House Training Dos and Don’ts

Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 3:45pm
Brindle and white puppy with red collar on

You’ve brought a new dog into your home—congratulations! Now comes your first dog-training challenge: house training.

House training is not an exact science—there’s no sure-fire formula or timetable that will work for every dog. The important thing is to make it a positive, not a stressful, experience. Being attentive, patient and consistent are the keys to success, along with the following dos and don’ts:

Do: Closely supervise your dog. Limit the dog’s run of the house to the one or two rooms where you are able to see her at all times. Dogs usually show “pre-pottying” behavior such as sniffing, circling and walking with stiff back legs; all signs that you should get her to the potty area ASAP! As the training begins to take hold, you can slowly enlarge her territory as she learns where the potty area is—and that the house is not a toilet!

Don’t: Yell at or spank a dog for a mess she made earlier. If you catch her in the act, it’s okay to startle her by clapping or making a noise (hopefully this will stop her long enough for you to whisk her outside). But a dog will not learn anything by being scolded for a past accident, even one a few minutes old. Just clean it up and soldier on.

Do: Offer big, enthusiastic praise when she gets it right. Whether your goal is for your dog to eliminate on pee pads indoors or to do it outside, you have to really throw a party for her when she succeeds. Lavish her with praise, affection and some yummy treats!

Don’t: Rub her face in it. Ever!!! In addition to this action making your dog fear you, she’s incapable of making the connection that it’s the act of soiling indoors you object to—to her, you just really hate pee and poop. If she thinks that the waste itself is what you dislike, she’ll only get sneakier about hiding it from you.

For more detailed advice on house training specific to your pet, please visit our Virtual Pet Behaviorist articles on Weekend Crate Training, House Training Your Puppy, House Training Your Adult Dog or House Training Your Puppy Mill Dog.



Mary G

Bill W is so correct on a word association. When we got Daisy who was only 8 weeks old, we'd take her outside and tell her to "find a spot." Even when she was 15 years old and you'd take her outside and tell her to "find a spot," she'd squat and immediately go potty.

Rosemary Z.

I live in an apartment so I trained my Yorkie on pee pads since he was 2 months old, of course we had many accidents until he learned. Then 3 years ago I adopted a puppy mill little girl that was already an adult and abused so I though it would be very dificult to train her on the pads, but she also learned and knows now where her bathroom is (also after so many accidents that I had to throw my bedroom rug in the trash). With pacience and lots of love they will learn for sure!


Our neighbor used to shove his dogs face in his accidents. Poor lil pup :( And I guess that training method didn't work, because their home smelled like a sewer and the dog did his buisness freely EVERYWHERE. Then when we got a dog we trained it like they suggest here and she never had one single accident in the house!


i always tell my rescue german shepherd, "Do you want to be a good girl?" She knows that means it is time to go outside and pee or poo. When she does, I make the biggest deal. She gets so happy. When she has to go, she makes me chase her to the door so she can do a "look what I can do trick." We have come a long way because she faked me out she was potty trained when i first got her, and then she started peeing and pooping in the living room. She refused to stop for almost one month. She would even do it right in front of the TV, in front of us! Knock on wood, not anymore.

Jo G

I think the biggest thing is to NOT GET a dog unless you plan to teach it how to be part of the family! It breaks my heart to see someone get a puppy and expect miracles with no work. Then the poor puppy gets shoved outside for the rest of its life. These are such tender souls, only wanting love and to make us happy! Personally, I am disabled and have a wonderful dog that came to me trained. Sure, he still needed acclamation to our home, but all the basics and more were there. When he first came to us he was on a leash attached to me for the first few days. If not on a leash, then at least next to me. This let me know if he needed anything, and helped him attach to me. He was a rescue, to old for full assistance training, but perfect for the things I needed.
He's getting old now, a gray black instead of just glossy black. He's been with me for 8 wonderful years, and although I know it is coming, I can't imagine life without him.
Sorry my post got a bit off topic, but it breaks my heart to see so many missed opportunities for true loving relationships when all that is needed is some time and work in the beginning. Know if you get a puppy that you are starting from scratch, but there are some amazing older dogs that know their stuff and would make a wonderful companion!!

Jack Spallino

Here's a valuable tip for any kind of bad behavior that I had to learn when dealing with pigs, who have no concept of taking personal blame over what they do. Instead of yelling at the pet for a mistake, yell at the mistake! If they pee on the floor, go there and yell at the floor where the pee is, with the critter near, of course. Say, "Bad floor!", pointing at the mistake, to allow the pet to know you are not mad at her/him, but are mad at what you found and where you found it. This works with pigs, cats, and dogs, while never making them feel like they are being scolded, but rather that we were displeased with something they should do in a better place. It goes without say that when they do it right, in the cat box, or on the newspaper, that you should also praise the newspaper, or the catbox, as well as giving them hugs, to let them learn what pleases their master. Have fun! It's amazing how well this works, and you may hand spank the mistakes, while you yell at them, but never on the animals. The point is to always love your animals, only yell at the mistakes!

Once the pets understand what makes us happy and what makes us upset, they are really quick learners!


Jack, I'd imagine that all of the animals reacted positively to your praises and did not understand the yelling.


I found a stray and have had him over a year now and he will not stop marking in the house. His other business he has always down outside, but is constantly marking his territory. I have tried doggy diapers, crates, sprays, etc and nothing has worked. He has always had a doggy door as well. Vet has said neutering might possibly help, but doubtful. Otherwise, he is a very clingy dog. I do have 2 cats and another dog, and he even marks the dog. They are best friends. Any ideas?

Naila M Sanchez



Neutering is a good idea in general, and may help here (though it would definitely take time to see any results). However, I'd suggest crate training and not leaving him loose in the house at all unless you are around to supervise--and never let him go into another room from where you (or another, ***reliable*** supervisor) are. Consider getting a leash you can clip to your belt so he's always within reach, in the beginning. That will minimize incidents. Do other training (obedience or tricks) to give him something to do and teach him to pay attention to you.

Later, when you start letting him off leash (but he's still confined to the room you're in), then when he does start to lift a leg, you can try rattling a coke can with some pennies in it--dogs don't like the noise and it will usually startle them into stopping what they're doing--then give him some other command (sit, down, come, get the ball, whatever you can praise him for) to redirect his behavior to something positive. Of course, you should also give these commands other times, too, so he doesn't get the idea to continue the behavior just to get your attention.

Good luck!