Housetraining For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Preparing to Potty Train Your Pooch

Part II: Putting a Plan in Place

Part III: Solving Housetraining Problems

Part IV: The Part of Tens


Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go From Here

Part I: Preparing to Potty Train Your Pooch

Chapter 1: No, Virginia, It’s Not That Hard: Understanding Housetraining Basics

What Housetraining Is — and Why It Matters

Why Your Dog Can’t Be “a Little Bit Housetrained”

Exploring Housetraining Methods

Location, location, location: Outdoor versus indoor training

Looking at lifestyle factors to help you choose your method

Surviving Setbacks and Special Situations

Understanding the Role You and Your Family Play

Chapter 2: Training the Housetrainer: Taking the Right Approach

Leaving Behind Housetraining Methods of Yesteryear

Using Your Pooch’s Instincts to Lay a Foundation

The training your dog has already had

Learning from his mom

Denning dynamics

Cleanliness is next to dog-liness

Life without guilt

Learning by repetition

The need for attachment

How instincts can be thwarted

Taking the 21st-Century Approach to Housetraining

Seeing your dog’s point of view

Being benevolent

Working with your dog’s instincts

Creating a schedule

Rewarding the good, ignoring the goofs

Being consistent

Attending to details

Chapter 3: Getting Your Home in Housetraining Order

Readying Your Dog’s Room: The Crate

Understanding why every dog needs (and wants) a crate

Finding the right fit: Types of crates

Adjusting for size

Investing in crate accessories

Situating your doggie’s den

Gearing Up for Outdoor Training

Selecting a potty spot — no matter where you live

Securing collars and leashes

Containing the situation: Fencing

Installing a doggie door

Prepping for Indoor Training

Exploring types of indoor potties

Setting up your dog’s indoor living area and potty spot

Doing the Dirty Work: Cleanup Equipment

Choosing an outdoor cleanup method

Indoor cleaners

Other cleaning aids

Chapter 4: Feeding Fido: What Goes In Must Come Out

Knowing How Feeding and Watering Affect Housetraining

Understanding Nutrients: What Dogs Need to Eat



Vitamins and minerals

Determining the Diet That’s Best for Your Dog

Considering commercial dog foods

Making home-prepped dog foods

Serving Your Dog

Picking the place to feed your dog

Setting the canine dining ambience

Selecting your dog’s dinnerware

Deciding when to feed your dog

To Treat or Not to Treat

Buying commercial treats

Preparing homemade treats

Choosing low-calorie treat options

Working with Your Dog’s Drinking Habits

Part II: Putting a Plan in Place

Chapter 5: Training to Love the Crate

Introducing the Crate

Tie one on: The open-door policy

Encourage exploration

Shut the door (but not for long)

Leave the room

Build up her tolerance

Encouraging Appreciation If Your Dog Hates the Crate

Limiting Crate Time: How Much Is Too Much?

Continuing to Use the Crate

Keeping the love alive

Beyond housetraining: Other uses for the crate

Chapter 6: Heading to the Outside: Outdoor Housetraining

Understanding How Outdoor Training Works

Introducing Puppies to Outdoor Training

Getting an early start

Taking the first trips outside

Responding when your puppy potties

A matter of timing: Setting up a puppy potty schedule

Scheduling Outdoor Trainingfor Adult Dogs

Dealing with Boo-boos

Catching your dog in the act

Finding messes: Don’t scold — just clean ’em up!

Preventing further accidents

Providing Indoor Potty Areas for Outdoor Trainees

Chapter 7: Making Some Inside Moves: Indoor Housetraining

Understanding How Indoor Training Works

Identifying good indoor-training candidates

Opting for indoor training only

Pick Your Potty: Deciding Which Type to Use


Puppy training pads

Litter boxes

Grate/tray potties

Introducing Puppies to Indoor Training

Deciding where to put the indoor potty

Starting out

Scheduling bathroom breaks

Switching a vaccinated puppy to outdoor training

Using Indoor Training for the Adult Dog

From outdoors to papers

From outdoors to litter box

From outdoors to grate/tray combo

Responding to Mistakes

Chapter 8: Fine-Tuning Housetraining

Decoding Pre-potty Maneuvers

Getting Your Dog to Ask to Go Out

Encouraging Elimination

Peeing on cue

Prompting Mr. (or Ms.) Independent

Deciding When to GrantMore Freedom

The age factor: How old is old enough?

The responsibility factor: Should she have freedom of the house?

Part III: Solving Housetraining Problems

Chapter 9: Accident-Proofing Small Dogs and Other Problem Potty-ers

The Teensy-Weensy Tinkler

Choose the right potty place

Don’t push your luck (or her bladder)

Don’t excuse lapses

The Dog Who Pees Lying Down

Play it cool

Get down to her level

Don’t stare her down

The Dog Who Leaves His Mark

Neuter him

Remove (or at least contain) the target

Remind him who’s top dog

Build a peaceable kingdom

Start remedial housetraining

The Uptight Canine

The Dog Who Gets Distracted

The Fair-Weather Piddler

The Bedwetter

The Dog Who Gets Amnesia

The Dog Who Can’t Hold It

Rule out other issues

Find a holistic vet

Consider diapers

The Poop Eater

The Bleeding Lady, or the Canine Fertility Goddess

Chapter 10: Understanding How an Oh-No Can Become a Problem-o

A Whiz of a Problem

Constant peeing

Constant drinking and constant peeing

Pee that comes out slowly or not at all

Oddly colored pee

The Scoop on Poop Problems

Poop on the run(s)

Soft, stinky poop

Oily poop

Poop that comes out slowly or not at all

Poop that contains other things

Gray, black, or red poop

Skinny poop

Gaseous Emissions

Chapter 11: Sorting Out Humans’ Housetraining Challenges

Crafting a Family Housetraining Plan

Dividing duties: A plan to relieve the primary caregiver

Getting the adults on the same page

Getting the kids on board

Balancing Crate Time

Relieving the Home-Alone Dog

Getting a pet-sitter or dog walker

Bringing your dog to work

Going home for lunch

Working from home

Creating a potty-proof home-alone area

Sticking to the Schedule

Managing Snacks

Messing Up the Cleanup

Anticipating Lapses Due to Household Changes

Helping the Newly Adopted Housetrainee

Hitting the Road with Your Housetraining Graduate

Part IV: The Part of Tens

Chapter 12: Ten Housetraining Mistakes You Don’t Have to Make

Thinking the Crate Is Cruel

Getting a Crate That’s Too Big

Failing to Stick to the Schedule

Failing to Clean Up Completely

Not Cleaning the Indoor Potty

Thinking Your Dog Looks Guilty

Scolding Her after the Fact

Rubbing His Nose in You-Know-What

Changing the Menu Abruptly

Declaring Victory Prematurely

Chapter 13: Ten Reasons Housetrained Dogs Live in Happier Households

The Houses Smell Nicer

The Owners Save Money

The Owners Are Less Cranky

The Dogs Aren’t Scared When Their Owners Come Home

The Owners Don’t Worry about Stepping in You-Know-What

The Dogs Have One Less Way to Embarrass Their Owners

The Owners Know Right Away When Their Dogs Are Sick

The Dogs Have a Great Foundation for Further Training

Dogs and Owners Communicate Better with Each Other

The Owners Are More Likely to Keep Their Dogs

Appendix: Other Helpful Pit Stops for Housetrainers

Housetraining For Dummies®, 2nd Edition

by Susan McCullough


About the Author

Susan McCullough writes about all things dog for print and online outlets all over the United States. She is a contributing editor to Dog Fancy, and her work has also appeared in the AKC Gazette, AKC Family Dog, Your Dog, the Popular Dogs magazine series, Studio One Networks, The Washington Post, and Family Circle. Her dog care books include Senior Dogs For Dummies and Beagles For Dummies (Wiley).

Susan is vice president of the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and belongs to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). She is a five-time winner of the DWAA’s Maxwell Award for excellence in writing about dogs, and she also won the 2001 Eukanuba Canine Health Award for outstanding writing about canine health.

When she’s not writing or hanging out with friends and family (both two-legged and four-legged), Susan counsels puzzled people on how to deal with canine potty problems and other dog-related quandaries. She lives in Vienna, Virginia, with her husband, Stan Chappell; their daughter, Julie Chappell (when Julie’s on break from college); and the family’s Golden Retriever, Allie.Visit Susan’s Web site at and read her blog, The Allie Chronicles, at


For Allie, the dog I didn’t know I needed

Author’s Acknowledgments

Every book is a group effort, and this one is no exception. I want to thank everyone who made this book possible, including Tracy Boggier, Wiley acquisitions editor, who asked me to revisit housetraining, and Alissa Schwipps, Wiley senior project editor, who graciously made time in her crazy-busy schedule to do a literary three-peat with me. Thanks also to Patty Kovach, DVM, technical reviewer, whose expertise made this a better book; The Lunch Bunch — Victoria Schade, Pat Miller, Robin Bennett, Colleen Pelar, Penelope Brown, and Pam Wanveer — from whom I learn so much and have a great time doing so; and Windy Run’s Allie McChappell, CGC (Canine Good Citizen), housetraining ace and the best office dog/canine muse an author could have. And most of all, Stan Chappell, my husband, and Julie Chappell, my daughter, for being there for me when I’ve needed them (especially when I’ve taken unexpected bumps to the head) and for cheering me on the rest of the time.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Senior Project Editor: Alissa Schwipps (Previous Edition: Kelly Ewing)

Acquisitions Editor: Tracy Boggier

Senior Copy Editor: Danielle Voirol

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

Technical Editor: Patty Kovach, DVM

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Assistants: Jennette ElNaggar, David Lutton

Cover Photos: © GK Hart/ Vicki Hart

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Katherine Crocker

Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis, Christin Swinford

Special Art: Marcia Schlehr

Proofreaders: Cynthia Fields, John Greenough

Indexer: Potomac Indexing, LLC

Special Help: Amanda Gillum

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


When you brought home that adorable little puppy or noble-looking adult dog, you undoubtedly were looking forward to a lifetime of love, devotion, and companionship. Maybe you wanted a dog to jog with in the morning, have curl up at your feet in the evening, or talk to during the day. Perhaps you were looking forward to heaping lots of unconditional love upon a hard-luck rescue dog who hadn’t known such love before. Or maybe you remembered watching Lassie when you were a kid and were hoping that your new family member could be the same sort of friend-of-a-lifetime that the famous Collie was for little Timmy.

Every new relationship between a person and a dog starts out with at least a little bit of fantasizing on the part of the person. Soon thereafter, though, reality intrudes upon those fantasies. All too often, that intrusion takes the form of a puddle or pile deposited on the floor of your home. The puddle is gross. The pile stinks. Both leave stains. And you are totally grossed out.

Loving a pooch who turns your nicely decorated home into a canine outhouse is tough. But this problem doesn’t have to happen. You just need to teach your dog proper potty manners. In other words, you need to housetrain him.

When your dog is housetrained, both of your lives become a whole lot easier and immeasurably more satisfying. Gone are the doggie accidents, stains, and smells that keep professional carpet cleaners in business but all too often ruin the precious bonds between dogs and their people. I’ve written this book to make sure that you and your dog maintain those bonds.

About This Book

Housetraining For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is a reference book designed to help you not only teach your dog the ins and outs of basic bathroom behavior but also prevent your pooch from developing potty problems — or solve any problems she already has.

Whether you have a brand-new puppy who’s piddling on your equally new Oriental rug; an unruly adolescent male dog who’s practicing leg-lifts (and subsequent anointings) right next to your antique loveseat; a matronly female dog who’s wetting her bed while she sleeps; or simply a pooch who never seems to know what he’s supposed to do when you take him out, this book can help you sort out your dog’s bathroom issues and resolve them, no matter what they are.

You don’t have to read this book from start to finish to teach your canine companion proper potty deportment. If you want to know everything and then some about housetraining, begin reading here and plow through to the end. But if you have a specific concern, such as wanting to teach your dog to tell you when she needs to go out, skip the preliminaries, look over the table of contents, and proceed to the chapter that tells you exactly what you want to know.

Finally, this book is meant to be a guide but not a substitute for the up-close-and-personal advice that other experts such as veterinarians, trainers, and behaviorists give. If the suggestions here don’t work for you and your dog, or if you have a question that this book doesn’t cover, don’t hesitate to contact any of these professionals.

Conventions Used in This Book

To help you find your way through this book — as in all For Dummies books — I’ve used the following conventions:

Italics highlight new words and terms.

Boldfaced text indicates the actions in numbered steps and keywords in bulleted lists.

Monofont indicates a Web address.

In addition, I’ve added some conventions of my own. For one thing, I’m not even going to try to sound genteel in this book — after all, you’re dealing with bodily waste here. That’s why I refer to canine bodily byproducts as poop and pee — although I occasionally substitute other terms just for the sake of variety.

At the same time, I refrain from using other terms commonly employed in discussions of pooch potty protocol. Specifically, I don’t use the words housebreak, housebreaking, or housebroken anywhere in this book, except when I describe the history of canine toilet training. That’s because when you teach your dogs to eliminate appropriately, you’re not breaking anything. In fact, you’re doing quite the opposite: By teaching the dog to poop and pee when and where you want him to, you’re building bonds between you two. You’re laying the foundation for a loving, long-lasting relationship.

Finally, there’s the matter of gender. Many writers like to refer to canine companions in gender-neutral terms such as it unless discussing a specific dog, such as Daisy or Max. But I don’t agree with them. Any dog, even if spayed or neutered, has a clear gender. More importantly, every dog is a living being who deserves the dignity of being referred to as such. For that reason, I use the word who, not that, along with he, she, him, her, his, and hers to refer to canine companions. I tend to alternate the genders of the example dogs in a chapter, so any of those pronouns (or a name such as Fido or Lassie) applies to dogs of either gender unless I indicate otherwise.

What You’re Not to Read

I’d be thrilled if you were to read every word of this book, but I know better. You’re like me: way too busy, with far too little time to accomplish everything on your daily to-do list. Plus, you want to know as soon as possible how to keep your floors and furniture from becoming a doggie latrine. To help you differentiate between what you need to know and what you can do without, I’ve made the do-without stuff easy for you to spot. That stuff includes the following:

Sidebars: These shaded boxes contain anecdotes or interesting bits of information that can make housetraining easier and more effective, but if you skip them and apply the suggestions in the main text, you’ll still have a pooch who knows when and where he’s supposed to potty.

Text next to the Technical Stuff icon: Information located next to this icon is interesting, but it may go into far more detail about housetraining than you need for teaching your dog her bathroom basics.

Legal stuff: Otherwise known as the material on the copyright page, the text here is of interest mainly to Wiley’s legal eagles. Even if you’re interested in copyright law, I guarantee that you can find more information on the subject elsewhere.

Foolish Assumptions

I’ve written this book assuming that one of the following scenarios applies to you and your dog:

You’re about to get a new puppy — or have just gotten one — and want to teach her proper potty protocol as quickly and effectively as possible.

Your puppy or adult dog has never quite mastered that protocol, and you want to know how to transform him from bathroom bungler to housetraining ace.

Your once well-housetrained dog appears to have developed some bathroom issues, and you want to know how to solve those problems instead of just having to live with them.

If you and your canine companion fit into any of the preceding categories, this book is for you.

How This Book Is Organized

This book can give you the full scoop on making the housetraining process as hassle-free as possible. If you read any part of Housetraining For Dummies, you can gain valuable insights on how to teach your puppy or adult dog to do his business where and when you want him to. Here’s how I’ve organized the book to help you do just that.

Part I: Preparing to Potty Train Your Pooch

Before you can housetrain your hound, you need to get yourself ready to do so. Therefore, this part explains the basic principles of canine learning in general and of housetraining in particular. Here, too, is where you get the info you need to decide where you want your dog’s bathroom to be: inside or outside your home. You also get the lowdown on what equipment you need to teach your dog proper potty protocol. Finally, you discover how not only to jump-start your dog’s housetraining progress but also to give her a leg up on lifelong good health by feeding her the right kinds of foods.

Part II: Putting a Plan in Place

Now that you’ve made some basic decisions, gotten a primer on housetraining theory, acquired the right housetraining gear, and stocked up on gourmet doggie fare, you’re ready to start the housetraining process in earnest. Part II tells you all you need to know to turn your housetrainee into a housetraining graduate, whether you opt for indoor training or choose to have your pooch potty in the great outdoors. You also discover some techniques that can make managing your dog’s bathroom maneuvers infinitely easier and determine when you can consider your hound a true housetraining ace.

Part III: Solving Housetraining Problems

Alas, even the solidly housetrained dog can acquire potty problems. Some of those problems require remedial housetraining, others may actually be signs of illness, and still others may reflect human mistakes, not the dog’s. Part III helps you determine what kind of problem your dog really has (and that problem, for some dogs, is simply that they’re very small) and what you need to do to solve it.

Part IV: The Part of Tens

Part IV is where I introduce some top-ten lists and have even more fun discussing housetraining than I do in the preceding three parts. In the process, I emphasize some important housetraining principles. And if, for some reason, you’re wondering whether housetraining is worth the trouble, this part — specifically Chapter 13 — gives you the incentive you need to keep plugging away.


If you’re interested in getting more information about house-training and other aspects of dog care, I’ve included an appendix full of resources after Chapter 13.

Icons Used in This Book

To make this book simpler to use, I’ve included some icons to help you find and fathom key ideas and information.

Tip.epsThis icon calls attention to time- and hassle-saving ideas or items that are especially helpful when housetraining your dog.

Remember.epsThis icon denotes information that’s so critical to successful housetraining that you should read it more than once — just to ensure that you remember it as you potty-train your own pooch.

warning_bomb.epsThis icon flags dangers to your dog’s well-being. It also lets you know when an apparent housetraining problem is really a medical problem that demands a veterinarian’s attention.

TechnicalStuff.epsPerhaps you want the full scoop on why dens are such a big part of most dogs’ lives or how dogs use their pee to communicate with each other. This icon flags such nonessential information for you. On the other hand, if you just want to understand the basic concepts of housetraining, sidestep this icon and move on.

Where to Go From Here

If you haven’t acquired your dog yet, or if she’s just arrived, reading from the very beginning of this book and working your way through to the end is best. But if your canine companion has been with you for a while, or if you’re just trying to solve a particular pooch potty problem, don’t fret. Head to the table of contents or to the index, where you can find the topic that can help solve your dog’s specific housetraining problems.

Part I

Preparing to Potty Train Your Pooch


In this part . . .

Before you can housetrain your dog, you need to prepare yourself for the task. In this part, you find out how to do just that, starting with understanding exactly what housetraining is. From there, you discover the importance of working with your dog’s instincts to teach him basic bathroom manners, and you get some help deciding where your dog’s bathroom should be, whether indoors or outdoors. Finally, you get a shopping list of what you need to housetrain your hound effectively and of what to feed him so you not only make the housetraining process easier but also safeguard his overall health and well-being.