We have had our puppy for about 6 weeks and have been unsuccessful at house-breaking him. We are at wit's end.

We have been doing strict crate-training for about 4 weeks now. It has worked to some degree - when he needs to go, he starts crying and whining in the crate, and he will immediately eliminate when taken outside. Even though he's young (16 weeks), he doesn't have accidents in the crate, and doesn't need to go out more than every 6 or 8 hours or so.

The problem is when we let him free in the house (which we only do after he pees and poos outside). After a variable amount of time (as little as 40 minutes) he eliminates in the house without giving any kind of warning. He seems to have reached the conclusion that going outside is mandatory, but going inside the house is optional and perfectly acceptable.

He is very smart, and we have trained him to do lots of other things -- play fetch, sit, stay, respond to his name, and to stop biting. It's just this house breaking thing that has been an issue.

UPDATE: It's been an additional 2-3 weeks since I posted the question. He finally seems to be learning that it is unacceptable to go in the house, although he's really bad at telling us that he needs to go outside (he just sort of starts glancing at the door). The bell hasn't worked for us since he considers it the world's greatest toy, and just wants to ring it constantly. But we will find another signal and finally get him house-trained. This was a long road.

A trainer told us that it takes as long for a dog to un-learn a bad behavior as he was allowed to exhibit it. So by her theory, since he was going in the house for about 3 weeks, the first 3 weeks of crate-training was just erasing, and getting us back to zero. That makes sense given how long we've had to spend doing the crate-training.

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    Ahem, 16 weeks is nothing. I think I know what I'm doing with dogs, and still our younger dog had accidents indoors for almost a year. It is a matter of his breed and personality, not only the proper training methods. Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 15:33
  • Are you cleaning up his indoor accidents thoroughly? We soaked them up with newspaper and then used an enzyme odor eliminator and that seemed to help. Bear was a feral rescue who we got at 5 months. It took us 6 weeks to get him on a leash, which mean that he had a lot to unlearn when we started walking him.
    – Amanda
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:05

2 Answers 2


Housebreaking doesn't work simply by putting a dog in his crate. There are things you need to work on even when the dog isn't inside his crate to make sure he learns where he can go and where he cant.

The first thing you have to realize is what you're doing is working. Your dog isn't broken, and your on the right track. Many people have similar issues, and it's going to take time (more than 6 weeks!) to housebreak your puppy. A few tips below:

  1. If he pees every 40 minutes, make sure to bring him outside every 39. There's really no way around this. If you suspect he's going to pee, bring him outside.
  2. Supervise and limit. The most important thing you do is to limit what areas of the house he has. My dog Bowser was restricted to the kitchen until he could master it. Then we started bringing him into the living room. Don't let your puppy leave the kitchen until he masters it. Use a dog gate like the one below if you don't feel like shutting doors.
    Dog gate
  3. Carpets are harder than floors. Once your puppy masters hard flooring, he's still not 100% housebroken. For a lot of pups, the carpet is confusing and takes a while to get used to. Put a rug that feels like carpet in his crate to get him used to it.
  4. Bring the pup outside after eating, drinking, playing, sleeping, training, chewing, running, etc... Also, once you bring him outside and he pees, bring him right back in. Don't let him think you were going outside for a walk and the pee was optional.
  5. When he pees inside, always make sure to catch him in the act. This is another reason why limiting his area is important. Catch him in the act, startle him with a stern no, immediately pick him up or leash him, and bring him outside. Once you catch him, he should be outside within 30 seconds -- no exception. While you take him out, have someone else clean the area with water and vinegar.
  6. Some find it useful to use a bell. Hang a bell by your backdoor and whenever you go outside for the puppy to eliminate, ring it. When you catch him in the act and bring him outside, ring it. Eventually he'll begin to ring it himself. Praise him when he does and make sure he goes out. If you don't want to buy a bell, grab some fabric and jingle bells and DIY.
    Jingle bell dog bell
  7. When you take the pup outside to go, you should be using a command. As the dog crouches to eliminate, repeatedly say something like "go to it," or "potty," until he's done. Praise afterwards. Eventually he'll associate the command with the action.

Remember to use praise when he goes outside. Good luck.

  • I think where we have failed is in catching him in the act, we probably have caught him less than 1% of the time. I just took him into the living room when I knew he had to go, and I had to watch him like a hawk, not take my eyes off him for a second. That's not practical for more than a few minutes at a time. Do you have a trick for catching a dog in the act? Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 7:14
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    This is a great answer... Especially and it's going to take time (more than 6 weeks!) to housebreak your puppy. But this whole answer is a great guide to house braking your puppy.
    – user9
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 18:17
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    Also, it seems from the way you commented that you're trying to catch him in the act instead of bringing him outside. The goal, really, is to hAve no accidents. Don't bring him in the living room if you know he has to go. Being him outside. Catching in the act is when he goes unexpectedly.
    – jeremy
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 22:53
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    And if you don't catch him immediately, bring him outside to be sure he's done and clean while he's outside. Don't try to show him that he did "a bad thing" and don't clean in front of him.
    – Cedric H.
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 7:19
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    @CedricH. Sounds right. Showing dog that he did a bad thing isn't effective; dogs don't have a good sense of cause & effect. If you show them you hate the mess, they'll know you hate the mess, but they won't know to stop making the mess. Instead of stopping to go in the house, after they do go in the house, they'll notice that there's a mess and prepare for angry people.
    – jeremy
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 14:43

I'd try spending more time outside when you first get him out of his crate. Some dogs learn to do their business as quickly as possible so that they hurry inside and do fun things, and as a result they might not completely "empty" themselves.

It's also time he started learning to take himself out when he feels the urge. If you happen to see him in the act, interrupt him, take him outside, and then give him time to finish his business and reward him when he does. This should help him to get the idea that toileting outside is a way cooler thing to do than toileting inside.

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