Please note: this small dog housetraining information was sent in by an Animal World listener and was not written by Martha. We provide it here because it does seem to work with toy dogs and has helped save some dog's lives. Martha stresses that there are other options. For additional help, you may contact her at or phone her at (206) 525-2016.
Housetraining the Toy or Miniature Dog or Pup

Toy and miniature dogs are the most difficult to housebreak. There are many reasons for this. One is that in the developing of the tiny breeds, people did not control for the denning instinct. They controlled for size, coat length, color, etc., but not for the denning instinct.Therefore, for some toy dogs, housebreaking is difficult. Another reason toy dogs don't get the idea easily is that they don't consider their house their den. They consider it their whole world. So it is easy for them to simply go to another part of their world (the house), usually out of everyone's sight, and eliminate. To the larger dog the house is the den and they instinctively choose to wait to go outside to eliminate.

For toy and miniature dogs and pups there is usually no alternative but to crate them in order to housebreak them.The program for housebreaking is as follows:

PERIOD 1 (Week 1 through 4) — 4 weeks:
For 4 weeks the pup or dog is crated, in your
lap, or outside. His feet are not to touch the floor of the house for this four week period. Take him out to eliminate every 3 or 4 hours; not more often. If you take him out too often two things happen. One is he doesn't learn to hold it. The other is he won't need to eliminate that often. If you wait three or four hours chances are that he will feel the need to eliminate and will act on that need the moment he is let out. He can stay out as long as you like.

When he comes back in, he goes into the crate unless you choose to hold him for a while. Plan to give him a very tiny piece of cheese each time he eliminates. Make sure the treat is given to him outside the instant he eliminates. If you give him his treat after coming back into the house, he will think he is being treated for coming into the house — not for eliminating. Then, bring him in and hold him a few minutes if you like before he is crated again.

At night, do NOT take him out during normal sleeping hours. He will eliminate in his crate if he must. As soon as he is able he will hold it all night. This lesson may never be learned if he is taken out in the middle of the night.

During this period, any area of the house that the pup used for eliminating must be deodorized. This is the period where he will not be on the floor in the house. The best product I have found for this is called Odormate. It is a powder which, when directions are followed, works well. If you cannot find this product consult your pet shop for a reliable substitute. Vinegar and many other products sold for this purpose do not kill the odor for the dog.

PERIOD 2 (Weeks 5 and 6) — 2 weeks:
When you are able to be with the dog, he can be out of the crate on a leash, dragging it everywhere he goes, IN YOUR SIGHT. When you can't watch him, he is crated. Also crate him at night, as usual.During weeks 5 and 6 every other evening before going to bed spray lightly with a good dog repellent any area the pup used to have accidents.

The best product I have found for this is called "Whitmire Indoor Dog Away." This product is different from the deodorizer.The deodorizer kills odors. The repellent creates an odor that is offensive to the dog so that he will tend to avoid areas where he was in the habit of eliminating. The repellent odor does not linger in a way that people are aware of its presence. This product will tend to make the dog's old favorite spots for elimination repellent to him. Consult your pet shop for the above mentioned product or a satisfactory substitute. It will prevent the pup from rekindling an old habit.

During this two-week period, because the pup is ALWAYS in your sight, you will be present if he should decide to eliminate. If you catch him in the act, use the cans to correct him (see section on the use of throw cans). Do NOT stick his nose in it. Do NOT react at all if you do not catch him in the act. Five seconds AFTER the fact it is too late to discipline.Chances of your dog eliminating in the house at this stage of this housebreaking program are remote but don't be surprised if you catch him once or twice.

PERIOD 3 (Weeks 7 and 8) — 2 weeks:
Your dog can be out of his crate when you are home, dragging his leash anywhere he wants. You no longer need to be present. When you leave home and at night, crate him. Continue to see that he gets outside every 3 or 4 hours.

PERIOD 4 (Weeks 9 and 10) — 2 weeks:
He is OFF leash IN YOUR SIGHT. He is crated when you are gone. He can be on leash out of his crate at night tied in the area where you want him to sleep. Or, he can sleep in his crate indefinitely. By this time, your dog will be going voluntarily to his crate when he wants security.

PERIOD 5 (Weeks 11 and 12) — 2 weeks:
Your dog is off leash and free now in and out of your sight. He is still crated when you are gone. He is on leash at night but not necessarily tied. He is still crated when you leave homeAfter this twelve-week period your dog will be ready to be free.

Tips for housebreaking your Dog:

This regimen may at first, seem rather cold and Spartan to someone who is training a new, cuddly, toy puppy. Some people might also think that it seems "too long," or will be "too difficult."However, when you are finally rewarded with a dog that is trustworthy in your home, and when you consider the many years of companionship you will have with your pet, 12 weeks is not a very long time!!

Ten tips that should make your housebreaking program go more smoothly are as follows:

1 Yes, those first four weeks when the dog is not allowed to touch the floor of the house could be very lonely for him/her, but you can make them more enjoyable. You can play with the dog outside as much as you like. You can take him for walks in your neighborhood or to a park (therefore, getting him used to the leash.) When you are comfortable that your dog has recently eliminated outside and not likely to have an accident, you can hold him on your lap or let him cuddle up beside you while you watch TV or sew, or write letters, etc. Naturally, the more time you spend with him, the less isolated he will feel. BUT, DO NOT ALLOW HIM DOWN ON THE FLOOR DURING THE FIRST FOUR WEEKS; AND ANY TIME YOU CANNOT WATCH HIM, CRATE HIM! If you are distracted by a phone call, visitor, chores, etc., the crate is your best friend! You can be flexible while still following the rules of this program. For instance, though the rules state that the dog should only be taken out every three or four hours, you must see that your dog gets outside first thing upon awakening in the morning, after meals, after naps, and at bedtime, no matter when he has last been out.

2. During periods 2, 3, and 4, when you are comfortable that your dog has recently eliminated outside and not likely to have an accident, you may leash him to your chair or in a small bed close by while you are watching TV or relaxing so that he can be out of the crate, but still under your supervision. A light foam rubber bed with a washable fleece cover is cozy, inexpensive, and easily moved from room to room. This bed can also be used later on, when your dog is completely trustworthy, as his permanent sleeping place if you choose to discontinue using the crate.

3. Be alert and watch for signs that will signal you that you must get your dog outside quickly ­ restlessness, sniffing the floor a lot, circling a particular spot, walking in the direction of the door, etc., especially after a meal or after a nap.

4. Do not shorten the length of time in any of the periods of this training program. If anything, you may have to lengthen the time of some of them. If the training period is disrupted due to a dog's illness or having to spend a few days at the vet for spaying or neutering, when the dog returns home, he may be confused or disoriented; so return to period 1 or 2 for a week or two, if you feel he has forgotten previous training. Remember, just as with human children, each dog is individual in reaching the age at which he will be able to grasp the concept of appropriate elimination. Lengthening any of the training periods will not hurt your dog at all, and will reinforce what he has learned until he is ready to progress to the next period. Many toy dogs will not be ready for complete freedom in the house until they are about a year old — some not until a year and a half, no matter how good your training program has been, so continue to supervise, and crate when you are away or at night when you are sleeping. Remember, this training program is a wonderful guide; but you may have to adjust it to fit your pet's needs.

5. If your dog has completed the training program and has been eliminating appropriately, and then suddenly has an accident, try this: Many of the toys are very nervous and sensitive by nature, and if severely scolded may become too frightened to respond to you. So, do not scold the dog ­ scold the spot where you discover the accident.. Stand over the spot and in a stern voice make a big fuss about what a "bad, bad potty" this is — point to the spot and wave your arms in an animated motion to show how displeased you are. Let the dog see you do this. The dog will get the message that you are displeased with the accident, but not with him. Then take him outside to where he usually eliminates and tell him this is where we do the "good potty." Speak in soothing and happy tones while explaining to him that this is where he must eliminate. Believe it or not, this usually works! Your dog may have more than one accident; if so, repeat these same steps. If the accidents continue despite your efforts, have your dog checked by a vet ­ he may have a physical problem that is causing his lack of control. If the vet can find no problem, then go back to period one or two, and progress through the training program again. Your dog may just not have reached the level of maturity he needs to completely grasp the housebreaking program. In the end, your patience and diligence will reward you and your dog with a happy, stress-free relationship.

6. Your dog's diet during his housebreaking program is of the utmost importance ­ one cannot work without the other! A well-balanced, nutritional food is a must, and your dog must be kept on a strict feeding schedule. You must feed him at the same time, same food every day to keep him regular. Do not give any in-between-meal snacks during this housebreaking program except for the small piece of cheese you will reward him with each time he eliminates in an appropriate spot! A dog who develops diarrhea or an upset stomach due to inappropriate foods that he is not used to will not be able to "hold it" until he is taken outside!

7. Also, do not forget to praise your dog each time he appropriately eliminates. He will love the little peice of cheese he gets for his good behavior, but it is even more important that he know how pleased you are with him. Make a big fuss over him and let him know by your voice and body language how good you think he is.

8. You will find it most helpful to use a calendar so that you can easily keep track of the number of days in each period of this program. This will be an enjoyable experience, as you can check off each day that your dog did not have an accident - each day without an accident is a victory for you and your dog. You will find your self celebrating each time your dog moves to the next period and is able to gain more freedom!

9. Do not be deterred from completing this program by well-meaning friends and/or relatives who think they know better than you how to train your dog. Many people are uneducated about crating, think that it is cruel, and do not realize that it provides the dog with a secure, comfortable place that he will try not to soil; the crate will aid in your housebreaking program, and hasten the arrival of the day when your dog will be able to have complete freedom in your home. In addition to being an invaluable element in your housebreaking program, your dog's crate is a safe place for him to stay when he cannot be supervised. While he is safely confined to his crate, he cannot destroy expensive furniture, chew on electrical wires and other dangerous objects, or escape out a door that has been carelessly left open, to be lost, stolen, or injured in the outside world.

10. Finally, to complete your dog's education, a basic obedience class will do wonders to improve your relationship with your dog, and will also aid in housebreaking. In doing obedience exercises with your dog, he will come to want to please you and realize that you are the "leader;" this eagerness to please will extend to the housebreaking program as well.


All the same rules apply above except that it will be expected that the young pup wil have an accident or two while you are gone. As the pup matures he will hold it as soon as he is able for the 8 or 9 hours. Some pups can do this at 3 months of age. Almost all pups can hold it 8 hours by 5 months of age.


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