How to Potty Train a Chihuahua

Medium
1-2 Weeks
General

Introduction

For anyone who has ever owned a Chihuahua, it can be very frustrating to know that they are notoriously difficult to housetrain. This breed has a knack for finding the worst places to use the bathroom in your home and it can be tempting to leave them outside indefinitely. However, Chihuahuas are very much lap dogs and thrive indoors with their family. So what is the solution for a dog who refuses to take his business outdoors? In winter especially, Chihuahuas can hesitate to go out and relieve themselves due to the cold weather. They are sensitive and particular and require a persistent and patient owner to overcome their stubborn attitudes and teach them the appropriate ways to do things.

Chihuahuas can learn just as well as any other dog, but may require some extra practice and a stern - but not angry - voice when getting involved in obedience training. This includes potty training. If you’re not yet resigned to having your Chihuahua go wherever he pleases, then it may be time to set a schedule for training.

Defining Tasks

Depending on where you live, whether in a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city, every dog needs an appropriate bathroom routine. Puppies can start potty training once they are eight weeks old and the earlier a routine is established, the better. Chihuahuas will need to especially be monitored, as they are small and vulnerable when outdoors, but can still learn and adjust to a schedule like any other breed of dog.

A positive reinforcement approach works best on Chihuahuas, as they don’t respond well to negative reinforcement. Rubbing their nose into the carpet or shouting will likely not solve your bathroom woes, but a reward in the form of a treat or a toy for good bathroom habits will likely yield much better results. This technique does not only apply to potty training, but for obedience training in general. For an older Chihuahua who may already have established habits, you’ll want to double the reward and make it that much more interesting and enticing. With the right reinforcement, even the most stubborn of this small breed can learn to do things your way.

Getting Started

Depending on the weather in your area, you may want to invest in a sweater or other warm covering for your Chihuahua. The warmer they are when they’re outside, the less likely it will be that they’ll default to using the bathroom inside.

Take your Chihuahua to the vet if you haven’t already to rule out any incontinence or health problems that could be contributing to his bathroom habits. If he receives a clean bill of health, then you can continue to work on training. Determine what motivates your dog the most, whether it's toys or treats, and gather enough of those to offer rewards whenever possible to do so. Good rewards will encourage better behavior.

The Crate Method

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Step
1
Find the right size of crate
A crate must be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in comfortably. A comfortable and properly-sized crate will be most effective in training your Chihuahua to use the bathroom at appropriate times.
Step
2
Make the crate suitable
A crate should have adequate bedding and something to keep your dog occupied such as a chew or another toy.
Step
3
Use the crate when you are unavailable
The crate should be where your Chihuahua sleeps or rests when you cannot be around to monitor him. Dogs do not typically like to use the bathroom where they sleep, so using a crate will make it much less likely that your Chihuahua will use the bathroom indoors.
Step
4
Let your dog out often
Your dog should be let outside to use the bathroom frequently. When you first begin crate training, it should be at least every hour. You can increase the time spent between bathroom breaks as you go.
Step
5
Reward for bathroom breaks outside
Every time you let your Chihuahua out to use the bathroom, reward him for a successful bathroom break, regardless of how much time he spends relieving himself. The reward must come immediately afterwards to encourage using the bathroom outside.
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The Puppy Pad Method

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Step
1
Set an area for the puppy pad
To have your dog successfully use a puppy pad instead of your carpet or floor, the area where the puppy pad is should be consistent. Moving it around may confuse your Chihuahua.
Step
2
Adjust your dog to the pad
Place treats near the pad to encourage your Chihuahua to sniff around and investigate the pad. Reward her for standing on it.
Step
3
Reward bathroom breaks
If you notice your dog about to use the bathroom, take her to the pad and reward for relieving herself on it. Make rewards tasty or exciting. Bathroom time should be rewarded if done in the appropriate place.
Step
4
Change the pad often
Puppy pads can get saturated quickly and smell unpleasant. Changing the pad out at least once or twice a day is important to make sure your Chihuahua’s paws and your home stay clean.
Step
5
Move the pad outside if necessary
If you’d like to transition to your Chihuahua using the bathroom outside, move the pad away from its area bit by bit every day until you’re eventually placing the pad outside. Make sure it’s accessible, no matter where it is, and once it’s outside, take your dog out frequently. As usual, reward your Chihuahua for using the pad, no matter where it is.
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The Routine Method

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1 Vote
Step
1
Write down a schedule
Sit down with the rest of your housemates, if you share a home, and determine your schedule on a daily basis and when you are able to let your Chihuahua outside to use the bathroom.
Step
2
Start early, end late
Puppies especially need to use the bathroom very early in the morning and late at night in between their night time sleep. Some elder dogs may also have to use the bathroom at these times. Make it a habit to let your dog outside to use the bathroom when you wake up and before bedtime.
Step
3
Supervise outside time
With rewards in hand, be prepared to go outside with your dog every time you let him out. Any time he relieves himself outdoors, reward him generously.
Step
4
Go overnight, if necessary
Puppies may need a few bathroom breaks each night, as they find it harder to sleep through the night undisturbed. Adult dogs tend to not have this issue as much, so it will take some evaluation to determine whether your dog can sleep through the night or not.
Step
5
Be consistent
If there must be a change in the schedule at the last minute, try to find someone who can come and let your Chihuahua out for you. If all else fails, confine your dog to one area of the house where an accident can be easy to clean later such as the kitchen or a laundry room. Otherwise, try to maintain your schedule on a daily basis to be sure your dog is on the same page.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Rue
Chihuahua
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rue
Chihuahua
6 Months

My puppy will not go pee outside. Started crate training her and taking her pee grate a “pad holder” and pad outside. She will wait til we put her back in her crate to go to the bathroom. Tried to get her to go potty in my apartment courtyard but it’s all dirt and places she won’t pee. She will be outside for so long and won’t go to the bathroom I need help!

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

Hello! I am going to send you quite a bit of info on potty training and crate training. When problems arise, it is best to just start completely over 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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