How to Housebreak a Rescue Dog


Rescue dogs are special pets because they have usually been through a difficult time. Some have been abused or neglected, while others have simply been bounced from house to house or shelter to shelter without having a family or home to call their own. This leaves little room for proper housebreaking. With a lot of patience, time, understanding and a crate, a dog owner can housebreak a rescue dog faster and in a more humane way than the "rubbing their nose in it" style of years ago.

Things You'll Need

  • Dog crate
  • Blankets or dog bed


  • Watch a rescue dog carefully when he first arrives. Take him outside often for regular potty breaks. Praise him for doing his business outside.

  • Establish a routine and keep to it as much as possible when taking the dog outside for potty breaks, but remember, a dog will have his own routine. This is why he should be watched as much as possible when he first arrives.

  • If the dog has an accident, simply clean it up. Don't get mad at the dog. Catching the dog in the act of making a mess is better because you can take him outside and praise him.

Introducing the Crate

  • Make sure the crate is a safe, happy place for the dog to be. Place comfortable blankets or a dog bed inside it. A dog will want to keep his crate clean out of instinct, so he will wait to potty.

  • Lie down next to the crate or play with the dog near the opening of the crate if the dog is timid about going inside. Have regular play time at the crate opening and then leave the dog alone for a couple hours before returning so as not to push the dog into the crate.

  • Make sure the dog has plenty of exercise, free play in the yard or a long walk, before crating him. Limit water and food if you know you are going to be gone for an extended period of time.

  • Use the crate only when the dog is alone or cannot be watched. This would include bedtime.

Tips & Warnings

  • Have patience with this process. It may take some time for a rescue dog to get used to you and your family and a new schedule, but it will. The dog will want to please its new family that loves and cares for him.
  • Punishments for accidents can lead to more problems like chewing of furniture or personal items. Additional praise will get better results than punishments.

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  • Photo Credit dog sleeping in metal kennel image by Paul Retherford from
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