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How to Train Your Dog to Go Potty
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You rush home after work to get your puppy outside to go to the bathroom, but instead, find a home interior that’s been decorated with poop and urine.
The rescue dog that you’ve just adopted has a hard time understanding when and where she should potty because she was never trained properly in the first place.
Potty training a dog can be a frustrating experience, but cleaning up after an untrained dog in your home is worse. Many dog owners aren’t sure where to begin and end up making mistakes that can delay the training process or result in serious behavioral issues in their dog.
Regardless of his age, training your dog to eliminate outside can be trying, but it’s far from impossible. Here are some steps to help you potty train your dog, as well as some actions to avoid.
Teaching your dog to eliminate outdoors is a critical component of dog ownership. Your pup needs to understand what you are asking him to do, and as such, you need to be a clear communicator and teacher. You will need to teach to your dog’s personality and strengths, or else risk serious damage to your dog’s psyche and to the relationship you both have with each other.
Understand that you are working against a dog’s naturally inherent instincts. In the wilderness, dogs and their ancestors go to the bathroom wherever they please. Therefore, it’s up to you to clearly specify to your dog where and when he can eliminate.
Depending on your dog’s age, this training process can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months or so. Be prepared for an occasional accident or two even after your dog has been trained, and understand that sometimes accidents happen!
Aside from keeping your home sanitary and clean and instilling a sense of respect in your dog for your position as leader, potty training your pup will help him avoid an all too common fate for dogs whose owners gave up on potty training them: being surrendered to a shelter.
Potty training can be accomplished successfully, but you need to make sure that you are consistent and clear in what you are asking of your canine.
Here are some essential elements and items that you will need to get started with potty training your dog:
- A leash and collar: These equipment items will help you retain control over your dog when you are outside.
- Training treats: Small, healthy training treats can be used as reward and motivation for whenever your dog does what you’ve asked.
- Poop scooper and waste bags: Responsible dog owners clean up after their dogs, even outdoors.
- A dog crate: Puppies and adult dogs can benefit from a sturdy, sizeable crate which will help speed up the potty training process.
- Cleaning products: Have appropriate, non-toxic, pet-friendly cleaning devices on hand to thoroughly clean any accidents, so your dog doesn’t eliminate in the same spot repeatedly.
- Time and patience: Without these traits, potty training will be a challenging and uphill battle. The process will not happen overnight. You need to be patient and consistent, as well as willing to put in the time and effort to help your dog know what you want from him.
- A fenced yard or puppy pen: While these forms of security are optional, they can assist the potty training process by giving your dog a specific, safe spot to eliminate in.
Once you have these items, what’s next? Review your schedule and begin to find consistent time periods to encourage your dog to potty outside. Ideally, right after the dog eats in the morning and the late afternoon and evening would be best. Your dog and his body will quickly associate going outside after dinner is done.
Another key to getting your pup on board with potty training is to choose a command, a particular word or phrase that he will learn to associate with going to the bathroom outside. Consider a phrase such as “Let’s go,” “Good potty,” or “Do your duty.” Once your dog associates this command with your request, he will understand that he is to go potty outdoors.
The Potty Pad or Paper Method
If you live in a high-rise apartment or if you struggle with mobility issues, getting your dog outside to potty quickly is an impossibility. In these situations, potty training your dog to use pads or newspapers may be the best option for you and your dog.
Supervise your dog at all times
If you take your eye off your dog before he learns how to use the potty pads, you’ll have accidents to clean up. Keep him on a leash and beside you until he learns where to go.
Be sure to place the potty pads or papers in a spot that is easily accessible for your dog. Don’t move the pad around during training or you may confuse your pup.
Use a code word or phrase
When you lead your dog to the puppy pad, repeat a code word such as “Good potty” or “Get busy.” Repetition of this step will help train your dog to eliminate on command.
Create good habits
Bring your dog to the puppy pad repeatedly, every five minutes or so, until he goes to the bathroom. The time frame here may vary depending on the dog’s age, as puppies may need to be brought back to the pad more frequently.
Don't punish mistakes
It may take a few tries for your dog to associate the potty with the pad or paper. If you catch your dog in the middle of an accident, don’t yell or scream. Simply pick him up or guide him over to the pad to finish eliminating.
The Clicker Training Method
Some dog owners have found potty training success through the use of clicker training. A clicker can be purchased at any pet store and can easily be incorporated into potty training for a quick elimination solution.
Choose a potty spot
When you take your dog outside, direct him to a particular area every single time. He will begin to associate this place with elimination.
Observe and report
Watch your dog closely and patiently; he may sniff around for a few moments here.
Use the code word
As soon as your dog begins to urinate, quietly speak the chosen code word or phrase. Hearing this word or phrase will tell your dog this is the place to go potty.
Click and treat
Use the clicker just as your dog is finishing elimination, so click while the behavior is still happening but not too soon in the process. You don’t want your dog to stop peeing before he is all done because he hears the click and thinks he’s getting a treat.
Give your dog praise
After you’ve used the clicker and given your dog a treat, shower him with some love and praise for a job well done.
The Crate Training Method
Whether your dog is a puppy or a grown adult, crate training has been proven to lead to quicker potty training success. By instinct, dogs look for a den, a private spot of their own, and they don’t want to urinate or defecate in their den.
Make sure the crate is the correct size
For your dog’s comfort, he should be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around in the crate comfortably.
Create a schedule
Your dog should never be left in a crate for more than seven hours straight as he may be forced to eliminate inside his crate because he can’t wait any longer to go. Puppies in particular need to be let out of their crate to go potty more frequently. Typically, a puppy can “hold” his need to eliminate one hour for every month of his age (i.e., a two-month-old dog should be able to wait two hours between potty breaks).
Don’t let your dog wander around the house randomly during the day and expect there to be no accidents. Always put your dog in his crate when you are not home, so he learns to wait until he is released from his crate and outside before eliminating.
Make the crate a home
Include light bedding, one or two of your dog’s favorite toys, and even an old shirt that has your scent on it to make the crate a cozy den for your dog.
Praise your pup
Remember to praise your dog immediately whenever he goes to the bathroom outside. A treat or two, or simply a “Good boy!” will work wonders.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 10/24/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
Training Questions and Answers
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How do i get my dog to stop biting my clothes, and me. Also, how do i train my dog to go outside after I’ve trained him on pads
Jan. 16, 2021
Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended
Hello! Here is information on nipping/biting. Following this will be information on potty training. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment. I am sending you quite a bit of information on potty and crate training just in case you want to use the crate to help 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.
Jan. 18, 2021
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My dogs used to live outside and we’re able to go potty whenever and where ever. We just moved and I’m struggling to teach them when and where to go potty.
July 3, 2020
Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer
1133 Dog owners recommended
Hello Sofia, I suggest crate training both dogs 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 non-absorbent beds for them. Make sure the crates are only big enough for them to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that they can potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid it - use two separate crates for the dogs. 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 dogs are older you can adjust the times and take them potty less frequently. I suggest taking them potty every 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5-2 hours (or less if they have an accident sooner) of freedom out of the crate, return them to the crate while their bladders are filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since her last potty trip. When you have to go off they should be able to hold their bladders in the crate for 5-8 hours - less at first while they is getting used to it and longer once they are accustomed to the crate and more potty trained. Only have them wait that long when you are not home though, take them out about every 3 hours while home. You want them to get into the habit of holding their bladders between trips and not just eliminating whenever they feel 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 they are not already used to a crate expect crying at first. When they cries and you know they doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give each dog a food stuffed hollow chew toy to help them adjust, and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. If pups continue 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 them "Quiet" when pups bark and cry. If that dog 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
July 6, 2020