Getting your dog to use the bathroom outside isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, but a lot of times this is because we make it harder than it has to be. There are a lot of effective ways to potty train a dog, but the key is to stay consistent. If you aren’t being consistent with the method that you choose, then chances are you won’t be very successful with it. A dog needs consistency in order to learn, and this is the best thing that you can offer them while training them.
Here you will find a step by step guide to how to potty train a dog. While puppies are typically most receptive to house breaking than older dogs, it doesn’t mean that an older dog won’t pick up on it. It’s never too late to potty train your dog. Without further ado, let’s take a look at these important steps that will ensure that your pup is doing their business outside- not on your living room floor!
11 Steps to Potty Train a Dog
Stick to a Routine
We already talked about the importance of consistency, and that is where a routine really comes into play.
Puppies will need to go to the bathroom more often than a grown dog, because their bladders are still very small. They don’t have that learned ability to ‘hold it’ that comes with age and maturity. This is why you shouldn’t be angry with them if they have an accident in the beginning. They may just not have the ability.
Sometimes they will try their hardest, but there comes a point where they just can’t hold it in any longer. Be patient with them, and take them out at set times of the day to get them used to going outside to eliminate.#2
Stick to a Feeding Schedule
While it may seem like free feeding your pup is the easiest thing to do, it can lead to lots of issues down the road. It is not only one of the main causes of obesity in dogs, but it also makes potty training your dog that much harder. When they eat, it has to come out one way or another. With puppies, they may eat and be ready to eliminate in a very short time. It doesn’t take long for their food to digest.
Try to feed them small portions 3 times a day in the beginning, based on their recommended caloric intake for their weight and age. Then, take them out to eliminate right after. This will help with your consistency, and it will help them to learn- especially over time.#3
Keep Track of How Often Your Pup Goes Potty
While keeping a ‘puppy poo’ chart may not sound like your idea of fun, it can really be beneficial to you. Most small puppies will need to urinate at least once an hour. If you can regulate them to going #2 right after they eat, it will make it easier on you to track everything else. Pay attention to the signs that your pup needs to go as well, because this will ensure that you get them out before they have an accident.#4
Train Your Puppy Where Their ‘Den’ Is
Dogs have what is called the den instinct. This just means that they instinctively won’t use the bathroom in their den. It is important for them to understand that their den is the house. Sometimes people will try to crate train in the beginning, because it is easier for them to understand their den as being a smaller area rather than the whole house. The more they begin to understand that the house is their home too, the more likely they will be to eliminate outdoors rather than inside.#5
Determine Your Pup’s Bathroom Area
There are quite a few things that you need to consider when it comes to choosing your dog’s bathroom area. You will want it to be a place that they will have easy access to. Puppies that need to go often will need to have a place that is easy for them to get to. You don’t want it to be very far away. The location of your pup’s bathroom is going to depend a lot on where you live. If you live in an apartment, then you might have to have a puppy pad in your bathroom or laundry room indoors. If you live out in the country, or in a single dwelling home, then you might consider your backyard.
No matter what, remember that consistency is important. You can’t expect your pup to use it on a puppy pad in the laundry room today, and scold them for not going outside tomorrow. Keep it simple for them until they start to understand the concept of going outside.#6
Stick to Your Routines
When you are going outside to let your puppy use the bathroom, make sure that you go the same way each time. You will start to see their preferences, and you will want to take note to this. They will start to associate the smell of their own urine to the area, and they will prefer to use this spot from now on. If you are using puppy pads, be aware that they have a scent to them that actually attracts dogs and makes them want to urinate on them. This is another easy way to train a pup.#7
Offer Positive Encouragement
It is important to offer your pup encouragement when he or she uses the bathroom where they are supposed to. You will want to have a happy voice and offer them a lot of praise and adoration. This lets them know that they did something right. They will want to hear you praise them again, so they will catch on to the fact that good behavior gets good rewards. This will give them the emotional incentives that they need, but sometimes they might need a bit more incentive.
You can also consider healthy dog treats that will be a bit more motivational for them. Just remember to not feed treats too often, because they do tend to add a lot more to their daily caloric intake if you aren’t careful.#8
Know That Your Dog May Not Always Go With You
This is a crucial step for owners of PUPPIES. Puppies don’t always just follow you when you want them to. If you have ever tried to get a puppy to follow you outside, it isn’t always effective. Sometimes they will just stop and go to the bathroom right where they are. This is why you may have to pick them up and actually take them to the place where you want them to use the bathroom at first.
After a few times, they may catch on. Make it a habit to pick them up and take them out right after they wake up, right after they eat, drink or play, and if you hear them whining. Chances are they will go, and then you have another opportunity to praise them and let them know that they are doing right.#9
Know When to Stop Your Dog Mid-Pee or Mid-Poo
Stopping your dog while they are in the middle of using the bathroom is tricky. In fact, stopping them while they are going poo is next to impossible. It is really just a good idea to let them finish up, then take the poo to their designated area and show them that is the right place to go. If you catch them while they are going to pee, however, you may can startle them enough to close off the valve and stop peeing.
Then, you can pick them up and move them to the appropriate location. This, however, isn’t always effective. You don’t ever want to pick them up and move them while they are still in the process of taking care of business, because this will make a bigger mess for you to clean up.#10
Yelling at a dog when they use the bathroom in an inappropriate area isn’t the best idea. It really isn’t going to help the situation at all, and could instead make it worse. If you really feel that negative reinforcement is necessary, it is a good idea to use the spray bottle technique as well. Fill it with water, and add a squirt or two of lemon juice. The scent of the lemon juice is irritating to dogs, and this will help them to see that their behavior is not acceptable.
Spraying just once is suffice, you don’t want to do it repetitively. If negative reinforcement is something you have to use, remember it is something to go alongside the positive reinforcement. You can’t only acknowledge the negative behaviors. You must also acknowledge positive behaviors.#11
Keep a Puppy Pad Down When You Aren’t At Home
You can’t just expect your dog to hold it all day long, unless of course he or she is well trained. This is why you need to rely on puppy pads while you are not home. This will give them an option to eliminate while you are gone without having to make themselves crazy trying to hold it.
As you can see, potty training your dog isn’t really all that hard. If you follow these steps consistently, you will start to see that your dog goes outside to use the bathroom a lot more often. You can’t expect them to be 100% potty trained overnight. There will still be accidents. Try to have patience and not get mad at them. It takes some time.
When you were potty training, you probably had accidents too! It really is natural for them to have a slip up every now and then, even if they have been trained for a year or more. Accidents happen, especially if your pup has an upset stomach or a bladder issue going on. If you notice slip ups often, then it may be something to discuss with your veterinarian.
Share your potty training story below!
I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.
We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.
On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.