How to Potty Train a Chihuahua in the Winter

Medium
1-4 Months
General

Introduction

If you live in a cold weather climate and don't enjoy exercising out in the snow, you may have chosen to get a small breed so that you could both get your exercise inside. The Chihuahua is a charming, personable, loyal little dog who comes in a variety of colors, coat lengths, and shapes. The Chihuahua is an ancient breed that suffers few health problems and is intelligent as it is charming. Your Chihuahua puppy will readily learn potty training but during a cold winter, you may face a new problem. While your Chihuahua may be willing to go potty where you would like her to, she may not be willing to face the freezing temperatures outside. You can certainly potty train your Chihuahua in the winter, but be willing to make some compromises.

Defining Tasks

Chihuahuas weren't made for the cold. They come from Mexico, and their years becoming popular and changing shapes all over America have not made them much more cold-hardy. While long-haired Chihuahua have some advantage in the cold, their coats are single layered, not thick like the spitz type dogs bred for the snow. All Chihuahua must be protected from the cold even for short periods. Heavy fuzzy jackets that don't restrict her delicate throat and weather-proof booties for her feet can help keep your Chihuahua comfortable in the cold.

Getting Started

Whether your eventual goal is to have your Chihuahua go potty outside, or if you intend for her to use an indoor pad or litterbox all her life, it is best to train inside for some time in the winter before moving to outdoors training. Your Chihuahua puppy should know what she has to do, and not have to do it so often, before being asked to do it outside in the cold. In time you will develop a routine with your Chihuahua puppy, and it will be easy to know when she needs to go out and to keep the outside time to a minimum. If you decide that you would rather have her continue doing her business inside, she will always be small enough that it is not too much of a mess.

The Gradual Paper Method

Effective
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Step
1
Set up a pen
Set up a pen for your Chihuahua puppy that is large enough to have a sleeping and eating area and a bathroom area. Bring her here to potty every half hour or so when she is out with you.
Step
2
Cover with paper
Newspaper is the traditional choice but training pads are made that are scented to encourage peeing and have removable adhesive so that your puppy won't disturb the paper. Whatever you choose, be thorough and cover every inch.
Step
3
Wait for potty area
Soon your Chihuahua will establish an area she wants to use more than others, probably farthest from her bed.
Step
4
Reduce paper
Reduce paper every couple of days until only one paper remains. Use some urine from the dirty paper to scent the new paper each time. If there is an accident, add more paper.
Step
5
Move paper to desired location
Move your Chihuahua's paper to where you would like her to go potty. If it is outside, make sure you dress her warmly, and remember that she can't hold it for more than a few hours while she is young.
Recommend training method?

The Crate or Watch Method

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Step
1
Set up a crate and potty pad
Set up your Chihuahua's crate to be just big enough for her to comfortably stand, turn around, and stretch out. Any bigger and she may try to potty in her crate. Set up a potty pad across the room from the crate.
Step
2
Crate if not watching
If you can't watch your Chihuahua closely, put her in her crate. Make sure she has plenty of chews and toys to entertain her, and never leave her for more than an hour or so.
Step
3
Bring to potty pad
Every hour or so, bring your pup to the potty pad and encourage her to go potty. Reward her with praise, treats, and toys when she goes. If she goes anywhere else, clean if thoroughly and ignore it.
Step
4
Watch for signs
Watch for signs that your Chihuahua understands that she should go to the paper. She may strain to be put down and then go there, or she may look around for somewhere to pee and then go there.
Step
5
Build trust and go outside
Begin allowing your puppy free for longer periods with you in puppy-safe rooms. Let her tell you when she needs to go out. Put the pad outside if that's where you would like your Chihuahua to finally go.
Recommend training method?

The Tether to You Method

Effective
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Step
1
Keep your pup close
Keep your pup with you constantly, tying her to you with a harness and leash, carrying her, or else keeping her by your side.
Step
2
Frequent breaks
Take your Chihuahua to the potty paper every hour or so and encourage her to go potty.
Step
3
Reward every potty
Reward your Chihuahua when she goes potty, especially when she goes right away.
Step
4
Build trust and communication
Begin letting your Chihuahua decide when she wants to go to the paper. Watch her closely to make sure she doesn't go anywhere else.
Step
5
Let her ask
Let your Chihuahua ask to go outside or to her potty paper. At this time you will know that she understands the concept.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Coral Drake

Published: 02/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Cheech
Great Dane, boxer, Doberman
10 Weeks
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Question
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Cheech
Great Dane, boxer, Doberman
10 Weeks

I live in -35 wheather and all cheech does is stand and shiver outside, he’s a short haired puppy and possibly the runt? He drinks tons of water but also only pees on the floor, it’s his first night home, what should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Katalin, I would do one of two things: 1. If you have an area outside/garage/patio porch that is significantly warmer than outside but won't be associated with the house for pup later, I would purchase disposable real grass pads and teach pup to go potty on the pad in that area outside that's warmer until things warm up. Real grass pad brands: www.freshpatch.com www.doggielawn.com www.porchpotty.com Option 2. If continuing with regular outdoor potty training, pup needs to be outfitted for the weather just like a person. Most designer doggie coats and outfits aren't going to keep pup warm enough and won't allow pup to go potty easily, but a high quality outdoor dog gear brand will be very functional and warm to insulate pup and still be cut in a way that allows pup to potty with the coat/boots on. Check out www.Ruffwear.com and Outwardhound.com. There are cheaper brands out there and those brands may not make coats as small as what you need but you can get an idea of what quality, materials, and cuts to look for for functionality. If you struggle to find a quality coat that's cheap enough you can also make your own potentially. Go to local thrift stores or look at your closed for quality coats that you no longer need or don't fit. If you have an old down-coat, windproof jacket with some insulation, or other high quality material that's significantly warm - you can cut, sew, and re-purpose that into a dog jacket. If the ground is very icy, pup likely needs dog hiking or rubber type boots also to protect paws - spend time letting puppy wear the clothes around the house and play games and give treats - interrupting any chewing of the clothes, to get pup used to wearing them before outdoor trips, so that the clothes won't be a potty training distraction outside. Not all dog clothes are just for looks - my own dogs have winter gear for backpacking and hiking in the winter - it's purely functional and they appreciate staying warm on the trail. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Mac & Maggie
Chihuahua
13 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
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Mac & Maggie
Chihuahua
13 Weeks

potty training in winter
pee pad vs fake grass vs reusable pee pad

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

Hello! I am going to give you some training information on how to work with your dog to use a potty pad. The same process can be used with fake grass and pee pads. Choose Your Spot Pick a space in your house where you want your dog to go. Obviously, you’ll want this spot to be a low-traffic area. Make sure this spot is easily accessible to your dog, and make sure the floor surface is linoleum or tile, as opposed to carpet. If your dog “misses,” it will be easier to clean up. If the only spot you can put the pee pad is a carpet, you might consider getting a small tarp to put underneath the puppy pee pad to guard against spillage. Choose a spot that is outside of your “smell zone.” An important tip to remember is to make sure not to let your dog decide the spot he likes. Not only might he pick an area you won’t like, but he’ll learn that he is in charge – not you – which can cause a host of problems down the line. Monitor Your Dog When you are potty training your dog, full-time monitoring is an absolute necessity. It’s impossible to correct bad behaviors if you don’t see them happen. Dogs have very short memories. It is important to catch your dog in the act. If your dog goes on the floor, and you try to correct him hours after the fact, he will be confused and upset, not knowing what he did wrong. This can hinder training and your relationship with your dog. Puppies, in particular, must be watched constantly. They have less control over their bowels and will go when they have to go. If you miss these moments, you lose precious training opportunities. Of course, it’s nearly impossible to be with your dog 24 hours a day, but try to spend more time at home during the weeks you are potty training – it will pay off in the long run. Learn Your Dog’s Schedule Dogs, for the most part, are predictable. They will go to the bathroom at predictable times. You should be able to learn when your dog has to go based on timing as much as on his signals. Take some time to study your dog’s bathroom habits. You’ll learn the amount of time after he eats or drinks that he has to go, and you’ll get in rhythm with his daily bathroom schedule. This will help you reduce accidents and speed up the potty training process. Studying your dog’s habits can also help you identify his bathroom “triggers” – like having to go after a certain amount of playtime. Once you learn your dog’s schedule, use it to your advantage in potty training. Bring him to the pee pad a few minutes before he normally goes, and encourage him. This will help him get used to going in the right spot, and help you establish repetition in your training. Choose a Command Word Dogs have keen senses – they respond to sight, smell, and sound. When you begin pee pad training, choose a command word and use it every time you take your dog to the pad. Just about any word will work. The tone of your voice is more important than the actual word. Try phrases like “go on” or “go potty” in a slightly elevated, encouraging tone. Make sure to repeat this same command, in the same tone, every time you take your dog to the pee pad. Avoid Punishment When your dog has an accident, it’s just that – an accident. When you punish your dog during potty training, he will become confused and scared. He doesn’t know what he’s done wrong, and can’t understand why the person he loves most is mad at him. Most importantly, it will not help his potty training. Positive Reinforcement Both human and dog behavior is largely based on incentives. Dogs’ incentives are very simple – they want to eat when they are hungry, play when they are excited, and sleep when they are tired. But the most important thing your dog wants in life is to please you. Use this to your advantage. Whenever your dog goes on his potty training pad, shower him with lots of praise. If he sees that he gets praise for doing his business on the pad, he will be incentivized to keep going on the pad – and he’ll be excited to do it! Potty training – whether it’s a pee pad or going outside – will take time, but if you do it right, can take less time. Many dogs are potty trained in less than two weeks. Just remember that you and your dog are partners. Do everything you can to help him learn the proper etiquette, and you will enjoy a long, quality relationship together. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thank you for writing in.

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Question
Chucho
Chihuahua
8 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Chucho
Chihuahua
8 Months

He won’t go potty outside, when I take him out he’s terrified. He just freezes up and cries and shakes. He will not walk on a leash at all. He just plops down and won’t budge. He goes potty on his pads just fine but I want him to go outside and be able to walk with him. He is a very anxious, insecure and nervous little guy. Everything scares him. I can’t leave a room without him following or crying like crazy. He’s extremely clingy/needy. Is there hope for him? Right now it’s winter and it’s freezing in Jersey so I don’t blame him for not wanting to go outside but I don’t know if it’s the cold or he’s just petrified.

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

Hi there! I am going to give you some tips that will build his overall confidence. Working on overall behaviors often improves the little things. It's an indirect approach, but it is likely his behaviors will start to resolve themselves over the next month or so. So patience is key! There are several methods you can use to improve your dogs confidence. 1. Work on obedience training. Daily obedience work, even when it is only for a short time, provides submissive dogs with a lot of confidence. Family members are proud of dogs that perform on command and dogs pick up on this feeling. If the obedience training is harsh, though, a submissive dog will just get worse. Find a positive reinforcement and reward-based training class in your area. If the trainer works with a discipline-based system, it is not appropriate for a submissive dog. 2. Socialize your dog as much as possible to make them adaptable. The sensitive socialization period for your dog ended when she was a puppy, about 15 weeks of age, but she can still be socialized as an older dog, it is just going to take a lot more work. To socialize your dog, take her out as much as possible, let her meet new people, let her meet your friends dogs (if they are friendly with other dogs), and let her run free at the dog park so that she will meet new dogs. (Some dogs will be too nervous to play at the dog park so this phase may only come later.) 3. Give your dog a job or get her involved in a canine sport. Most dogs are not able to "work", however, so in order to give them an activity to build their confidence, it is a good idea to get them involved in one of the canine sports. Flyball, agility, Frisbee, dock diving, and other activities may be available in your area. 4. Use counter-conditioning techniques to help her overcome fear. This is the best but also the hardest (for you!) of the methods available to treat a submissive dog. For each thing that your dog is afraid of, you have to train her to have a pleasant feeling. When a dog is no longer afraid of the situation, he is confident and no longer going to be submissive. If you decide to try to build her confidence through counter-conditioning, the first thing you have to identify is the trigger. What is stimulating your dog to be so submissive? If she is only afraid of one thing it is easier to train her; unfortunately, most submissive dogs are afraid of almost everything. Spend some time with your dog to become familiar with her fears. The next step is to teach him that the scary thing is actually a good thing. When she is exposed to the scary object, give her a tasty treat and let her relax around the object without any pressure. The final step in counter-conditioning your dog to face her fears is to expose her and not provide a treat or even notice that he is being exposed. If you need more help on using counter-conditioning, the animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell has a book that I have found to be useful. The techniques are great and will help your dog develop confidence but as with most behavior modification, takes patience and persistence. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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