Dogs are instinctively clean animals. If they can avoid it, they would rather not soil themselves or their usual eating and sleeping areas. Dogs also naturally develop habits of where they would like to eliminate. For example, dogs that have a habit of eliminating on grass or dirt would rather not eliminate on concrete or gravel. You can use these natural tendencies for rapid and successful house training.
There are two things you can do to set your dog up for successful house training. First, establish your dog's living area (we will call it 'den' from here out) in a small confined space such as a bathroom, part of the kitchen or garage. Please note that a den is not a crate. See our article on crate training for more information on this. Try to spend as much time as possible with your dog in her den. It is important to play with her in this area as well as let her eat and sleep here. Give your dog a special bed; this can be anything from an open crate to a large cardboard box to a beach towel. In the beginning, she may eliminate in here but once she realizes that this is her special den, she will try to avoid soiling it.
Once your dog gets used to sleeping on her very own bed, you can move it around your house from room to room, where ever you go. Confine your dog to her bed when ever you are somewhere other than her den. If her bed is a crate, simply close the door. If her bed is a towel or blanket, place it next to a piece of furniture and leash your dog so she can't get out of her bed.
Since you should never leave your dog unattended while leashed, it's an even better idea to leash your dog to yourself! Tie one end of the leash around your waist or belt loop. Now your dog can accompany you around your home and you can monitor her behavior.
Second, establish your dog's toilet area. Every time your dog needs to eliminate be sure she has access to this place. Until she develops a strong habit of eliminating here, it is important that you accompany her every time. If she eliminates some where else, then she'll be establishing a habit of eliminating there.
To make things easier on both yourself and your dog, you should put your dog on a regular feeding schedule. What goes in on a regular schedule will come out on a regular schedule. If you know when your dog needs to empty out, then you'll know when to take her to her toilet area. Healthy adult dogs should be able to control their bladder and bowels for eight hours.
It's important that you do not confine your dog without access to her toilet area for too long. If she can't hold it, she will be forced to soil herself, her bed or her den. If this happens, it may become a habit and will take much longer to housetrain her.
Once your dog consistently eliminates in her toilet area and stops soiling her den, then you can start extending her den to the rest of your house. Begin by giving her access to one room at a time, but only when you know without a doubt that her bladder and bowels are completely empty. Let her eat, sleep and play in this room but only when she can be supervised. When you cannot supervise her, either confine her to her bed in that room, or put her back in her den. Once she accepts this room as an extension of her den, then go on to the next room.
If you follow the instructions so far, your dog will be house trained in due time. One way to speed up the process is to praise and reward your dog each and every time she eliminates in her toilet area. It is equally as important not to reprimand your dog for accidents and mistakes. Reprimand usually confuses the dog and slows down the house training process.
If your dog continues to soil her den, either you have left her there too long or the den may be too large an area for her. Take her to her toilet area more frequently or establish her den in an even smaller area.
If she soils her bed, then you probably confined her there too long and she couldn't help herself; or she doesn't understand yet that this is her bed. Urinary tract problems and medical conditions can also cause your dog to soil her bed while she is sleeping.
Some dogs drink excessive amounts of water out of boredom or habit and therefore have to urinate too frequently. If this is your dog, limit her water, take her to her toilet area more frequently and give her activities to do so she isn't bored.
If the den is not properly introduced, your dog may feel as if it is a prison and show signs of anxiety, barking, chewing, whining, etc. Make sure your dog enjoys being in her den.