Potty training is teaching a dog where to use the restroom. Most people want a dog to go potty outside. This post is geared toward outside training when using a crate.
First, the basics:
- Prevent the dog from going potty in the house. Manage the environment to a small section of the house so you can always supervise your dog. Crate your dog when you can’t supervise him. Put your dog on a food and water schedule. Reward your dog outside as soon as he is done going potty.
- If you acquired your dog from a breeder, or a rescue group that has foster parents, hopefully these people have been promoting proper potty habits. If you acquired your dog from a shelter with kennels, or a pet store, please remember the only place for the dog to eliminate was in his kennel/cage and he may take longer to potty train.
- Puppies under six months of age are still learning how to control their muscles. The rule of thumb for puppies is that they can “hold it” for a time equal to their age. Example: A two month old puppy can hold themselves for two hours. A three month old puppy can hold themselves for three hours. Now this “equation” is not set in stone and the time can vary either up or down depending on the dog.
- Puppies need to relieve themselves: after sleeping; before, during and after play; before and after eating or drinking; and before allowing the puppy to roam about your home.
- Accidents can and will happen. The more supervision with the dog, the less accidents will happen. Make sure to clean up accidents as soon as possible with an enzymatic cleaner.
- Punishment does NOT work with any kind of potty training! It does not matter if you catch your dog in the act. The only thing a dog learns when humans get angry and yell is that the act of elimination is not to be seen by humans. Dogs think “I’m making a piddle, and my human is yelling. I’m sorry, I didn’t know that would make you very angry. I’ll go out of your site the next time I have to use the facilities and hide it.” Now punishing a dog for elimination in the house “after-the-fact” is just plain confusing for the dog. Remember, whatever the dog was doing last is what the dog will think the correction is for. May be the dog was chewing on his toy and not the TV remote control, or may be the dog was coming to you at the front door. Do not rub the dog’s face in the mess unless you want to encourage eating poop.
- Having a dog on both a food and water schedule helps tremendously. If you know when it goes in, you will have a very good idea when it’s coming out.
- Rewarding the dog for proper potty habits will encourage proper potty habits. If a dog thinks they are the next best thing to sliced bread for using the restroom outside, they will want to repeat that behavior. Remember, in training a dog for any behavior, timing and consistency are critical. This means, every time the dog eliminates outside we reward the dog on the spot. If the reward is too late (like waiting until the dog has entered the house) the dog could very well associate another behavior for the reward, like entering the house, or sitting for the treat. If the reward in not consistent enough, the dog will be confused and potty training will take much longer.
- Most dogs like a clean living area. Crates, a small room, and baby gates are some tools used to help a dog learn to hold themselves.
- Most dogs like to relieve themselves on soft surfaces. This is why most dogs prefer grass to concrete. In the house: carpet, the sofa, the bed (dog’s or human’s,) and soft blankets in a crate are usually the spots dogs use to eliminate. During potty training (especially with puppies) it is strongly recommended to NOT put any kind of soft material in the crate.
Some common potty training problems:
I let my dog outside and all he does is play. I’ve even been outside for an hour hoping the dog will use the facilities and nothing happens. – 1. The dog may not want to mess up his “play area.” A specific part of the yard needs to be used, or a walk around the block. 2. The dog has learned it doesn’t need to eliminate to reward himself outside with play. The dog needs five minutes maximum outside to relieve himself, and if nothing happens the dog goes back into the crate for three to five more minutes. Repeat the process until the dog eliminates outside, and reward as soon as the dog’s finished. (Remember the dog is the next best thing to sliced bread for eliminating outside.)
I let my dog outside for a reasonable amount of time and as soon as I let him inside he pees on the floor. – 1. The dog may think he is supposed to go inside. This happens when there is not enough supervision and the dog goes at will inside, and the human(s) just don’t notice the messes; and/or there is a lack of communication to the dog, meaning an error in timing of the reward and consistency of rewarding the dog. More supervision is needed and the dog needs to be crated or leashed to a human when left inside the house. The dog needs five minutes maximum outside to relieve himself, and if nothing happens the dog goes back into the crate for three to five more minutes. Repeat the process until the dog eliminates outside, and reward as soon as the dog’s finished. 2. The dog may not want to mess up his “play area.” A specific part of the yard needs to be used as a potty area, or a walk around the block.
My dog is great in the house except for one room. - 1. The dog doesn’t understand the entire house is his home too, (and there are probably other messes that have gone undetected.) Crate training was probably moved along too fast. The dog should be back in the crate and moved along at a much slower rate as the “house expands.” Meaning, the dog has the crate. Then the dog has the crate and the kitchen. Then the dog has the crate, the kitchen, and the hallway, etc. 2. The dog smells the last time he eliminated in the same spot. Clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner. Do NOT use anything ammonia based, since ammonia is one of the main ingredients in urine. 3. The dog may be marking his territory. Start the “Nothing In Life Is Free” program. Supervise the dog at all times so accidents don’t occur. Spay or neuter the dog.
My dog was completely potty trained and just now started to piddle a small amount everywhere around the house. – 1. The dog may be marking his territory. Start a NILIF program. Use a crate and reward outside potty habits more. Train the dog to hit a bell to go outside. Supervise the dog at all times so accidents don’t occur. Spay or neuter the dog. 2. The dog may have a medical condition. See your veterinarian.
My dog eliminates in the crate. – 1. The dog is not properly crate trained or could be under stress. 2. The dog is in the crate too long. Dogs usually don’t want to potty in a crate, this doesn’t mean they won’t potty in a crate if left in one too long. Put the dog on a food, water, and walk schedule. Give the dog more opportunities outside to eliminate. 3. There is something soft in the crate that can absorb the pee. Take out anything soft and fluffy from the bottom of the crate. (Remember dogs like to eliminate on soft things.)
My puppy pees on the way to the door (or at the door) when I let him out of the crate or when I am going to let him outside. – 1. The puppy doesn’t have complete muscle control yet. Movement usually stimulates a puppy to eliminate. (This is why they must potty before and during and after playtime.) Carry the puppy outside to use the bathroom. Give the puppy more frequent potty breaks. Distract with food or a toy to get the puppy outside.
My dog goes outside and then fakes going to the bathroom. – 1. BE HAPPY!!! (Especially if this is a puppy faking it.) If your dog fakes using the facilities outside, your dog is telling you that he knows what is expected of him. He is trying to make his human happy, and he understands potty habits outside gets him rewards. 2. The dog is not faking it, but straining to eliminate. This can be a medical emergency and should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
THINGS TO REMEMBER:
- Timing. Reward the dog as soon as the dog has finished eliminating outside. Don’t wait.
- Consistency. Reward the dog every time he eliminates outside.
- Supervise. If the dog is consistently under supervision, (especially puppies) the dog will have a lot less room for error and will mess in the house less frequently.
- Asking to go out. Train the dog to hit a bell or bark to go outside.
- Crate Train. Most dogs are den clean, meaning that they don’t want to mess up their home. This makes it easier for a dog to want to “hold it.”
- Schedule. A food and water schedule ensures a time frame for eliminating instead of guessing when the dog has to potty. Also have several scheduled times per day for the dog to go outside and relieve himself.
- Patience. Potty Training is sometimes a slow process. Understand some dogs can take up to six months to completely potty train.
- Reward. Anything the dog wants. For most dogs this is food, play, praise, and petting.
- Log everything. This is especially helpful if you have an entire family who is “helping” with the potty training. View an example of a potty training log HERE