House Breaking & Potty Training
Rule Number One: HAVE PATIENCE
Rule Number Two: HAVE MORE PATIENCE
I have heard many absurd ways to house train a dog from rubbing their noses in the mess to throwing something at them when they begin to "go to the bathroom". This will only cause your dog to be afraid of you and have conflict with you.
I have found the most successful method to house train a dog is the use of a crate. The general concept behind crate training is that when a dog is placed in confined space, it will not go to the bathroom because it does not want to lay in its own waste. When the dog needs to relieve itself, it is taken out and brought to a specific area, such as the front or backyard, where it ends up "going to the bathroom". Dogs are creatures of habit and through repetition; the dog will learn that the appropriate place to go to the bathroom is outside.
A dog crate can be purchased at any pet store. There are numerous crate sizes available, so it is important that you purchase one that is appropriate for your dog. When using a crate to housebreak your dog, it is imperative that you use a crate that is only slightly bigger than the dog. Your dog should be able to turn its body in a full circle in the crate, however, the crate should not be so big that the dog can go to the bathroom on one end of the crate and lay down on the other end. If you have a puppy that will grow into a very large dog and only want to purchase one large crate, partition inside the crate with something like boxes to limit the amount of free space available to the pup.
Most dogs tend go to the bathroom after drinking water, eating food, sleeping, or playing. Place the dog in the crate after it has done one of these things. After a little while, you'll hear the dog whine and maybe even scratch at the crate door. At this time, put the dog on a leash and quickly take it outside. Make sure you have a treat ready. As soon as the dog relieves himself, say "Go potty," or whatever your command you wish to use, and give the dog a treat. After a little while, your dog will begin to relieve himself on command.
If you take your dog outside and it does not relieve itself after a couple minutes, go back inside, put it back in the crate, and wait a little longer. An initial refusal to go to the bathroom is something you may occasionally encounter, for example, if the dog does not like the rain and will try to avoid going to the bathroom outside when it is raining.
Very young puppies can only hold their urine for about 30 - 45 minutes during the day due to the fact that their bladders are very small. As they get older, dogs can begin to hold it for longer periods of time. So if you have a young puppy and keep it indoors, be ready to take it outside to go to the bathroom once or twice every hour. To decrease the need for a puppy to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, do no give it food or water after approximately 7pm and take it outside to relieve itself right before you go to sleep.
Housebreaking takes a lot of time and patience. It may take up to 9 months of training for some dogs to be 100% housebroken. When I say "100% house broken", I am referring to a dog never having a single accident in your home unless it is sick, and knowing that is not supposed to urinate or have a bowel movement in any indoor facility (someone else's home, the pet store, etc.).