Housetraining Your Bulldog

In This Chapter
  • Tackling the basics of puppy training
  • Contemplating crate training
  • Spreading the news: Paper training
  • Digging up the dirt on litter training

Unless you plan on living outdoors for the entire life of your Bulldog, you need to housetrain your pup — that is, teach him where to “go.” This chapter deals with the different ways to train your puppy to be reliable in the house and get your Bully to do his business outside rather than inside. Be patient and consistent, and housetraining may be easier than you thought.


Wait and get a puppy when someone can be around to train him. If you anticipate that your puppy may spend most of the day alone during the first few weeks that you bring him home, with no one to let him out or help him understand housetraining, pick a time to bring home your Bully when schedules allow for potty breaks for your pooch. 

Housetraining 101

A regular, consistent schedule helps train your puppy quickly. Have a handy-dandy schedule to follow (see “Working out a training schedule,” later in this chapter), but remember that you’re not dealing with a machine. That means that, although you may be following the schedule, your puppy follows his feelings (or urges).

Be prepared to make a few schedule changes to compensate for your puppy’s individual quirks, but as soon as you settle on your schedule (the sooner, the better), stick to it like glue. Puppies (and adult dogs) like routine, and if your training methods are consistent, your puppy achieves the routine he wants, and housetraining runs more smoothly.


Remember the following consistency tips when housetraining your Bulldog puppy:

In the beginning, always use the same door to go out to the yard. Make sure that everyone in the family uses the same door. By using this method, when your puppy is old enough to let you know that he wants to go out, he’ll always go to the same door.

Use the same area of the yard. This trick helps your puppy discover the smell of urine and know that he’s come to the right place. Dogs rely on their sense of smell, so use this sense to your advantage. Just make sure that the area you choose in the yard is really where you want him to go.

Some friends of mine got a puppy in the winter and got in the habit of taking him out on the deck and letting him go in the snow. As the weather warmed up, the snow receded, and the dog, having been trained to the snow, followed the snow line across the yard, each day having to go farther and farther before he would go. The deck seemed like a good idea at the time, but because dirt wasn’t available to catch and hold the scent, the dog was convinced he had to go only on the snow.

Keep your puppy warm and cozy at night. If your puppy gets cold, he may wake up, and if he wakes up, he may have to go out.

No matter where your puppy goes, as long as it’s outside, praise lavishly. Your neighbors may think that you’re crazy, but make a huge fuss over your puppy when he goes. Give him a treat. Play with him after he goes — but not before. Puppies can be easily distracted, and if you take him outside and start to play, he may forget to go until he’s back inside.

Always go out with your puppy. After he’s trained, you can open the door and let your Bulldog out in your securely fenced yard, but right now, you need to go with him so you can guide him to the right spot and praise him for doing what he does. Initially, always take your puppy out on a lead. Puppies run fast and can scoot under a bush or a porch before you know it. If you’re ready to leave for work, you’re not going to appreciate having to get on your hands and knees to retrieve your puppy. Besides, if he’s on a lead, you can keep him in the proper area and focused on the job at hand.

Remember that during potty training feeding time plays an important part in the schedule. As your dog gets older, you may decide that you like the idea of free feeding — putting down the daily amount of food and leaving it for your dog to enjoy whenever he feels like it. This feeding option is your choice, but while your Bully is a puppy and until he’s housetrained, feed scheduled meals. This procedure helps you know when he’s likely to need a trip outside. Also, regulate treats. Too many treats or too much variety may lead to a touch of diarrhea. Bulldog puppies truly can’t control diarrhea, and that means extra cleanup for you.

Working out a training schedule

No matter what method you decide to use when you housetrain your puppy, a schedule makes the process easier on everyone. A schedule means that every family member knows what to do and when, and your puppy also quickly learns the schedule. You may even want to write the schedule down and post it on the refrigerator so everyone has a reminder of what’s next.


Puppies are small. That means that the rest of their body parts are small too — including their bladders. Puppies can’t physically hold as much for as long as an adult dog. Puppies also need to learn control. A schedule helps them discover that control.

Puppies already have a built-in schedule. They need to go to the bathroom when they first wake up; they need to go 10 to 20 minutes after eating; and they need to go after a play session. Considering that your dog’s a puppy, she may also have to go anytime in between, but these times present a starting schedule for your refrigerator door.
Your schedule should fit your family, of course, but may look something like this:

6:00 a.m.

Take puppy outside. If you’re crate training, don’t open the crate door and coax your puppy to follow you through the house. Pick the puppy up, and take her to the designated spot in the yard. She may not make it that far on her own before she goes.

6:15 a.m.

Feed the puppy.

6:30 a.m.

Take the puppy outside.

6:40–7:00 a.m.

Play with your puppy.

7:00 a.m.

Take the puppy outside. When you come back in, put your puppy in her crate or designated area. Get ready for work or school.

8:00 a.m.

Take the puppy outside one more time before everyone leaves the house. Return your dog to her training space.


Take the puppy outside.

12:10 p.m.

Feed the puppy. Eat your own lunch.

12:30 p.m.

Take the puppy out again. Play with the puppy if you have time.

12:45 p.m.

If you played with your puppy, take her out again. Place her in the crate or sectioned area before you leave.

3:00 p.m.

Kids are home from school. Take puppy outside. Play with puppy. Take puppy out again.

5:30 p.m.

Take puppy outside. Feed puppy.

5:45 p.m.

Take puppy out after feeding. Leave puppy in crate or training space while fixing dinner and eating. Take puppy outside again.

7:00 p.m.

Take puppy out. Play with puppy.

7:15 p.m.

Take puppy outside.

11:00 p.m.

Take puppy out one last time before bedtime.

If your puppy sleeps soundly overnight, sleep in until 7:00 a.m. If you go to bed before 11:00 p.m., though, be prepared to get up in the middle of the night.

The sample schedule may look like a lot of trips out, and it is, but remember that the fewer accidents your puppy has in the house, the faster she knows that she needs to go outside when nature calls.

Also, make up the schedule that fits your family’s lifestyle. If no one comes home at noon, see if your schedule can be changed to accommodate the noon break, or recruit a neighbor. The same goes for the 3:00 p.m. outing. If you don’t have children, see whether someone in the neighborhood can help. If everyone leaves the house by 8:00 a.m. and no one returns until 6:00 p.m., you won’t be able to use a crate to train your puppy, and you may try to use one of the other methods.
Keep up this routine until your puppy stops making messes in the house and starts letting you know regularly when he needs to go out. This regular notice happens before the puppy reaches 6 months of age, but keep in mind that many puppies go through a “relapse” period before they’re 1 year old, where they start having accidents in the house again and need to be retrained. Don’t get discouraged: It’s all part of the growing-up and maturing process that all puppies go through. As long as you’re persistent and patient with your training, your puppy can become successfully housetrained.

Watching for the warning signs

Recognize the signs that your puppy is getting ready to go. Generally, adult dogs are more apt to add these variations to the process. Puppies frequently don’t realize that they have to go until they really have to go. Still, any of these activities may give you a clue that the time’s come to pick up your puppy and get outside now.
Look for these signals:

The preliminary dance: Generally, your dog performs a preliminary “dance” — usually quite short — before he needs to go.

The sniff and circle: Most dogs tend to sniff a bit and circle before they actually go.

The back-and-forth pace: Your Bully paces back and forth; usually, the length of the area paced gets shorter and shorter until he finally goes. When outside, he may get close to a shrub or tree.

The whine: Another indicator — the whine. Listen for it! Sometimes the whine can be subtle. When your dog is a puppy, the whine can be a warning that he needs to go to the bathroom. As dogs get older and we condition our ears to the whine, we allow the noise to go on longer. Don’t ignore your puppy’s cry for a bathroom break.

The stance: Some dogs even like to stand by the door when they have to go out. They don’t bark, whine, or make a sound. If you haven’t seen your pup in a while, look for the stance at the back door.

Considering and Conquering Crate Training

Unless you’re lucky enough to be home with your dog all day, you probably need to set up a “bathroom break” system for your dog for when you’re away. If some member of the family can reliably let your puppy out at regular intervals, use a crate for housetraining.
Crate training includes definite advantages. For starters, your puppy prefers not to go where he sleeps. Second, if your puppy does have an accident in his crate, he’s confined the mess to a small, contained, easy-to-clean area, not in the middle of the living room rug.
Dogs quickly establish routines; and if you follow a schedule of times when your puppy runs around and times when he’s in the crate, he soon knows to “hold it” until he goes out. See the section “Working out a training schedule,” earlier in this chapter, for a schedule that gives you information on when to crate your dog.
The disadvantage of crate training is that someone must regularly be available to follow the schedule you’ve set.


A crate is a tool, not a way to ignore your puppy. A young dog can’t wait for more than four hours before he has to go to the bathroom. To make him wait longer means that he may pee in his crate, and after that becomes a habit, housetraining your puppy can be even harder.

Preparing for Paper Training

If crate training just isn’t feasible because of time constraints, you may opt for paper training. Choose a room or an exercise pen to confine your pup to one area. A laundry room or bathroom works well because of the typical linoleum flooring, or you can mark off part of your kitchen.


Be aware that your puppy may decide that linoleum is a wonderful teething toy. I’ve never understood how dogs can get any kind of grip on a smooth linoleum floor, but believe me, they can. Cover the entire floor of the chosen area with several layers of newspaper. You may want to put down a piece of plastic first to further protect your floor in case any waste products soak through the paper. If the area is large enough, include your puppy’s crate in the space, with the door open, as a place for him to rest. Supply water and several toys. 

When you clean the area, remove the top couple of layers of paper, leaving the lower layers. Enough scent remains to tell the puppy where to go. You may want to take a section of soiled paper out to the yard and stake it down so your puppy understands where to go outside. After several days, cover a smaller area of the floor. If your puppy consistently uses the paper instead of the uncovered part of the floor, reduce the newspaper coverage again. Continue this process until you’ve removed all the paper. Don’t try to rush the process. You don’t want your puppy going on the exposed floor. Take the process slowly and easily until you know that he understands about going on the paper.
During this time, continue to take your puppy to his outdoor toilet area when you’re home. By the time you’ve reached the stage where no newspaper remains on the floor, your puppy should be both old enough to hold it and make the connection that he needs to be outdoors when he has to go. He isn’t ready for the run of the house yet, but he’s well on his way.

Going Indoors Rather Than Outdoors

You may want to train your puppy to go inside. If you live in an apartment on the tenth floor and you’re six blocks from the nearest park or dog run, inside potty training is another option. Keeping your Bully inside doesn’t mean that that you don’t have to train. Just because your dog is an indoor dog doesn’t mean that you want him using your entire apartment as one big doggy bathroom.

Papering the floor

Paper train your puppy by using the same techniques mentioned in “Preparing for Paper Training,” earlier in the chapter, except that you never totally eliminate the papers. Decide on where you want your dog to always use the bathroom, and follow the above method, ending by leaving enough paper to always accommodate your dog. To help define and contain the papers, add a small wooden or plastic frame.

Padding the tile

Puppy pads, which remind me of disposable diapers, are an alternative to papers. Pads are flat with a plastic backing and scented to encourage dogs to use them as a potty area. Place them on the floor, just as you would a newspaper. Unlike with newspaper, you need only one layer.

If you think that you’d like to use pads for your Bully, large washable pads are available for training. Pads come in different sizes: 2 x 2, 3 x 3, and 4 x 4 (all measured in feet). I recommend one of the larger sizes for a Bully. Pads are washed after each use and then air-dried. You need four or five pads at the minimum so that you have some to use when others are drying. The 3 x 3 pad runs about $35, and the 4 x 4 is about $55. Although this option is certainly more expensive than newspaper, the reusable factor is a great touch. Each pad can be washed approximately 300 times.

Boxing the mess: Litter boxes

Dog litter presents another choice for your indoor dog. Dog litter is different from cat litter, so if you decide to go for litter, make sure that you buy dog litter. Dogs, especially males, tend to use their hind legs to scratch and scuff the dirt — or, in this case, the litter — after they’ve used the bathroom. Cat litter flies all over the place, whereas the special dog litter doesn’t fly around as much.
Train your puppy to use a litter box in the same way you train to use paper:
  1. Place the litter box in your puppy’s enclosure.
  2. Put papers all over the floor.
  3. Cover the papers with a thin layer of litter.
  4. Gradually reduce the area covered by paper and litter, closing in on the litter box.


Using a crate also works for litter-box training. Follow the schedule at the beginning of the chapter, except that instead of taking your puppy outdoors, take him to the litter box. Remember that the litter box isn’t a play area. Leave your puppy in the box for a few minutes, but if he starts playing or digging, put him back in his crate for a while and then try again.

If you plan to use a litter box, keep the container clean. As needed, scoop the litter and waste, and add fresh litter. At least once a week, empty the litter box, scrub it clean, and refill with fresh litter. Unlike when you clean up an accident, an ammonia-based cleaner is fine. After all, if the ammonia attracts your dog to the litter box, that’s where you want him to go. See “Cleaning Up after Bully,” later in this chapter.

Teaching Your Bully to Go on Command

After you housetrain your dog, you may occasionally need your pup to go to the bathroom quickly and on command, even if he’s not at the door asking to go out. For instance, you may be going out for the evening and want to make sure that he’s empty and comfortable while you’re gone. Or when pouring rain keeps your dog from wanting to go outside, you need to be able to tell your dog to go.
Although some dogs never catch on, most dogs eventually make the connection between a word or phrase and the act of urinating. Start by choosing whatever expression you like: “Go potty,” “Do your business,” or any saying you’re comfortable with.
I’ve read that you shouldn’t use the phrase “Hurry up” because if you’re in the house and you’re telling a family member to hurry up, your dog may think that you’re asking him to lift his leg. I happen to use “Hurry up” or “Hurry and go,” and so far, I’ve never had a problem indoors, but still consider the warning.
When you take your puppy out, use the phrase you’ve chosen. When he goes, praise him. Use the phrase every time, and eventually, the idea sticks.

The battle of the sexes

The potty command works better with females, who are apt to be fussier about where and when they go, than with males. Walk most boys anywhere near a tree or bush, and they seem more than willing to take the hint. Boys don’t usually care where they go.
Female dogs, on the other hand, can be picky. If human, they’d carry little tissue toilet-seat covers with them. I once walked a female puppy for 45 minutes in the pouring rain. We were in a strange place, so her scent was nowhere to be found. Remember, nothing can be done when this situation happens. You can’t yell or jerk the lead or do anything negative. You can plead with your puppy, but I know from experience that does no good at all. You have to keep walking and get soaked and work on teaching your puppy to go on command. Believe me, when she finally went, an abundance of enthusiastic praise poured out of me!

Cleaning Up after Bully

Sadly, after a puppy does his business, his owner then has business of her own: cleaning up.

Cleaning up indoors

No matter what method you use to housetrain your puppy, accidents occur, which means cleaning time for you. A consistent schedule for feeding, playtime, naps, and walks helps reduce the number of accidents.
1. Start by removing as much of the mess as you can.
On carpeting, pick up solid waste.
2. Blot the area with paper towels.
If your puppy wets, fold several paper towels and place them over the spot.
3. Step on the towels, and rock your foot back and forth to blot up as much liquid as possible.
Repeat, repeat, and repeat until the paper towel comes up dry. Owning stock in a paper-towel company may make you feel better about the number of paper towels you use.
4. When most of the liquid is blotted up, apply your cleaner of choice, and follow the directions.
To save some money, use old rags or cloth towels to sop up accidents and messes. You may want to run the washer immediately to prevent the stinky rags from lying around.


Never use ammonia-based cleaning products to clean floors. No matter how thoroughly you clean and rinse, an odor residue remains, and ammonia is a base component of urine. The trace of ammonia odor in the cleaner may be undetectable to you, but you can bet that your puppy smells it, and he will return to the scene of the crime. The market sells dozens of products designed specifically to deal with dog-accident stains and odors. Oxygen-based cleaners also work well. In a pinch, use white vinegar and club soda to help with stains. If the accident occurs on linoleum or tile, wipe up the problem and then use a cleaner.

Are you your dog’s maid?

Many books tell you to never let your dog see you clean up. Supposedly, cleaning up after your pet teaches your Bully that you’re his maid. I’m not clear on the reasoning here. First of all, I am my dog’s maid. I’ve yet to see him wash his bedding, sweep up hair, or wash his own bowls. And I’ve never noticed that watching me clean up makes him go in the living room instead of outside.
I put my dogs elsewhere if one of them has an accident, but the reason isn’t because I don’t want them to watch. While you clean up after a puppy, you can’t watch the puppy, and believe me, your dog doesn’t need much time to get into trouble or to leave another puddle or pile while you’re cleaning up the first one. Put your pup in his crate so you can concentrate on cleanup.
If an adult dog has an accident for some reason, I’m not happy. I hate coming home from dinner at a wonderful restaurant and having to clean up a mess. So I get the dogs out of the way. I’m not in a good mood, and I don’t want to take my frustration out on the dogs. And dogs being dogs, they like to know what you’re doing down on your hands and knees. They like to get their heads and paws right in your space to check everything out (because being on the floor naturally means that you want to play). I don’t need their help at that point, nor do I want to play. So they get shut in another room or put outside until I’ve cleaned up, and I can take a deep breath and be happy to see them again.

Cleaning up outdoors

Figure outdoor cleanup into your duties as well. No matter how much you love your dog, you’re not going to want your yard to be one big litter box, and no one loves stepping in what the dog’s left behind. If you want to enjoy your yard, or if your children play in the yard, invest in a set of pooper scoopers — long-handled implements, with one half being a bit like a dustpan and the other side having either a rake-type head or a flat blade like a small shovel. Scoops make quick cleanup possible without having to bend over. Then deposit the waste in a lined trash can or into a doggy septic system.
A doggy septic system is easy to install. Just dig a hole anywhere in your yard (preferably out of the way) and place the system in the hole. These systems depend on enzymes that turn the waste into liquid that leaches away into the ground. The cost of one of these systems runs between $40 and $70.


The drawback to septic systems for dogs is that they don’t work in cold weather because the ground is frozen.

Using the bag system for pickup

If your yard is small, and you choose to walk your puppy, you still need to pick up the puppy’s waste. Carrying a set of pooper scoopers with you on a walk isn’t practical, so carry plastic bags for cleanup. Recycle the plastic sleeves that cover your newspaper, plastic bread bags, and plastic bags from the grocery store. You can also purchase small bags, called scrap bags, at the store that easily stick in your pocket.
When your dog goes, take out a bag and put your hand in it; pick up the waste; and then pull the bag forward, over your hand and the waste (turning the bag inside out). Tie the bag closed, and throw it in the trash.


If you’re reusing bags from the grocery store or newspaper, make sure that they’re free of holes before you use them or take them with you on a walk. Do I need to say why? Yuck!

You may want to take an opaque bag from the grocery to put the individual waste bags in. I don’t know about you, but our walks can get long, the dog can go several times, and I prefer not to be seen swinging multiple sacks of excrement in my hand. The grocery bag at least masks the mess until you get home.
Although this system may gross you out at first, trust me, it becomes second nature, and you don’t have a choice. If you have a dog, part of your responsibility includes cleaning up after him. No one else wants the job, and if you’re walking in a public area, no one should have to worry about stepping in your dog’s business. Also, think about your neighbors. Leaving little “surprises” in their yards isn’t the way to build rapport.
Try to walk your dog to a neutral area before he goes, or if that isn’t possible, steer him to the grassy area between the sidewalk and the street instead of letting him wander onto a neighbor’s lawn. Even if you pick up, your neighbor may not want your dog going on her property. If none of these options are convenient, stay in your own yard until your Bully has gone; then go for the exercise part of your walk. (But still, don’t forget the bags.)


If the bag method truly bothers you, even with the protection of the opaque bag, use disposable cardboard kits with small handles. The contraption works like a small scoop, and the handles close and seal the box for throwing away. The disposable kit costs more and isn’t as handy as stuffing a few bags in your pocket, but the choice is yours.

by Susan M.Ewing