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The following general guidelines will help you get through the housetraining/adjustment period.


  • When first bringing your new canine companion home, you should start over as if the dog was never trained in the first place. Use preventative measure to establish good toilet habits—you should not wait for the dog to signal! Most puppies/dogs will have to eliminate in the morning when they wake up, 15-20 minutes after eating, after any vigorous play period, and after napping. Keep a calendar and record the time of each success and mistake. You may notice a pattern that will help you plan. 
  • Feed at set times (adult dogs two times per day; puppies three times a day). Do not vary the schedule. Place the food down for 15 minutes. The dog should be fed in a quiet atmosphere with no interruptions. If the dog does not eat, remove the food. The dog will be hungry at the next feeding. It is very normal for a dog to miss a feeding or two. If you are concerned you should contact a veterinarian for further advice regarding feeding. 
  • Feed a high-quality pet supply food and do not vary it. Fixed formula diets that are purchased at a pet store are more expensive, but can really help during the housetraining period. Higher quality foods are more digestible and have less filler. This means your dog won't have to go as often and droppings are smaller. Table scraps or treats should not be fed during housetraining unless it is immediately after the dog has successfully eliminated outside. Treats should not be given at any other time.
  • The dog should be taken out to his toilet area at set times. You should stay out with him and chant in a low tone of voice, “do your business” over and over until the dog starts to eliminate. Afterwards use lots of praise for a job well done! You should only stand outside with the dog for 3-5 minutes.
  • If the dog does not go while outside, he should not be given free run of the house unless you have your eyes on the dog 100% of the time. Many dogs will sneak away and eliminate as soon as you become involved in something. If the dog cannot be watched, he should be confined to a small area or placed in a crate. You may also tie the dog to your belt so that the dog has to follow you. This is called umbilical cording. If the dog starts to eliminate you will be right there to take him outside. (More information can be found under crate training.)
  • Clean up accidents with an enzymatic cleaning product designed to remove urine odor such as Simple Solution®. Do not let the puppy/dog see you clean up the mess. NEVER scold or take the puppy/dog to that spot and shove his nose in it. This will only confuse him further. 
  • Be vigilant with your dog's routine. The dog has not earned the right to have freedom unsupervised in the house. Crate training and umbilical cording will help them establish communication. If you can be very consistent for two weeks, you should notice a dramatic improvement.

If you would like to work with a Wisconsin Humane Society behaviorist one-on-one regarding this behavior topic, please call 414-431-6173 to schedule a consultation or email us as

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