The Best Way to Effectively Housebreak a Dog

Updated on July 20, 2019
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I have two dogs, a 7-year-old Lab and a 14-year-old Belgium Shepherd. Both are good indoors for 12 hours without an accident.


Are You Looking for a Reliable Housebreaking Method?

A recent experience brought to mind the question of housebreaking a dog and how many people don’t know how to do it. My daughter Sarah recently moved, and when the landlord came to inspect her apartment she said she smelled dog urine. My daughter took offense because her dog had been successfully “kennel broken." She told the woman sternly that her dog had never had an accident in the apartment.

It was true. She had been there for one year—and not once had she cleaned a dog mess. “You might smell dog, but you don’t smell pee!” Sarah firmly insisted. She was right. Chewie, her chocolate brown Labradoodle, is a perfect gentleman in all respects. He has never had an accident. All my kids grew up watching me crate break dogs. They are all great trainers in their own right, and I’m proud of them for it.

It’s a sad situation but there are people that shouldn’t have dogs. These are the people who will chain a dog to an outdoor doghouse that has straw bedding and maybe, if they’re lucky, a cloth flap over the doorway to keep out the winter wind.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have never had a thoroughly housebroken dog. Instead, they lay down paper or pee-pee pads where the dog is supposed to relieve itself. What can’t be ignored is the pungent odor of dog urine in their homes. The common practice of paper training is an old wives' tale. Pee-pee pads or training pads serve the same purpose as paper, which is to teach the dog to urinate and defecate in the house. A kennel broken dog will hold it purposefully because his instincts have been awakened and reinforced through kennel training.


How to Crate Train Your Dog

Animal training, no matter what kind of animal it is, has a common theme running through it and that is consistency. You must be timely and consistent if you want to succeed as a trainer. Your voice and body language must project authority. This is where some people part ways due to laziness or excuses about being too busy yadda, yadda, yadda. Their houses smell like dog urine and friends quit coming by. Or maybe not. A friend of mine had a Pekingese that would lay on the couch, casually jump off and relieve itself on the rug, then jump back up in the same spot.

What You Need to Effectively Housebreak a Dog

  1. A portable dog kennel just large enough for the puppy or adult dog to stand up and turn around in.
  2. A command: “Kennel!” in a stern voice.
  3. When the dog is in the house, the dog is in the kennel.

You can play with your pup indoors in a controlled confined environment for maybe 10 minutes when you bring him inside the house. Then, either pick the pup up or lead him by the collar to the door of the kennel and give the command, “Kennel!” in a stern voice at the same time putting him in the kennel and closing the door.

Be ready! You’ll meet with protests and resistance. At first, a new puppy is going to cry and older dogs may bark. Do not make eye contact. Pay no attention to him. Hold firm, and after a while he’ll get used to it.

Here’s where it gets curious: after a while, your dog will bond with his kennel. You won’t have to say “Kennel!” anymore but I urge you to reinforce the command and close the door for the first months. You may have to buy progressively larger kennels depending on the growth rate of your dog or puppy. At any rate, the kennel will become his security blanket. Use the kennel until the dog is fully grown; generally six months to a year.

When guests come over he’ll be most comfortable in his kennel which allows you, as a trainer, to socialize him to whatever degree of friendliness you want him to express to strangers (people not of your household). If you want a wary watchdog put the kennel in a laundry room or bedroom when entertaining guests and don’t allow the dog contact with strangers in your house.

Purpose of the "Kennel" Command

  1. It asserts your dominance (remember dog hierarchy demands a leader or alpha) by forcing the dog to comply with your command.
  2. It is a catalyst to other commands the dog will be learning in the future like, “Sit," "Stay," "Down," and "Heel."
  3. It puts in place a training protocol with the training voice you use (stern and serious).

Certain Dogs Cannot Be Housebroken

As the great dog trainer Jim Marti once said, “Unfortunately there are some dogs that must be eliminated.” By “eliminated” he meant eliminated from further training. I will say the same to you.

If your dog has a kennel that is just big enough for him to stand up and turn around in, and if he is taken outdoors in a timely manner, but he still proceeds to soil his kennel, there is something wrong with the dog. It’s either a health problem that is easily remedied with a visit to the vet, or he has separation anxiety or some other mental deficiency for which there is no cure. This marker tells you that the dog will never be housebroken or even be trainable. It’s time to get rid of the dog. As a rule, dogs will not soil their own beds. It’s a law of the wild that we are reinforcing with kennel training. By taking the dog from the kennel to the outdoors, and back and forth, we are teaching the dog that the house is his bed.

By adopting a new dog you have a responsibility to him and to yourself to have a companion animal that is relatively clean and easy to live with. The work you put into him will be exponentially returned in love, loyalty and compliance.

How long you keep the kennel as a fixture in your home is up to you as a trainer. My kennels have long been retired to the cellar as have my daughter’s. Some people keep them around for various reasons.

I have two dogs, a 7-year-old Lab and a 14-year-old Belgium Shepherd, and both are good indoors for 12 hours without an accident. I’ve never left them longer than that. My daughter’s 9-year-old Labradoodle is good for 8-9 hours daily without mishap. These dogs have been like this since they were six months old. Kennel training sticks in their bones. It is the only way to effectively housebreak a dog for life.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


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