Housebreaking Your Dog: Step By Step Process… - Brandon McMillan's Canine Minded
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Housebreaking Your Dog: Step By Step Process…

Housebreaking Your Dog: Step By Step Process…

Of all the methods there is to housebreak a dog, one of the ways I find most effective is crate training. Many people complain to me how their dog simply won’t learn to go outside so here’s a simple 3 part process I use that can get even the worst dogs house trained in 2 weeks or less. I call it the “House Training Triangle.” This method is very easy and effective if followed correctly. The reason I like this system is because it teaches the dog to hold it and understand what they’re doing right when they do go outside. Many people don’t use crates when housebreaking and just take their dog out every hour which is totally fine if that works for them. I just find that this method prevents accidents in the house. The more accidents your dog has in the house the more that floor smells and the more normal it feels to the dog to mess inside. Furthermore the more accidents they have the more reprimanding they’ll get and you don’t want to start your new dogs life off with too much negativity.

First thing’s first, you’ll need a crate. You don’t want to get one too small because it’ll be uncomfortable. Furthermore you don’t want to get one too big because they’ll walk to one side of the crate, do their business and lay back down on the other side. You goal is to get a crate just a little larger than the dog height, length and width wise. If you’re planning on continuing to use the crate for different reasons after the housebreaking is finished then I’d recommend getting a larger crate with the divider inside. This way you can make the area larger and smaller as needed. Now let’s break down the process on how I do this…

Step 1. Dog sleeps in crate at night. First thing in the morning take the dog out of the crate and go DIRECTLY outside. DO NOT let the dog out and roam even for 10 seconds. They WILL have to go and your floor will be the victim. Nothing worse than starting your day with cleaning pee off your favorite area rug. I’d recommend either picking them up or attaching them to a leash to take them outside. This will ensure they won’t go on your floors on the way out the door. Remember prevention is the goal here.

Step 2. Now you’re outside wait them out and say your command. I say “Get Busy”, you might say something else. Whatever it may be say it every few seconds and simply wait them out. They WILL have to go because they’ve been holding it in that crate. Once you see them doing they’re business repeat the command once more, heavily praise them and give them a treat after. Once they’ve done their business outside (preferably both) they can go back inside the house.

Step 3. Now they’ve done what we want they’ve earned supervised and I mean SUPERVISED free time in the house. This will allow you to quickly catch your dog in the act if they happen to have an accident in the house. If they happen to mess in another room and you find it 2 hours later you may as well just clean it up and let the dog be because reprimanding after the fact is completely pointless. I’d recommend a baby gate to block off other rooms in the house or just simply shut all doors. You don’t want the dog out of your sight for too long or they can quickly find trouble. Big dogs and little dogs require different lengths of free time in the house. Big dogs can stay out for much longer as they can hold it for longer. Smaller dogs need quicker turnarounds so maybe 1-2 hours free time at first with a smaller dog and 2-3 hours for larger dogs. After they get their free time in the house we put them back in the crate for about the same amount of time as their free time. If they got 2 hours free time then we put them back in the crate for the same length of time.

Notice they’re right back in the crate where they started hence the term “House Training Triangle.” This is the 3 part process that’s repeated throughout the day for the next couple of weeks. They go from the: Crate to the Outside to the Free Time in House. There are several tweaks you’ll make in this process over the next 2 weeks. Every day your goal is to eliminate a little crate time and add a little free time in the house. So on day 1 if they spent 3 hours in the crate and 3 hours free time in the house you’ll take off 15 minutes in the crate the next day and add that to free time. By the end of the 2 weeks your dog should be spending 30 minutes in that crate and 5-6 hours free time in the house till eventually the crate is eliminated completely. Another thing I’d recommend is to feed them in the crate about 10 minutes before you take them outside to do their business. Much like us their systems get moving pretty quickly after they eat and if timed correctly you can save yourself a lot of cleanup.

And one more thing to keep in mind is to give the dog something fun to do in the crate. Toys, chews, comfortable blankets etc. The crate isn’t supposed to be a dungeon, but a place to learn and have a positive experience. Everything I teach a dog in life I try and give it as positive of an experience as possible because I want them to learn the correct way and look at me as not only a teacher but a friend. Ruff.



  • Deanna McClendon
    Posted at 02:45h, 10 June Reply

    Just wondering if going back to sleeping in the crate is necessary? I have two Maltipoo Yorkies mix sisters. They sleep with me at night and never have morning accidents. However, Remmi is a barker and will bark during the day to alert us that her sister, Betsy needs to go out. She will not however bark to alert us of her own need. She will go out when Betsy goes out and I will shoo her into the yard to potty and sometimes she goes others she refuses (15 mins). She then comes in and sneaks to go. This isn’t all the time and I can’t tell what triggers it as I can tell she understands. Could I skip the sleeping in the crate and just use the crate during the day?

    Thanks and I totally understand if you can’t respond. Live the show by the way and watch it each week.

    D. Mc

  • April
    Posted at 05:26h, 21 August Reply

    After the going out and play time, part way through the set time in the crate, my puppies starts making a lot of noise. Should I take her out, or wait out the time?

    • Lucas
      Posted at 04:04h, 19 February Reply

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  • Mat
    Posted at 00:20h, 18 January Reply

    Does this work for older dogs? I cannot get my dogs to quit doing there business inside.

    • Riliewu
      Posted at 20:28h, 10 May Reply

      2) When I take him outside he gets eaisly distracted and starts eating unwanted things.. is there any way I can make him stop that?3) Can please teach me how to make him bend on his front feet while continue to stand on the hind feet more like a BOW DOWN trick?4) I saw your neat tricks with collies, like jumping on your back and standing still can you make a few vids on complex tricks too?Hope to hear from you,Thanks a lot!

    • Carol Conway
      Posted at 17:49h, 05 July Reply

      Mat 23 pound doxie that is overweight and he’s 8 years old…When I was working 4 to 5 hours a day as a server .. I would come home from work and most of the time he held it and if he did go he went on the puppy pad…I have been disabled for 4 years.. Had 5 surgeries.. right kneebot shoulders letft one 3 times.. Had my left one done 10 year my back is out and can’t even go out to eat..Only the doctors and physical therapy…. Other than than that I’m trapped in the hose.. When I got my knee and shoulders done I was able to go out with my caregiver .. about 3 or 4 times a month….She works here 7 days a week 3 and half hours a day.. Cleaning up after the dog and cat is not her job it’s mine.. My dog Barney when l was working he wasn’t in his kennel and he ha hardly any accidents.. Now that he’s home He goes where ever he pleases….. Most of he time he goes on The floor.. At least it’s not on the rug..I started crate training yesterday and was taking him out every hour…. thought he was doing real well .. until I went to the throw rug.. and u guessed I .. Peed on the rug..I don’t understand about him being smelly.. u would think he would go when I was working..I went out to water the flowers this am and only out 15.,min.. when he went on the rug.. The time he went on the rug has to be when I went out .. He goes by the garbage can….I have a baby gate.. that I put out at the start of the the kitchen..Help.. I was told that doxies were hard to train.. And being a senior makes it harder not impossible.. I let him have free time now foronly 45 minutes.. and he goes straight from the kennel to outside and I give him his favorite Treat Give him lots and lots of praise.. Then he stays out of his kennel only 45 minutes.. that just started today.. because he went on the throw rug..I really need help…. I watch your show all the time..Love it.. I started filling a empty water bottle and put about 3.00 dollars worth of coins because bark like crazy awful..It helps a lot…. .. also my dog is a rescue and got him at 12 weeks.. My friend tried to come to the door and he was in a horrible red zone.. We tried the money in the water bottle but that didn’t do anything..Scared both of us.. He’s tied on a leash and it’s long enough so he doesn’t go on the sidewalk or the neighbors don’t door.. He like my worker but not when he’s on leash.. When I started this I was only going to put 1 thing but these other things kept up.. Please any suggestions you have…..

  • Heidi
    Posted at 16:30h, 31 January Reply

    It doesn’t mention what to do if your dog will not go to the bathroom when you take him out. Should you put him back in the crate and start the time over? My little guy will hold it a VERY long time and then have an accident in the house- not in his crate! Also if he does have an accident should they go back in the crate to start the triangle again, even though it will be a while until they have to go again?
    Thanks so much!

    • Natkaps
      Posted at 17:24h, 30 January Reply

      From reading other websites, I think that if your dog doesn’t “go” when you take him outside, you simply put him back in the crate (with no free time) for 15-20 minutes and try taking him out again. If he doesn’t “go” again, just repeat until he does.

  • Kristina
    Posted at 02:46h, 05 February Reply

    How can you do the triangle training if your puppy is in a crate all day because you work? This is the biggest struggle we are having. I feel so terrible putting him (3 month old golden doodle) in the play yard, when he’s been locked up all day.

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  • Gail Batson
    Posted at 19:14h, 15 November Reply

    What if your dog’s are 3 years old?

  • Amy
    Posted at 15:51h, 04 January Reply

    Brandon my dog Rambo is housebroken but I want him to use a potty training Rambo doesn’t like the rain so we got him a potty trainer to go on our patio so he won’t get wet I put some poop on it and he still won’t use it
    Thank you amy

  • Marking
    Posted at 17:50h, 14 February Reply

    Any tips on eliminating marking? I know that house training and marking are two different things. We adopted a Chihuahua (Arlo) almost two years ago. We have no idea how old he. I am guessing at least 5 or 6. He was a challenge when we first got him (He lives on the streets and went through a few different foster homes). Since then he has really adapted well and is a great dog (I like to say he is as normal as he is going to get.). There is one behavior though – the marking – that we have not been able to fix. I write the story that it happens when he is feeling overly excited (we are doing work outside and he sees us) or ignored. He’s a little guy ( 5.4 lbs) and very stealthy. I’d love any advice. Love your show. Evan.

  • Jenn Boultbee
    Posted at 12:33h, 29 August Reply

    My 3 month old corgi puppy has a very small crate that he sleeps in at night. We cut his water access off at 7pm and yet he still pees in his crate and lays in it. He does not care that his home is a bathroom. What do I do too break him of this nasty habit? I’d love to one day give him freedom but that won’t happen until his bed wetting ceases.

  • Raychal Hines
    Posted at 14:35h, 17 February Reply

    Do you take them out during free time and crate time as well? That seems like a long time for a puppy to hold it if they have to go. Thanks!

  • Emily Morgan
    Posted at 09:36h, 28 March Reply

    My dog only sleeps with me on my bed. One night i put him down from bed and he does not sleep all and stare at me until i pick him up. My dog loves me a lot and i love him too. He goes to toilet himself and i have fix a special toilet seat for him so that he does not face any difficulty.
    Well, thank you for this useful story but my dog is already very obedient.

  • Amelia State
    Posted at 19:48h, 22 April Reply

    We are using a crate, but we have a puppy that will do his business in his crate immediately after having been outside. We cannot give our pup any free time at all because he does not want to do his business outside. What do we do?

  • Bridgette Young
    Posted at 20:00h, 03 June Reply

    I noticed you mentioned to not scorn going in the house if not witnessed, but do you have recommendations on what to do if the puppy goes in the house and is witnessed? Thanks!

  • Courtney Miller
    Posted at 13:44h, 23 August Reply

    How can you do the triangle training if your puppy is in a crate all day because you work(10hrs including commute to work and while I am at work 6a-4p)? This is the biggest struggle we are having. I feel so terrible putting her (2 month old lab) in the crate that long without going potty since we don’t have anyon that can let her out.

  • Courtney Miller
    Posted at 13:45h, 23 August Reply

    How can you do the triangle training if your puppy is in a crate all day because you work(10hrs including commute to work and while I am at work 6a-4p)? This is the biggest struggle we are having. I feel so terrible putting her (2 month old lab) in the crate that long without going potty since we don’t have anyon that can let her out.

  • Laurie
    Posted at 22:37h, 06 January Reply

    This sounds exactly like The Happy Dog method. There is a book that goes with it. Needless to say we’re still struggling although she is only 10 weeks

  • Shelli Sandrew
    Posted at 17:53h, 28 January Reply

    Hi Brandon. We have a relatively new cocker spaniel puppy 4.5 months. I bought your book and am using it as a guide. Been awhile since I trained a puppy and we used to use paper training first which I chose not to do even though we live in the cold northeast. Right now I put him on a leash and take him in the backyard as he has not had his last shots. The problem I have is that while he is good about urinating when he first gets outside, there are times I know he needs to poop but he is to busy sniffing everything, grabbing sticks or leaves, etc. I stay outside for awhile but then I bring him in because he does not seem interested in pooping. Of course, he does end up doing it in the house. He is great first thing in the morning. I take him out of his crate and we go directly outside where he pees and poops immediately. He then is ready to go inside for breakfast. We recently had some snow and it was great in that I could just let him out on the deck and he would do his thing there on the snow. He did not run off as he is afraid to go downstairs still. I was wondering if we should try your technique in using the caging and a piece of turf and if so, where do you get that. Thanks in advance for your help.

  • Toni Uzzetta
    Posted at 14:46h, 07 March Reply

    In the morning when your puppy 9 weeks wake up we take him out then do we feed him right away. How does this all work in to the triangle. Feeding and watering. Help

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