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How to House Break a Dog From a Puppy Mill

| Updated September 26, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Confined area

  • Treats

  • Enzymatic cleaner

Rescuing a dog from a puppy mill is not only a generous and thoughtful act, but it also provides the dog a chance for a good life. Puppy mill dogs generally sit in filthy cages all day and are abused and malnourished. Many do not know basic skills, such as potty-training. Housebreaking a puppy mill dog may be a bit frustrating and require a lot of patience, but using the right approach combined with the proper techniques makes it possible.

Create a confined area for your dog, either in the form of a crate or a blocked-off section of a room. Crate-training is ideal for most dogs because they generally do not like lying in their own waste, but most puppy mill dogs are used to doing so; therefore, crate training may not be effective. You can use a small room or block off an area of a room and leave a crate with the door open. Place your dog either in the crate or the confined area when you are not home to prevent him from eliminating around your house. Take him outside immediately when you return home and praise him when he eliminates outside.

Take your dog outside to the same spot every time he needs to eliminate. Once you reach the area, if he doesn’t relieve himself, take him back indoors and confine him to his area for about 15 minutes, then try the process again. Once he goes potty, praise him with affection and treats. Take him outside before and after he sleeps and after he eats and drinks.

Interrupt your dog if you see him eliminating indoors. If your pooch starts eliminating in front of you, calmly take him outside to his designated area. If he finishes in his spot, be sure to offer him lots of enthusiastic praise.

Train your dog to use puppy pads, if he is extremely fearful or doesn’t want to go outdoors. Most puppy mill dogs have experienced traumatic pasts and some are affected more seriously than others. If your dog is afraid to go outside, puppy-pad training is likely the best choice. Place the pads in the corner of his confined area that is farthest away from his food and bedding area. Initially, you may need to place the pads all over the floor and gradually remove them until just the corner pads are left. Most dogs tend to urinate and defecate in the same spots; therefore, it is likely that he will eventually only go on the pads.


  • Be sure to clean areas where your dog has eliminated with an enzymatic cleaner. If your dog can pick up his urine scent, he will continue to go in the same spot.

    Never punish your dog for eliminating inside, especially if you did not witness it.

    Watch for signs that your dog has to eliminate. These clues may include stiffening of the back legs, whining and smelling the floor.