn’t just magically happen and just because your dog sometimes goes in the right place doesn’t mean he knows he’s always supposed to go there. Just as human babies aren’t born potty-trained, puppies aren’t born housebroken. It’s our responsibility to teach them what to do using a patient, reasonable approach that encourages the proper behavior and discourages unwanted behaviors.

When housebreaking Fido, it’s important to remember that no two dogs are alike. Just because your friend says her puppy was housebroken in 3 days doesn’t mean that Fido’s a bad dog for taking longer. And please don’t be mad at poor Fido because you’ve easily housebroken all of your other dogs and he’s having a harder time catching on. It is completely normal for some dogs to take longer than others, even if you’re doing everything right. Help Fido along as best you can and try not to compare him unfairly with other dogs… who knows if your friend’s telling the truth about that 3 day housebreaking program, anyway?!?

Try to teach Fido using the same patience you would use in potty-training a child. If you think of him as unsure and confused but trying to do the right thing, you’ll tend to have more appropriate responses than if you’re thinking of him as evil, spiteful and trying to drive you crazy.

All that being said, YOU get a clean slate at the beginning of your new housebreaking program, too. Don’t waste time feeling bad about not doing it right the first time or feeling guilty that you were angry at Fido or may have corrected him unfairly. It’s completely normal to get frustrated when you don’t know what to do and when your best efforts don’t yield good results. Making mistakes doesn’t make you bad, it just makes you human, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Now that you’re starting a program that will work, you’ll understand better how to educate Fido without using harsh methods and without the frustration that comes along with not knowing what to do to fix his problems. Just the fact that you’ve made the effort to start this new housebreaking program with Fido is proof enough that you’re a good, responsible dog owner who’s trying to do the right thing, so give yourself a break!

Commandment #3:

THOU SHALT KEEP IT CLEAN

When it comes to your housebreaking program, cleanliness is definitely next to godliness! One of the reasons that dogs can be housebroken is that they have a natural tendency to avoid soiling their living areas. A big part of housebreaking is simply preserving Fido’s natural cleanliness. If Fido is forced to be near his own waste, he can lose his natural tendency toward cleanliness, which will make his housebreaking much more difficult. This often occurs if he spent his puppyhood in a small cage at a pet store or in a dirty kennel. It can also happen later in life if he’s left in his confinement area for too long and he’s forced to relieve himself there or if you aren’t diligent about cleaning up after him with the proper cleaning products.

You will need to buy an odor neutralizing product specifically designed to eliminate pet odors. You can find these products at any pet store or online pet supply site. Try to avoid using regular household cleaners, especially those containing ammonia, when cleaning up accidents. These products will not sufficiently eliminate the odor, since Fido’s sense of smell is much stronger than yours. Even if you can’t smell it, he can! Products that contain ammonia can actually draw him back to the same spot, since one of the compounds excreted in urine is… guess what?… AMMONIA! So, of course, if he smells ammonia there, he may just think it’s the perfect place to potty!

Fido’s confinement area and crate must be kept very clean. If Fido has any accidents, clean the area thoroughly with odor neutralizer according to the manufacturer’s directions. The cleaner his living area is, the less likely he is to soil there, so even if Fido isn’t having accidents, his crate or confinement area floor should be cleaned at least once weekly using odor neutralizer.

If you suspect Fido or another dog had accidents in your home recently or in the distant past, those areas must also be thoroughly cleaned to remove all of the odor, so that Fido is not drawn to them. If you’re not sure where the accidents occurred, you can find out the high-tech way or the low-tech way.

The high-tech solution is to buy a blacklight from the pet store and use it to examine your carpets, furniture, etc. at night with all of the lights off. This can be quite a horrifying experience, so be prepared… especially if you watch crime dramas on TV that use similar technology to find blood at crime scenes… your house might look like there’s been a massacre! But, don’t worry, it’s just a bit of pee (we hope!). Just clean, clean, clean once you find it.

The low-tech method is the good ol’ sniff test. Just get on your hands and knees and start sniffing around for suspiciously stinky areas. If you have a friend with a sensitive nose who owes you a favor, you might want to ask him or her to do it, since you may be desensitized to the smells in your house.

You’ll also need to keep Fido himself clean. If he’s stinky and surrounded by the smell of pee and poo, he’s more likely to have accidents. If you keep him fresh and clean, he’s more likely to try to stay that way. Whether he’s having accidents or not, you should bathe and brush him regularly, and, if necessary, trim any excess hair around his backside and genitals that may tend to hold urine or feces after he relieves himself. He must be bathed after any accidents that cause him to come into contact with his urine or feces. You will need to do this EVERY TIME. If you find that you’re having to bathe him frequently, be sure to use a mild, conditioning shampoo.

Fido’s potty area should also be kept clean. Although a trace of his scent is helpful to draw him back to the area, 30 piles of poo in his corner of the back yard or potty pads that are soaked through with urine aren’t very appealing to Fido. If his potty area is so icky that he doesn’t want to go there, he may begin to seek greener pastures… like your nice, clean carpet. Scoop the poop and hose down the urine outside and for indoor dogs change the potty pads, papers or litter tray regularly.

Most owners have good intentions, of course, and intend to keep Fido and his surroundings clean. However, many owners get frustrated and stop cleaning thoroughly after Fido’s made a mess, since they figure he’s just going to have another accident and get everything dirty again. Please don’t fall victim to this kind of thinking! It will only make matters worse, creating more discomfort for Fido and for you. Remember, if you don’t seem concerned about keeping your house clean, Fido certainly won’t be!

One other important thing to remember… you should not let Fido watch you clean up his accidents. This comes as a surprise to most owners, who think they’re teaching Fido a lesson when they make him watch them clean. Even if you give him a lecture the whole time you’re cleaning, this method will not effectively minimize accidents. On the contrary, cleaning up in front of Fido can actually encourage him to have accidents. If he realizes that a misplaced tinkle can get you down on the floor to talk to him, having an accident starts to seem like a good way to get your attention. The situation gets worse if Fido’s one of those spunky characters who will steal the paper towels while you’re down there and lure you into a chase game. If he thinks accidents lead to all that fun, why would he ever stop? To prevent Fido from learning that accidents create action, just put Fido outside, in another room or in his crate before cleaning up.

Commandment #4:

THOU SHALT PRAISE FIDO WHEN HE GETS IT RIGHT

In the early phases of housebreaking, don’t just open the door, send Fido outside and hope he does something while he’s out there. You should go out with him so you know whether he’s gone or not… and don’t forget to make a fuss over him when he does the right thing in the right place. Verbal praise, petting and play are great rewards that will convince Fido that pottying outside is definitely the way to go.

Sometimes owners believe that Fido should “just know” that going outside is the right thing. It doesn’t work that way, folks! It’s your job to teach Fido where to go and not go, so you’ll need to catch him doing the right thing as well as the wrong thing so you can teach him which is which.

Remember, one of our primary goals in housebreaking Fido is to teach him that it feels way better to potty in the right place that it does in the wrong place. If you don’t tell him what a good dog he is, doing the right thing feels about the same as doing the wrong thing, and that makes it hard to get results. Worse yet, Fido might learn that he only gets attention from you when he goes in the wrong place, and he’ll figure negative attention is better than no attention which can make him even more inclined to go in the house.

Also, if you never praise Fido for pottying outside and you correct Fido when he potties inside, he may draw completely the wrong conclusion- he may think he isn’t allowed to potty in front of you. This will make housebreaking more difficult and may create other problems later on when you need him to go potty while he’s on a leash.

Your dog should be rewarded handsomely for doing his thing outside. Verbal praise, petting and play are your best bets. Although treats are a very valuable training tool, we generally don’t recommend them for housebreaking. Some people do have success using treats as part of their housetraining programs, but it can be risky. In many cases, the dog will be so excited and anxious to get the treat, he’ll squat, squeeze out a few drops and say GIMME! Then, he’ll go back into the house, realize he didn’t finish, and have an accident. You should use lots of rewards in your housebreaking program, but no treats!

So, treat Fido like he’s won the Nobel Prize when he goes potty in the right place… sweet talk him, pet him and play with him… he deserves it.

Commandment #5:

THOU SHALT CORRECT FIDO ONLY WHEN YOU CATCH HIM IN THE ACT

Oh, this is a tough one. Many of you probably grew up watching your parents drag Fido over to a puddle they found on the floor to rub his nose in it, telling him what a BAD DOG he was. It may be tempting to correct Fido because you feel like it’s the only way he’ll learn. Or you may correct him out of frustration caused by not knowing what else to do. Or just because you’re MAD. It can be hard to keep your cool when you find another pile or puddle on the floor, but correcting Fido when you find his mistake instead of when he made the mistake isn’t part of a good housebreaking program.

Properly timed correction is an important part of any good housebreaking program. (See our housebreaking corrections article for the full scoop on appropriate housebreaking corrections.) If you catch Fido as he’s about to have an accident or as he’s having an accident, a sharp, quick correction will “shut off the plumbing” and give you a chance to get him to the right place to potty.

Improperly timed correction, however, can make a bad situation even worse. Fido associates correction with whatever he’s doing at the moment he’s corrected. Here’s a common scenario… you come home and Fido runs happily to greet you at the door. You immediately see that Fido’s used your favorite imported rug as a toilet again, so you grab him by his collar, drag him to the rug, push his face into the rug and yell at him. You’re thinking that if you show him what you’re correcting him for and scare the heck out of him, he’ll never do it again.

WRONG. When you’re correcting Fido, he’s not thinking, “Man, I really shouldn’t have peed on that rug 4 hours ago”. He’s thinking that it’s scary when you come home. Remember, going potty on the rug felt good, since he got relief when he emptied his bladder… that part worked out well for him. Things got ugly only when he happily greeted you at the door. So what happens then? He stops greeting you at the door, since he’s worried you’ll drag him across the room and yell at him for doing it.

Things get even worse from there. Now when you come home, there’s a puddle on the floor and Fido’s slinking around the house instead of running to greet you at the door, so you think, “A-HA!! He looks guilty… that’s proof he knows peeing on the floor is wrong!”. But poor Fido isn’t slinking because he feels guilty, he’s doing it because he’s worried about what’s going to happen when you come in the door. But your belief that he “knows he’s done something wrong” makes you even more convinced that he deserves a correction, and the cycle continues and worsens. Now you not only have a stained carpet, you have a dog that’s a nervous wreck!

Fido may eventually figure out that you are only unhappy when you come home and there’s a pile or puddle on the floor. But the vast majority of dogs simply aren’t mentally sophisticated enough to learn that the act of putting the pee or poo there causes a problem four hours later. In studies on this very subject, dogs were trained with correction after the fact and a small percentage did become housebroken. The majority just hid from people when there was poop on the floor. A small percentage would poop, turn around and see it and then go hide!

Please don’t assume that Fido understands your corrections just because you think he looks guilty… he may not know WHY you’re mad, he just knows THAT you’re mad. I know it’s tempting to try to teach Fido a lesson when you find that he’s had an accident, but remember, you can only correct him if you catch him in the act. As outlined in Commandment #7, you’re supposed to supervise Fido’s free time in the house, so if Fido has an accident and you find it later, it’s YOUR mistake, not his!

Commandment #6:

THOU SHALT KEEP FIDO ON A SCHEDULE

Be sure to keep Fido on a reasonable feeding and potty schedule. Fido needs plenty of chances to go potty in the right place… taking him out twice a day won’t do it. In the long run, his schedule will be based on your schedule… you’ll take him out a times that are convenient to your work hours or your daily plans. However, in the early stages of housebreaking, especially if Fido’s still a puppy with limited bladder and bowel control, the schedule must be based on his needs and the length of time he can reasonably be expected to wait between potty trips.

Puppies should always be taken for a potty trip immediately after waking up in the morning, after naps, after eating or chewing and after active play. You can get a general idea of how often Fido should have a potty trip using the chart below, but, keep in mind that if he’s having accidents on that schedule, you’ll need to take him out more frequently.

6-12 weeks

12-16 weeks

4-5 months

6-7 months

8-11 months

12 months and older

daytime

1 hour 2 hours 3 hours 4 hours 5-6 hours 8 hours

nighttime*

3-4 hours 4-8 hours 8 hours 8 hours 8 hours 8-10 hours
*nighttime hours assume that the puppy or dog was not fed or watered 3 hours before bed

A bit of good news… you don’t have to take Fido out with the same frequency overnight as you do during the day. Since he’s not active and not taking in food or water overnight he’ll be able to hold it for a longer period of time and you can get some sleep! With very young puppies, you will need to do potty trips in the middle of the night, as detailed in “Surviving the Night with your New Puppy.”

Fido should be on a regular feeding schedule. Typically, puppies under 4 months of age have meals three times a day, those over 4 months of age eat twice daily. While housebreaking your dog, it’s usually best to put the food bowl down for only 10 minutes at each meal. This prevents Fido from nibbling at his food all day, which can make his digestive system less predictable and slow the housebreaking process.

Sending Fido to bed with a full belly and bladder is a recipe for disaster, so his last access to food and water should be about 3 hours before bedtime (unless you want to take him out for a potty trip in the middle of the night!). Of course, you should check with your vet before setting up your dog’s food and water schedule to be sure your dog doesn’t have any special needs that require a specific schedule.

Fido’s feeding schedule can also be adjusted based on your daily plans. If you normally feed him at 8am and there’s a day that you’ll have to leave him alone from 9am to 1pm, you can prevent accidents while you’re away by giving Fido his food and water earlier than usual so he can empty out before you leave the house. You may also find it helpful to feed him a smaller meal than usual in the morning, then compensate by adding a little extra food to his evening meal.

Many people find that keeping a written daily schedule is very helpful when housebreaking Fido. A written schedule is especially useful when there’s more than one person helping with the housebreaking program, since it helps to keep everyone informed about whether Fido’s been fed or taken for a potty trip. For more about written potty schedules and to see sample schedules, read our “Keeping a Written Potty Schedule” article.

When housebreaking Fido, the right kind of schedule makes all the difference. It allows both you and Fido to know what to expect and makes his pees and poos easier to track and predict, which is half the battle!

Commandment #7:

THOU SHALT SUPERVISE FIDO’S FREE TIME IN THE HOUSE

If Fido is not housebroken, he should not have unsupervised time in your house. It takes only seconds for him to have an accident, so, in the early stages of your housebreaking program, he must be directly supervised the entire time he is in the house.

Direct supervision guarantees that if Fido is about to make a mistake, you’re able to catch him, correct him, and guide him into doing the right thing. If he attempts to have an accident in the house, don’t panic… as long as you catch him, it’s a learning opportunity. You can teach him at that moment that going potty in the house doesn’t feel as good as going outside.

It’s always discouraging when Fido has an accident in the house, but there’s a big difference between the accidents you catch and the accidents you don’t. If Fido has an accident and there’s nobody there to let him know it’s wrong, it actually works out pretty well for him… he’s uncomfortable because his bowels or bladder feel full and he gets relief when he lets loose on your nice, expensive rug. If he gets the same relief from pottying inside as he does from pottying outside, why should he wait? The accidents you don’t catch Fido having prevent him from becoming housebroken, so the immediate goal of your housebreaking program is to catch and correct all of Fido’s attempts to go potty in the house… starting NOW.

So, what do we mean when we say “direct supervision”? It’s more than just keeping Fido in the same room with you… he can be pretty slick and very quick, so you might find a puddle on the floor if he wanders away unnoticed for a few moments. Direct supervision requires you to have your eyes on Fido or have physical contact with him at all times. You can carry him, have him in your lap, have him with you on a leash or just watch him like a hawk… just remember that you need to know what he’s up to at all times when he’s in the house.

Sometimes when there’s more than one person helping to care for Fido, being sure he’s supervised at all times can be even trickier… when there’s more than one person in the room, everyone thinks that someone else is watching the dog. This problem can be solved by assigning supervision responsibility to one person in the room and not allowing that person to just wander away from the dog, assuming someone else will keep on eye on him. When the person in charge is no longer able to give his full attention to Fido’s supervision, he must assign responsibility to someone else or put Fido in his kennel or out in the yard.

If there are children helping with Fido’s training and supervision, you may need to take things a step further, since kids have a tendency to get distracted and wander away, forgetting that they were supposed to be watching Fido. With kids (or easily distracted adults!), the best method is for the person supervising the dog to have the dog on leash and hold the leash the entire time he’s supervising Fido. When the person holding the leash is going to stop supervising the dog, he has to either hand the leash to another person, or put Fido in his kennel or out in the yard.

Getting used to watching Fido at all times can be especially difficult if you’ve had him for a while and you’re used to the freedom of having him run around the house on his own. It’s hard to get in the habit of being vigilant, but if Fido’s still having accidents, he’s proven that he’s just not ready for that level of responsibility yet. If you get into the new habit of supervising Fido, he’ll get into the habit of not going potty in the house and your housebreaking program will be back on track.

All unhousebroken dogs, regardless of age, must be supervised at all times. No exceptions, so don’t even ask!

Commandment #8:

THOU SHALT WATCH FOR SIGNS THAT FIDO NEEDS TO GO POTTY

If you observe Fido closely, you’ll probably notice that he gives you some signs when he needs to relieve himself. Sometimes the signs are obvious, sometimes they’re a bit more subtle, but, if you stay vigilant, you’ll be able to prevent Fido from having accidents by noticing the signals that he needs to go.

The most common signs that your dog needs to go potty are sniffing and circling. If you see Fido suddenly start to sniff the floor or you see him spinning or walking in little circles, jump right up and take him outside. No time to finish what you’re doing, since these signs mean that he probably has to go RIGHT NOW!

Some dogs will start to whine, bark or pace if they need to go outside. If you’re doing umbilical cord training with Fido or he’s leashed or tethered in the house, you may notice that he starts to cry or pull on the leash. If you see these behaviors, take your dog out for a quick potty trip to see if he needs to go. Don’t allow him to stay outside and play, since we don’t want him to learn that fussing inside the house will earn him playtime outside. This should be a quick in and out… just long enough to see if he needs to go. For most dogs, a minute or two is plenty, although some dogs need to move around a bit to get their bowels moving. If that seems to be the case with your dog, you can walk him back and forth on-leash in a small area. Don’t walk him for a long distance or in a large area, since that offers too much new stimulation to distract him and he may forget why he’s out there or even learn to hold it so that he can walk longer.

If Fido starts to walk away from something interesting, that’s also a possible sign he needs to go potty. If you’re playing with Fido, giving him treats or doing something else fun with him and he walks away or if he walks away from his food bowl while eating, that’s often a sign that he needs to go. Dogs and puppies generally like to be where the action is, so if you see him trying to wander off, take him to his potty area right away.

Another thing to watch for is if your dog is on the move and stops suddenly or stands with an unusual posture or sits in an unusual position. This usually means the accident is actually starting to happen, so move fast!

One of the less charming ways that Fido might indicate that he needs a potty trip is by getting a little stinky. If you notice that he has gas, there’s a good chance the boy needs to poo.

Another equally charming thing you’ll need to watch for is a change in the appearance of your dog’s butt. If you notice that his tail is in an unusual position, his rectal area suddenly looks puffy or pink or you see that the opening is obvious (normally it should be closed!) this is a sign that he needs to go poo RIGHT THIS SECOND! Get him outside as quickly as humanly possible. You’ll be glad you did.

Commandment #9:

THOU SHALT CONFINE FIDO WHEN YOU CAN’T SUPERVISE HIM

Since you can’t supervise him 24 hours a day, you’ll need to have a place for Fido to relax and hang out when you’re not around to prevent him from having accidents. He’ll need a confinement area that’s small enough that he’ll find it distasteful to go potty there. Most dogs avoid going potty in their own living areas, which, in the end, is what causes them to become housebroken. In the beginning, though, it can be hard for Fido to recognize the whole house as a living area that he wants to keep clean, so we have to start him out with a small area he’ll think of as his home turf.

The amount of space varies, depending on the dog, and you may be surprised by how small an area is appropriate in the early stages of housebreaking. If Fido is new to your home or totally unhousebroken, you’ll most likely use a crate (the type of kennel used for airline transport) as his confinement area. The correct size for an unhousebroken dog gives him just enough room to stand up, turn around and lay down. If the crate is too large, Fido may use one half of it as a bedroom and the other half as a bathroom, so it’s important to have the correct size to prevent him from soiling his crate.

If Fido’s older or further along in his housebreaking program, his confinement area can be any space you’re sure he won’t have accidents in. This might be an exercise pen, a gated laundry room, kitchen or bathroom or another room in your house you know he’ll stay in without any mistakes. Just remember that if your dog has even occasional accidents in the area, it isn’t an appropriate confinement area for his unsupervised time in the house and you should choose a smaller area. As your dog earns your trust by not having accidents in his confinement area, gradually increase the amount of space you give him by adding on a little more space or a room at a time.

Keeping Fido in his confinement area teaches him to “hold it” for extended periods of time. The amount of time he can reasonably spend in confinement depends on his age and how familiar he is with being left alone. For very young dogs or dogs who aren’t yet used to being alone, it’s a good idea to start off with very brief confinement sessions and gradually increase the time until you’re at the appropriate length of time for Fido’s age (shown on the chart below).

6-12 weeks

12-16 weeks

4-5 months

6-7 months

8-11 months

12 months and older

daytime

1 hour 2 hours 3 hours 4 hours 5-6 hours 8 hours

nighttime*

3-4 hours 4-8 hours 8 hours 8 hours 8 hours 8-10 hours
*nighttime hours assume that the puppy or dog was not fed or watered 3 hours before bed

When your dog is unsupervised, he can also be kept outdoors if weather permits and you have a safe area where he can be left alone, such as an enclosed yard, outdoor dog run or balcony. He will go potty while in his outdoor area, so be sure it’s a spot you don’t mind him using it as a toilet!

When he’s alone or unsupervised, we want to be sure that we’re not letting Fido get into any bad habits, so be sure he’s confined or outside at times he’s not under your direct supervision.

Commandment #10:

THOU SHALT TEACH FIDO TO GO POTTY PROMPTLY ON COMMAND

Nothing’s more frustrating than standing outside in the rain waiting endlessly for Fido to do his business or having him stare blankly at you when you try to get him to go potty in a new location. If you don’t want to spend half your life waiting out in the cold, you’ll need to teach Fido to go potty in a hurry!

It’s helpful to teach Fido a command that tells him he should go potty here and now. This way, you’re able to get him to go quickly and you can tell him when a new area is an okay place for him to do his thing. You can use any phrase like “hurry up” (or “go potty”, “do your business”, “get busy”, etc.), just make sure that you won’t be embarrassed to say it in public. In the beginning, Fido won’t know what that phrase means, so don’t just go out there and start saying it. You’ll teach him to associate the words “hurry up” with the act of going potty by repeating the command in a calm, happy voice WHILE he’s going potty. The whole time he’s squatting down or lifting his leg peeing or pooing, you’ll repeat, “hurry up, hurry up, hurry up…”, then when he’s finished, praise him and tell him what a good boy he is.

After doing this for 2-3 weeks, you’ll start to be able to say “hurry up” when you take him to his potty area to prompt him to go. He’ll start to associate those words with going potty in the right area and you’ll have him going on command!

If your dog has a serious habit of taking forever to go potty when you take him outside, you may have to work a bit harder to solve the problem. Do you stand in the yard endlessly while Fido sniffs the grass and chases squirrels then take him inside immediately after he goes potty? Or maybe take him for a fun walk around the neighborhood that ends promptly when he finally gets around to doing his business? This is one of the most common mistakes that owners make, and it can cause big problems. Think about it… Fido’s having a fun time in the great outdoors, and you’re teaching him that his good times end as soon as he goes potty. So he learns to hold it as long as possible so he’ll get a nice, long walk or get to chase a few more squirrels.

To motivate Fido to go potty promptly when you take him out, you’ll need to do the opposite… teach him that the fun begins only after he’s gone potty in the right place. In Fido’s mind, something negative used to happen when he went potty then had to go right inside. Now the walk or playtime becomes the reward for going potty.

The trick to making this new plan work is to start it on a day that you can dedicate a few hours in the morning to hanging around the house supervising Fido. You’ll get up in the morning and take him outside to the area where you want him to potty, preferably an out-of-the-way corner of the yard or the grassy area closest to your front door if you’re going to be taking him out for a walk. Stand there with Fido on his leash and wait for him to go potty. Don’t walk around much, since we want him to get bored enough with the sights, smells and sounds that he puts his mind to pottying instead of checking out the scenery.

We’re going to give Fido two minutes in his potty area. If he goes, praise him like crazy and take him for a walk or take him off the leash and let him play in the yard. If he doesn’t go, take him back in the house, supervise him closely for 20 minutes, then try the same thing again. Give him outdoor playtime or a walk only after he successfully goes potty within the first two minutes he’s outside. Once he recognizes the pattern of having fun only after he goes potty, he’ll be anxious to get out there and get the job done so he can get out there and see the world!

Acclimating Fido to his Crate

Okay, so we know you’ll love Fido’s crate, but will he? You’ll love it because it makes his housebreaking easier, it keeps him from eating all your shoes when he’s left alone and because it can give you a break from him when he’s drivin’ you nuts. But what about Fido’s feelings about his crate? We know you’ve heard from your friends, from the folks at the pet store and from us that dogs love their crates because of their natural denning instinct, but you may be about to discover that nobody told Fido about that! Some dogs are afraid of the crate, some find confinement frustrating and stressful and some just don’t want to be left alone anytime, anyplace… including the crate. If it seems that your dog didn’t get the “denning instinct” memo, there’s plenty you can do to make him feel better about being left in his crate.

Start Fido’s housebreaking program on a weekend or at a time when you have a light schedule for a few days. This will allow you to introduce the crate gradually before needing to shut him in for any extended period of time. We want Fido to have a positive association with his crate, so don’t just shove him in there and close the door to see what happens.

If your dog isn’t already familiar with the crate, you are likely to encounter one of two common problems. Fido may be afraid of the crate and think that it’s too scary to approach or enter or he may be willing to go into the crate, but then not like being closed inside and left alone. Both of these issues can be resolved using the steps below, but you’ll need to work more slowly and carefully with a scared or nervous dog.

During training, you are likely to find that Fido whines, barks or cries when closed in the crate. You may also find that he scratches or digs in an effort to get out of the crate or bites at the crate door. These issues can arise even if you are taking the proper steps to acclimate Fido to the crate. Usually, these problems can be turned around pretty quickly, so don’t worry if he acts up a bit in his crate during the initial training period.

SAFETY NOTE: Although it is very rare, there are dogs who cannot be crate trained because they panic in the crate. If your dog hurts himself in any way trying to escape from the crate, if he successfully escapes a sturdy crate or if you have any other reason to believe that your dog is excessively stressed by the training, you should discontinue using the crate immediately unless you have the personal guidance of an experienced dog trainer. Please remember that Fido must never wear a collar of any kind when confined to a crate and be sure your crate is assembled properly and latched securely before leaving Fido unattended.

Fido’s First Date with his Crate

We want Fido’s first exposure to his crate to be a nice, happy experience. If he hears the crate banging around or sees you carrying it, he may just think it’s a big, scary monster, so when you assemble Fido’s crate, you should do so without him in the room and, if possible, do it in the area where you plan for the crate to be during Fido’s training period.

We don’t want Fido to encounter any unpleasant surprises while he’s getting to know his new crate. In the early phases of acclimating him to his crate, you should leave the crate door off or prop it open with a heavy object so it doesn’t suddenly close or bump into Fido. You should also place the crate on a surface where it will not slide and frighten him as he is getting in. If you have a wire crate, lay a piece of cardboard under the plastic or metal pan to keep it from making noise against the wire beneath it.

We want Fido’s crate to feel like home, so put something in his crate to make it comfy, like a blanket, a dog bed or a crate pad. He can also have toys or safe chew bones so he has something to keep him occupied while he’s in there. If Fido will be in his crate in your bedroom overnight or if he’ll be crated near you at times when you’re hanging around the house, you may want to avoid putting squeak toys in there with him, or he’ll drive you nuts! Unless your vet recommends otherwise, Fido should not have water in his crate, since he’ll not only have a full bladder, he’ll splash around and make a mess. It can be difficult to assess whether he might have had an accident in his crate if he’s had a big splish-splash party in his water bowl and everything’s soaking wet.

SAFETY NOTE: Bedding, toys and bones are most likely safe to leave alone with your dog, but any of them can be a choking hazard if Fido is the type to rip, tear and swallow objects. The vast majority of dogs will do just fine with these objects, but you should take Fido’s destructive tendencies into account when deciding what can be left in his crate. If in doubt, leave it out.

Some dogs, due to health issues, hot weather or extended periods in the crate, may need to have water in the crate. A water bottle (available in pet stores) is preferable to a bowl, since it will help to prevent Fido from spilling all of his water instead of drinking it. Another good option is a large parrot bowl that can be attached to the front of the crate, making it harder to spill. If you’re unsure about whether your circumstances require water to be left in the crate, please consult your veterinarian.

Once Fido’s crate is nice and cozy, it’s time to see what he thinks. Have him come into the room and hang out for a few minutes. See if he sniffs around or wanders in. Do not try to force him toward or into the crate in any way! Click one of the links below to choose a training method based on Fido’s initial response and what you know about his basic personality.

If Fido’s a Young Puppy or a Lazy, Relaxed Kinda Guy

This method works well with young puppies that tend to take lots of heavy duty naps or adult dogs that aren’t very active and like to get lots of beauty rest.

Make Fido’s crate nice and cozy and be sure there are no other dog beds, blankets or other comfy spots for him to settle down on in the room. Leave the crate door propped open with a heavy object. Hang out with him near the crate, supervising him closely. What we’re counting on here is that Fido will look for a safe, comfortable place to have a little siesta and wander into his crate to fall asleep. If he doesn’t, wait until he’s sleeping, then lift him into his crate and place him in there for his nap. If he wants to get out, don’t fight him. Just try a few more times, and if you don’t have success, try another of the training methods.

Once he’s totally knocked out in there, you can gently close and latch the door. Stay close enough to the crate that you’ll notice when he wakes up. As soon as you see that he’s up, go over and let him out (and take him for a post-nap potty trip, of course). If you leave him in there too long, he may be upset when he wakes up and discovers he’s closed in the crate, so we want to get him out quickly.

When you successfully introduce Fido to his crate using this method, things should go pretty smoothly when he’s sleepy. To get him to the point where you can put him in the crate when he’s full of energy, you should give him something good to chew on in the crate so he’s busy and happy in there. This should be something other than his normal chew items… something of extra high value that he only gets when he’s in his crate. You’ll make Fido very happy with a safe chew bone like a pig ear from the pet store or a raw marrow bone from the butcher. A hollow rubber toy filled with something yummy is another good choice. Most dogs go crazy for a hollow toy stuffed with canned dog food… if you freeze it before giving it to him, it’ll keep him busy for a nice, long time! If you worry that the canned food may give our boy Fido a bit of an upset tummy, mixing plain, boiled white rice with the canned food will help to prevent diarrhea.

Gradually leave Fido in the crate for longer periods as he becomes comfortable. If you find that he engages in bratty behaviors like barking or trying to dig his way out of the crate, you may need to correct these behaviors before leaving him unattended in his crate.

Acclimating Fido to his Crate

Acclimation Method #2

SAFETY NOTE: This article is part of a series of articles on crate training. Before starting any of the training outlined below make sure to read the introductory crate acclimation article. There you will learn about setting up the crate properly to avoid startling Fido and will read the safety notes to ensure that your training goes safely and successfully.

If You’ve Got Plenty of Time for Training or If Fido Seems Scared of the Crate

This method works well for all dogs, and is an especially good technique to use if Fido’s the fearful, shy or skittish type. If Fido doesn’t approach the crate or if he has a fearful response like barking at the crate, running away from the crate or approaching it with fearful body language, you will need to take this slower approach to help the poor boy see what a lovely place his crate is.

For this part of the training, you should have a bunch of small, extra yummy treats. Something very flavorful like hot dogs or jerky treats will generally work better than biscuit-type dry treats. Make sure Fido’s nice and hungry when you try this training exercise.

Sit down on the floor 4-6 feet away from the crate, holding the treats in your lap where Fido can see them. If he approaches, give him a few treats and tell him he’s a good boy. Hang out there for a minute or two, then slowly get up and move a bit closer to the crate and do the same thing. If Fido still seems nervous, you can end your session at this point, then repeat the same training exercise again that day. Repeat the exercise, getting closer and closer to the crate as Fido seems more comfortable, until Fido is able to take treats from you while you’re sitting right in front of the crate door. In between training sessions, it’s a good idea to just hang out with Fido in the room where the crate is so he gets used to seeing it there and realizes it’s not going to reach out and grab him!

Once Fido is happy and relaxed while taking the treats, you can move on to the next step. Put some of your treats on the floor just outside the crate door and let Fido pick them up off the floor. Once he’s doing that, scatter a bunch of treats inside the crate, then just walk away. Sit nearby and see if Fido goes in to take the treats. If he does, repeat putting the treats on the crate floor and letting him pick them up a few times.

Once he’s enjoying your little treat game, put one last batch of treats in the crate and close the door with Fido outside of the crate. It sounds crazy, but boy, does it work. Walk away from the crate and let Fido wonder why he’s no longer able to go in to get the treats. We’re using a bit of reverse psychology here… making Fido think he really wants to get in there! Like a nightclub with a velvet rope and a bouncer at the front door, his crate will seem like the place to be! He may scratch and whine at the crate door or just look at the crate with a puzzled look on his face. This is great! Hang out with Fido in the same room the crate is in for half an hour (or not quite as long if he’s just dying to get into the crate). Then casually walk over to the crate and open the door, holding it firmly so there is no chance that it will move and frighten Fido as he is moving around the crate. Fido will be thrilled to be able to get into the crate to get all those goodies! Repeat this exercise a few times and Fido will think going into his crate is GREAT.

Once Fido is going into the crate willingly to retrieve his treats, we’re going to shut the door. As soon as Fido is completely inside the crate, gently close the door behind him, holding it closed with your hand rather than latching it. When Fido turns around to find the gate closed, give him a single treat through the front gate and open the gate to let him out immediately so he learns that a closed door isn’t scary and doesn’t mean he’s locked in there forever. Again, make sure to keep a firm hand on the door as you open it so that it can’t move suddenly and frighten Fido as he comes out.

Repeat this step, gradually leaving the door closed longer and giving more treats before opening up. If this is going well, latch the door and step away from the crate for a moment before returning to give Fido his treat. Step away a little farther and a little longer between treats.

Once you’re able to step away from the crate for 30 seconds between treats, you should be ready to try leaving Fido in his crate a bit longer. For this part of the training, you’ll need something yummy that will take a while for Fido to eat or chew. This should be something other than his normal chew items… something of extra high value that he only gets when he’s in his crate. You’ll make Fido very happy with a safe chew bone like a pig ear from the pet store or a raw marrow bone from the butcher. A hollow rubber toy filled with something yummy is another good choice. Most dogs go crazy for a hollow toy stuffed with canned dog food… if you freeze it before giving it to him, it’ll keep him busy for a nice, long time! If you worry that the canned food may give our boy Fido a bit of an upset tummy, mixing plain, boiled white rice with the canned food will help to prevent diarrhea.

Some dogs are too busy thinking about how to get out of the crate to chew or eat their special bone or toy in the crate. If Fido ignores his bone in the crate, then tries to pick it up and bring it out with him, take it away from him and put it away until next time he goes into his crate. He can only have this special treat in the crate. After missing out on it a few times, he’ll get the idea.

Gradually leave Fido in the crate for longer periods as he becomes comfortable. If you find that he engages in bratty behaviors like barking or trying to dig his way out of the crate, you may need to correct these behaviors before leaving him unattended in his crate.

Acclimating Fido to his Crate

Acclimation Method #3

SAFETY NOTE: This article is part of a series of articles on crate training. Before starting any of the training outlined below make sure to read the introductory crate acclimation article. There you will learn about setting up the crate properly to avoid startling Fido and will read the safety notes to ensure that your training goes safely and successfully.

Good If Your Dog is Too Scared of the Crate to be Lured in with Treats

If you’ve tried Acclimation Method #2 and found that Fido’s too scared to take any treats or you’ve found that he’ll take the treats outside the crate but once they’re in the crate just stares longingly at them and refuses to budge, you’ll need to give him a bit of help. He may just think that the crate is way too scary and he isn’t interested in risking life and limb for a few measly treats!

In this case, the next step would be to physically place Fido into the crate. If he’s a little guy, just pick him up and put him in. If he’s a bigger guy, you can lead him in with one hand on his collar and one under his belly.

SAFETY NOTE: If Fido is a large, adult dog that you do not know well, or if he has shown any signs of aggressive behavior, we don’t recommend that you try to physically put him in his crate, since this could cause an aggressive dog to bite. If you are not sure you can safely put him in his crate, try getting him in by luring him in with treats or seek the help of an experienced, professional dog trainer to help you introduce Fido to the crate.

Once he’s inside, he’ll likely want to turn around and run right out, but try to prevent him from doing so by gently holding him inside the crate, petting him and talking to him. Do this for a few seconds, then let go of him and allow him to come out. Repeat this several times per session, gradually increasing the length of time you have him stay in before letting him come out. Praise him and pet him when he’s in the crate, or if he’s gotten hungry now that his initial fear of going into the crate isn’t on his mind, give him some treats when he’s in the crate.

As he feels more comfortable, stop using your hands to hold him in the crate. Once he’ll stay for a few moments in the crate without restraint as you pet him or give him treats, try gently closing the door without latching it for just for a second. Hold the door closed with your hand and tell Fido he’s a good boy or give him a single treat through the front gate then open the gate to let him out immediately so he learns that a closed door isn’t scary and doesn’t mean he’s locked in there forever. Be sure to keep a firm hand on the door as you open it so that it can’t move suddenly and frighten Fido as he comes out.

Repeat this step, gradually leaving the door closed longer and giving more praise or treats before opening up. If this is going well, latch the door and step away from the crate for a moment before returning to give Fido his praise or treat. Step away a little farther and a little longer before returning to give Fido some praise or a treat.

Once you’re able to step away from the crate for 30 seconds at a time, you should be ready to try leaving Fido in his crate a bit longer. For this part of the training, you’ll need something yummy that will take a while for Fido to eat or chew. This should be something other than his normal chew items… something of extra high value that he only gets when he’s in his crate. You’ll make Fido very happy with a safe chew bone like a pig ear from the pet store or a raw marrow bone from the butcher. A hollow rubber toy filled with something yummy is another good choice. Most dogs go crazy for a hollow toy stuffed with canned dog food… if you freeze it before giving it to him, it’ll keep him busy for a nice, long time! If you worry that the canned food may give our boy Fido a bit of an upset tummy, mixing plain, boiled white rice with the canned food will help to prevent diarrhea.

Some dogs are too busy thinking about how to get out of the crate to chew or eat their special bone or toy in the crate. If Fido ignores his bone in the crate, then tries to pick it up and bring it out with him, take it away from him and put it away until next time he goes into his crate. He can only have this special treat in the crate. After missing out on it a few times, he’ll get the idea.

Gradually leave Fido in the crate for longer periods as he becomes comfortable. If you find that he engages in bratty behaviors like barking or trying to dig his way out of the crate, you may need to correct these behaviors before leaving him unattended in his crate.

Acclimating Fido to his Crate

Acclimation Method #4

SAFETY NOTE: This article is part of a series of articles on crate training. Before starting any of the training outlined below make sure to read the introductory crate acclimation article. There you will learn about setting up the crate properly to avoid startling Fido and will read the safety notes to ensure that your training goes safely and successfully.

Good for Any Dog That Isn’t Fearful

If Fido’s a cool guy who has no problem approaching or entering the crate, you should be able to acclimate him to the crate fairly quickly. Start by feeding Fido his meals in the crate with the door propped open. You can start out with the bowl just inside the crate door, then, each time you feed him, move it back a bit until it’s against the inside back wall of the crate and Fido has to step all the way inside the crate to eat.

After Fido eats a few meals in the crate with the door open, you’re ready to start closing the crate door. Have some small, yummy treats for this part of the training. Quietly close the door behind Fido while he’s eating. At this point, you don’t need to latch the door, just hold it closed with your hand. When Fido turns around to find the gate closed, give him a single treat through the front gate and open the gate to let him out immediately so he learns that a closed door isn’t scary and doesn’t mean he’s locked in there forever.

Repeat this step, gradually leaving the door closed longer and giving more treats before opening up. If this is going well, latch the door and step away from the crate for a moment before returning to give Fido his treat. Step away a little farther and a little longer between treats.

Once you’re able to step away from the crate for 30 seconds between treats, you should be ready to try leaving Fido in his crate a bit longer. For this part of the training, you’ll need something yummy that will take a while for Fido to eat or chew. This should be something other than his normal chew items… something of extra high value that he only gets when he’s in his crate. You’ll make Fido very happy with a safe chew bone like a pig ear from the pet store or a raw marrow bone from the butcher. A hollow rubber toy filled with something yummy is another good choice. Most dogs go crazy for a hollow toy stuffed with canned dog food… if you freeze it before giving it to him, it’ll keep him busy for a nice, long time! If you worry that the canned food may give our boy Fido a bit of an upset tummy, mixing plain, boiled white rice with the canned food will help to prevent diarrhea.

Some dogs are too busy thinking about how to get out of the crate to chew or eat their special bone or toy in the crate. If Fido ignores his bone in the crate, then tries to pick it up and bring it out with him, take it away from him and put it away until next time he goes into his crate. He can only have this special treat in the crate. After missing out on it a few times, he’ll get the idea.

Gradually leave Fido in the crate for longer periods as he becomes comfortable. If you find that he engages in bratty behaviors like barking or trying to dig his way out of the crate, you may need to correct these behaviors before leaving him unattended in his crate.

Acclimating Fido to his Crate

Acclimation Method #5

SAFETY NOTE: This article is part of a series of articles on crate training. Before starting any of the training outlined below make sure to read the introductory crate acclimation article. There you will learn about setting up the crate properly to avoid startling Fido and will read the safety notes to ensure that your training goes safely and successfully.

The Best Bet if Your Schedule Forces You to Leave Fido Closed in his Crate on Day One

Remember that you should, if at all possible, start introducing Fido to his crate at a time when you have a few days to ease him into things. However, in the real world, it doesn’t always work that way. You might find a stray dog at midnight or have an emergency that forces you to leave Fido at home alone on his first day he’s with you. Under those circumstances, you can use this abbreviated method to get Fido to stay in his crate. We don’t recommend using this method if you have time to do the other more gradual methods for crate acclimation. Try it only if you absolutely must.

This method’s a simple one:

Step One:

Place Fido in his crate. You can lift him in if he’s a little guy, or lead him in with one hand holding his collar and the other under his belly. Give him something yummy that will take him a long time to chew, like a raw marrow bone from the butcher or a hollow rubber toy filled with something yummy. Most dogs go crazy for a hollow toy stuffed with canned dog food… if you freeze it before giving it to him, it’ll keep him busy for a nice, long time! If you worry that the canned food may give our boy Fido a bit of an upset tummy, mixing plain, boiled white rice with the canned food will help to prevent diarrhea.

Step Two:

Close the door of the crate and leave.

Step Three:

Keep your fingers crossed and get home as quickly as you can!

SAFETY NOTE: If Fido is a large, adult dog that you do not know well, or if he has shown any signs of aggressive behavior, we don’t recommend that you try to physically put him in his crate, since this could cause an aggressive dog to bite. If you are not sure you can safely put him in his crate, try getting him in by luring him in with treats or seek the help of an experienced, professional dog trainer to help you introduce Fido to the crate.

What to do When Fido Barks in his Crate

If you’re going to crate train Fido, you’ll need to teach him to stay quietly and comfortably in his crate. Many dogs and puppies will bark or whine in their crates or dig, scratch and bite at the crate in an attempt to get out. This isn’t unusual and is fairly easy to resolve with most dogs. This article will teach you how to train most dogs to be quiet while confined to a crate.

Safety Note: Occasionally, dogs do panic in the crate to a degree that makes it impossible to crate train them. This is characterized by drooling, shaking, getting hurt trying to escape from the crate or otherwise seeming excessively stressed. If your dog is displaying any of these signs of panic, you may not be able to crate train him. Consult with an experienced, professional dog trainer and your vet about helping Fido with his anxiety or try another housetraining method, such as umbilical cord training or dog door training.

If your dog is showing a normal level of displeasure at being closed in his crate, be sure that you’ve introduced him to his crate properly before you try correcting him in any way. The steps to this process are outlined in our “Acclimating Fido to his Crate” article. If you’ve followed the proper steps to acclimate Fido to his crate, but you’re still finding that he barks, whines, cries or howls in the crate, you’ll need to do a bit of work to teach him to be quiet in his crate.

What if Fido’s not being crate trained, but he’s still noisy when confined?

If you’re training Fido using another confinement method, such as a small room or an exercise pen, you can still use the methods outlined in this article to work on his barking problem, with the exception of the “earthquake” correction, which can only be done if your dog is in a crate.

Be Sure Fido’s on a Reasonable Schedule

First, you should assess Fido’s feeding schedule, potty schedule and exercise schedule. If you put him in his crate when he’s just had something to eat or drink or when he hasn’t relieved himself for a while, he’ll understandably be on edge when closed in his crate. Feed Fido at least 90 minutes before closing him in his crate and take him out to potty just before you put him in.

If Fido isn’t getting enough exercise and he’s got a case of energy overload, that may also contribute to frustration and naughty behavior in the crate. Fido needs regular exercise in the form of walks, hikes, and playing with people or other dogs. It isn’t fair to close him up in his crate if he hasn’t had any activity, so make sure he’s on a reasonable exercise schedule. It may be helpful to really wear him out with some extra exercise on the first few days you’re working on crate training, since he’ll be less likely to fuss if he’s really tired.


Poor Fido!

Most dog owners feel sorry for Fido when he starts to bark and whine, thinking he’s scared and lonely. The problem with feeling sorry for Fido when he’s fussing in the crate is that your feeling will probably lead you to do all the wrong things and you’ll worsen the problem instead of fixing it.

When you feel sorry for Fido you’re likely to take him out of his crate or try to soothe him when he makes a fuss… or both. If you do either of these things, you reinforce Fido’s naughty, noisy behavior. If you talk to him to try to soothe him, he learns that when he gets loud, he gets attention from you. If you let him out, he learns that acting crazy gets him what he wants… freedom! This will not only cause problems with your crate training, it can extend to other areas of life with Fido… the next thing you know, he’ll be barking to get you to feed him, pet him, let him inside or outside, etc.

One of the most common mistakes that people make when crate training their new puppy or dog is giving in to barking or whining overnight and bringing Fido up on the bed. It’s tempting to do whatever it takes to quiet him down when you’re not getting any sleep, but don’t think you’ll just do it that first night and he’ll be better in the crate tomorrow. Why would he ever be good sleeping in the crate overnight if he knows that if he barks loud enough and long enough, he’ll get to come up there with you, the down pillows and the 300 thread count sheets?

Don’t feel sorry for Fido. He’s got a good life. You’re giving him love, attention, exercise, good food and a nice place to live. All you’re asking in return is that he sometimes hang out in his crate alone so you can have a life and get some sleep!

Bad Fido!

On the other end of the spectrum are the people who are TICKED OFF at Fido and ready to wring his neck. This isn’t good, either, since you’ll tend to over correct him, correct out of anger and hold a grudge. None of these things are going to help.

Remember, even though Fido’s being a bit of a brat, he doesn’t know any better. He’s learning something new that may not be entirely pleasant for him, and he’s doing what comes naturally to try to get the heck out of that crate. Even though correction may need to be part of your training program, you want to be in the frame of mind of educating Fido rather than punishing him. This will allow you to correct with appropriate timing and intensity, something you can only do when you’re clearheaded and not seething with anger.

Yes, this part of your training can be frustrating, and it’s not always fun, but anger and inappropriate corrections will only make matters worse. Keep your cool!

Try the Easy Stuff First

Be sure you give Fido something extra special and yummy to chew on that he gets only when he’s in his crate. This can be a raw marrow bone, a pig ear or a hollow toy stuffed with peanut butter, cream cheese or canned dog food (if you worry this might give Fido diarrhea, mix in some kibble or white rice before stuffing the toy). If you use the hollow toy, freeze it after stuffing it… this way it’ll get hard and keep Fido busy for a longer period of time.

If Fido’s really not happy about being in his crate, he might ignore his yummy treat while he’s in the crate, then try to pick it up and take it with him when he gets out. He must not be allowed to have it outside of the crate. When you let him out of his crate, take it and put it away, bringing it out to give to Fido only when he’s in his crate. Once he realizes that crate time is his only chance to enjoy it, he’ll likely settle down to chew when you put him in his crate.

Another easy fix that works with some dogs is covering the crate with a crate cover, blanket or towel. Some dogs are overly stimulated and can’t settle when they can see everything going on around them. Covering the crate helps to prevent Fido from responding to outside stimulation and creates a cozy, secure environment that may calm him and quiet him down.

If Fido starts barking whining or crying when he hears noises in the house or outside, it may be helpful to play music or have a fan or white noise machine running near his crate. The sound can relax him and it will mask much of the outside noise that’s causing Fido to get worked up.

If the Easy Stuff Doesn’t Work, Time for the Tough Stuff

If Fido’s still making all that noise, it’s time to add some correction. If Fido realizes he doesn’t get anything good (attention or freedom) from fussing and he also learns that something bad (correction) happens when he’s loud, you’ll be able to get him to settle down. Dogs (like the rest of us) tend to repeat things that get good results and tend to avoid things that get bad results. So, our plan is to first let Fido see that he doesn’t get the positive results he wants from barking, and instead gets negative results when he’s loud. Once he quiets down to avoid the correction, he’ll learn that being quiet and calm gets positive results, since we’ll only be letting him out of the crate when he’s being a good boy.

Please do not just skip ahead to correcting Fido without properly acclimating him to his crate and taking the steps above to try to quiet him down. These corrections are intended to be used only after you’ve tried everything else. There are several corrections detailed below. If one doesn’t work, move on to another. If none of them work, contact an experienced, professional dog trainer for help.

Consider Fido’s temperament when deciding how strong to be with the corrections. If he’s a tough guy, you’ll likely need to be pretty firm. If he’s the more sensitive type, start with a mild correction and gradually try stronger corrections if the mild ones don’t work. You want to use only as much correction as it takes to get a response from Fido.

Fido will be more responsive to corrections if you do some obedience training with him. Working on commands will help him to understand the concept and context of correction, so you’ll have a better chance of getting good results if you do some obedience training along with Fido’s housebreaking program.

Quiet!

We’re going to teach Fido the word “quiet” as his command to stop making noise. When you do any of the corrections below, you’ll begin by saying “quiet!” in a firm voice as you give the correction. In the beginning of training, the command and the correction will come at the same time to teach Fido to associate the word and the correction. Once he’s responding well to the correction, if you find that he still occasionally starts making noise in his crate, you’ll say “quiet” first, then follow through with a correction only if Fido doesn’t stop making noise when you give the command. This way, he learns that he can avoid correction completely by responding appropriately to the word “quiet”.

Earning His Freedom

Letting Fido out of his crate at the right time is a critical part of this training. You should never let him out when he’s being bratty, of course. We want to reward him for being quiet for increasingly longer periods of time. At first, you’ll let Fido out of his crate if he’s quiet for 10 seconds, then gradually wait longer and longer until you can leave him in the crate for extended periods with no fussing.

Shake Can

A shake can or “penny can” is used to make a loud, unpleasant sound when Fido is doing something he shouldn’t. It is very effective for most dogs, though some may not be effected by it, especially hunting breeds that have been bred to not be gun-shy. You can buy a shake can or easily make your own by emptying a soda can, rinsing it out, putting in 15 pennies and putting a piece of tape over the hole on the top of the can.

When Fido starts fussing, shake the can firmly and use the “quiet” command as detailed above. Fido should respond by quieting down, even if only for a couple of seconds at first. You’ll most likely need to repeat the correction several times… just because you do it once and he resumes barking doesn’t mean it isn’t working.

If you don’t see any response at all from Fido or if he’s still being noisy in the crate after a few practice sessions, you can make the shake can correction stronger by banging the can against the crate. If you still see no results, you should try another form of correction.

A couple of things to consider if you’re training Fido using the shake can. We don’t want him to learn to be fearful of loud noises, so be sure that you’re socializing Fido and taking him out in the world to get used to traffic noise, construction noise, etc.

If the shake can is effective for teaching Fido not to bark, it can be tempting to start shaking it at him anytime he does anything you don’t like. This isn’t a great idea, since the can will lose its effect if it’s overused and the can isn’t the right correction for all innapropriate dog behaviors. You should consult with a dog trainer before using the shake can for other behaviors.

The Earthquake

This is a very effective correction for small dogs or puppies that are in small crates that are light enough to lift. When Fido starts fussing, lift his crate off the ground and give it a little shake, using the “quiet” command as detailed above. This works best if Fido doesn’t see you doing it, so do it from the back side of the crate or with a crate cover, towel or blanket over the crate.

You’ll probably need to repeat this correction several times before seeing consistent results. If you don’t see results, try another correction method.

Spray Bottle

This one has some downsides, but, for some dogs, it’s a very effective correction. Take a regular household spray bottle (one that hasn’t had cleaning products or strong chemicals in it) and fill it with water. When Fido starts fussing, spray water in his face, using the “quiet” command as detailed above.

Some dogs love water and will think this is great… if Fido’s that kind of guy, discontinue using this correction. If he seems responsive to the correction, it may take a few sessions to see consistent results, so don’t get discouraged if he’s not perfect after your first session.

The downside to this command is that Fido might end up a sopping wet mess, so consider whether or not that’s going to be a problem for you before trying this correction.

Please do not add anything to the water to try to make the correction more effective. People often recommend adding lemon juice or peppermint or citronella oil to the water to enhance the correction, but these can get in Fido’s eyes and cause him a lot of discomfort. If water alone doesn’t do the trick, try another correction.

Leash Corrections

This correction is to be used only for dogs who have had some obedience training and have had experience with leash corrections. Put Fido’s leash and collar on him before putting him into his crate. Thread his leash through the wire mesh panel of Fido’s crate, preferably on the top of the crate if you’re using a wire crate or on the front end of the side panel if you’re using a plastic crate. When Fido starts fussing, give a quick, sharp pull on his leash, using the “quiet” command as outlined above.

As with the other corrections, expect to have to do multiple practice sessions before getting reliable results. If this method doesn’t work, try one of the other methods.

SAFETY NOTE: DO NOT leave Fido unattended in his crate with the leash and collar for any period of time. This is not safe and could lead to serious injury or death.

Fido’s Being Quiet (sort of)… What to do About Whining

Now that you’ve been correcting Fido, you might find yourself in a situation where he’s being a lot quieter, but he’s still making a little bit of noise. Many dogs go from hooting and hollering to quietly whining after they’ve been corrected for making all that noise. Don’t correct Fido any further if he’s substantially decreased his volume.

The whining lets you know that he’s still stressed and wanting to make noise, but he’s trying to restrain himself since he knows you don’t want him to bark. We never want to correct Fido when he’s trying to be good, so you’ll need to put up with the squeaking for a little while. It will usually go away within a few days, once Fido’s resigned himself to the fact that he can’t make all that noise in his crate anymore.

If the whining turns into barking or howling, of course, you can go back to correcting him to settle him down.

Fido’s Been Doing Great and Suddenly Starts Getting Loud in the Crate

If Fido’s been a quiet, civilized gentleman and he suddenly starts getting freaky in the crate, there’s a good chance he needs to go potty. Better safe than sorry… take him out for a quick potty trip, then put him right back into his crate. If he did have to go potty, you’ll know that he’s being a good boy and is only using all of that noise to let you know he needs a potty trip. If he didn’t need to go potty, you might have a faker on your hands. In that case, of course, you can go back to addressing his noisy behavior using the methods outlined above.

Adding Correction to Your Housebreaking or Indoor Potty Training

Although correction is a very small part of a good housebreaking program, you’re probably going to need it if you want to get the job done. Finding the proper level of correction and figuring out what type of correction to use is a critical part of any housebreaking program.

Remember, no matter how tempting it may be to do so, you should never correct Fido for an accident unless you catch him in the act! You should be supervising him carefully, so if you find the accident later, it’s your mistake, not Fido’s!

To effectively housebreak Fido, you want him to think that going potty in the house feels bad and going in his potty area feels oh-so-good. You can make sure that that he can clearly distinguish the experience of going in the house from the experience of going in his potty area by using appropriate correction and praise at the right times.

If Fido isn’t corrected when he’s having an accident, going potty on your carpet will feel just as good as going in his potty area. Think about it… he’s uncomfortable because his bladder or bowels are full, then when he releases them on your favorite antique rug, and feels a great sense of relief. Aaaaaah… what a feeling! In the process, he’ll learn something you don’t want him to know. He’ll learn that he doesn’t need to wait around feeling uncomfortable until someone decides to let him outside or that he doesn’t have to go all the way downstairs to use his potty pads. He can just go potty right where he is…how convenient!

You should correct Fido in a way that teaches him that going potty in the wrong place isn’t fun, but you need to be sure that you don’t correct him in a way that scares or confuses him. If you correct Fido too harshly, you may make problems worse, since some dogs begin to associate the correction with pottying in front of you, not with pottying in the wrong place. This can cause Fido to hold it when you take him to his potty area because he’s afraid to let you see him go. The poor boy will likely wait for a moment when he can sneak off alone to pee behind the couch where nobody can see him or he may start going potty when left alone in his crate or confinement area.

Correction for having an accident should startle Fido, not terrify him. We want a quick correction that will “shut off the plumbing” so you can stop the accident and get Fido to his potty area to finish up. For most dogs, a loud, sharp “NO!” accompanied by stomping your foot on the floor or clapping your hands loudly will do the trick.

Remember, we’re going for shock value here, so you may need to use a pretty sharp voice, especially if Fido isn’t the sensitive type. You should determine how loud to be and whether you need to stomp or clap by how he reacts to correction. If Fido’s timid or skittish, you will need less volume to make your point, if he’s more the rough and tumble type, you’ll need to turn up the volume.

To decide if your correction is working, look at Fido’s response. Ideally, he should stop what he’s doing and look startled and possibly a bit worried. He should not cower, shake or cry. If you see any of those reactions, you need to ease up on the corrections immediately. If you find that Fido ignores your corrections or becomes playful when you correct him, please read our article on correcting resistant dogs.

If Fido’s very young or very sensitive and any verbal correction seems too harsh for him, you may find it effective to just grab him and get him outside by picking him up or leading him by the leash or collar.

As you correct Fido using any of these methods, you should be hustling over to rush him outside. When you get there, you can pick him up if he’s a little guy or you can grab his leash or collar to lead him to his designated potty area. Go FAST… we want this whole experience to be dramatic and unpleasant.

Once Fido is in the right place, with any luck at all, he’ll finish up. If he does, praise him so he can see how much better it feels to do the right thing! Sometimes, however, Fido will be so startled that he’s not ready to go potty again when you get to the right spot. Give him a couple of minutes, and if he doesn’t go, take him back into the house and supervise him very carefully to be sure he doesn’t try to go in the house again. Remember, at this point we’re pretty sure there’s something in there waiting to come out, so if you’re not right on top of Fido, it’s likely he’ll have an accident, so be extra vigilant at this time. Give him another chance at his potty area after 2-5 minutes if he’s a puppy under 6 months, 10-30 minutes if he’s a more mature guy. You may need to do this a few times before he gets the job done. Once he does, go back to your regular supervision schedule.

Like all dog training, housebreaking is a matter of consistency, repetition and time. Don’t expect a single correction (or even a bunch of them) to cure Fido of his housebreaking issues. Fair correction, along with all of the other elements of a good housebreaking program, will yield good results, so be patient! A perfectly housebroken Fido will be well worth it!

If you try all of the above techniques and you are still having problems, read the next correction article, ” Correcting Resistant Dogs”.

Correcting the Resistant Dog

On rare occasions, stubborn or insensitive dogs don’t have any reaction to standard housebreaking corrections. If you find that Fido is that kind of guy, you may need to use stronger corrections in your housebreaking program. There may be some people who feel that using harsher correction methods is inhumane, but we feel that it is important for people with resistant dogs to have options, since the only other alternative is usually giving Fido away or taking him to the animal shelter, since few owners are willing to live with an unhousebroken dog.

Remember, these stronger corrections must only be used with insensitive dogs that don’t respond to milder corrections. They are last resort corrections that are to be used only after you’ve tried the milder corrections and found them to be ineffective. They are meant to be used ONLY with a complete housebreaking program. Do not use these methods if you have lost your temper, since you’re likely to overdo it. Remember, this is about teaching Fido, so you need to be in a clearheaded enough to make good decisions about the strength and timing of your corrections.

If Fido has not responded to milder corrections, try using a pull on his leash the moment he begins to have an accident. Use a quick, snapping motion with the leash to get his attention. The pull is meant to surprise your dog so you can stop him and direct him to do the right thing. It is NOT meant to hurt him, so use only as much force as you need to get his attention. This correction works especially well if you’re doing umbilical cord training, so if you think you need to try this, you might want to consider that method.

SAFETY NOTE: Because of the physical nature of this correction, it should only be used with healthy dogs. Older dogs, delicate dogs or those with physical problems should not be corrected using this method. If you are unsure about whether the method is safe for your dog, consult with your vet prior to trying it.

You can also try using a penny can or “shake can”. This is an empty soda can with 10 or so pennies in it that you shake or throw to make a loud noise that will startle Fido. This is a good correction for dogs who become playful when you correct them verbally or physically, since the correction doesn’t seem to be coming from you. You’ll need to have the penny can with you when Fido’s having an accident, so you can leave them in strategic locations around the house or just keep one with you while Fido’s hanging out with you in the house. If Fido starts to have an accident, throw the can down on the floor near Fido so it makes a loud noise to startle him. Try not to let him see you throw the can and be sure you don’t hit him with the can.

Remember, you should never hit your dog or rub his nose in his mess. The methods detailed above are the strongest corrections that are appropriate in a good housebreaking program. If you are using them and your housebreaking still isn’t going well, make adjustments to the other parts of your training program, such as scheduling, confinement and supervision.


Training Your Dog to Ring a Bell to Go Out

Some people do not want to use a doggy door for their dog’s house training. For Fido, this represents an issue- even if Fido is very well housebroken and really knows he should only potty outside, he can only get there if his person opens the door for him. This will work fine as long as the person sticks to a predictable schedule, but what happens when Fido gets sick? Or when he waits by the door for hours but no one notices him? Some dogs that we call “housebroken” still have accidents because they do not have a way to tell their owner they need to go outside. These dogs need a clear signal that they can send to their owner saying, “Open this door. I’ve got to go!”

Before You Start

This training is for you if you have already started a housetraining program with your dog and are ready to take it to the next level. Make sure that your dog is already doing well with his housebreaking before starting this training. If your dog isn’t sure yet where he is supposed to be going potty, you’ll have poor results with this training exercise.

Before starting this training, make sure you really want to have a dog that demands what he wants. If you have a dog that is already demanding, beware, as this training can encourage that tendancy. If your dog just generally enjoys spending time outside, he may ring the bell when he just wants out, not because he needs to potty. He may also ring the bell hoping for a walk. As you might imagine, this can be rather irritating, so if you start this training, you will want to be consisent about the “bell rules”.

But if you find that you forget to let your dog out, or that you don’t notice his subtle signals saying he has to go out, or if you sleep through them sometimes, this training may be just the solution you are looking for. Your dog will learn how to communicate his potty needs with you, taking some of the responsibility off your shoulders and really reducing the chance for future accidents.

Getting Started

There are two basic methods for teaching this exercise. Read the brief descriptions below and pick the method that you think will suit you and your dog.

Method #1: Help Fido ring the bell

This method will work well for most dogs. It’s easy for you to practice each time you go through the door and doesn’t require treats, which can get some dogs “off-topic”. It may not be a good method for dogs who show fear for the bell or do not like to have their feet handled.

Get Started on Bell Training, Method #1

Method #2: Use a little food to encourage Fido to ring the bell

If your dog doesn’t like to have his feet handled, or he has shown any fear of the bell, start here. You begin the training with treats and then slowly eliminate them as Fido’s skills improve. This technique works well with dogs who like treats and can help some dogs get over any early fears of the bell.