How to Train Your Dog to Go Potty

Medium
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

You rush home after work to get your puppy outside to go to the bathroom, but instead, find a home interior that’s been decorated with poop and urine.

The rescue dog that you’ve just adopted has a hard time understanding when and where she should potty because she was never trained properly in the first place.

Potty training a dog can be a frustrating experience, but cleaning up after an untrained dog in your home is worse. Many dog owners aren’t sure where to begin and end up making mistakes that can delay the training process or result in serious behavioral issues in their dog.

Regardless of his age, training your dog to eliminate outside can be trying, but it’s far from impossible. Here are some steps to help you potty train your dog, as well as some actions to avoid.


Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to eliminate outdoors is a critical component of dog ownership. Your pup needs to understand what you are asking him to do, and as such, you need to be a clear communicator and teacher. You will need to teach to your dog’s personality and strengths, or else risk serious damage to your dog’s psyche and to the relationship you both have with each other.

Understand that you are working against a dog’s naturally inherent instincts. In the wilderness, dogs and their ancestors go to the bathroom wherever they please. Therefore, it’s up to you to clearly specify to your dog where and when he can eliminate.

Depending on your dog’s age, this training process can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months or so. Be prepared for an occasional accident or two even after your dog has been trained, and understand that sometimes accidents happen!

Aside from keeping your home sanitary and clean and instilling a sense of respect in your dog for your position as leader, potty training your pup will help him avoid an all too common fate for dogs whose owners gave up on potty training them: being surrendered to a shelter.

Potty training can be accomplished successfully, but you need to make sure that you are consistent and clear in what you are asking of your canine.


Getting Started

Here are some essential elements and items that you will need to get started with potty training your dog:

  • A leash and collar: These equipment items will help you retain control over your dog when you are outside.
  • Training treats: Small, healthy training treats can be used as reward and motivation for whenever your dog does what you’ve asked.
  • Poop scooper and waste bags: Responsible dog owners clean up after their dogs, even outdoors.
  • A dog crate: Puppies and adult dogs can benefit from a sturdy, sizeable crate which will help speed up the potty training process.
  • Cleaning products: Have appropriate, non-toxic, pet-friendly cleaning devices on hand to thoroughly clean any accidents, so your dog doesn’t eliminate in the same spot repeatedly.
  • Time and patience: Without these traits, potty training will be a challenging and uphill battle. The process will not happen overnight. You need to be patient and consistent, as well as willing to put in the time and effort to help your dog know what you want from him.
  • A fenced yard or puppy pen: While these forms of security are optional, they can assist the potty training process by giving your dog a specific, safe spot to eliminate in.

Once you have these items, what’s next? Review your schedule and begin to find consistent time periods to encourage your dog to potty outside. Ideally, right after the dog eats in the morning and the late afternoon and evening would be best. Your dog and his body will quickly associate going outside after dinner is done.

Another key to getting your pup on board with potty training is to choose a command, a particular word or phrase that he will learn to associate with going to the bathroom outside. Consider a phrase such as “Let’s go,” “Good potty,” or “Do your duty.” Once your dog associates this command with your request, he will understand that he is to go potty outdoors.

The Crate Training Method

Effective
0 Votes
Crate Training method for Go Potty
Step
1
The concept
Whether your dog is a puppy or a grown adult, crate training has been proven to lead to quicker potty training success. By instinct, dogs look for a den, a private spot of their own, and they don’t want to urinate or defecate in their den.
Step
2
Make sure the crate is the correct size
For your dog’s comfort, he should be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around in the crate comfortably.
Step
3
Create a schedule
Your dog should never be left in a crate for more than seven hours straight as he may be forced to eliminate inside his crate because he can’t wait any longer to go. Puppies in particular need to be let out of their crate to go potty more frequently. Typically, a puppy can “hold” his need to eliminate one hour for every month of his age (i.e., a two-month-old dog should be able to wait two hours between potty breaks).
Step
4
Be consistent
Don’t let your dog wander around the house randomly during the day and expect there to be no accidents. Always put your dog in his crate when you are not home, so he learns to wait until he is released from his crate and outside before eliminating.
Step
5
Make the crate a home
Include light bedding, one or two of your dog’s favorite toys, and even an old shirt that has your scent on it to make the crate a cozy den for your dog.
Step
6
Praise your pup
Remember to praise your dog immediately whenever he goes to the bathroom outside. A treat or two, or simply a “Good boy!” will work wonders.
Recommend training method?

The Potty Pad or Paper Method

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Potty Pad or Paper method for Go Potty
Step
1
The concept
If you live in a high-rise apartment or if you struggle with mobility issues, getting your dog outside to potty quickly is an impossibility. In these situations, potty training your dog to use pads or newspapers may be the best option for you and your dog.
Step
2
Supervise your dog at all times
If you take your eye off your dog before he learns how to use the potty pads, you’ll have accidents to clean up. Keep him on a leash and beside you until he learns where to go.
Step
3
Strategic placement
Be sure to place the potty pads or papers in a spot that is easily accessible for your dog. Don’t move the pad around during training or you may confuse your pup.
Step
4
Use a code word or phrase
When you lead your dog to the puppy pad, repeat a code word such as “Good potty” or “Get busy.” Repetition of this step will help train your dog to eliminate on command.
Step
5
Create good habits
Bring your dog to the puppy pad repeatedly, every five minutes or so, until he goes to the bathroom. The time frame here may vary depending on the dog’s age, as puppies may need to be brought back to the pad more frequently.
Step
6
Don't punish mistakes
It may take a few tries for your dog to associate the potty with the pad or paper. If you catch your dog in the middle of an accident, don’t yell or scream. Simply pick him up or guide him over to the pad to finish eliminating.
Recommend training method?

The Clicker Training Method

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0 Votes
Clicker Training method for Go Potty
Step
1
The concept
Some dog owners have found potty training success through the use of clicker training. A clicker can be purchased at any pet store and can easily be incorporated into potty training for a quick elimination solution.
Step
2
Choose a potty spot
When you take your dog outside, direct him to a particular area every single time. He will begin to associate this place with elimination.
Step
3
Observe and report
Watch your dog closely and patiently; he may sniff around for a few moments here.
Step
4
Use the code word
As soon as your dog begins to urinate, quietly speak the chosen code word or phrase. Hearing this word or phrase will tell your dog this is the place to go potty.
Step
5
Click and treat
Use the clicker just as your dog is finishing elimination, so click while the behavior is still happening but not too soon in the process. You don’t want your dog to stop peeing before he is all done because he hears the click and thinks he’s getting a treat.
Step
6
Give your dog praise
After you’ve used the clicker and given your dog a treat, shower him with some love and praise for a job well done.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Jazzie
Min pin Chihuahua
16 Months
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Question
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Jazzie
Min pin Chihuahua
16 Months

My dog used to have a doggie door but now doesn't due to cyotes but she now goes inside and I have tried everything I can and I'm at my the point of pulling out my hair
Please help me thanks

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Serena, It sounds like Jazzie might be struggling with not alerting you when she needs to go to the bathroom if she used to do fine when she could let herself outside. If that's the case, then you will need to start taking her outside sooner than you typically do so that you do not risk her having accidents in the house when her bladder gets too full. Try to take her outside to go potty one hour sooner than you usually do. Ultimately she needs to learn how to ask to go outside also. I would recommend teaching her how to ring a bell when she needs to go out. To do this, hang a bell by the door that you usually take her outside through. Hang it low enough for it to be at the height of her nose. Every time that you take her outside have her ring the bell on your way out to teach her to associate it with going potty. When she is outside, after having rang the bell on your way out, then tell her "Go Potty" and let her sniff around to find a spot to go in. When she goes, praise her and offer her three treats, one at a time. The treats are to motivate her to ring the bell and eliminate outside rather than inside because she will only get treats while she is outside. It's sort of like she is trading her pee for treats. To teach her how to ring a bell check out these two Wag articles: https://wagwalking.com/training/with-a-bell https://wagwalking.com/training/got-potty-with-a-bell Once you have taught her how to ring the bell when you tell her to ring it or point to it, then simply have her ring it on your way outside every time that you take her out, to teach her to associate it with going outside. Another option would be to train her to use the litter box. If you are gone for a very long time during the day then she probably cannot hold her bladder. If that is the case then no matter what type of training you do, she will always fail because it will be physically impossible for her to succeed. The more accidents that she is forced to have inside, the less potty trained she will become. It's sort of like someone who always fails no matter how hard they try because they cannot control a situation. Eventually that person will give up trying to succeed altogether. To train her how to use a litter box, check out these Wag articles and pick a method to train her: https://wagwalking.com/training/use-a-litter-box https://wagwalking.com/training/use-a-litter-box-1 https://wagwalking.com/training/poop-in-a-litter-box Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Arlo
Husky mix
10 Months
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Question
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Arlo
Husky mix
10 Months

We adopted Arlo from a rescue who had seized him from a puppymill. He doesn't seem to understand that potty time is meant for outside. We take him on at least 2 30 minute walks a day (if not longer) and he does not pee or poop while on these walks. We take him outside every 1-2 hours to try and go potty but he comes right back in and will pee or poop outside. He is in a crate when we are not home and has never had an accident in his crate but he has only peed outside for me once and we've had him a little over a month/month and a half. Help please!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, To teach Arlo to pee and poop outside, spend as many entire days as possible outside with Arlo when the weather is nice. Feed him his meals outside that day, give him plenty of water, play with him, and if it's hot outside make sure that he has shade. Allow him to wander several feet away from you if he acts like he needs to go potty, so that he can eliminate without you right beside him. When he goes at some point during the day then calmly praise him and toss him several treats, large enough for him to find on the ground. Do this every time that he pees or poops outside. If you do not have a fenced in yard then purchase a thirty, forty, or fifty foot leash and attach that to him either on a harness, if he will try to run, or on a collar that he cannot slip out of, if he is calm. The idea is to spend very long periods of time outside, so that he will have to eventually go. It might need to be more than eight hours in a row in order to be successful at first, so set the entire day aside for this and bring things with you outside to do, and perhaps bring chew toys outside for him. Also, whenever you take him outside at other times, use a spray designed to encourage elimination. Spray the spray on the area that you will be taking him to to pee, and allow him to sniff that area that you sprayed when he arrives. Such a spray can often be found in the house breaking or puppy section of most major pet stores. It is usually called "Hurry Spray", "Training Spray", or something similar. You can also try taking him outside on a long leash, since the problem could be a fear of peeing in front of you. If he will pee on the long leash, then when he does so toss large treats over to him as a reward. Overtime, as he is rewarded for eliminating outside and becomes more comfortable, you can gradually decrease the amount of space between you and him when you take him outside to go. When you have him inside, since he will hold it in the crate, do not give him freedom in your home unless he has peed during the past hour. When he begins to pee outside, then you can increase that amount of time by thirty minute increments, as long as he is not having accidents in your home, and when you get to three hours is also alerting you when he needs to go potty. Eventually it might be beneficial to teach him to ring a bell when he needs to go outside, but that will probably need to come after he is comfortable eliminating outside first. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Buddy
Scottish Terrier
1 Year
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Question
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Buddy
Scottish Terrier
1 Year

Buddy was a rescue dog and was trained to use the bathroom out door. My work schedule has recently changed from 8AM to 5 PM, that means he does not go to the bathroom until I get home. I am currently trying to train him to use a potty pad out in my balcony where I leave him when I go to work. The trouble that I am having is he won't use the pad, he has been holding it in until I take him to his usual spot in front of my apartment. I feel that this new transition will help him have more freedom when it comes to potty breaks. Dog walkers are too expensive and I don't feel comfortable giving strangers access to my home. Any help that you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tien, Try switching to a litter box without a lid on it. A litter box will resemble the gravel outdoors more closely. Also purchase a spray designed to encourage elimination and spray that on the litter. You can purchase such a spray at most large pet stores or online. It is usually called "Training Spray", "Hurry Spray", or something similar. Work on training him when you are at home by taking him over to the area on a leash when his bladder his full and telling him to "Go Potty". Let him sniff where you sprayed the spray, and if he goes, praise him and give him a treat. Do this as often as you can when you are at home. The praise and treats will help him to learn to go there, and telling him "Go Potty" will eventually help him to associate that command with going, so that he will go faster in the future. When you take him outside to go potty also tell him "Go Potty" when he starts to go. You can also try purchasing the spray designed to encourage elimination and spray that on the pee pad before switching to a litter box to see if that helps. Because pee pads resemble rugs, carpeting, and mats Buddy probably associates the Pee Pads with items that he should not eliminate on, and it is confusing for him though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Peyton
Shih Tzu
15 Weeks
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Question
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Peyton
Shih Tzu
15 Weeks

I picked up my pup two weeks ago. She is pee pad trained and I want to transition her to go outside. I was told not to do so until she had her third shot. I started outside training today and she went pee outside twice. A trainer at petco said to leave the pee pads out for her to use so she does not have an accident if she has to go in between outside breaks. I feel like this will confuse her. She sleeps in a playpen at night and also will probably need them then. She does not stay in a crate. Was never trained to. Please advice weather I need to remove the pads completely or is it ok to do both until she is totally trained to eliminate outdoors

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Madelene, I would suggest removing the Pee Pads. I see a lot of dog training clients with adult small dogs who were started on Pee Pads because of the convenience and when the Pee Pads were removed, they continue to use the bathroom inside because Pee Pads resemble rugs, carpeting, and clothing. Going straight to outdoor only Potty Training is best. If you need a way for her to use the bathroom inside because of long hours away from home, then get a litter box, place it into an Exercise Pen and put her in there at night and when you are gone during the day. When you are at home, attach herself to you with a six or eight-foot leash so that she cannot sneak off to have an accident, and take her outside to go potty every hour. As she improves at letting you know when she needs to go outside and is no longer having accidents, then you can gradually increase the amount of time between potty breaks. Litter Boxes tend to cause less confusion with Potty Training because your house is not full of litter, so they make a better temporary toilet for those who do not intend to use Pee Pads long term. Here is an article on how to litter box train. Use the Exercise Pen method from that article if you end up litter box training and quickly move away from giving her treats for using the litter box. You want to reserve the treats for peeing outside as much as possible. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy The quickest way to Potty Train her though is to take up the Pee Pads, crate train her, and then use the crate on a strict schedule to prevent accidents while she is still learning to only go potty outside. Ultimately you want to get away from her peeing anywhere inside in order for her to truly become Potty Trained. Ideally, you would crate train her and place her into a crate for no longer than four hours during the day while you are gone. When you are at home, take her outside every hour to speed up the process. Dogs have a natural instinct to not pee in a confined space where they eat or sleep. An appropriately sized crate will utilize that instinct, and frequent trips outside will speed up the learning process, especially if you tell her to "Go Potty" when you take her and then give her a couple of small treats when she goes. Check out the article that I have linked below for how to crate train her, reward her when she goes potty, and how often to take her out. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If you are at home all day, then you can utilize the "Tethering" method from the article above and crate Peyton less often. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ace
Miniature Schnauzer
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Ace
Miniature Schnauzer
3 Years

Hello,

We adopted Ace from a lady that couldn't keep him anymore. We got him in May, and we are his third set of owners. He came to us already potty trained, and despite all the changes in his life, he was a champ at never going to the bathroom inside. Until July. Since July, he's peed four times in the house.

At first we thought maybe we just weren't taking him out enough because he was having to hold it for 10 hours overnight. (Though he didn't have any issues holding it that long the first two months we owned him.) So I'm not sure what changed with his ability to hold himself, but anyways, we started being more consistent with pottying him more frequently.

Today, however, he had another accident. But it had only been 7 hours since the last time we took him out. My husband took him out at 7 am, and he peed twice in two different places. Then he had an accident in the house. Then we took him out after his accident and he peed another two times in two locations. So five times total within the past 7 hours!

I'm not sure if that's still just too long for him to wait or if he's now just used to going in a certain spot in the house (3 of the 4 times has been in the same location despite bleaching the area. That location is just outside our bathroom so maybe he sees us use the restroom inside and thinks it's okay?) Another possibility is that he is just drinking too much water. He's a 17 pound dog and I gave him 2 cups of water last night, but only 12 hours later, his bowl was completely empty! Maybe I should just take his bowl away at night so he doesn't drink so much? (He does have a water bottle that he could use if he was super thirsty, it's just not his preference.) What do you suggest?

Thanks,

Stacy

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

Hello Stacy, I would suggest a trip to your vet to get him checked out for a urinary tract infection, diabetes, or any other possible causes of urinary incontinence or frequent urination. A UTI would cause him to pee often and have accidents and diabetes could make him drink more. If a UTI is confirmed it will need to be treated first and he will need to be taken outside as often as you can and given a lot of water until he gets better. Once he is better, then you will need to tackle any bad habits he learned from the accidents. You can use the same training to address the issue if he does not have a UTI also. To start, clean up accident areas with a cleaner that contains enzymes. It should say on the bottle if it does. Many pet specific sprays have it but not all, so check. Only enzymes remove the smell enough for a dog not to be able to smell it still because the enzymes actually breakdown the urine and poop at a molecular level and dog's noses are very sensitive. Avoid Ammonia because it encourages peeing due to the smell. You also might need to remove that rug for a bit until you break his habit of going there. Next, whenever he is home, keep him attached to one of you on a six to eight foot leash so that he cannot sneak off to pee. Teach him to ring a bell when he needs to go potty so that he will alert you better when he needs to go out and you will not miss his cues. When you take him outside tell him to "Go Potty" and when he does give him four small treats, one treat at a time. Whenever he cannot be attached to you during the training weeks place him into a crate or Exercise Pen, preferably crate. Give him a favorite chewtoy or Kong toy stuffed with food to keep him occupied and happy while he is in there. Do all of this until he is consistently alerting you when he needs to go out. When that happens, gradually give him more and more freedom over one to two months. If he has an accident go back a step and be more strict again for at least two to three more weeks. To teach him how to ring a bell follow one of the methods from the article that I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/ring-a-bell-to-go-out Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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