Renting an Apartment and Having a Dog: Housetrain Your Dog in One Month

Guest Post by Jackie Phillips

How long can he currently hold himself between bathroom breaks?

Does he have a consistent diet and a consistent schedule?

Puppies and New Dogs

         Puppies and new dogs are always fun; they bring something new and exciting to the home. However, when puppies and adult dogs are brought into a new home, one of the first habits they need to be taught is housetraining.

         Puppies are different from older dogs because their bodies are brand new, their bladders are small, and they have not developed the ability or the knowledge of how to hold themselves for longer and longer periods of time. In addition, they don’t have the knowledge that they are supposed to go outside of your home to use the bathroom. They need to be taught these things, and it may take a few weeks of constant repetition and regular supervision before the puppy understands what is required. Until the puppy understands and learns these rules, they should be constantly supervised either by being confined to a crate, being on leash tied to you or being on a tiedown. The reason for the need for constant supervision is because if the dog makes a mistake and nobody is there to catch it and show it the correct location, the dog learns a bad habit of relieving themselves in the house. The base of solid and reliable housetraining is to not let the dog constantly make mistakes and form bad habits. If the dog is kept confined and always supervised during this critical time of housetraining then they form good habits of going outside and not inside the house. If you spend the time during this initial time in the new home, it will stay with the dog for the many years to follow that he is a member of the family.

         All members of the household should follow the above schedule religiously for at one solid month. If one person does not follow this plan, and allows the dog to relieve themselves inside the home, than the housetraining will take longer. It certainly can still be accomplished, but each time the dog is allowed to make a mistake in the home, at least five more correct actions have to occur for them to be effective in teaching the dog the correct place to use the restroom.

         Remember, also, to thoroughly clean each area of each mistake or else your dog will be drawn back to the area. If it is on carpet, first soak up all urine and remove all feces. Then apply a neutralizing enzyme spray to remove orders and stains. Nature’s Miracle is a common brand. Check your pet store for other brands. This product also has a soapy ingredient to help clean the area. I always follow that up with touch-up, spray-on carpet cleaner to make sure the area is thoroughly clean.

         Most of the steps used to housetrain a puppy still apply to any new dog in your home, even if it is not a puppy under six months of age. During the initial stage of newness, the new dog of any age should be 100% supervised. He or she needs to be taught the rules of the house. The length of time this training takes may vary, depending on the dog and consistency of your handling.

         One aspect of housetraining that is different with an adult dog compared to a puppy is that, physically, the more mature dog already has more strength, control, and experience with its bladder and its bowels. The majority of older dogs already have had some experience that there is a right and wrong place to use the bathroom. Even if the dog has always lived outside in a yard, he already knows that he doesn’t “go” in or near his doghouse or living area. He would have established some location away from his living space to urinate or defecate. You can use this same routine to train the dog for the inside. Instead of the dog figuring out for themselves where the proper place is, you teach him where it is. He will figure out what you want, if you make a distinct difference in the locations, and if you confine him during this learning period so he has less of a chance to make a mistake and more of a chance to be successful. Rather than correcting him when he makes a mistake, you teach him how to be successful! Your dog will thank you for that.

Using pads for housetraining.

       If your dog has to be left unattended in a bathroom or a kitchen, then Wee Wee pads or a similar product are preferred over newspapers. Although commonly used, newspapers are not recommended because it is too difficult for your dog to differentiate between the newspaper that happens to be lying on the floor and the one placed on the floor intended for the purpose of elimination. Wee Wee pads are distinctly different from anything your dog knows, so their purpose should easily be distinguished once your training has made it clear.

Housetraining your dog once he is adjusted to the crate

         As you are working to increase the time that the dog is in the crate, you are also working on increasing the time that the dog can control themselves in between each bathroom break. Slowly build up the dog’s control, hour by hour. After each crating period, take your dog outside to go to the bathroom. Taking your dog outside after returning home from work or school or even running errands your dog will learn that as soon as you get home, you will let him or her outside to eliminate. This consistency will increase your dog’s confidence in you; in addition, his or her motivation to have bladder and bowel control will increase as well.

You don’t want to use a crate to housetrain your dog.

       If you don’t want to use a crate, but you still need to housetrain your dog, you have some other options. Can your dog be left alone in a room or confined to a hallway without chewing or destroying the environment? If so, then you can create a dog safe environment for the dog to be in while you are gone. Some examples of a dog safe environment would be a bathroom, a laundry room, or a spare bedroom, provided chemicals and breakables have been put away. A hallway or the kitchen may also provide a dog-safe environment, if baby gates are used to secure your dog in that area. Slowly increase the time and distance that you are away from your dog in the confined area, and slowly build up the time that he or she can control elimination.

Eventually train your dog to be loose in your home without having any accidents

         Nobody wants their dog to be confined to a crate for the rest of their lives when they are gone. Most people want a dog that can reliably be loose in, at least, a room or a portion of the house. Many people want their dog to eventually be allowed free roam of their home when they are gone. This goal can be attained; however, there are many variables that can affect how long it takes to train your particular dog. Example of these variables would be: your dog’s individual personality, the consistency of the training by all humans involved, and how many animals are involved.

Dog proofing a room

         First, you must decide what you want. Where do you want the dog to stay when you are gone? Do you already have a designated place in your home? For example, for long periods of time, I had my young dog, Dino, stay in a crate, which doubled as his bed, in my bedroom, while my older dog, Scout, is reliable loose in the same “dog proof” room. A “dog proof” room means that your dog has no access to garbage, food, dirty laundry or my pillow. Scout likes to sleep on the bed, so she is very content to sleep there for hours. On the other hand, I can leave Dino alone with Scout in the same room only for short periods at this time, such as making a run to the laundry room or to take a shower. Since Dino wants to also sleep on the same bed as Scout does, and wants to play with Scout continuously, and because he is very toy possessive at this time, I am unable to leave him for long periods without the fear that a fight may occur over territory or over the “resources” that the bed and the toy provide. As he gets older, this may change.

         For your situation, look at your pet’s personality, age, maturity, past reliability in the home, behavior and desire or ability to be alone. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How has your dog been in the past?
  • Is there a history of chewing or destructiveness?
  • Does your dog have separation anxiety?
  • Does your dog feel more secure in a smaller, confined area?
  • Or is your dog comfortable loose in a larger area?

Suddenly your dog starts to eliminate inside when they have always been housetrained.

         First, please don’t assume that your dog is being mean, vindictive or punishing you in any way. Dogs do not have the ability to form such emotions, so it would be impossible for them to feel angry with you or seek to take revenge.

         Look at what is going on inside your dog’s life and any changes that may be occurring. Maybe you have a new pet in the house that could cause stress. Check if your dog’s schedule has become jumbled around, so they may be unsure or unclear of when they will be taken out. See if their food has changed, which may affect their ability to control themselves due to an unsettled stomach. Your dog does not need to be aware of some changes in order to be affected by them.

         If none of the above changes have occurred, it is best that you take the dog to their vet for a check-up. Medical problems might exist that are causing the dog to become incontinent. These problems may only be temporary problems, easily handled with a little behavior modification, behavioral or schedule adjustments on your part, or a prescribed medication to correct the physical problem or reduce the impact of the stress.

**This excerpt comes from my published book: “Renting with Rex: How You, Your Dog, Your Landlord and Your Neighbors Can All Thrive in Rental Housing.”

Since 1984 Jackie Phillips has been renting with dogs, cats, birds and rabbits in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. She lived in a wide variety of types and sizes of rentals. During these experiences, she has seen a wide variety of landlords, property owners, managers, roommates and rental agreements. She also volunteered and worked in shelters and have seen many animals surrendered to shelters because their owners were unable to find a place to live. Her main objective for this book is to prevent another animal from loosing their home.

You can visit her general website at You can reach her 24 hours a day at


Posted on November 15, 2011, in How To, Pets. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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