How to Potty Train Your Dog


Much like potty training a toddler, potty training your dog will test your patience and make you question everything you know about life. You’ll want to give up so many times. You might even cry. But, when you weigh the options of letting your dog use the carpet as a potty or sticking out the house training, you know which is the more sanitary, better smelling option.

So, exactly how do you potty train your dog? The answer is quite simple. Through consistency and positive reinforcement, you’ll teach your dog to let you know when he or she has to go outside to potty. Once they’ve mastered the skill, there will be little or no accidents in your house.

But, of course, you know it’s going to be easier said than done, don’t you? It doesn’t have to be. You just have to commit and know what you’re getting into, and I promise, what you get out of potty training will make you quickly forget all of the time and headache you put into it. Keep reading for some foolproof tips that will have your pup using the yard as a potty instead of your home.

Before You Start Potty Training Your Dog

You have a dog, and you know it needs to be house trained, there are a few things you need before you can get started. While there’s not a bunch of actual things you need to begin, there are some important mental tidbits you need to be prepared for, in order to achieve full potty-training success.

Consistency is Key

This is possibly the most important thing to remember. If you forget all the other parts, but just remember to be consistent, you’ll still emerge from this with a potty-trained dog. It might take sixteen times longer, but it can happen. As long as you start off with the mentality that you’re going to be consistent, then you’re laying a proper potty-training foundation.

Even Doggies Prefer a Clean Bathroom

This doesn’t mean you have to clean your bathroom for your dog. But dogs do prefer to potty in a clean space, much like us humans. Therefore, making sure you stay on top of the poop scooping and cleaning up after any accidents is necessary for success.

Accidents Happen

In the beginning, there will be accidents. Just prepare yourself for that and know that it will happen. Accidents aren’t an indicator of success or failure, but they can help you know if there’s an adjustment you need to make in the timing or frequency of potty breaks.

If you like to be really prepared, you can assemble a little accident clean up bucket so that you’re ready for immediate clean up when you find a surprise on the carpet. All you need is a bucket and…

…along with any other helpful things you like to use in your cleaning. If you don’t clean up right away, not only will your house get stinky, you’ll be inviting all kinds of germs and unsanitary friends into your home.

Stay Positive

Just remember, you’re the one in control of the situation. You’re the one that already knows how to potty in the right place; you just need to communicate that same skill to your dog. Without having a formal sit-down conversation because, well, dogs don’t talk.

Don’t get discouraged when there’s a little setback here and there. At the end of the day you have a dog that loves you no matter what, how can you stay mad at that sweet little doggie face?!

Don’t Forget the Treats

Training treats are available to buy. They’re small and don’t have a ton of calories, so they can be fed to your dog frequently without being unhealthy. If you want to just pick some up at the store, try one of these:

But, if baking is your thing and you want to make your own treats infused with extra love for your pup, try out one of these recipes:

Now that you’ve got the treats, you’re ready to hand them out. You can just stash a few in your pocket so you’re ready when you’re in the yard, on a walk, or at the dog park. Or, you can get one of these super cute little treat pouches to keep your treats:

Ready, Set, Go! Getting Your Dog’s Potty Training Started

Literally, go. Go potty! Outside! Not you, of course. But your dog. Now that you’re mentally prepped and ready, and your puppy is more than ready. It’s time to get outside and do the darn thing. Follow these potty-training steps and you and your furniture and flooring will be in great shape.

Go Out First Thing in the Morning

As soon as your dog wakes up (even if you’re not quite awake yet), take him or her outside to go potty. If you have a smaller dog with a tiny tank, this might be a little earlier in the morning than a large pup that has a little more room to hold it all night.

At the end of the day, right before you both go to bed, you’ll want to be sure to take your dog out again. Don’t forget this step.

Reinforce the Good – and Quickly

Wait until your doggie does their business, and the second they’ve finished, give them a treat. Be sure to use your very best, high pitched, happy voice. Remember, dogs don’t understand your words, but they do know that voice.

Dogs, especially puppies, have a very short reinforcement window. That’s the time you have right after any action to either encourage or discourage them from doing it again. It’s generally less than two seconds. In this case, the dog went potty, and that’s a desirable act, something you want to happen again. So, use that voice and deliver one of those tiny treats.

Set a Timer

In the beginning, you’ll want to set your potty timer to go out every 30 minutes. If you have an especially small dog or you notice your dog drinks more water at certain times, you will want to adjust that time so there’s less waiting in between potty breaks.

When the timer goes off, take your doggie outside and wait. Yes, there’s a lot of waiting, but patience and consistency are game-changers here. Keep an eye on that doggie until the deed is done. Then, you know what to do. Happy, exaggerated voice and treat.

Get Repetitive

Potty training isn’t the most fun or exciting. It’s very, very repetitive. But the good news is that if you’re feeling too much like you’re doing the same thing over and over again, you’re doing it right!

If you continue to do this consistently, it can take as little as one week. This isn’t to say that some dogs won’t take longer. But just remember, you’re in charge, and as long as you’re following the potty-training rules, your dog will too.

Helpful Hints for Potty-Training Your Pup

If you like to keep it simple, the above steps will lead you to have a potty-trained pup. But there’s a few extra tips and tricks that can make it easier on you, as well as you’re a dog.

If You Catch your Dog Mid-Potty in the House

Quick! Make some noise! Distract your dog to stop him from going potty and quickly move him or her outdoors. You can also add a stern “no” so that they know this is not desirable behavior.

Adult Supervision is a Must

Never let your dog out of your eyesight during the potty-training days. This will help you know exactly when he or she might be trying to potty in the house and will help you avoid any accidents going unnoticed.

It’s also so important to catch your puppy mid-potty and get them outside. An unsupervised dog can do a quick potty anywhere in your home really quick. But, just as quickly as a dog can potty inside, he or she can do it outside, too. Stay right with your doggie on outdoor potty sessions so you can be at the ready with those potty treats as soon as the job is done.

Feeding Schedule

What goes in must come out, so keeping your dog on a strict meal schedule is crucial for potty training. It’s also just a good habit to keep. Feeding your dog two or three times a day at the exact same time is a great way to keep track of when the next potty break will need to take place.

Take Notes

Not to sound like a total nerd, but documenting what time you take your dog out as well as what kind of business they do or don’t do each time can help you with long-term potty-training success. By writing all of this down, you can go back and identify any patterns in the potty breaks, as well as how quickly he or she goes potty after meals.

This will help you later adjust the schedule to work best for your routine, as well as preventing any accidents in the house before they even start.

Doorbells or Scratch Pads

If you really want to get fancy, you very easily teach your dog to tap a bell by the door when he or she wants to go out. I trained my giant Labrador to knock on the back door when he had to go potty, and it was amazing.

Or, if you want to make a potty alarm that doubles as a nail file, you can mount a piece of sandpaper by the door, you like your dog to use. If he or she learns to scratch this with their paws in order to go out for potty, it can help keep nails less jagged in between trims. This isn’t recommended for anyone that’s concerned about scratches on walls, though.

To get your dog to do either of these things, simply take their paw and gently hit the bell or scratch the pad every time you leave the house through that door. Say “potty time” or something similar, and your dog will eventually build this association.

This is a neat trick, and as your dog gets older, he or she will learn to use this trick anywhere when he or she needs out. My dog would hit any door when he needed to go out. This was fine most places, although my parents weren’t always that thrilled when they’d dog sit and he would scrape up their back door. But I preferred a few scratches here and there to a giant poop in the house.

Use That Social Media

Ask around! There’s plenty of people on social media offering unsolicited advice, why not use some of that for your own good. Or, ask around. Surely one of your friends has had some success with potty training. Put a question out there, and I promise, someone will be able to answer it for you.

There’s also a ton of groups and pages out there for dog owners. There’s no doubt that you’ll be able to find answers to all of your questions from other dog lovers.

Learn from Someone Else’s Mistakes

If you’re a visual learner and you’d rather watch someone else give this all a try first, just to see how it’s done, check out one of these videos. Sometimes seeing someone else succeed is the perfect confidence booster to get motivated:

Some Things to Forget About

In and around the dog world, you’ll come across some advice that might sound like a fast track to potty training. Once someone puts a little bug in your ear that may seem like it’s too good to be true regarding potty training, you have to remind yourself that it is. Here are some of those ideas that you’ll want to erase and not allow them to creep back into your brain.

Potty Training Mats

All of the pet stores will try to sell these to you, and yes, initially, they’re helpful. However, we’re aiming for long term success here, and these little guys won’t lead you down that path. In the beginning, your dog will use these to potty inside the house. And, without even thinking, you’ll be happy about it.

This little bit of reinforcement can actually encourage your dog to use this as a permanent potty, as well as anything that feels remotely like a training pad. Unless you want your dog to get used to pottying in the house, I’d skip these.

Also, these stink. Like physically, they have an odor. Some of the brands sold say they’re odor eliminating or neutralizing, but they just simply can’t be for very long. And while you may not notice the smell, other people will. Even if you change them very often, there’s always going to be a lingering stink in the air. Not to mention, your dog will learn to potty in this same spot, and it will inevitably stain the floor below.

Punishing Your Pup

Although it seems necessary to let your dog know when he or she has done something wrong, it’s not necessary when potty training. The lack of attention that you give them is enough to communicate this to them.

If your dog has an accident inside and you don’t catch them in time to get them outside, clean it up as fast as you can and give your dog zero attention. Using an angry or harsh voice, especially yelling will teach your dog to fear you. If he or she is scared, you might not get enough of those doggie snuggles and kisses.

Anything After the Fact

Whether it’s yelling at your dog for finding an accident in the house or giving your dog a treat five minutes after he or she has gone potty, don’t do it. It’s just not going to be helpful or beneficial in the long run.

As we previously discussed, reinforcement time is oh so important. Giving treats way after the fact will just make your pup think, “cool, I’m getting a treat.” Not, “oh goodie, I went potty ten minutes ago and now I’m getting a treat.” This can inadvertently reinforce other behaviors.

Along these same lines, if you find a surprise in the house and have no idea how long it’s been there, showing it to your dog and yelling at them really is just mean. They don’t remember doing it, and all they’re learning is that you like to yell.

Mark

I grew up alongside a Labrador. I've been obsessed with dogs since then and owned several different breeds. My passion is to share my knowledge and start this blog about my furry friends. I hope you enjoy my articles.

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