Way to Go!


One of the reasons why some people end up rehoming their dog is beacuse the dog messes  in the house. There is probably nothing worse than living with a dog that isn’t house trained! Puppies don’t just become house trained on their own as they grow up. The only difference is that when they get bigger they make bigger puddles and piles!  The principals of house training are the same whether your dog is a tiny puppy, an adult rescue dog who has just moved into your home or an older dog with an established problem.  Dogs are den animals who will do what they can to keep their den clean, all they need to be taught is that your whole house is their den. There are some health and behavioral problems which can be a factor but more about those later.

Basic House Training Rules

  • Never punish your dog for accidents.
  • Never leave your dog or puppy unattended in the house (use a lead if your house is open plan)
  • Always confine your dog when you cannot watch him (older dogs can be left outside)
  • Always praise and reward your dog for doing his business outisde 
  • Interupt your dog if you catch him in the act
  • Keep to a strict feeding schedule


Dogs who are punished during house training become house trained despite the punishment. In some cases, your dog can become very stressed and anxious and can start finding an out of the way spot to do his business where you are unlikely to catch him or even start eating his own poo before you find it.  Never show any reaction if you walk in and find a puddle or pile on the carpet. 

Watch your dog!

Accidents usually happen when your back is turned or in another room. Dogs love to go back to the same spot again and again, even if it is right in the middle of the living room. If you can, close all interleading doors or use a baby gate to block off the doorway. Your dog should be in the room you are in, all the time. If your house is open plan, keep your dog on a lead. That way you know exactly what he is up to.  Watch for signs of his needing to go like sniffing the floor, circling or if on the lead, pulling to get away from you. Immediately take your dog outside to his toilet area which should be a quite corner of your garden.

Prevent Accidents

When you are busy e.g. taking a shower, talking on the phone etc, Keep your dog confined to a small area that he would not want to mess in as he can’t get away from it. I recommend a dog crate but a child’s play pen will work or a cordoned off part of your kitchen or bathroom.  When you go out you need to take your dog out to do his business first then put him in the confined area until you return. Be reasonable about the amount of time you expect your dog to keep it in. Young pups can hold it for about 2 to 3 hours max while adult dogs can manage double that at least. Your adult dog can be safely left outside while you are out . Older puppies can also be left outside if you have a safe enclosed area. At night, take your dog out before you go to bed and then leave him in his crate or pen and get up to take him out if you hear him stir.   This is easist if  the crate is set up in your bed room. Your older dog can be tied to your bed by his lead so he cannot wonder off during the night and mess in the house. 

Praise and Reward

Your dog needs to be confident to do his business in front of you and when he does you should praise him and offer a small reward.  Always take him to the same area of the garden and wait for him to sniff around to find the spot he likes. Small puppies should be carried outside or they will have accidents on the way but all dogs should be taken on a lead.  If your dog doesnt want to do anything, take him back inside and keep in on the lead or confined for a while then try again.

Interrupt your Dog

If you catch your dog in the act, interupt him with a sharp “reprimand” like “NO” or clap your hands. Then take him outside and praise him even if he has already made the mess inside. He needs to be reminded that we always do it outside. Do not show any anger or irritation. 

Routine, Routine, Routine

To help you anticipate when your dog needs to go, it helps to make your dog’s life as routine as possible. Feed your dog at the same times every day and take him straight outside afterwards. Get up at the same time every morning ansd immediately take him outside. Very young puppies need to go out every 20 minutes or so, older dogs every hour or two. Always take your dog out after meals and when he wakes up from a snooze.

Health Problems

Some health problems can interfere with house training. if your dog has always been clean in the house and suddenly starts having accidents, take him to the vet for an examination. Possible causes include urinary tract infections, incontinence after spaying, prostrate problems and gastro instentinal bugs.   

Behaviorual Problems

Some puppies are very difficult to house train. One of the reason for this can be a pup who was raised in an environment which the breeder didn’t keep clean. These pups are used to being surrounded by their own mess and may even soil their own beds. Some dogs will mess in the house if they feal insecure. They seem to feel that once they deposit their own scent around them, they are more in control and calmer. You might even find your dog marking new furniture you bring into your home or guests possesions.  Changes in your pack like a new dog moving in, a bitch on heat, an older dog weakening can also influence house training as lower ranking pack members may start marking  their territory.  This is particularly common in young males. Neutering usually eliminates the problem. 

With some patience, vigilence and lots of praise, any dog can be house trained succesfully.     

Good Luck!



4 Responses to “Way to Go!”

  • Laverne Tesnear says:

    The dog training tips are very helpful especially the house training. I have my pup for four days now and she has a spot in my yard, I take her out during the night when she wakes and early morning between 5:30 and 6am,[ she normally wakes up about that time] and she has got the hang of the routine since she does her business within 2minutes of being in the yard [on the 4th day].
    I am aware that she is a puppy and she may still make mistakes in the house.
    My routine with her in the morning is to go to the yard , do her businesses give her lots of praise.
    I then pick up her mess while she walks/runs around in the yard and then we go inside to get her breakfast ready.
    It is important for me to teach her that she has to ‘work’ in order to receive food, even though it is small for now. As she grows I intend to incorporate other small activities before feeding such as talking her for a walk /run, grooming as so on before supper.

    Q: how do I training her not to beg for food [she comes to sit next to me while I’m eating, she doesn’t cry or make any noise] or run to me as soon as she sees me eating something?

    • julie says:

      Sounds like you have got off to an excelent start. To prevent begging, make sure you never ever give any food from the table or while you are eating. As long as your dog never gets any reward for begging from you or anyone else, he or she will give up. Dogs only repeat behaviour which is rewarding so no reward means that the behaviour will go away.

  • kznwatch says:

    Don’t know who compiled this excellent advice, but it makes pure common sense. I looked at many dog training sites and although some of their training tips, were good — what I read here about house training, gives it in a nutshell and I have bookmarked and saved this info to my desktop to have it hand! I am a pensioner and cannot afford manuals or dog training e-books. Outside the wonderful advice above, which I will follow immediately, I have a few more questions and my comment will be a bit long, so thanks for bearing with me!
    I have an African Hunting Dog, a stray picked up on the road as a desolate, starving puppy and given a home by an equine racing trainer and racehorse owner. She’s very busy and much as she always keeps any stray, she put him up for adoption, recognising he will need strong, constant training.
    His Background:
    I got him at plus-minus 3 months and now just on a year old, he is not neutered, as he has not commenced lifting a leg or marking territory yet. A brindle, he is already a tall dog with long legs and very pronounced strong paw-nails, a long sharp nose and beautiful, expressive brown eyes. I named him Pasha, as in iZulu, it means to scamper or scramble – which suits him very well! I feed him once a day, at 8 a.m.and in line with recommended dog food portions for his weight and age. He had had his distemper and been de-wormed when I got him, but I repeated it 4 months later and checking his faeces a few days ago, noted he has short white worms– round worms? Can an itch in his anal area, cause him to mess in the house at night, which he does randomly? I have just got him de-wormer meds again for all types of worms.
    Behavioural Problems:
    Apart from being put outside to do his business after 9 pm for at least 30 minutes, but still poohing in the house at night —
    1) He is a kitchen ‘counter surfer’ par excellence! He can easily reach any food when my back is turned for only a second! If I leave him outside when I am preparing meals, he goes bananas — shrieking, whining and barking, jumping against and scratching outside doors and even windows! I started feeding him outside, so he no longer associates the kitchen with food. Still inside at night he still jumps up and inspects kitchen counters. Thinking I may be underfeeding him, I increased his food over a week by 250g, but it has not helped, as it made it stools lose. He always has plenty of fresh water available.
    2) Though I spend well over and hour playing with him during the day, with his toys — an old soccer ball is not half as popular, as the sticks he loves most. Nevertheless he chews his blankets and the corners of lounge chairs. Whether in- or outside the house he even chews the wooden balustrade (one whole section had to be replaced at huge cost for us) and he chews house walls both inner and outer! Although I spend much time with him daily teaching him commands and have a few treats at the ready in my upper pocket to reward him, he continues ignoring my firm ‘come’, ‘stay’, ‘heel’ or ‘no’ commands and I’ve all but given up on leash training, which I started him on at 6 months as he simply lies down and refuses to budge. The only command he never fails listening to is to ‘sit and shake-a-paw’, when I give him his food, proving that he is a highly intelligent dog!
    3) Living on my children’s property in a large free-standing cottage upstairs from the main house, he has three ‘cousins’ — another male African dog (2-1/2 years and neutered) and two other dogs, both female and spayed – an older German Shepherd and a very quiet, sedate very old Staffordshire.
    During the day, the dogs have free run between the two homes with plenty of yard space to let rip and play, yet despite always getting along very well with his cousins, over the last month or so, Pasha has become increasingly aggressive when they’re in our house and they come near me — growling and even attacking them, this despite them having been fed at their house and Pasha at ours, which I think eliminates food as a reason for Pasha’s aggression towards them.
    I understand that as an African dog, these dogs are often homeless and ultimate at surviving in the bush, their natural instincts are perhaps far stronger to defend their territory and further, perhaps Pasha may have anxiety that the other dogs may threaten his next meal or food source?
    In his good stead — He is fearless and already proving to be an exceptional guard dog, sleeps at night with my hubby and I in the bedroom in his basket. How do I get him to change his wayward behaviour, so that at least we have a house left by the time he is a mature dog!? I am at my wits end. If I could have sent you a picture of him I would have, as I love him dearly and believe that somewhere along the line, I fall far short of understanding, what seems to be his unique needs because he is perhaps less domesticated? Thank you so much for reading my missive of a comment! Really my lucky day I found your site!

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