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Housetraining for Bostons

In This Chapter

Like an infant child, your Boston Terrier puppy has yet to develop bladder control or learn what areas in the home he can hang out in. He relies completely on you for guidance and to care for his basic needs, from feeding to eliminating and everything in between. Even if you adopt an adult dog, he needs to know when and where he can eliminate. With your patient leadership and instruction, however, your Boston will learn his household manners from day one.

Housetraining instructs your dog when and where he can relieve himself. Because he typically won’t eliminate in the same space where he eats and sleeps, keeping your dog in his crate or in a restricted space trains him to hold his business until it’s time to visit the designated bathroom area.
This chapter explores methods for housetraining your Boston, from using crates and X-pens to housetraining pads and litter boxes.

Each dog is different, but generally, Bostons can be considered housetrained by 6 to 8 months old, as long as they’re not required to hold it too long. Because they’re intelligent dogs, Bostons are relatively easy to housetrain (compared to other dogs, like Yorkshire Terriers). Keep in mind the process takes time. Be patient, stick to a schedule, and remember to praise your pup for doing the right thing!

Setting the Stage for Success: Housetraining Basics

Housetraining involves training your dog to let you know when he needs to eliminate, where he should go, and how to do it on command. At first, he won’t be able to tell you that he needs to use the bathroom; you’ll tell him when to go. In time, however, he’ll learn to hold his bladder and bowels, let you know that he needs to go outside, and go to the bathroom in a designated area.
The best time to start housetraining is when your puppy is between 7 and 9 weeks old and his physical coordination has been refined. A reputable breeder will start your Boston’s housetraining before you bring him home. Plan to continue housetraining until your dog is 6 months old, and plan to limit his freedom until he’s 1 year old. By the end of this training period, you’ll be confident that your pup knows when and where to do his business.
In this section, you find out what you can do to help your Boston succeed at housetraining. You get the lowdown on how to reward your Boston for going to the bathroom at the right time in the right place, how to set up and introduce his designated bathroom area, and how to limit the areas he’s allowed to explore.

Reinforcing positive behavior

One of the best ways to train your Boston is through positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement rewards good behavior with treats, praise, and lots of love. (You can read about this approach in detail in Chapter Training and Behavior.)
When using positive reinforcement to housetrain your Boston, keep the following points in mind:

Reward him for doing the right thing: When your Boston goes potty when you tell him to, reward him immediately with treats, praise, playtime, and other positive motivators.

Correct him in the act and redirect him: When your Boston makes a mistake (and he will!) correct him by saying, “No,” and then pick him up and take him to the bathroom area, praising him when he goes in the right spot. (See the “Mistakes Will Happen” section for tips on correcting behavior.)

Timing is critical: Dogs have short memories; when you praise or correct your dog, he associates it with the action he just performed. Any positive reinforcement or correction needs to be done during or immediately after he does something.


Your Boston wants nothing but to please you. When you reward his correct behavior with praise and love, he knows that he did the right thing, and he’ll want to keep doing that to reap the reward.

Making the trip to the bathroom area

Dogs are creatures of habit. Housetraining will be much easier for you and your Boston if you designate a particular bathroom area and take your Boston there frequently. Here are some points to consider when setting up your pup’s potty spot:

Designate a space: Choose a bathroom area outside and always take your pup on leash to that area. It could be a patch of grass or dirt, a curb, or even a litter box on your patio. When he eliminates, use a voice command, such as “Go potty,” to help him associate a command with eliminating.


Immediately after your Boston eliminates outdoors in the bathroom area, praise him lavishly and give him a treat. Don’t wait until he comes inside — by then it’s too late, and he won’t associate the reward with relieving himself. Immediately giving the dog positive reinforcement lets him know what’s expected.

Plan frequent visits to the bathroom area: Your pup’s small bladder doesn’t hold much, so you need to take him outside frequently: after every meal, after playing, when waking up from one of his many naps, and about every half-hour to two hours in between, depending on his development. After sleeping all night, carry your puppy outside because he may need to relieve himself right away. (See the “Training Your Boston” section later in this chapter for more about taking him to the bathroom at regular intervals.)

Go out with him: You need to accompany your pup outside, using the “Go potty” command. Going with him is the only way you know that he’s going to the bathroom and not sniffing and playing instead. You also need to continue praising and rewarding him for eliminating outside. Eventually, your Boston will be able to go on command, which is very useful in the middle of the night or when you’re traveling.


Your puppy may want to play as soon as he gets outside, but command him go to the bathroom first. Doing so reinforces that he should do what you say first — take care of business — and then enjoy the reward of playing with you.

Show him the other “living areas” in the home: Besides learning where he can go to the bathroom, your Boston also needs to learn where he can’t go to the bathroom. Introduce your dog to other living areas, like the bedrooms, guest room, dining room, and den, besides the frequented areas of your home. After he recognizes these rooms as places where the family lives, he’ll be less likely to use them as alternative bathroom spots.

Clean up accidents: When your pup goes potty someplace he shouldn’t, clean it up with an enzyme-based cleanser and deodorizer. Dogs have a keen sense of smell: They’ll sniff out a spot they’ve used before and use it again. Remove all traces of the accident so he doesn’t think it’s another bathroom area.

Restricting his freedom

When your Boston comes home, you probably won’t know his housetraining habits. He may have been living on sheets of newspaper and allowed to relieve himself anywhere he wanted, or he may understand the concept of going outside. Until you know his habits (and he learns how to control his bladder and bowels), you need to limit his access to a certain area of the house.
You can restrict his freedom in several ways:

– Use his crate: Because your pup’s instincts tell him not to eliminate where he eats and sleeps, you can use his crate to teach him bladder and bowel control. Limit his time in the crate to two hours at a time during the day, letting him periodically stretch his legs and play in his X-pen; at night, he’ll stay in his crate until you let him out to go to the bathroom.


Young pups who were kept in kennels and allowed to eliminate where they slept (like at a disreputable breeder facility or pet store) will be harder to housetrain using a crate. Because they are already used to eliminating where they eat and sleep, you’ll have to work diligently to untrain and retrain these dogs.

Use an X-pen or playpen: These devices keep your Boston contained to one area that you can easily monitor. Because Xpens and playpens give your Boston more space, your pup may choose a corner for a bathroom area. Line the entire area with several layers of newspaper or some absorbent housetraining pads to sop up accidents, and clean the area thoroughly if (and when) accidents happen.

Give him supervised “freedom:” Of course you’ll want to let your pup romp and play while you’re watching television or hanging out in the living room. It’s perfectly okay to do this — as long as you (or a responsible family member) are there to keep a constant eye on him. Take him potty regularly (see the next section, “Training Your Boston,” for specifics) and lay down some absorbent pads, just in case.

As your Boston becomes housetrained, you can slowly expand his area to include part of a room, then an entire room, and eventually the entire house. But his success in going when and where he’s supposed to hinges on you setting and following a bathroom schedule.

Training Your Boston

Teaching your puppy to go to the bathroom on command and in the right place will challenge both of you. Don’t worry: It’s not difficult. But you (and your family) need to be committed to consistent training, following these same steps every time you take your Boston to the bathroom. You can tweak the routine as your pup starts to get the hang of housetraining.


Plan to follow this routine until your pup is at least 6 months old, depending on the dog’s maturity level. Even then, restrict his free access to the entire house until he’s 1 year old. You want to be able to trust your Boston completely, and even though 6 months or a year sounds like a long time, it’s really not when you compare it to a lifetime of no accidents!

Assuming that you’ve introduced your pup to the house, all the rooms, and his bathroom area, use these step-by-step instructions to guide you through the housetraining process. Remember: Follow these steps each and every time you (or your family member) take your pup to the bathroom.
1. When it’s time to go outside, say, “Outside” in a happy, upbeat tone. Attach your Boston’s leash to his collar and lead him to the bathroom area.
You need to let him do his business at regular times throughout the day, including:
2. As soon as he starts going to the bathroom, say, “Go potty.”
He knows what he’s doing, and by giving him a verbal command, he links his action with your cue. Teaching him to go on command is particularly useful when it’s raining or snowing outside, when you’re late for work, or when you’re on a road trip and don’t have a lot of time to spare.
3. Immediately after he’s done, say “Good boy to go potty,” or whatever phrase or word you choose, and give him a treat.
He’ll begin to associate three things: the command (“Go potty”) with the action (going potty), the action with the reward (treat), and the reward with your praise. You’re teaching him that by going potty on command, he will earn a reward. That reward will ultimately be your praise.
Slowly, your Boston will show signs of getting the housetraining concept. He’ll wait by the door when he has to go, or come up with some other way to say, “I have to go!” He’ll be able to hold his bladder through the night without whimpering. He’ll head to the bathroom spot first thing when you let him outside. It will take time — at least six months — before he gets the hang of it, but he will.


Prevention is key to housetraining. Don’t give your pup the opportunity to make a mistake. Keep him in your sight at all times by attaching his leash to your chair or waist, or using a baby gate to keep him confined. If you see him start to sniff around or walk in circles, immediately grab the lead and take him outside to his bathroom spot, saying, “Go potty.” Then praise and give him a treat.

Mistakes Will Happen

You’ve been taking your Boston puppy to his bathroom area regularly, and letting him relieve himself after every meal, playtime, and nap. Your dog is becoming housetrained. But then, he makes a mistake. What do you do?

Correct him in the act and redirect him: The act of going to the bathroom isn’t the mistake; it’s going in the wrong place. So if you catch your pup in the act, say in a corrective tone, “Pete, no,” and immediately take him to his bathroom area and let him finish his business there. Then praise your Boston and celebrate that he’s going outside.


Don’t correct the dog after he makes a mistake — he can’t understand the connection between the correction and the mistake he made hours (even minutes) ago. Also, never rub your dog’s face in the mess. It’s not only an unnecessarily harsh punishment, but your dog will think that you’re mad because he defecated, not because he went in the wrong place. Instead, encourage and praise your dog even more when he does go in his correct bathroom area. Reinforcing the positive behavior is the best way to discourage house-soiling.


If your Boston seems to be having more accidents than usual, it may be a sign of stress or illness. Sometimes dogs react to pain or discomfort by soiling in areas where they normally don’t. Talk to your veterinarian if you see any changes in your Boston’s urinating habits.

Clean it well: Clean the soiled area with white vinegar or an enzyme-based pet stain cleaner. Dogs tend to continue soiling in areas that smell like feces or urine, so removing all traces of the accident prevents your dog from using that area again.

Watch him: You also want to keep a close eye on your Boston. If you know where your dog is, he can’t make a mistake. A circling and sniffing dog means he’s searching for a bathroom, so ask him in an upbeat happy voice, “Pete, do you have to go potty?” When he runs to the door, take him out and praise him after he goes.

The scoop on pooper scoopers

Let’s face it: Cleaning up after your pooch is dirty business. He may be the love of your life, but bagging his little presents can be a smelly job. And if it’s raining or snowing, that makes the task all the more, err, delightful! (I’m being sarcastic, of course!)
Innovative inventors realize this, so they have designed all sorts of devices to make this task mess-free. No longer is the old plastic grocery bag the receptacle of choice. Now you can choose from scoops, claws, and shovels for minimal handling. You can purchase waste bags in bulk to attach to your lead, toss in your purse, and pack in your Boston’s carrier. With so many options, cleaning up has never been easier!
For Boston owners who want nothing to do with cleaning up their dog’s droppings, however, pooper scooper services can do your dirty business. A pet sitter, dog walker, or someone who is in this line of work (really!) comes to your home a number of times during the week and cleans up your Boston’s feces for a fee. It’s certainly a convenience to consider.

Okay Ways to Go Inside

If you live in an urban area or work long hours, you may need to leave your Boston inside for the majority of the day. That’s a long time for your Boston to control his bladder and bowels! You can enlist the help of your local dog sitter or take him to doggy day care (Chapter Traveling with (Or without) Your Boston has more on these options). Or you can train your pup to go in certain areas inside your home.
In this section, I offer two additional options to using an outdoor bathroom area. They’re not meant to replace traditional housetraining methods, because your Boston should learn how to hold his bladder and go to the bathroom in a designated outdoor spot. These options are intended to give you more choices for allowing your pup to relieve himself.


Teaching your Boston both traditional housetraining and an alternative method may confuse him at first. Be patient while he’s learning, and continue to be diligent with his training. If he just doesn’t seem to get it after a couple of weeks, forgo the alternative method and focus on the traditional method. You can always teach your pup the new bathroom trick after he learns the first routine.

Read all about it: Paper training

Typically used during the beginning stages of housetraining, paper training teaches your Boston to eliminate on sheets of newspaper rather than wherever he pleases. This method is useful when you can’t supervise him or take him to his bathroom area during the day. It’s also useful for pups who have developed a habit of going in their crates.
1. Before your pup is allowed free reign of the house, erect an X-pen to confine him to one area.
Choose a place such as the kitchen, living room, or other hightraffic area where he feels like he’s part of the family pack.
2. Lay down three or four sheets of newspaper inside the entire pen.
He will develop a habit of eliminating on the newspaper, eventually preferring a specific spot to do his business.
3. When you know the spot that your Boston prefers to eliminate in and the rest of the papers remain clean, gradually reduce the area that is papered.
Remove the sheets that are farthest away from his preferred spot. Eventually, you’ll only need to leave a few sheets in that area.
4. After your pup is reliably going on the papers that you’ve left, slowly start to move the paper to a location that’s more to your liking (that is to say, not in the middle of the floor or under the kitchen table).
Don’t move the papers too far too soon: An inch or two a day is far enough.


Don’t be discouraged if your pup misses the paper or makes remarkable progress and then regresses. Lay down a larger area of newspaper and start again. It’s normal to make mistakes. Just stay determined, and your Boston will eventually get the hang of it.

A litter box of his own

Yes, your Boston can be trained to use the litter box! Just as you’d train your dog to use newspaper or a bathroom area outside, you can teach your dog to use a bathroom area inside or on your porch.

Litter boxes are well-suited for dogs who live in apartments or condos, for families who work long hours and can’t let their dogs outside during the day, or for older invalid or housebound dogs.
Litter boxes for dogs look just like large litter boxes for cats. You can find them in most pet supply stores or through online vendors, or you can construct your own using a plastic bin with an entry point cut into the side and sanded down so there are no sharp edges. The litter is typically compressed wood, newspaper pellets, or cat litter, depending on the style of litter box you choose.
When your dog is a puppy, take him by his lead to the bathroom area just as you would take him outside. Reward and praise the pup when he goes in the right spot. As always with housetraining, keep a vigilant eye on your Boston, and if he shows any signs of sniffing and circling, take him to the bathroom area immediately.
If your Boston is already paper trained (see the previous section), transitioning to a litter box can be relatively easy. Gradually move the newspaper to the area where the litter box is. Instead of filling the box with litter, line it with newspaper. Replace the paper with litter as your pup gets used to the box.

As with any housetraining method, mistakes will happen, and you’ll need to clean any messes. While your Boston is learning how to use his litter box, lay newspaper or absorbent pads on the floor around the box. Clean up mistakes with a commercial cleaner that removes all traces of odor. And be patient and diligent with your training! Bostons are intelligent dogs, and before long, your dog will be doing his business in his box!
by Wendy Bedwell-Wilson
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