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Brandon McMillan’s 8-Step Guide for Housebreaking a Dog

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 3, 2020 • 5 min read

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Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Proper dog training takes more than simply being a dog lover. As you set out on the adventure of training your dog, know that you are working with an animal whose origins are the wolves that still run wild across the world today. Getting dogs to do their business outside can be a challenge. With the help of the housetraining triangle—crate to outside to inside to crate again—you can get them housebroken in no time.



Brandon McMillan Teaches Dog TrainingBrandon McMillan Teaches Dog Training

Expert animal trainer Brandon McMillan teaches you his simple, effective training system to build trust and control with your dog.

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A Brief Introduction to Brandon McMillan

Brandon McMillan is a renowned animal trainer who has spent most of his life working with domesticated and wild animals. The Emmy Award-winning host of the critically acclaimed CBS series Lucky Dogs comes from a family of wild animal trainers—Brandon began helping raise tigers by the age of four. The animals he’s trained have appeared in countless television commercials and motion pictures, including the comedy blockbuster, The Hangover (2009). In 2016, the successful dog trainer released his first book, Lucky Dog Lessons: Train Your Dog in 7 Days. After spending a year training a service dog for an injured combat veteran, Brandon realized his calling was in training dogs to change people’s lives. To further his goals, Brandon co-founded the Argus Service Dog Foundation, an organization that trains service dogs to assist veterans with disabilities.

How Long Does it Take to Housebreak a Dog or Puppy?

The housebreaking process, sometimes called housebreaking or potty training, can take between three to five months for some dogs. However, all dogs are different in their specific experience, ages, and temperaments, so the duration of the process may vary depending on the dog or puppy. In the case of rescue dogs and dogs with potential trauma, the housetraining process can take up to a year.

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Brandon McMillan’s Guide to Housebreaking Your Dog or Puppy

You can begin to housetrain new puppies when they are as young as eight weeks. Getting puppies to follow common commands can be challenging for dog owners, especially when it comes to the housebreaking process. With the help of the housetraining triangle—crate to outside to inside to crate again—you can get your dog or puppy on a consistent bathroom schedule. Here’s a list of housetraining steps from successful dog trainer Brandon McMillan:

  1. Choose a crate. To housetrain your puppy or dog using the housetraining triangle, you’ll need to work on crate training—a process in which you teach your puppy or dog to see their crate as a safe and familiar place of their own. When choosing the right dog crate for your pup, size is key. If you choose one that’s too big, they’ll have the ability to do their business on one side and keep their sleeping area at the other end. Choose one that’s too small, and it will be uncomfortable. Select a crate that allows your puppy to stand up, circle around, and lie down comfortably. Once you get a crate that’s the proper size, make sure it’s inviting. Add some blankets—make it cozy.
  2. Choose the crate location. Place the crate by the door so that it’s easy for your dog to get outside for a bathroom break before they have an accident in the house. If you live in an apartment, place a pen around a puppy training pad, and use that as a substitute for the backyard. Potty pads are great for times when your puppy or dog needs a bathroom break but don’t have access to the outside grass.
  3. Introduce bathroom time. To housebreak a dog or puppy, take them outside to an appropriate spot for their bathroom break. Say a command, such as “do your business” or “go potty,” and wait for them to begin using the designated potty area. If they do, treat them heavily. In the future, make sure to leash them as soon as they leave the crate, and get them outside ASAP. Remember to use your command as they do their business and reward them for their good behavior with positive reinforcement.
  4. Provide playtime. After your dog’s successful bathroom break, bring them back inside for an hour of supervised free time. You’ll want to limit your puppy to one room when starting out, so baby gates, dog gates, and closed doors are a must here. This supervised play session allows you to keep an eye on them and prevent them from getting into too much trouble. Make this time fun: toys, attention, and so on.
  5. Get back to the crate. After an hour of free time during housetraining, return your dog to the crate for about three hours. After about three hours in the crate, it’s time to head back outside (or to the puppy pad) and repeat the process.
  6. Decrease crate time. As housetraining progresses, add about 15 to 20 minutes onto your dog’s free time, subtracting the new free time minutes from their crate time. Eventually, you may decide to end crate time altogether—and at that point, your dog is housetrained.
  7. Balance mealtime and bathroom time. During housetraining, you don’t need to alter your dog’s feeding schedule, but you will need to feed your dog in the crate, then immediately take them outside (eating gets their systems moving very fast). As a general rule, to decrease the chance of the puppy taking a bathroom break inside the house and not outside in their potty spot, stop giving your dog or puppy water at least two hours before bedtime. This will help prevent most nighttime accidents and save you from frequent trips to their potty spot in the middle of the night.
  8. Handle mistakes with care. Housetraining your puppy takes time and patience, so avoid scolding your pet if your puppy training methods don’t work the first time, and they end up soiling inside the house. There’s a simple and effective way to discourage them: Leash them to some kind of anchor—a chair, a table, a cinder block—near the soiled area, and leave them there for about 20 to 30 minutes. Dogs don’t want to hang around their own urine or stool. You can use a similar approach for adult dogs who mark their territories indoors.


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Want to Learn More About Training the Goodest Boy or Girl?

Your dream of having a dog who understands words like “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and—crucially—”no” is just a MasterClass All-Access Pass away. The only things you’ll need to train up a well-behaved pup are your laptop, a big bag of treats, and our exclusive instructional videos from superstar animal trainer Brandon McMillan.