At iSpeakDog, we love a good formula (especially a three-step formula!), and so we are thrilled to share with you Jean Donaldson’s “Housetraining 1-2-3”:
Manage so as to prevent accidents indoors.
Accompany dog outside and reward him for pottying at the desired location.
After steps one and two have been in place approximately three weeks, loosen up management and interrupt/redirect.
In other words: Don’t allow for any accidents in the house, throw a chicken party (or some other wonderful delicacy) for pups when they potty outdoors in the spot where you want them to go, and then after a few weeks of No Accidents + Chicken Parties, you can start to give pups a little more freedom in the house.
Let’s dig a little deeper:
Step One: Management
Your goal is to not have any accidents in the house. You do this by limiting your dog's freedom to roam when he has not completely relieved himself, and only giving him free rein of a room such as the kitchen when he is.
The fewer mistakes, the faster the housetraining. Simple as that.
Crate training, if done properly, is the quickest route to getting the job done. (See "Crate Training" below to learn how to help your pup fall in love with a crate.) Most dogs will not want to soil a crate if it is sized properly and kept scrupulously clean.
Right after your dog has completely relieved himself outside, he can roam the kitchen for about an hour (for an adult dog) or a half hour (for a puppy). After that, the dog goes into his crate for another half hour or hour to learn to hold his bladder, then it's straight back out to the potty spot. After that the cycle repeats: free-roam-kitchen time, then crate time (which can extend eventually to a few hours), then out.
Step Two: Accompany Dog Outside and Reward
When it’s time to potty, accompany your dog outside and have some chicken (or other delicious snack) ready to go. Right as he is finishing up peeing and/or pooping, praise him profusely and dole out the chicken.
Common question: "But I have a fenced-in yard. Why can’t I just send Floofer out to pee on his own?"
Because you won’t know if Floof actually went to the bathroom or not. He could just go out for a sniff and roll and then come back in for a nice pee on the shag rug. And as Rule Number One tells us, we cannot allow for any accidents indoors.
Because you won’t be there to tell Floofer, “Yes! My perfect little Floofie-face, this is exactly where I want you to go to the bathroom!” by throwing a chicken party just as he finishes doing his biz.
Not only will accompanying your dog outside and rewarding him for his excellent work get the pooch trained quickly, but it will also keep a very bad thing from happening: Reverse Housetraining.
Reverse housetraining occurs when someone punishes the dog for going to the bathroom indoors instead of rewarding him for doing it outdoors. Just as babies don’t come out of the womb knowing how to use a toilet, dogs don’t understand that peeing on the antique rug is wrong. So when they are punished for doing it, instead of learning not to relieve themselves indoors, they learn to fear the person punishing them.
Outcome? These dogs figure out that the only safe thing to do is go to the bathroom when they are alone in the house. They learn that it's dangerous to pee or poop when The Guy Who Holds the Leash is around, so they hold everything in when they're out on walks and wait until they're back home, safe and alone, to relieve themselves.
It's a difficult problem to resolve, so take care to housetrain your pup the right way from the start. Instead of punishing the dog, follow the 1-2-3 method to keep him from having accidents in the house and rewarding him for doing the right thing.
Step Three: After Three Accident-Free Weeks, Interrupt/Redirect
During this phase you’ll still need to keep an eye on your pup so that you can swoop him up and happy talk him outside if he starts to squat or lift a leg.
How do you do it? In a happy voice, say something like, “Wanna go for WALKIES, Flooftser?” Then quickly lead him out or pick him up if he’s small or a puppy and head straight out to the designated potty spot. Don’t forget to have treats on hand to follow Step Two and reward him for good behavior.
What About Dogs Who Mark?
Dogs who mark do not empty themselves fully when they pee — they save some up to spread little “Floofer Wuz Here” messages around. You will still follow the same 1-2-3 plan, but, because Floofer might still have some stuff in the tank when he goes back inside, you won’t be able to give him as much free roaming time in the kitchen. You’ll also have to watch closely to interrupt and redirect if his urges take over ahead of schedule.
It's not kind to simply stick a dog in a crate and shut the door on him. Instead, you want to teach him that his crate can be fun! Here's how:
Initially leave door open and periodically drop some treats in for your dog to find on his own.
After he is comfortable going in to find treats, you can start tossing in treats for him to chase down, like in the video below.
Then go for duration. Will he stay put inside for a few seconds while you drop in treats?
When he's comfortable and not trying to run straight out, you can try closing the door and drop treats inside when it's closed.
If closing the door scares him, break this step into little bits: close it an inch, then treat. When he still has a waggy tail with the door closing an inch, move to closing it two inches, etc. (It took the dog in the video a couple of sessions before he was comfortable with the door closed.)
Make it fun! Like you see in the video below, you can even play games.
Note: For housetraining purposes, you want to find a crate that is just big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. The crate in this video would be too big for these purposes.