How to Train Your Dog to Signal for Potty

Medium
1-3 Weeks
General

Introduction

It’s cold and dark outside, but you take your dog out anyway. You don’t want to risk him going on the kitchen floor... again. However, you walk outside for 10-15 minutes but to no avail. You head back inside and head up to bed. Sure enough, you walk downstairs in the morning and what do you find on the floor? A mess you don’t want to be described in graphic terms. Guessing when he actually needs the toilet is just a bit of a gamble.

If you could train him to signal to you when he needed the toilet you could prevent some of these unpleasant experiences. You also wouldn’t need to aimlessly wander around, hoping and praying he’s going to go. It could even make training him to signal to you about a variety of other things easier too.

Defining Tasks

Many people may not bother with this training because they think it will be too difficult, but in actual fact, it’s pretty straightforward. The hardest part comes from initially conveying to your dog what you want him to do. Then you need to incentivize him to signal to you and reinforce the behavior so it becomes a habit. If he’s a puppy, he should learn swiftly and you may see results in just a week. If his toilet habit has been unchanged for many years, then be prepared to invest two to three weeks into the new regime. 

This training will make heading out for the toilet a quick and easy process. No more hanging around and no more playing toilet roulette! You may also be able to train him to signal when he wants you to open a door, and any number of other things, too.

Getting Started

Before you can crack down on your pup's toilet habits you’ll need a few different bits. Poo bags will be an essential, so stock up! You’ll also need treats or his favorite food. They will be used to motivate and reward him throughout training. Some bells will also be needed for one of the methods.

In addition, you’ll need to be able to dedicate some time to training each day around his normal toilet times, for example, after meals and in the morning and evening. 

Once you’ve got the above, just bring a positive attitude and you’re ready to get to work!

The Speak Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Teach him to bark
If you can train him to bark, then you can train him to bark when he needs to go outside for the toilet too. Firstly, you need to monitor him for actions that cause him to bark. Does he bark while your making his food for example?
Step
2
Introduce the verbal command
Now just before you think he’s going to bark, issue a ‘speak’ command. As soon as he does bark, give him a treat and lots of praise. Practice this every day for a few days.
Step
3
The command alone
Now try giving him the command even when he’s not in a bark inducing situation. If it works, great news! Keep practicing for 10 minutes each day. If it doesn’t, go back to using it when he’s already barking, it’s not become habit enough yet.
Step
4
Toilet barking
Now each time you take him out to the toilet, issue a bark command just before you open the door. As soon as he barks, open the door and give him a treat. Practice this for a few days, he will soon associate barking with going to the toilet.
Step
5
The waiting game
Take him to the door, but don’t open it until he barks of his own accord. Be patient, it won’t take long for him to realize what he needs to do. Once he starts barking each time, you can stop giving him treats. If he doesn’t bark on his own, return to the previous step for a few more days.
Recommend training method?

The Potty Bell Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Setting up
Tie some bells to the door handle that leads outside. Make sure they hang low enough that he can easily reach them with his mouth to make a noise. You can get bells from online retailers and a range of local stores.
Step
2
The bell
Each time you take him out to go to the toilet, you’re going to use the bell. Secure him to a leash and then on the way out, hold your hand behind the bell with a treat so he has to knock the bell to get to your hand. As soon as he hits it and it makes a sound, give him a treat and reward him.
Step
3
Toilet time
Quickly head outside for the toilet and praise him. Be sure to be playful and upbeat, if he think it’s all a big game, he’s more likely to use the bell again and repeat the behavior.
Step
4
Be consistent
Every time you head out for the toilet, you need to make sure he hits the bell first. Over days and weeks he will associate the sound with going to the toilet. He will soon think of the bell as a trigger and eventually start going straight to the bell when he needs the toilet.
Step
5
Lose the treats
After a week or so, start giving him the chance to go to the bell first. It will come, so be patient. Once he does start heading for the bell when he needs the toilet, you can stop giving him treats. He will officially have his toilet signal!
Recommend training method?

The Leash Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Place in the mouth
Before you take him out to the toilet, play with the leash around his mouth, a bit like a game of tug and war. When he holds onto it, give him some praise and encouragement. Then head outside and let him go about his business.
Step
2
A couple of steps back
After a couple of days, place it in his mouth again, but now walk a few steps back and encourage him to come over to you. As soon as he does, give him a treat and praise. Repeat this for a few more days.
Step
3
Increase the distance
Now as before, place the leash in his mouth, but this time leave the room and call him over. Once he finds you with the leash in his mouth still, give him the same tasty reward. You are slowly teaching him to bring the leash to you.
Step
4
The big step
After several days when you think he’s got the hang of it, it’s time to make him think on his own four feet. Wait for him to bring the leash to you. He will now have made the connection between bringing you the leash and going to the toilet. For the first couple of days, stay close to him around toilet time to make it easier and so you can encourage him. Remember to reward him each time he completes the signal successfully.
Step
5
Lose the reward
When he’s finally got the hang of it, which may take a week or two, you can stop giving him treats altogether. By this point he’ll understand what bringing you the leash means and going to the toilet will be reward enough.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Schilo (Shi-Lo)
Pekazoo Pekinese and Shih Tzu
7 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Schilo (Shi-Lo)
Pekazoo Pekinese and Shih Tzu
7 Months

Well, I have spent the last seven months taking her out constantly. When I take her out she goes potty but later I will find an accident in the house. I don’t have time to watch her every moment of the day to figure out when she needs to go potty. How am I supposed to teach her that she needs to let me know?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
418 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shelby, You will need to crate train her for potty training. 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 her. Make sure the crate is only big enough for her to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that she 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 her potty less frequently. I suggest taking her potty every 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5 hours (or less if she has an accident sooner) or freedom out of the crate, return her to the crate while her bladder is filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since her last potty trip. When you have to go off she should be able to hold her bladder in the crate for 5-7 hours - less at first while she is getting used to it and longer once she is accustomed to the crate. Only have her wait that long when you are not home though, take her out about every 3 hours while home. You want her to get into the habit of holder her bladder between trips and not just eliminating whenever she 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 she is not already used to a crate expect crying at first. When she cries and you know she doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give her a food stuffed hollow chew toy to help her adjust and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. If she continues protesting for long periods of time past three days, you can use a Pet Convincer. Work on teaching "Quiet" but using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Tell her "Quiet" when she barks and cries. If she 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 she disobeys your command and keep crying or stops but starts again, spray a small puff of air from the Pet convincer at her side through the crate while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, then leave again. If she stays quiet after you leave you can periodically sprinkle treats into the crate to reward her 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

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