WEEK 1: Getting Started
WEEK 2: Duration on Mat
WEEK 3: Distraction on Mat
WEEK 4: Distance on Mat
WEEK 5: Hand Signals & Verbal Cues
This training process will teach a puppy or dog of any age to go potty outside. The more structured and consistent you are, the faster he or she will learn.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
- High Value treats (we recommend Happy Howie’s rolls, beef, turkey or lamb)
STEP 1 – CREATE A MANAGEMENT STRATEGY
You have three management options:
- Crate: Use a crate at night and for short periods of times. Avoid excessive use of crate during the day (ie. more than 2 hours) and make sure you work on conditioning your puppy to love the crate before using it in practical situations. See our video on crate training.
- Exercise Pen: Use an extra tall exercise pen as a long-term confinement area during the day.
- Gate: Use baby gates to section off a centrally located room in your home, like the kitchen. Avoid confining dogs behind solid doors or in remote areas that could make your dog feel isolated. This is another good long-term confinement solution during the day.
STEP 2 – CREATE A POTTY SCHEDULE
During the initial stages you may need to take your puppy or dog outside as often as every 30 minutes (excitable puppies, that have no bladder control, need to go more frequently). Other dogs may be fine if they are taken out every 2 hours. Set a timer on your phone as a reminder. Gradually increase time when your dog shows you that they are ready for it. (Most dogs can eventually learn to “hold it” for 7-8 hours during the day, and for as long as 8-9 hours at night, when their activity level slows down.)
STEP 3 – CREATE A POTTY TRAINING LOG
Write down when and where your dog goes potty (ie. “accident inside at 11:35 am” or “success outside at 3:10 pm”), this will allow you to see patterns, and thereby better customize your dog’s Potty Schedule.
STEP 4 – REINFORCE YOUR DOG FOR POTTY-ING OUTSIDE
- Walk outside with your dog on a six foot leash, and a training pouch stocked with high value food
- Walk up to a designated potty area (we recommend that this be within 200 ft of your home)
- Set your timer for 2 minutes, and say nothing.
- If your dog goes pee: calmly wait until he is done, say “good” and provide three rewards
- Again, set your timer for 2 minutes, and say nothing.
- If your dog goes poo: calmly wait until he is done, say “good” and provide three rewards
- If your dog does NOT go potty at all – and you know that he probably has to go – you should take your dog back inside. Do NOT give him the opportunity to have an accident inside, which means you should utilize one of your management options: tether him or use a crate, baby gate or exercise pen. After 20 minutes, repeat the process above.
STEP 5 – BE PATIENT
Many people struggle with this process because they want to give their dog free range of the house, before their dog is ready to accept that level of responsibility. Unfortunately, the less regimented you are in the short term, the longer the training process. Set clear expectations, and a well structured routine, and soon enough you will be able to give your dog the type of freedom that you will both enjoy.
Should I tell my dog to “go potty” when I bring him outside?
There is little value to repeating “go potty” when your dog is in the act of sniffing for squirrels. Dogs learn by association, they can easily learn that “go potty” means “sniff for squirrels.” It is better to say nothing at all until the point that your dog is consistently peeing as soon as you walk outside, in which, you have the option of pairing the established behavior with the verbal cue.
Should I take my dog on long potty walks?
Exercise is important, but potty training should stand alone from long walks. Time may not always allow a longer walk, in which case, you will need your dog to learn to go potty when you first walk outside, and in close proximity to your house. The above process will train your dog to do just that.
Should I verbally or physically reprimand my dog when he has an accident?
No. Verbally or physically reprimanding a dog for accidents can prolong the training process. It can inadvertently teach your dog to hide from you when he has to relieve himself. These are the dogs that begin peeing behind the couch, in the guest bedroom, or “hold it” so long as they are on leash with you outside. This is a big problem, and difficult to reverse.
Do I have to walk outside with my dog? Can I open the screen door, and reward my dog after he walks back inside from going potty in the yard?
No. Many people that do this will struggle with potty training because their dog is learning to walk outside, and then walk back inside without going potty. Because they are not being supervised, the owner does not realize that this is the case until they find a mess on the living room rug. Dogs need to be reinforced within 1 second of the desired behavior, walking outside with your dog on leash will accomplish that.
Can I house train my dog with a doggy door?
Ninety nine percent of training is about being present. Dog doors should not be used during house training process. They can also create other problem behaviors (for example, digging in the garden, barking through the fence). Be present. Walk with your dog to their designated potty area at scheduled times throughout the day.
Will teaching my dog to ring a bell to go outside help accelerate the training process?
Teaching a dog to ring a bell is a nice trick, but it is not a solution to house training. In fact, I find that it usually creates more problems than it solves. Owners should not be waiting for the dog to let them know when it is time to potty, the owner needs to be the one initiating these activities.