How to Train Your Dog to Pee and Poop on Command

Medium
7-21 Days
General

Introduction

It's a dark wet night in the middle of winter. You've changed for bed and the last task of the day is to let the dog out to toilet. However, he can be a bit precious about bad weather and get distracted from the job at hand. This means you stand for ages with the door open, the wind whistling past your ankles, while you peer out into the darkness wondering whether he's been yet . Since you don't want to be woken at 3 am by a dog with a full bladder whimpering, you go outside to check on him. Nope. He got distracted and is trying to steal peanuts out of the bird feeder. 

Hey ho. Now your pajamas are soaked, your slippers muddy, and the dog still hasn't been to the toilet....

Imagine instead a dog that's trained to go on command. By issuing a cue word such as "Toilet" or "Empty", he understands what's expected and goes right away. Bliss! 

Defining Tasks

It's not as hard as you might suppose to teach a dog to pee or poop on command. It just requires an additional step to the general potty training, which is to label the action with a cue word. Once the dog links the word to the action and understands he gets a reward, then the battle is won. 

Don't be afraid to start this training hand-in-hand with potty training a puppy. As long as you are patient and just ignore any mistakes, the proverbial penny will eventually drop. And as for older dogs, well it's never too late to learn, so start incorporating the cue word into his walks and the next wet windy night you'll be thankful you did. 

Getting Started

Start out by deciding on your cue words. These should be words the dog is unlikely to hear regularly, so he builds a strong link between the cue words and the expected action.  Examples of good cue words are "Get Busy", "Empty", "Go Potty", or "Abracadabra"!

You may also wish to have different words for peeing or pooping, in order to fine-tune the toilet training on command. 

Other supplies you'll need include:

  • Collar and leash
  • An umbrella (for those wet days!) 
  • A toilet spot or place the dog is encouraged to relieve himself
  • Treats and a treat pouch on your belt
  • Time and patience

The Praise and Reward Method

Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Understand the idea
When the dog happens to toilet, you praise him and offer a treat. Over time you add a label to his action, so the dog understands what is being rewarded. Ultimately, the dog will hold onto his toilet in order to 'spend' it on command in return for a treat.
Step
2
Know when the dog needs to go
Identify those times the dog is most likely to need to toilet, such as after sleep, after eating and drinking, or if he hasn't been out for a while.
Step
3
Use a collar and leash
Take the dog to the toilet spot, but make sure you have him under control on a collar and leash. This stops him wandering off and getting distracted. Let the dog sniff around, but ignore him and don't interact.
Step
4
Praise the happy accident
You may need to wait for 5 - 10 minutes, but when the dog does go, praise him and say an enthusiastic "Yes", as he reaches the end of his toilet and give him a tasty treat.
Step
5
Now add the command word
Once the dog is watching you while he toilets in anticipation of a treat, start adding the command word. This labels the action and helps him understand what's being rewarded.
Step
6
Build a solid association
Once you have built a firm foundation whereby the dog recognizes the cue word and knows which action is required, try giving the command just ahead of him toileting. This reinforces his learning and is the final step ahead of you telling to go on command.
Recommend training method?

The What NOT to Do Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Don't immediately return inside
When training your pup to pee or poop on demand, don't rush back indoors as soon as he performed. A hasty retreat means he doesn't get to play outdoors, which is a disincentive for doing as he's asked. Instead, praise him for peeing and then indulge him in a short game so he doesn't link going to the toilet with going straight back inside.
Step
2
Don't distract the dog
There's a lot of waiting involved in training this command. You have to wait for the dog to feel the natural urge to empty his bladder or bowel, which can take a while. During this time, be sure to ignore the dog so that you don't accidentally distract his mind from the job in hand. Praise, play, and interaction comes after he's gone, as part of the reward.
Step
3
Never punish accidents
Imagine you cue word is "Go Potty" and a friend's toddler visits and asks to "Go Potty". Your partially trained dog recognizes the words and squats on the lounge room carpet. Do NOT punish him, as this will confuse him and put training back. Instead, congratulate yourself on making good progress and be sure to work on the location for toileting as well as the cue words.
Step
4
Don't leave the dog loose in the yYard
Yes, it's boring standing with your dog on a leash, but at least you'll be there when he toilets. Don't give in to the temptation to leave him out in the yard unattended as he'll learn nothing and may play, forget to go, and return indoors to relieve himself.
Step
5
Don't praise too early
When the dog toilets, don't praise him straight away or he may get so excited he stops midstream. Instead, wait until he's nearly finished, and then make a big fuss.
Recommend training method?

The Clicker Training Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
Clicker training involves learning that the clicker signals he's earned a reward. The beauty of the clicker is that you can label the exact moment he does the desired action, which makes things clearer in his mind. Then you progress as in the method above, clicking when he toilets as a 'down payment' or 'promise' of a treat.
Step
2
Introduce the clicker
The first step is to link the noise of the clicker to get a reward. To do this, scatter some treats on the floor. As the dog eats each one, click. The dog soon associates the clicker with a treat.
Step
3
Click then reward
Now the dog links the sound of a clicker to getting a treat, switch the order of things around. Click and when the dog looks at you or the floor for a reward, then toss him a treat. The dog learns that the clicker means he gets a treat.
Step
4
Click peeing or pooping
The next step is to label peeing and pooping as a rewardable action, by pressing the clicker as he goes. Now he realizes his bodily functions are a currency which he can spend for a reward.
Step
5
Label the action
Now when he toilets, add the command word and then click. Again, he is learning that he earned a treat and the name of the action required that hit the jackpot.
Step
6
Phase out the clicker
When he is regularly going toilet on command, phase out the clicker. Do this by not clicking (but still rewarding, as this reinforces the command word) every single time he toilets.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Pippa Elliott

Published: 10/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Canelo
Boxer
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Canelo
Boxer
2 Months

We use toilet sheets so he can know to pee and poo there but instead he does it next to them on the floor. What should we do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
914 Dog owners recommended

Hello Julio, If by toilet sheets you mean sheets of toilet paper, then if the floor next to the toilet sheets is not carpeted, he is actually doing well in a way. To him the toilet sheets likely look like fabric and not something that he should be soiling. He is choosing to avoid peeing on the fabric type material, and peeing on the more outdoor looking, hardwood floor instead. If your floor is carpeted and not hardwood or tile or something similar, then he is choosing it because it is absorbent. In either case, switch out the toilet sheets for something that resembles the outdoors. If you intend to teach him to go potty only outside when he gets older, then I would suggest using disposable real grass toilet trays right now to make your transition outside easier. If you are at home with him during the day and can start potty training now, then I suggest skipping using anything indoors now that he is eight weeks old and going straight to crate training and potty training. You can do this by following the crate training method from the article that I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Here is a link to one grass toilet: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EQJ7I7Y/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B00EQJ7I7Y&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=f52e26da-1287-4616-824b-efc564ff75a4&pf_rd_r=00YCV77A3X0C183H3XZ5&pd_rd_wg=qciqH&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&pd_rd_w=PllE1&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pd_rd_r=725cd779-c468-11e8-9d4a-0fba352303e4 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Luna
Chihuahua
8 Months
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Question
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Luna
Chihuahua
8 Months

She is new the family and she doesn’t let me know when she has to potty and when I take her out she don’t go she is use to running around around outside off a leash how I can I train her

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
236 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am sending you quite a bit of information on potty and crate training just in case you want to use a 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.

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Luna
Cavapoo
6 Months
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Luna
Cavapoo
6 Months

Luna is posing in her bed, on the floor, on her toys, basically anywhere but outside. I praise her good behaviour, I am at my wits end 😩

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
914 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hayley, Check out the article I have linked below. I recommend strictly following the Crate Training method from that method. Once she is consistently pooping only outside, you can do a combination of the Tethering method and Crate Training method if you want to keep her with you more often. Crate Training method and Tethering method article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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