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For dog owners who ask about housetraining a new puppy, crate training is frequently suggested as an important part of housetraining. The idea is that dogs won’t want to soil the crate that they view as a den; they’ll want to keep their sleeping area clean.

But what do you do when you get a puppy who soils her crate? Or you rescue an adult dog who has frequent accidents in the house?

In these cases, you should go back to the beginning and start over with housetraining and crate training. Follow these steps:

Assess your dog’s ability to “hold it”

As a first step, do an assessment of how well your dog can control his bladder and bowels when he’s not in the crate.  If you are at home on the weekend, how long does the dog go between trips outside?  How about at night? Does the dog sleep in the crate or in your room? Is the dog in the crate all day when you are at work? Is the soiling occurring during the night or when you are at work during the day?

Control your dog’s diet

Keeping your dog’s meal times consistent (as well as the type and amount of food) will help regulate the dog’s need for trips outside. Feed your dog at the same each day and refrain from a lot of extra treats and people food in between meals.

Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling

Several hours in a crate can exceed a puppy’s limit when it comes to bladder and bowel control. Beginning with taking your dog outside the first thing in the morning, schedule trips outside about every two hours including after every meal. Then, make a final trip outside at night before you go to bed. If you have a long workday, consider having someone come and take the dog outside for a mid-day break.


Exercise helps with housetraining. A short walk after meals or more active exercise in the morning can increase the likelihood that your dog will take care of his business outside.

When accidents happen

Clean the crate and any bedding so it is free of any scent from urine or feces. If you think your dog is stressed out when you are gone, consider leaving him with a safe, interactive toy.

Depending on the size and age of your dog and the length of time you will be gone, you could consider taking a break from the crate and use an exercise pen or a room secured by baby gates while you are gone.

Whatever you do, don’t punish your dog for accidents. Continue to give lots of praise and treats for a “job well done” outside.

Do you have any other tips for housetraining a rescue dog?

Find a dog trainer near your location and take the Canine Good Citizen test for your dog.
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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title.
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