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The puppy stage is so fun and exciting, but it can be a total pain at times, especially when trying to house train your dog to potty outside. Some pups are just more difficult than others, but these methods will help you keep your sanity while housebreaking a tough-to-train dog.

When Dan had Ginger, she house trained herself and NEVER had an accident. Roxy wasn’t as easy, but she was still housebroken in a couple weeks. We had already decided not to get another puppy and focus on older rescue dogs, but…

Rico Happened!

When Rico was found, he was living in a box with 5 other puppies on the side of the road. He was extremely young and hadn’t learned about not pottying where he sleeps. House breaking a rescue dog was really difficult! Ri was a pretty fearful boy, which made total sense, given his rough start to life. He was afraid of loud noises and of the dark.

Our house backed up to a highway that was noisy pretty much all the time.There was one night shortly after his rescue where Rico WOULD. NOT. POTTY. Dan and I sat outside with him for over an hour trying to coax him to go potty. We finally took a break and all went inside, only for him to immediately pee then poop on the floor!

Another of Rico’s pre-potty training favorite moves was what I referred to as the fire hydrant. He would be out in the patio playing with Roxy (because he was too afraid to step into the yard except for the occasional potty-sesh) and they’d be running and chasing each other. All of a sudden they would get zoomies and dash around the living room when he’d start peeing while running!

Picture two crazy puppies zooming around, with one awkwardly spraying pee everywhere, me running after them trying to catch Rico and carry him outside, and Ginger just laying there like what the heck happened to my chill life?!? I even considered getting him a dog diaper for a while there! Thankfully, he did eventually learn the appropriate place to go to the bathroom was OUTSIDE, and stopped having accidents inside the house.

Consistency is Key In House Training

The most important part of house training a dog is consistency. Create a routine and stick to it so they know what to expect of each day. When R&R were puppies, we would wake up in the morning and immediately go potty, then after, I would feed them, then let them out again. Eventually once they were older I was able to drop the first potty session, but it set the foundation for when they were expected to go relieve themselves.

Use High Value Treats As Positive Reinforcement

The biggest help was using high-value treats and vocal praise. This will vary between dogs, but Rico’s love language was BACON! For months I made sure I always had bacon in the house, and would cook some up a few times a week then break it up into tiny pieces. Throughout the day, we would try to spend as much time in the yard as possible to make it less scary for Ri, and he would get a bit of bacon every time he went potty in the yard. He learned to look forward to going into the scary yard as it was worth it for his favorite bacon.

Consider Crate Training Your Puppy

Some dogs do fantastic with crate training and learn to view it as their safe spot in the house. This wasn’t the case with Rico; we figured it might have been a little too similar to his life in a box. Many dogs do great with a crate that is big enough for them to comfortably turn around and lay down, but not so large they have room to pee in a corner and still avoid it. This also has the benefit of keeping them from being destructive while you’re away, and can help soothe anxious dogs if introduced to it properly.

Don’t Yell or Get Angry at Your Dog

Trust me, I know how frustrating it is to have a tough to train dog, but getting angry, yelling, or rubbing their nose in it is definitely not the right course of action. It can actually have the opposite effect of causing them to have more frequent issues and escalating to hiding it so they don’t get in trouble. Patience is definitely key here, and you want to reinforce GOOD behavior, not highlight negative actions.

Have Good Cleaners On Hand

Often, when a dog has gone pee or poop in one spot, they associate that smell with the urge to go. A good enzyme cleaner can get rid of the smell and stop them from using that spot again. Nature’s Miracle Cleaner is highly recommended for breaking down the bacteria and getting out smells that entice them to keep going to the bathroom in the same area. We had tile floors, so these microfiber cloths were lifesavers! You could also use pee pads so they can be removed if used.

Train Your Dog To Use A Bell

It’s actually fairly easy to house train a dog to use a bell! Simply hang a bell from the door they use to go outside for bathroom time. Every time you open the door to take them out, give it a ring. You’ll then want to encourage them to push it with their nose to ring the bell so they associate that with going outside to potty. Eventually, they’ll be able to alert you when they need to go!

Be Patient, It Won’t Last Forever

Even though the puppy stage can be tough, it’s truly such a short period in their lives. You’ll look back and realize you all made it through! Did you have a dog who struggled? How did you handle it? Comment below!