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How to Train Your Small Dog to Go to the Bathroom Outside

How to Train Your Small Dog to Go to the Bathroom Outside
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-12 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

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? 

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Defining Tasks

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. 

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Getting Started

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 
  • Treats
  • 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

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The Do's and Don'ts Method

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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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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).

5

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

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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.

2

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

3

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.

4

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.

5

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.

6

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

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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.

2

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.

3

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.

4

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.

5

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Sky

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Siberian Husky

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Seven Months

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Question

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Her past owner Trained her to use the bathroom on the pads

Aug. 2, 2023

Sky's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the Crate Training method from the article linked below. Make sure that the crate doesn't have anything absorbent in it - including a soft bed or towel. Check out www.primopads.com if you need a non-absorbent bed for him. Make sure the crate is only big enough for him to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that he can potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid it. Dogs have a natural desire to keep a confined space clean so it needs to be the right size to encourage that natural desire. Use a cleaner that contains enzymes to clean any previous or current accidents - only enzymes will remove the small and remaining smells encourage the dog to potty in the same location again later. The method I have linked below was written for younger puppies, since your dog is older you can adjust the times and take him potty less frequently. I suggest taking him potty every 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5 hours (or less if he has an accident sooner) or freedom out of the crate, return him to the crate while his bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since his last potty trip. When you have to go off he should be able to hold his bladder in the crate for 5-7 hours - less at first while he is getting used to it and longer once he is accustomed to the crate. Only have him wait that long when you are not home though, take him out about every 3 hours while home. You want him to get into the habit of holder his bladder between trips and not just eliminating whenever he feels the urge and you want to encourage that desire for cleanliness in your home - which the crate is helpful for. Less freedom now means more freedom later in life. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If he is not already used to a crate, expect crying at first. When he cries and you know he doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give him a dog food stuffed hollow chew toy to help him adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. If he continues protesting for long periods of time past 3-5 days, you can use a Pet Convincer. Work on teaching "Quiet" but using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Tell him "Quiet" when he barks and cries. If he gets quiet and stays quiet, you can sprinkle a few pieces of dog food into the crate through the wires calmly, then leave again. If he disobeys your command and keep crying or stops but starts again, spray a small puff of air from the Pet convincer at his side through the crate while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, then leave again. If he stays quiet after you leave you can periodically sprinkle treats into the crate to reward quietness. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Only use the unscented air from the Pet Convincers - don't use citronella, it's too harsh and lingers for too long so can be confusing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 3, 2023

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pippin

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Pomeranian

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5 Months

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he only goes to the toilet inside on his training mat, doesn't matter how long we are outside

Jan. 26, 2021

pippin's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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Hello! I am sending you quite a bit of information on potty and crate training just in case you want to use the crate to help with potty training. Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

Jan. 26, 2021


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