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Your Pomeranian is beautifully trained to use a puppy pad in the corner of the room. This all started because you lived in an apartment and it was a trek outside to the yard. In addition, in wet weather it seemed unfair to make this tiny fluff ball rough it on the wet grass.
However, times change. You're so happy to have moved into a home with its own backyard, making it much more convenient for the dog to pop outside. But the dog has other ideas. Having accepted for so long that the right place to go is a square of absorbent white paper, he's now reluctant to change his habits. Indeed, you put him outside for hours at a time, for him to run back inside to urgently ease a full bladder on the puppy pad.
What's to be done?
There is an argument that small dogs are more difficult to house train than big ones. In part this is true, but not because of biology or physiology, but because small dogs are 'small' and therefore their pee or poop is more likely to evade detection. In turn, this means they are more likely to establish a private, undetected toilet indoors rather than going outside. An additional factor is that small dogs are often trained to use a puppy pad indoors, which can backfire if you then decide you prefer him to toilet outdoors.
But don't despair, you can train a small dog to toilet outside. However, it requires dedication and patience, to consistently instruct the dog where is the correct place to relieve himself.
Training any dog not to toilet in the house requires commitment, patience, and consistency. Ideally, chose a time when you'll have several consecutive days at home, in order to apply the rules in a predictable way. For this reason, you may find it helpful to take some vacation time or have a friend stay with the dog if you can't be there at all times.
In addition, helpful equipment includes:
- Cleaning supplies, in order to deodorize accidents in the house.
- A collar and leash
- A sheltered spot in the yard
- A bag or pouch to keep the treat readily to hand
- A timer or phone with a timer function
- A crate, equipped with comfortable bedding
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Don't: Punish indoor accidents
If you find a puddle or poop indoors, don't punish the dog. He lives in the moment and won't understand you are upset because of the location of the poop. Chastisement will only make him more anxious in your presence, especially when he needs the bathroom, and he may hide his indoor toilets rather than do them in plain sight.
Do: Catch the dog as he squats
If you happen to be present when the dog squats as if to go to the toilet, at this moment it is acceptable to give a high-pitched "No!", and scoop the dog up and take him straight outside. However, if the deed is already done then simply clean up without making a fuss.
Don't: Leave the dog unattended
Success depends on breaking the habit of the dog toileting indoors. To do this you need to have him in sight at all times and be vigilant for the precursor behaviors that indicate he needs to go. These actions include sidling up to furniture and sniffing with intent to toilet. When you see this, take him outside immediately.
Do: Make the toilet spot inviting
You want the dog to toilet outside in all weather. Of course, small dogs are close to the ground and may be put off by rain, snow, or even high wind which makes them feel uncomfortable. Anticipate this by choosing a spot that is close to the door, and yet partially sheltered. If you can rig up a roofed shelter to keep the worst of the weather out, so much the better (especially as you will be standing there with the dog to start with).
Do: Stay with the dog outside
One of the biggest mistakes owners make is to put the dog outside and then leave the dog unattended for half an hour. They then call the dog inside, in the belief the dog has gone to the toilet. However, many dogs will quickly become distracted outdoors and play rather than concentrate on the job in hand. Avoid this pitfall by keeping the dog on a leash and staying with the dog until he has done his business.
The Basic Potty Training Method
Understand the idea
If your small dog is already potty trained but uses a pad indoors, or perhaps has a favorite indoor spot he repeatedly visits, then you may want him to toilet outside instead. This is done by re-educating the dog that outdoors is the right place to visit and praising him when he toilets outside. At the same time you thoroughly clean away any lingering smells from indoor accidents, which may draw him back to the scene of the crime.
Clean up existing indoor accidents
Use an ammonia-free cleaning product to get rid of any smells that could mark out an indoor spot as a toilet site. Experts say that you should clean the area once a day for two to three weeks (from the time it was last used as a toilet) in order that the dog's super-sensitive nose can't pick up lingering traces. Consider placing a piece of furniture or object over the spot, to physically prevent the dog doing what he shouldn't
Decide on an outdoor toilet spot
With the dog on a collar and lead, show him the toilet spot. It may help to place a soiled puppy pad or his feces on the spot, to act as a marker. If the dog happens to toilet, say "Yes" in an excited voice while he's toileting and then give him a treat when he's finished. Once he had done his stuff, let him off lead to play for a few minutes, as an additional reward.
Take the dog out regularly
Be sure to give the dog lots of opportunity to empty his bladder and bowel outside. Take him outside when he wakes after a nap, a short time after eating, and every hour in between. This increases the likelihood of him needing to relieve himself while he's in the right place.
Watch over the dog outside
To succeed, you must be present at the moment the dog toilets, in order to praise him. For this reason, take him out on a collar and lead. Largely ignore the dog and don't interact when first outside so that he concentrates on sniffing around to toilet. If after 5 - 10 minutes he hasn't relieved himself, then take him back indoors and try again half an hour or so later (set an alarm to remind yourself). If however he does toilet, make a big fuss and then let him off leash to play.
Watch the dog inside
It's critical that the dog doesn't get a chance to sneak off to do a puddle behind the sofa. For this reason, keep him in sight at all times. If necessary, attach a longline to his collar and loop this over your wrist so that you feel when the dog is up and moving. If he starts making exploratory sniffing as if he needs to go, then take him outside immediately.
The Crate Training Method
Understand the idea
There are times when you need to move around the house and can't physically be present to watch over the dog. Under these circumstances training the dog to relax in a crate is immensely helpful. This is easily done with a small dog as you can use a sturdy pet carrier as a crate should you wish. The idea is to confine the dog at times you can't be present, since dogs are very unlikely to soil their own bed or den. This teaches the dog bladder and bowel control, and means he's more likely to need to toilet when you place him outside. You may wish to crate train the dog ahead of toilet training so the dog is not dealing with too many changes at once. However, you can also teach the two things in parallel.
Select a crate
The right sized crate is essential. Too small and the dog will be uncomfortable. Too big and the dog may use a corner as a toilet. The ideal crate should let your small dog stand up without lowering his head, and lie down full length with his legs outstretched (but little bigger). Make the crate cozy with a snuggly bed and some favorite toys. Locate the crate in a quiet corner of the room, but where the dog still feels part of family life.
Make the crate enticing
With the dog free to roam and the crate door open, scatter treats inside the crate each time you walk past. The dog will start to realize there as delicious titbits to be found inside the crate, which encourages a positive vibe. Also, place the dog's meals inside the crate, so again this builds positive associations. You may also give him a treat, such as a chew toy, by placing it on the bed in the crate. When the dog goes into to retrieve the goodies, tell him how clever he is and give lots of praise.
Shut the door for a few seconds
Once the dog is confidently popping inside the crate, start shutting the door for a few seconds. A great time to start this is when he's eating inside the crate. While he remains calm and happy, praise him, then open the door so he can exit should he choose. Gradually increase the length of time you leave the door shut. Once the dog is settled with the door closed for a few minutes, briefly leave the room, then immediately return. Avoid going straight to the crate but after a few seconds let the dog out. Slowly build his tolerance of time spent in the crate.
Build in toilet breaks
Now the dog is happy in the crate, you can start to use it as a potty training tool. When you can't watch the dog, confine him to the crate. However, it's crucial to give him plenty of toilet breaks. For a puppy, these should be every 20 minutes (set an alarm) while for an adult this can be every one to two hours. Also, take the dog to the toilet spot on waking or after a meal.
Written by Pippa Elliott
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 01/10/2018, edited: 01/08/2021