Housebreaking and Potty Training Pug. Smaller dogs tend to have more housebreaking problems than do large dogs.

How to Housebreak and Potty Train a Puppy or Dog – Step 1

How to potty train a puppy or dog begins with a plan By Andrew Ledford 714-827-4058

Dog and Puppy Potty Training Action Plan Step 1 and 2

The first step to housebreaking and potty training your dog
is developing an action plan. However, it’s hard to plan for a target behavior if you don’t know what the target is. Before you plan how to potty train your puppy you need to know what housebreaking and potty training looks like. What are your dog training goals?

Potty Training a Labrador Retriever Puppy To Go On Command. The lessons your puppy learns will make adult behavior more reliable and give you a foundation for correcting inappropriate adult behavior.
Potty Training a Labrador Retriever Puppy To Go On Command. The lessons your puppy learns will make adult behavior more reliable and give you a foundation for correcting inappropriate adult behavior.

Housebreaking Definition

Housebreaking is teaching a dog not to urinate of defecate inside the house. (This was traditionally done with punishment or negative reinforcement.)

Potty training Definition

Potty training is teaching the dog to eliminate in a designated area and/or on command. For some dogs it can also include teaching the dog to eliminate while on the leash.

Potty Training a Siberian Husky Puppy. Part of the training plan for this dog included teaching the dog to potty while wearing a leash and collar.
Potty Training a Siberian Husky Puppy. Part of the training plan for this dog included teaching the dog to potty while wearing a leash and collar.

Housebreaking and Potty Training

For all practical purposes I do both housebreaking and potty training the same way. For most dogs, housebreaking can be done using positive reinforcement. I recommend that most people avoid using punishment for this training. The improper use of punishment can actually create and/or make housebreaking problems worse. In addition, punishment based housebreaking can make a dog very difficult to potty training in the future. This is not always true, but it happens often enough that I highly advise against using a punishment based system. There are exceptions, such as when directed to do so by a competent trainer.

How To Potty Train a Puppy. Here I am working with a Labrador Retriever Pup. Notice the curve in the tail, this is a telltale sign of the need to potty.
How To Potty Train a Puppy. Here I am working with a Labrador Retriever Pup. Notice the curve in the tail, this is a telltale sign of the need to potty.
The housebreaking and potty training action plan.
A potty training program involves knowing what you want to accomplish and defining your goals.
  1. Set your potty training goals
  2. Decide what training style you will use. (This is often determined by the dog, the problem, and the owner’s orientation.)
  3. Make a flexible action plan
  4. Structure the environment:
    – To discourage inappropriate potty behavior.
    – To encourage appropriate potty behavior
  5. Structure the potty area itself to encourage desirable potty behavior. (An example would be making the potty area very well defined.)
  6. Design into the potty training some type of reinforcement. (this will vary depending on the method you are using.)
  7. Put the act of going potty on command
  8. Fade command control of the behavior and establish or reestablish naturally reinforcing contingencies.

Over the years I have specializes in housebreaking and potty training difficult dogs. I also went through a small dog period several years ago where I primarily worked with and specialized in small dog training. It’s common for small dogs to be more difficult to house train than their larger counterparts. I have met many easy to potty train small dogs, but statistically they are more difficult. Out of 100 small dogs and 100 large dogs, there will be more small dogs that are harder to house train than large dogs.

Housebreaking and Potty Training a Pug. Smaller dogs tend to have more housebreaking problems than do large dogs.
Housebreaking and Potty Training a Pug. Smaller dogs tend to have more housebreaking problems than do large dogs.

Step 1 of your training plan.
Before we can start a training program it’s helpful to know what kind of goals we’re trying to reach. What will the final results look like? What results do we want from the effort we are investing? Knowing what we expect as the final outcome can influence how the training is done.

List of Some Housebreaking and Potty Training Goals
  • Reliably potty on pads and nowhere else in the house
  • Use a dog door to go outside to potty and not go inside
  • Wait to go potty outside only
  • To go potty in one part of the yard
  • To go potty on the leash when needed
  • To go potty on command when needed

An action plan will prompt appropriate behavior.
The action plan is where we lay out the steps used to get the dog house trained. Our potty training action plan will help us avoid counterproductive behaviors while prompting desirable behavior. In the first stages of training the plan will primarily prompt the handler’s behavior. If done properly it will encourage the dog to engage in the correct behavior as well. During the beginning stages it is the handler’s (owner’s) responsibility to make sure the dog performs the correct behavior.

Step 2
When I work with clients the next part of my dog potty training program is to determine what style or method of training we’ll use.

There are basically three styles of housebreaking/potty training plus a subcategory.

  1. Punishment based housebreaking is where the dog is punished when it’s caught going inside the house. Punishment based housebreaking is the least effective method, but it does work sometimes. With this method timing is the most important part of the training. (There are special cases where this may be needed. If done wrong it can make the problem worse.)
  2. The second method is to take the dog out often and put potty on command using praise and natural environmental reinforcers. There are some good reasons for choosing this method. One reason this method is preferred by many trainers is that the potty behavior is brought under control of naturally occurring contingencies right from the beginning.
  3. The third method is to put the behavior of going potty on command by using food rewards, then fading the prompts and the food. In this method the potty process is first taught in a systematic manner. Each step of the potty sequence is brought under command control in combination with other social and environmental prompts. Once the behavior is well established, natural environmental reinforcers are arranged to gradually control and maintain the potty behavior.
  4. A fourth sub category of potty training involves the kind of control and confinement we will use to encourage good behavior. This ranges from crate training to hypervigilant supervision.

With experience we can mix and match these methods to increase the reliability of the behavior. However, if misused some of these can create setbacks that may take years to correct. This is mostly true of inappropriate punishment. We can also see this when an owner wants to change the potty target, such as going from using pads to teaching a dog to go outside.

Sometimes it’s best to use a combination of training methods. But, it’s always good to determine the dominant training style being used. Whenever dealing with the fluid nature of behavior it’s important to remain flexible. The more flexible you are the more options you will have. By remaining flexible you can take advantage of moment to moment learning opportunities, these are the “teachable moments.”

This is the first part in a housebreaking and potty training series.
You can checkout my Puppy Guide to potty Training and Dog Care on Amazon for free if you are a prime member. The link is on the upper right if you are on a desktop and probably below if you are on mobile.

My Personal Puppy Training programs gives you the essential tools and the practical knowledge you need to realize your dogs full potential and it includes a complete housebreaking and potty training program.

714-827-4058
Andrew Ledford

Personal Home Puppy Training Labrador Retriever Pup To Like Sleeping In Its Crate.
Personal Home Puppy Training Labrador Retriever Pup To Like Sleeping In Its Crate.

The Next part of the series will be “Housebreaking Tools – Crate Training” page 2 (coming soon)

If you liked this article you may also like the article about housebreaking problems that also includes two important dog behavior and housebreaking tips

This housebreaking potty training post is inspired by and incorporates elements from my 7 step program. I plan on having a new book come out in 2018 focusing on the first part of my 7 step strategy.

This is the first part in a housebreaking and potty training series

Dog Training – Puppy Training, Potty Training & Dog Obedience Training