Ask the Trainer

Ask the Trainer: Solving Common Housebreaking Problems

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“Maverick is 4 months old already has learned how to sit, lay shake, & speak and goes potty outside but every time I bring in back in he still pees in the house why is that.” – Debi

“LuLu is almost 2 years old.  Some days she is very good about going potty outside and other days she poops in the house or in her crate.  Sometimes we take her out and then she comes in and pees or poops in the house.  She is a sweet and adorable Bishon, and her only issue is the potty training.” – Sharin

I have received a number of questions in regards to various aspects of housebreaking.  Unfortunately I can’t address each one individually, so in order to help all those struggling, I am going to tackle the topic in its entirety. My previously written housebreaking article can be found here.

This is my basic protocol which has proven effective with puppies and adult dogs of all ages.  I suggest you read it thoroughly.  It is successful for all those who have implemented it precisely and consistently.  Precisely and consistently being the operant words. If you alter the program, then you are NOT following my program.  Instead, you are using your own program.  Which you will then have to troubleshoot and adjust in accordance with your unique approach.

In order to elaborate on my previous article, I am going to provide a short Q&A to the most common questions.  Once again, if you are following another housebreaking program or a variation of my protocol, then these questions and answers may not hold true.  You will have to troubleshoot your own program accordingly.


“How can I correct my dog when they have an accident in the house?”

I never correct a dog for having an accident.  Instead, I follow the housebreaking protocol exactly, which prevents accidents and clearly teaches the dog where and when to go to the bathroom.

Accidents inevitably will occur, and when they do, it’s because we made a mistake…not the dog.  It’s essential to never correct a puppy or adult dog for accidents, as it can lead to potentially problematic issues.  Rather, it’s far better to be proactive in preventing accidents by utilizing a clear, simple, and progressive template.

“What dog food do you see the greatest success with?”

The topic of dog food is surprisingly controversial and garners a very heated debate.  I am not here to belabor the topic.  This is an individual decision that you should consult with your Veterinarian on.  However I only use food and treats from

“My dog was previously housebroken, but now they are having accidents again in the home.  What should I do?”

Take your dog to the Vet for a comprehensive medical exam.  It is unusual for a housebroken dog to all of a sudden begin having accidents.  This is often a telltale sign of an underlying health related cause.  Making it a medical issue, not a training issue.

You cannot train a dog to be accident free when it is medically triggered.  Not only is it unfair to try and do so, but it’s completely ineffective.  Once your dog is examined by a Vet and determined to not have any health issue, then begin the housebreaking protocol.

“My dog went out at the scheduled interval, but they did not go to the bathroom.  What should I do?”

This is a very common issue for adult dogs, but especially puppies.  They become easily distracted when outside and forget to go to the bathroom.  This results in accidents when they are back in the home.  In order to mitigate this, make sure it is “all business” when you take your dog out to the bathroom.  It is not play time, or a sniff around and investigate session, or chase the squirrel hour.  They can do this once they have gone to the bathroom.

Have your dog on a leash when you take them outside and don’t let them out by themselves.  You need to know whether they went to the bathroom and if it was “#1” and/or “#2”.  They should not be playing or running around, make yourself and the whole process boring.  Take them to the same area to go the bathroom (smelling themselves should encourage them to go again) and allow about 15 minutes to go to the bathroom, then return inside.

If they went to the bathroom, great!  If they did not, then there is a higher chance for an accident to occur inside.  To best prevent this from happening, you need to be even more vigilant with direct eye contact and supervision and/or utilize the crate until it’s time to go outside at the next interval.

The housebreaking process is an inevitability that plagues so many owners.  There are many variables that impact the rate and ease at which you are able to housebreak your dog.  You can easily get lost with all the conflicting and misinformation that you will find on the internet and from talking with other owners.  That is why I am a big proponent of training dogs using sound dog training principles.  When in doubt, we want to keep things simple and adhere to the basics.  When adhered to consistently and precisely, my basic housebreaking protocol couple with these Q&A’s, are exactly what you need to successfully housebreak even the most challenging puppy or adult dog.

Steve Reid is a Certified Dog Trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training in Westchester, NY.  For more information about S. R. Dog Training and to sign-up for his newsletter, visit Please also become a fan of Steve on Facebook at

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  1. Avatar Of Ron Dobson Ron Dobson says:

    Great post, I appreciate it.

    If I might add: if your dog does start to pee, they’re likely going to pee in the same room and maybe even same spot. part of this is because they’ve marked their spot, and they go back to where the urine crystals are in your carpet. as you train them and break them of this, it’s important to get those crystals broken up out of your carpet with a professional cleaning. (I personally use If you do this, your dog will be less encouraged to return again and again to the same spot. Break the habit quickly, in every way that you can.

    Thanks again!

  2. Avatar Of Madison



    after I got off summer brake my dog sox started peeing all over the house. is it just cause he misses me?or is it just a new change to his body or what my mom is about to give him away he doesen’t be bad when where around .

    • Avatar Of Kathi



      My daughter is having a terrible time with her dog. He is crate trained during the day and has been since he was a puppy. I just moved into a new apartment and the dog is barking all day long and the apartment complex is complaining. She has tried thunder vest, Kong to keep them busy, a can wear out that she can talk to him. Nothing seems to be working I can’t even leave the house at this point. Any suggestions? Thank you

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