Vet Blog

House Training at Any Age

December 31, 2015

Housebreaking is usually the first priority when you bring a new puppy or new "adult" dog home.

Who wants to constantly be worried about accidents? Well, if you are willing to be CONSISTENT and use positive reinforcement you should see great results. Here's how to get started:

A Crate Is Your Best Friend!

Because dogs have an instinctual desire to build "dens," crates offer a natural replacement. Owners sometimes think crates are cruel. However, when introduced correctly, dogs learn to love their crates and seek them out when they feel anxious. Here are some tips for choosing a crate:

They should be large enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, lie down and turn in a circle.

Comfortable bedding (towel or blanket) or a kennel mat can make the area "cozy," but make sure these are clear of choking hazards.

Crates come in all sizes and shapes. They can be metal, plastic, or furniture replicates looking like coffee or end tables. Whatever the shape, make sure you do not choose one that is too big. The last thing you want is your dog having the ability to "soil" his "den" and reap no consequences.

Provide something fun for your dog to do when "crate" time is required. A great option is a stuffed or frozen Kong toy. Kong toys last much longer than a single dog treat plus they engage your dog's brain and body so being bored isn't an option.


Puppies (like babies) do better when they are on a constant schedule.

Listed below are some schedules owners can try depending on their dog's age, size, and breed. As you get to know your dog better, you will begin to get an idea of how soon he/she needs to go after being fed. No matter what you do BEING CONSISTENT- NO QUESTIONS ASKED- will mean the difference between success and failure. Also, remember what goes "in" on a schedule comes "out" on a schedule. FREE feeding should never be an option when you are potty training your pet. Puppies have more nutritional needs than older dogs but offering food in the morning, around noon, and at night are generally acceptable feeding regimens for a puppy. Older dogs should be fine with morning or evening feedings. Check with your veterinarian to ensure you are feeding only the amount needed for the age and breed.

The "time" schedules listed below are examples. They are listed for owners who will be home all day and for owners who work. Also listed are schedules for older puppies (6-12 months). The schedule for 6-12-month-old puppies can be used for adult dogs. You will need to adjust the schedules based on your work schedule or wake schedule. But, you must be CONSISTENT.

Schedule 1: Owner Home All Day

(4-6-month-old puppy eating 3 meals a day)


  • 7- Wake up. Go out.
  • 7:10-7:30 Free period in kitchen
  • 7:30 Food and water
  • 8:00 Go out.
  • 8:15-8:45 Free period in kitchen
  • 8:45 Confine (in a crate or very small blocked-off area in kitchen or bathroom. DO NOT ALLOW free house roaming. Again DO NOT ALLOW FREE HOUSE ROAMING.


  • 12:00 Food and water
  • 12:30 Go out.
  • 12:45-1:15 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 1:15 Confine in crate (puppies need nap time and owners need downtime too).


  • 5:00 Food and water.
  • 5:30 Go out.
  • 5:45-6:15 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 6:15 Confine
  • 8:00 Water
  • 8:15 Go out.
  • 8:30-9:00 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 9:00 Confine
  • 11:00 Go out. Confine overnight.

Schedule 2: Owner Working

(4-6-month-old puppy eating 3 meals a day)


  • 7:00 Wake up. Go out.
  • 7:10-7:30 Free period in kitchen
  • 7:30 Food and water.
  • 8:00 Go out. Confine when owner leaves (NOT in the crate for the entire day, but in a small blocked off area in kitchen or bathroom). Leave safe toys to keep the dog entertained. The owner will need to come home during lunch or arrange for someone else to water and walk the dog at noon.


  • 12:00 Someone lets puppy out, feeds and waters, then returns the dog to a small confined area


  • 6:00 Owner returns from work and lets dog out
  • 6:10 Free period in kitchen
  • 6:30 Food and water.
  • 7:00 Go out.
  • 7:15 Confine
  • 9:00 Small amount of food and water
  • 9:30 Go out.
  • 9:40-10:30 Free period in kitchen
  • 10:30-11:00 Go out. Confine in a crate overnight.

Schedule 3: Owner Home All Day

(6-12-month-old puppy eating 2 meals a day)


  • 7:00 Wake up. Go out.
  • 7:15-8:00 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 8:00 Food and water.
  • 8:30 Go out.
  • 8:45-9:30 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 9:30 Confine (in a crate or small blocked-off area).


  • 12:30 Water.
  • 12:45 Go out.
  • 1:00-1:45 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 1:45 Confine


  • 6:00 Food and water.
  • 6:30 Go out.
  • 6:45-7:30 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 7:30 Confine
  • 10:30-11:00 Go out. Confine overnight.

Schedule 4: Owner Working All Day

(6-12-month-old puppy eating 2 meals a day)


  • 7:00 Wake up. Go out.
  • 7:10-7:30 Free period in kitchen
  • 7:30 Food and water.
  • 8:00 Go out. Confine when owner leaves (NOT in a crate but a small blocked-off area in kitchen or bathroom). Someone needs to come home at 12 to water and feed.


  • 12:00 Go out, water and feed.


  • 6:00 Go out as soon as owner returns home
  • 6:15-7:00 Free period in the kitchen.
  • 7:00 Food and water.
  • 7:30 Go out.
  • 7:45-8:30 Free period in kitchen
  • 8:30 Confine.
  • 10:30-11:00 Go out. Confine overnight.

Enrolling your puppy or new adult dog in a doggie daycare program can be a great way to make sure potty schedules are maintained and enforced while you are at work. Give us a call; we are experts in this area.

Helpful Hints

Recognize Patterns

If your dog is having a great time playing with you, then all of a sudden walks off….this is your sign.

If you see your dog sneaks off to another room….this is your sign (playpens or confined areas prevent accidents like this because your dog can only go in the area he is confined).

If you notice your dog standing by the door….this is your sign.

*The minute you think your dog is going to go, a trip outside is warranted.*

One Word Description

Make sure you call the "deed" the same thing every single time. For example, say ONE WORD: potty or poop or whatever you want to call it but use that ONE WORD every time.

Praise, Praise, Praise

Housebreaking behavior is not inherited; it is learned, and immediate and consistent discipline and praise are one of the most important ways owners teach correct conduct to their dogs. Discipline is a teaching tool, not a punishment that inflicts pain or suffering as a penalty. Physical punishment causes fear and anxiety and actually inhibits learning. In the case of housebreaking, punishment will slow down the process. You may think constant hitting, slapping or shouting, or sticking his nose in the urine or feces may make your dog obey to avoid your anger. But be warned… such negative actions will affect the dogs' personality and make him fear you not knowing if you will strike him.

Mistakes Will Happen

Your dog will make mistakes during the potty training experience. However, if you follow the schedule YOU will be there to see the accident happen. When your dog begins to potty immediately in a firm voice say NO! Your intent is to startle him so he will stop eliminating indoors and finish outside in his potty area. Once outside praise him lavishly when his deed is finished. Never hit, strike or rub your dog's nose in the urine or feces. Contrary to what you may believe, he has no idea why you are inflicting punishment. In addition, smaller breed dogs can take up to a year to potty train so do not get discouraged. You may need to re-visit blocking off areas of your home so that you can ensure when mistakes happen you catch them while your dog is in the "act."

Catching Him In The Act Is A Great "Teaching" Tool

Catching him in the act, firmly saying NO, and removing him to his potty area is how he will learn the proper place to "go" and the place his owner lavishly praises him when he does.

If accidents continually occur with the above schedules, you may need to modify the number of times he/she goes out. Remember, smaller breed dogs generally need more potty breaks than larger breeds for the basic reason their bladders are much smaller.

Giving Too Much Freedom Too Soon Is Asking For A Disaster

Puppies can take up to a year to be completely housebroken. Giving too much freedom will set your whole-dining-room-with-dog training back considerably. Remember, dogs can't understand English. Your dog will not understand why you are mad unless you catch them in the act. You can't do this if your dog/puppy has wandered off to the dining room and your in the kitchen. Investing in a mobile playpen is a great way to keep your pet in sight.

Another common mistake that puppy owners make is that when you take your puppy outside to go potty, do not allow him/her to have too much freedom in the yard. Do not just put them in the backyard and expect them to do their business. It is best to go outside with them, returning to the same spot in the yard each time. Keep him/her on a leash until they have urinated and defecated. Remember, walking your dog helps to stimulate the bowel movement rather than standing in place waiting for "magic to happen". Once the puppy has done his business, then you may let him/her off the leash to allow free time and play as a reward!!

Eliminate Odors If Accidents Occur

When accidents occur, immediately clean and deodorize the area to remove any lingering scents. Just wiping the area will not eliminate the "smell" and your dog may continue to go back to this location. Depending on the service type (tile, wood, carpet) will determine what products can be used to eliminate odors.

Housebreaking is one of the first orders of business when training a new puppy or new dog, but there is no reason to stress. The most important thing is to be attentive, consistent, and use lots of positive praise.

City ordinance required that by 5/4/23, every dog or cat will need a microchip. Visit the article here. Ask us about microchipping!