House Training CPR

by Deb Duncan

The CPR of housetraining means CONSISTENCY, PATIENCE, & ROUTINE! Granted, many owners feel THEY need real CPR when their beloved baby has an accident on their new carpet. Regardless of the age of your carpeting, housebreaking is a crucial need for ALL owners who share their home with a furry canine.

Most of my comments will address "puppy" housebreaking. However, keep in mind that the philosophies, theories, and fundamentals presented cross age barriers & will apply to most HOUSETRAINING situations.

If you have children, you already have the most necessary information & don't even know it! HOUSETRAINING your puppy/dog directly correlates to potty training a toddler. You must be consistent and patient. You must use a routine to help you achieve the end result.

There are specific times that the dogs WILL absolutely need to go potty. The times you can COUNT on include:

  • within 10 min.of eating, they will have to urinate.
  • within 30-45 min. of eating, they will probably have a bowel movement.
  • within 5-10 min. of drinking water, they will have to urinate.
  • during play sessions (with you, another dog, or by themselves), puppies will have to urinate approximately every 10 min. You better watch the clock, because this will occur. As the puppy matures, this time frame will increase accordingly. During play, the dogs are just like children, they forget...until too late. They play hard, & suddenly, they will stop, take 2 steps & squat!!!!
  • immediately upon "waking" (night sleep or day nap), they will have to go urinate.They may not be able to make it to the door & you may need to carry them.

What can you do? Be ever vigilant of these scenarios & react appropriately...get your dog outside! If they have an accident in one of these situations ... it is your fault, not theirs.

Some additional suggestions will help. Set up an exercise pen or buy some galvanized wire to create a pen in the yard. This pen should be 4'x4' to 6'x6' in size. Place this pen where it is easily accessible to you ... right off the edge of the patio, for example. Using a confined & defined potty area serves multiple purposes. It will help the dog learn they should go potty in a specific area & on command. One common problem facing many owners is the dog goes into the yard & as soon as they come back into the house...they potty in the house. This situation is brought about because the dog gets so excited & involved in the "stimulus" of their yard ... they forget to do their business. When they come back into the house, the stimulus level immediately diminishes ... result, the dog realizes ... I need to go potty & they do!

If you teach them to use their pen, they will do their business & then, they can go play in the yard. Now, when they have been playing in the yard ... they will need to go back in their pen right before you bring them into the house. The playing will have stimulated their system & they will need to go again. Initially, when using the pen ... you need to stay with them & encourage them verbally to go potty. As soon as they do, praise them & have a treat to give them as a reward.

It is crucial that you be patient when they are in the pen. If you get upset or irritated & demand they go potty, NOW ... this stress will lock them up. Again, this is just like children. Right before we leave for a trip, we will demand a child relieve themself & they just can't. So, we turn on the water to help them. You do not have this tool at your disposal with the dogs. Rather, you will be creating a "no win" situation for the dog.

Every owner should use crate training as an aid to housebreaking. This is for the benefit of the dog (& you). If they are loose in your house when you are gone ... they will have an accident during the housetraining period. Every accident you allow to occur is reinforcing the "wrong" behavior & making the desired behavior more difficult to secure & lock in!

Just as you would with a child, remove the dog's water about an hour before going to bed. Do not allow your puppy or unhousebroken older dog access to areas in your house where you cannot keep an eye on them (this is true for chewing, as well).

If you do not CATCH them in the act ... DO NOT SCOLD THEM!!!!! When dogs go potty, they are doing what comes naturally ... nature calls. Initially, they do not understand the ground rules. Inside vs. outside is a foreign concept ... they have to go ... so they do! It is up to YOU to teach them that outside is desired & inside is not acceptable. If they have an accident & you do not see them do it ... do not scold & do not let them see you clean it up. Note: Scolding is verbal. Spanking or other physical methods do NO good at all.

If you catch them in the act or immediately after (walking away), DO SCOLD them, show them the problem, further scold them ... BUT THEN, as you take them to the door to go outside ... BE HAPPY & EXCITED!!!! This means "let's go outside, let's go potty". If you continue to SCOLD them all the way to the door & as you put them outside ... SCOLD "you get out there & do your business!!!!!" Well, you have just told them that "inside" is bad & "outside" is bad. So, where in the heck are they suppose to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!

These elements are ALL reliant on YOUR consistency, patience, & routine!!!!

Also, you can train dogs to "RING THEM BELLS" to go outside. This is a 3-tier process. Go to a craft store & buy 2 large (2" diameter) bells. Tie them to a long shoestring about 4" to 6" apart. Use the larger bells so, if the dog happens to chew one off...they cannot swallow it. Put a nail in the wall, right by the door, & hang the bell strand. EVERYTIME ... & I do mean EVERYTIME you open that door & the dog is going to go out (whether with you or to be out in their pen), YOU ring the bells. Do it moderately, you don't want to "scare" the dog. When you ring the bells, say ... "outside, go potty, outside".

Within a short period of time, the dog will understand that the bells mean I get mom's or dad's attention & the door opens! The next tier of behavior will be:

The dog will "ring them bells" every 5 minutes. WARNING ... this will drive you insane. But, you must be consistent, patient, & follow the routine. So, you must take the dog out EVERYTIME they ring the bells. This will not go on for more than a day or two. The real key is that you must NEVER lose patience during this phase ... you must react positively & reinforce the "outside" behavior. Consistency & patience at this point will be very demanding on you, BUT, your efforts at this phase will garner phenomenal results.

The next tier of behavior will be ... the dog will go to ring the bells, move their nose or paw toward the bells & STOP before they ring the bells. You will almost hear their thought processes. Hmmm, ring bells ... get mom's attention, ring bells ... go outside ... hmmmm, I don't really have to go potty ... I don't think I will ring the bells. At this point ... you are home free!!!!!

An unexpected & phenomenal result of this mental process in your dog is ... they will realize they can COMMUNICATE with you & you understand & you respond!!! You will see them begin to build on this "communication" avenue open to them. This will enrich yours & their lives!!!!

Much luck to you all!


Any information contained on this site relating to training and behavior of Westies is for informational purposes only. The WHWTCA recommends that Westies undergo obedience training. For assistance in locating an obedience training club in your area, please consult the American Kennel Club's website at

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