Potty Training Dogs: How to Do It
Potty training dogs is easiest when they are young puppies, and this rather long page outlines a basic method. There is a list of tips also.
With adult dogs and older puppies who are not housebroken, you often have more of an uphill battle because they have some undesirable habits to unlearn. There’s a section on potty training dogs when they are older further down this page.
The key to success is the timing of IN and OUT. Young puppies take IN food or water and usually within 15 or 20 minutes, they pee or poop OUT. So your job is to get the puppy to where you want him to be in time for that OUT moment.
You have a life and you won’t always be there, even if you are just answering the phone. So cleanup is part of the process of potty training dogs.
Basics of the Method
Here are the basics of a simple potty training routine for a puppy.
1. Take him outside (and stay till he’s done or a long time has gone by with no results):
- As soon as he wakes up in the morning (You don’t have to be awake.. much!)
- Right after his breakfast
- Right after his lunch
- Right after his naps
- Right after taking him out of his crate
- Right after his dinner
- Right after any snacks that are more than a tiny bite
- Right before his bedtime
- If he whimpers in the night
Praise him in a cheery voice when he produces.
2. Only feed him and give him water when you can take him outside right away. Especially in a hot or dry climate, you would normally never let dogs be without access to fresh water, but for the weeks that you are training, this limitation will speed up the potty training process for your dog. There will be fewer accidents and so the dog will more quickly learn what you want. But use your judgment about any risk of dehydration. House training dogs and puppies is a matter of using judgment all along!
3. When he does pee or poop where you don’t want him to, quietly clean it up in a matter-of-fact way. This isn’t a time to talk either loving or annoyed talk to him; essentially ignore him while you do the cleanup. Certainly never yell or physically punish him in any way.
4. When you and he are both home, keep him with you as much as you can, whether at your side (a leash can be handy for this once he accepts it), in a confined area, or in a crate, or otherwise nearby. (If you are crate-training, do keep the puppy in the crate as little as possible.)
### Keep in mind that you are building a relationship at the same time that you are teaching him one of his first lessons. Think sometimes about what the world must look like from his perspective, filled with giants who are sometimes very loving and other times confusingly angry. Practice patience!
### Potty training dogs isn’t always fun — you are waiting for the puppy to go, in whatever your climate can dish up and at all times of day or night. If the puppy is running loose in a safe place, this is a good time to do a few stretching exercises while keeping an eye on him. Even if the puppy is on a leash, you may be able to do some simpler ones. If you do a bit of gardening or something else, be sure it doesn’t get your attention so much that you are distracted from your job of watching the puppy every moment, so you know when he has done his job.
### Don’t take him back in the house the very moment he has done his stuff. He is likely to notice that the fun of being outside ends abruptly once he eliminates, and this is not an idea you want him to come up with!
### My husband and I train our puppies by saying “Do your stuff!”just as they pee or poop. After they have heard the phrase maybe a few dozen times, you can begin using it to encourage them just before they are actually doing their stuff. Eventually, it will be helpful when you are walking them as adults. I must admit I have never had a dog who heard me say that and always immediately performed, but it does help them get the idea. It’s just part of my routine for potty training my dogs.
### If you are clicker-training, you could click when the dog did his stuff where you wanted him to, then give him a treat a few moments later, when he is done.
### Physically, puppies vary in how old they are before they have control of elimination, but if you bring your puppy home around the age of 8 weeks, which is considered the ideal age, expect a month or two of accidents. They will become rarer as this time goes on. I did have one Australian Shepherd who never once went in the house, from 8 weeks of age. On the other hand, my Basenji pup hated the heavy rain where we lived then and used the living room carpet for longer than I care to remember. I wasn’t sure how much was physical and how much was her attitude.
Potty Training Older Puppies and Adult Dogs
You can use essentially the same routine as for puppies, but you will need to be much more vigilant and more patient, for a longer time period. Once an animal (or a person!) learns a habit, it can take a long time for it to go away. In scientific terms, the behavior isn’t easily extinguished because the an intermittent reinforcement cycle is even more rewarding than an every-time one. In other words, if the dog now and then experiences a reward for eliminating in the house — and the reward can simply be the natural sense of relief — then his tendency will be to keep up the habit. (This doesn’t only apply to potty training dogs — it’s a general principle.)
How do you get around this? By creating a situation where the dog never eliminates in the house. This can be easier said than done, but keeping the dog in a crate, fenced yard, or outside pen when you are gone may be essential.
One part is easier with older dogs: that long list of times to take the puppy out can be reduced quite a lot, since the dog can physically wait much longer between pit stops. If you haven’t already figured out when your dog is most likely to need to go out, a little thought and observation should give you that information. Middle-of-the-night trips are less likely with older dogs.
I was away and didn’t get to this. Hope you have resolved it by now. If not, ask locally for help.
If you haven’t resolved this by now, get a local positive-methods trainer.
I have 2 5 yr old Shih Tzus Honey and Biscuit which I was told they are hard to train to go outside and in the house. But when I go away to my Son’s house it is a problem and I get warned out. I am 75 yrs old and I love these Dogs but my Patience is running thin. They go outside when I put them out but we have a sun room and they have always used that room to go into which I am grateful for that. I will leave a Towel for them on the floor so they won’t made too much of a mess when I am away. I have to watch them every closely in the house and put them out 6 times a day. They hate the rain so they won’t go out when it is raining. I tried Puppy Pads but Honey chews they up. She did that when we had them in Grates as puppies. I always had German Shepard’s all my life and never had trouble with them. Please help.
I have a 4 1/2 month old pug puppy and I am failing at training. I’ve crate trained two others dogs that worked just like it’s supposed to. He could care less if he goes in his crate (pees and poos). I take him on long walks several times a day and he’s never gone pee or poop on one. They are a fun adventure for him. He can hold it several hours and sometimes he will and sometimes he will pee every 10 min with just tiny amounts. He doesn’t have a special place in the house. He just goes wherever he is. He doesn’t necessarily poop right after he eats, which makes it hard. He’s gone up to 6 hours after eating before he poops. He poops all day long though. I work but from home and I will take him out every hour when no one else is home and he’s still gone in his kennel half the time. He’s out when we are home and I try for every 30 min. He understands that I want him to pee outside I highly praise him and he gets one tiny piece of food as a tread and will go each time (usually just small amounts) but will walk right back in run to grab a toy and pee again. We will spend hours outside running and playing with the kids and he doesn’t go every 10 min when he’s out. It doesn’t feel like he’s being stubborn with it or defying, etc. It’s like he’s just clueless that I don’t want him to go inside and can care less about going in his kennel. I’ve used dog bed, my worn shirts, blankets. None of it seems to matter. I honesty feel like he’s getting worse every week. We’ve had him for around a month. He was in a cage at a pet store when we got him which my other two dogs weren’t. My other two were also female.
Lisa, you could have a vet check to see if there is a reason for this. Maybe you should hire someone to come in and walk here while you are gone. Another thing to try would be keeping her in only part of the house.
My dog doesn’t poop in the house when I am home of when I go on short trips. However, when I am gone all day at work she poops in the house. She is 2.5 years old how do I fix this. I hate crating her all day.
Puppy potting training via blog comments is less than ideal! He is still very young, you know. I can’t help but wonder how many hours a day he is home alone. I don’t think it is stubbornness as much as still being young. When you and he are both home, one thing you could try is attaching a long leash or rope from him to you, like on your belt. That means he will not wander far enough to make a mess in the house without your being aware of what is going on and catching it in time. I suggest you see what local dog trainers you can find who can help you with this, but be sure to get one who only uses painfree methods. Best wishes!
I have a 6 month old American Badogge Mastiff, I have crate trained him and also installed an electronic dog door for him to go in and out of when he has to potty. The problem is he will go in and out of the door with no problems, but he does not always go potty outside, he waits until he comes in the house and potty. How do I break this habit to have him go potty outside every time? it has become so frustrating to have to clean up pee and poop almost everyday, we praise him when he potty outside, we praise him when he does not potty in the house and give him treats, when I catch him potting in the house he goes in his crate for about 30 minutes. I just don’t know what else to do, it seems like he is very stubborn.
Carla, Sorry for the delay… I would start with a vet check. Since you are fostering, maybe the group you work with can pay for it. But if there is no physical problem, then it’s a matter of some bad habits that he picked up along the way. I’d suggest you follow the tips on this webpage closely (you can print the page out too) and also see this page: http://www.training-dogs.com/45/housetraining-adult-dogs-who-have-bad-habits/
Kelsi, I thought I had answered you but when I was checking on my comments here, I didn’t see it. Please let me know if you still have questions! Best wishes, Rosana
Hi I have a question or need some advice. We are fostering a dog who will be 1yr old in a few days. He came to us somewhat potty trained. We let him out with our other dog to go outside and he usually is good about going potty then. But sometimes, even though he has been out already and gone potty, he will still go inside. I’m not sure what to do. He is a small dog (breed) wonder if it has to do with his bladder? Thank you for your advice.
I’m a high school student who lives with her parents and we have an adult dog who is not at all potty trained. My parents don’t know how to train dogs, and my mother got him on an impulse after our last dog passed away. She got him from a very bad home, and he has very bad separation anxiety where he acts like you’ve been gone for years when you’ve only been gone for a few minutes or so. We have very different and irregular schedules, my parents working long hours that change often, and me going to school and work too. My parents don’t understand how training dogs works, and when they get home they don’t really want to deal with it even if it annoys them. We got him a crate, but we’re normally gone for so long it feels awful to put him in there, and my mother sees him as her baby and sometimes would let him out without us knowing in the middle of the night, and we found out he actually either peed on it or in it later. We weren’t ready for a dog, but now we have one that is so attached to us and my mom so attached to him I think giving him away isn’t an option. Do you have any suggestions or tips I could use or make my parents use to try and potty train him with our busy schedules, or do you think he really would be better off with a family that is actually ready to have and train a dog?
Joyce, in your shoes I would confine his space at night. This could be a crate, an ex pen, or a space you block off with furniture. I would also take him out for a walk just before bedtime, in your yard at least, and give him a chance then to do his business. See my page on crate-training and its alternatives here: http://www.training-dogs.com/1796/crate-training-for-puppies-and-dogs/
i was given an older dog,the only time he poops in the house is when we are asleep,never the rest of the day,its always in the same area,i don’t know what to do,i’ve had him about three months