This is the ultimate guide to puppy potty training. In this comprehensive guide I’ll cover:
Why is puppy potty training so difficult? In my interview with Lifehacker titled “Ask an Expert: All About Dog Training,” I was blown away (and saddened) by the number of questions and difficulty people were having with house training their puppy. House soiling is the third most common reason why puppies are relinquished to a shelter or rehomed, third only to dog aggression and dog barking. Sadder still is that many of these questions were coming from parents with dogs that were several years old. These poor dogs and parents were living with house soiling behavior problems for years, it was destroying their relationship and adding stress and frustration to what should be a joyous connection with their dog.
After a puppy is adopted, rescued, or bought from a breeder, many parents consider rehoming or relinquishing their dog because of puppy potty training problems. So although prior to that interview, I ignorantly thought that potty training wasn’t a huge issue for parents of older dogs, it seems many parents are simply living with rather than solving the problem.
Life with your dog does not have to be this way. If you follow our puppy potty training/house training guide, we will offer many solutions to fix all of your house training issues. Following our potty training guide will improve your relationship with your dog, lower your anxiety levels, and restore your relationship with your best friend. There is no reason to give up your pet or rehome them because your puppy is peeing or pooping in the house.
House soiling transgressions can be solved with the parent’s vigilance, understanding, and by following these simple house training instructions. So let’s go over potty training thoroughly, yet simply.
It may seem obvious but there are specific goals of potty training a puppy that you want to keep in mind as you read through this guide. Your puppy should be able to do all of the following for many months before you consider them potty trained.
You might live a bucolic life, have a large property and think you will never need your dog to pee or poop on a leash in front of you, but think again.
Will you ever travel with your dog? Will you ever walk your dog? Will you socialize your dog with other people and dogs? Will you enrich your dog by taking them to restaurants, parks, beaches, camping, family, and friend’s houses with you? Does your dog have any training or behavior problems? Will you take your dog to the veterinarian for their vaccinations or when they are sick or get injured? The obvious answer is that all parents will need to have a dog leash trained, potty trained, and for a dog to be willing and able to go potty on cue, in front of you while wearing their dog collar, harness, etc.
You are not alone. It turns out that house soiling is a common problem, affecting up to a staggering 37% of dogs. Bringing many pet parents to ask, “what’s the easiest way to stop a dog from pooping and peeing in the house?”
First, you must understand the basics of why a dog decides to urinate or defecate in a certain area or direction. There are many things you probably didn’t know about why your dog defecates in a certain way. For instance, did you know that dogs prefer to defecate in a north-south position? Also, I should mention, unaltered, unspayed and unneutered dogs like to mark their territory, however for the purpose of this article; we will focus on urinating and defecating, not marking (which are different in quantity, function, frequency, meaning, etc.)
There are two main two factors why a dog chooses to eliminate in a certain area.
When you focus on these two factors you will understand why, where, and when a dog chooses to pee or poop, and with this knowledge a parent can thereby fix potty training problems with your puppy or dog.
The two most important factors for a pet parent to understand and control are:
Location – Dogs are location-based. They are drawn to the same location and prefer to relieve themselves in the same location day and night. Dogs are spatially oriented. They prefer to go potty in the same general area each time on the same substrate (grass, rock, concrete, dirt, wood chips, turf, carpet, tile, etc.
Olfaction – Dogs have powerful noses. A dog’s olfactory system is many times that of a human nose. A dog prefers to go pee and poo in the same scented area as they did before.
Urine and feces substrate is composed of chemicals and has a unique chemical composition and breakdown. Specifically, the proteins within pee and poo emit a noxious chemical concoction irresistible to canines. Your dog wants to relieve themselves in the same area, on top of or next to other dogs’ pee and poo.
A substrate is not only, “the surface or medium on which an organism grows or is attached.” but also what your dog is standing on when they choose to eliminate. So the substrate plays a part in both location and smell.
As you can see, the composition, direction, and placement of a dog relieving themselves all lead to and paint a vivid picture of where and why your dog wants to urinate and defecate. Your dog is not being stubborn, stupid, spiteful, vindictive, obstinate, or intransigent. Your dog is being, a dog, and doing species-specific behavior. Being mad at your dog for peeing or pooing in the wrong location is as silly as being mad at your puppy biting and teething.
Remember, even before beginning potty training your puppy, make sure your dog receives a clean bill of health from your preferred board-certified veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. If your adult or senior dog suddenly starts peeing in the house due to canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS) or other medical issues, different house training solutions will have to be implemented.
Medical issues are likely the cause if your senior dog that has been potty trained for most of their life, suddenly begins to urinate and defecate in the home. A range of medical issues can be causing or contributing to your dog’s incontinence, inability, frequency, variability, and duration of which they need to relieve themselves. Some key factors could include:
How long can my dog hold in their pee and poop? Age obviously plays a significant factor in a dog’s ability to hold it in. A generalization is to take a dog’s age in months, and that is how many hours a dog can hold it in. So a 4-month-old may be able to hold in their pee or poop for 3-4 hours. I always err on the shorter side for caution. Of course, this is a generalization and does not mean that a 10-month-old adolescent should be able to be crated or to hold it in for 10 hours. That is cruel and not recommended. But if you are wondering about the short end of the age curve, you may use this formula for generalization.
Remember, that every breed, size, sex, and development of a dog is different and all play a part in how long they can hold it in. For puppies and older dogs, it is normal for them to pee after they wake up, after an exercise, and after drinking a lot of water. Obviously with puppies, what goes in comes out faster. So if a puppy drinks a lot of water, depending on a puppy’s age, it will come out sooner than compared to an adult dog.
Other factors that aren’t overtly apparent to us may also be contributing to canine house training issues. In addition, it is worth noting that contemporary behaviorists and trainers don’t use outdated parlance such as “housebreaking” any longer so you won’t hear about “housebreaking” a dog from any up-to-date trainers or behaviorists. Breaking conjures up disturbing images of dominance and force, both of which are not used by compassionate, up-to-date, dog trainers.
Before we get to how to potty train a puppy, let’s discuss some common errors that hurt the training process.
I talk a lot about punishment in my article How To Use a Shock Collar. However, it doesn’t matter whether you have punished your dog with a choke chain, prong collar, bark collar, or rubbing your dog’s nose in pee or poo. Punishment is punishment, and the laws of learning do not change with the type of equipment we use or the punishment we administer.
Punishment makes a dog unpredictable and fearful. Ever wonder why your dog holds it in when we go outside and waits until we get home to pee and poop? Punishment.
Has your dog been ever been scolded, yelled at, or smacked? Have you rubbed your pup’s nose in their pee or poop? Have you ever scared your dog, by intimidating them or punished them in any other way? Has your dog been punished for peeing and pooping outdoors in ways you didn’t think of?
Such as this scenario: You take your dog out for their long-awaited 2-3 walks per day, they poop and pee immediately like a great dog, you casually say good boy or nothing at all and then hurry them back inside? That is punishing to a dog. The reward (going for a long enriching dog walk and being outdoors) is removed immediately after they poop and pee and the dog learns very quickly to hold it in and not pee and poop quickly or at all while outdoors.
Rewarding your dog should include high-value food rewards, (not bribing your dog), taking your dog for a long walk, letting him off-leash, or providing more space with a long line once he has fully eliminated.
The problem most parents run into is that directly after the dog eliminates the parents remove the reward (e.g. being outside and going for a walk) and bring the dog back to the boring indoors (yuk!) So wait calmly and patiently, without playing or talking to your dog at your preferred location and after he goes, then provide all of these rewards: have a puppy party celebration in your best baby voice, many high-value food rewards, pets, and then go for a nice long walk, so that the quick elimination on cue predicts the rewarding long walk and all of the above.
That is how to get a dog to eliminate quickly and on cue and not to hold it in until the very last minute after you have been outdoors for an hour. Which is frustratingly what dogs often learn when parents immediately bring a dog inside after they go potty.
Dominance theory went out with bloodletting in the 1800s. However, people still somehow think that rubbing a dog’s nose in pee and poo while yelling or hitting them teaches them something. It doesn’t.
This is not only unfair but mean, and will exacerbate the house soiling problem. The only thing yelling at your dog does is teach your puppy to not eliminate in front of you and to eliminate in the house again when you aren’t around.
Another common potty training error is a lack of socialization so that your puppy can learn to go potty in the presence of other dogs and people and on the surface you choose.
Contemporary trainers, behaviorists, and veterinarians understand the scientific evidence that far more dogs die from behavior problems than any other cause! The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), suggest socializing your puppy in safe puppy socialization classes 7 days after their first set of vaccines and deworming!
It’s worth repeating, a dog’s behavior and not medical issues are the number one reason for relinquishment to shelters, and hence death.
If your veterinarian is still providing outdated advice such as “don’t take your puppy outdoors before they have all of their immunization shots” or, “make sure you do not take your dog to puppy training classes or socialize them with other dogs until they are fully vaccinated”, make sure you find yourself another veterinarian. If your vet is this far behind the times in the science of behavior (ethology) do you want them diagnosing your dog at all? I wouldn’t.
It is negligent for a veterinarian to hurt you and your dog by providing outdated, incorrect, and detrimental information, however sadly many still do.
A behavioral vaccination is the most critical vaccination a puppy can get. And that vaccination is correlated with your puppy’s predetermined biological growth phase and time frame that you cannot get back once it’s gone. Your puppy’s first 13 weeks of life (sensitive period) are the most important and influential time of your dog’s life to learn.
As Steven Lindsay states in the Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior And Training, “The ontogeny of a dog’s social behavior unfolds according to a genetically programmed timetable (Scott and Fuller, 1965; Fox, 1971). These early developmental processes exercise an enduring influence over the behavior adjustment of dogs. During a brief period from 3 to 13 weeks of age, an average puppy will probably learn more than during the remaining course of its lifetime, forming a lasting emotional and cognitive schemata of the social and physical environment. Furthermore, these early experiences format the general outline and organization of how and what the dog is prepared to experience and learn in the future.”
The socialization and sensitive period are roughly 3-13 weeks. So take your dog out to socialize with other vaccinated, well-behaved, well-mannered dogs. In fact, research in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior shows that the sensitive period maybe even earlier than we suspected for some breeds.
The puppy sensitive period is a biologically predetermined growth phase that is vital for a puppy’s mental, social, behavioral, biological, and emotional development. If this valuable window of opportunity is missed your puppy (and you) will likely face a lifelong uphill challenge of dog anxiety, fear, stress, and socialization issues which will all impact potty training.
Sequestering your puppy until they have had all of their vaccinations will detriment your puppy’s potty training. If your veterinarian mistakenly recommends quarantining your puppy indoors out of fear of contracting a medical disease, your puppy doesn’t have the opportunity to learn proper elimination habits early on and potty training will be more challenging in the future.
Use basic safety and stay away from high trafficked dog areas such as public dog parks and places where you know there is poop or pee from other dogs. Be smart about minimizing your dog’s exposure before all vaccinations are gotten, but by no means sequester your dog to your home or immediate few blocks during puppyhood or before all vaccinations are received. That would be the absolute worst thing you could do for your dog, and you and your puppy will spend a lifetime making up for it.
As discussed earlier, every time we allow a dog to pee or poop in the house or the wrong location we set them back several steps to achieving perfect house training. At all costs, we cannot allow a dog to rehearse and practice inappropriate habits or these poor habits will become stronger and more difficult to stop.
Be consistent about where you take your dog to eliminate. If you are not consistent with where you take your dog to eliminate your dog won’t form good elimination habits that you can put on cue.
Never allow your dog in the backyard to eliminate by themselves, off-leash, or out of sight. Say goodbye to using a doggie door or lazily opening the backyard door for the dog to go potty outside. Or any combination of those!
Nothing could be more detrimental to your puppy’s potty training than this. Much more on that below. Dogs like routine and consistency. A puppy wants to go to the bathroom in the same location over and over again. Use this to your advantage.
If your dog is peeing on your rug, furniture, bed, couch, in your living room, bedroom, or any other place, these places must be immediately off-limits to your pet.
Limit a puppy’s access to off-limit spaces. This is the number one rule pet parents break.
Do not allow your dog access to any areas where they have house soiled or previously marked. If your pet has soiled in their dog crate, switch dog crates and try a plastic kennel vs. a wire dog crate or vice-versa.
Because we know that dogs prefer to go on the same substrate, (physical, tactile area) and in the same location to relieve themselves, we can use a dog’s natural inclination to our advantage.
If we bring a puppy to go potty where we prefer and not where they prefer, their tendency to go potty in the correct location that we teach them will remain just as strong as if they decided where to poop or pee.
You must have strict management of a dog’s space, both inside your home environment and outside.
Spatial management is your job to manage your pup effectively, vigilantly, and prudently thereby not allowing your dog to make house training errors. When we control a dog’s space and environment, we influence where we would like our pets to eliminate and at the same time stop potty training accidents.
Spatial management is a priority and in combination with proper feeding, hydration times and a vigilant potty training routine will set your puppy up for success every time.
Increasing space you give a puppy and decreasing vigilance is the bane of a great potty training protocol. The adage, “my house is your house” will set you and your dog up for failure. My home is your home will come in due time, after your puppy is potty trained. Start small and let your puppy earn space slow and steady. Too much space too soon will cause accidents.
Dogs are time-intensive, not space-intensive.
You are much better off taking it slow, measured in months not weeks; to doubly make sure your dog looks forward to peeing and pooping as soon as they go outdoors in your preferred location than taking gambling on increasing their freedom because they got it right for a few weeks in a row.
Invest a few months of inconvenience and vigilance for years of a happy and joyous pee and poop free home – it’s a great ROI.
Olfactory enrichment is a very important factor for a dog when he decides to eliminate. Allow your dog to sniff trees, grass, bushes, and fire hydrants to find a place to go potty. Make sure you watch the video above, How do dogs “see” with their noses.
Did you see how large the section of a dog’s brain is dedicated to the olfactory system?
A human’s nose is darn right primitive by comparison. Dogs transmogrify data and information, long after a scent was left, making dogs virtual time portal nose machines. Awesome!
If a dog’s olfactory bulb and vomeronasal organ don’t amaze you by now and give you newfound awe, appreciation, and profound intrigue about how a puppy senses the world, nothing will.
Now that you realize the power and incredible abilities of a dog’s nose, your newfound respect for your dog’s abilities may have you looking at him differently when potty training.
A dog prefers to go pee and poop in the same smelling area each time. This strong habit can be good or bad for us. If we teach a dog to eliminate where we want them to, this habit will become stronger and can be used to our advantage!
However, if a dog has not been taught where to poop and pee and is urinating and defecating wherever and whenever he wants, it will become habitual and more difficult and time-consuming to change the behavior.
Allow your dog to sniff and investigate fecal matter and urine will end up helping your puppy’s potty training.
Get your chemistry hats on for a minute. Dogs love the chemical substrate that is emitted by urine and feces. So much so, that they prefer to countermark, to pee and poop on top of and next to where they or other dogs have gone before.
This is why you see dogs pooping and peeing on other dogs poop and pee and why they typically go potty in high trafficked dog areas.
Poop and pee communicate many social signals to dogs such as:
And many more signals and information that we are still learning about. This is also learned through a dog urine marking, anogenital investigation, and countermarking.
This is a dog’s way of exchanging business cards, “pee-mail” and communicating with one another.
So allow your dog to sniff and investigate other dogs’ (and peoples) rear ends, it is no more gross or weird than you shaking someone’s hand (who knows where that’s been)!
Allow your dog to investigate, and get to know other dogs and people through their noses and don’t be so fast to pull them away from communicating and processing information.
Remember, to immediately reward potty training success, every time. Funny how we are so quick to resort to punish and scold bad behavior but often forget or take for granted our dog’s good behavior as if we just “expect” our dogs to understand us and to behave like little furbaby angels. It has been said that expectations are future resentments, therefore it would behoove us to not expect or take anything for granted.
You can never generously reward peeing and pooing quickly and on cue enough. Meaning, despite a dog’s age, I still bring high-value food rewards out with me on occasion, just to keep the variable reinforcement schedule intact and strong. You should see how a 12-year-old Labrador Retriever dances around in circles like a puppy when I whip out his favorite dog treat for going pee or poop quickly where I wanted him to and in the rain! We have a party, and it is an awesome spectacle! Seeing a dog happy brings tears to my eyes and I imagine you experience the same connection with your dog when your dog is happy, you are ecstatic. If you treat generously, frequently and with contiguity, your dog will start to pee and poo like Flash Gordon, and both of you will all be happier and healthier for it.
If a dog has anxiety urinating or defecating due to separation anxiety (SA) read my Separation Anxiety in Dogs – Causes and Treatment article. If you suspect that SA may be a contributing factor, please take some time to understand separation anxiety thoroughly and treat that behavior problem separately or concurrently from potty training. It is vital to address the underlying conditioned emotional response (CER) thoroughly before using a crate or potty training. Never address any behavior through punition, fear, intimidation, or force.
If you are planning on switching your dog from puppy food to adult dog food, you should wait until after your dog has had excellent potty training – success measured in many months, not days or weeks. Or, go about changing food very slowly. For example, take a couple of weeks to slowly shift the ratio of old food to new food in each meal. Often switching a dog’s diet causes diarrhea and an upset stomach.
As you can imagine, managing a dog’s poop and pee schedule if they are inclined to having diarrhea inside of your house or their dog crate will be a nightmare. Most salient, it will also make achieving a predictable, healthy stool routine for your dog nearly impossible.
We need to tilt all the odds in our favor, in doing so, feeding a dog anything outside of the normal feeding routine should be evaluated diligently and most often is not recommended during potty training. In addition, if your dog is more than 6 months old and hasn’t been potty trained, simplify things as much as possible and put them on a once-a-day feeding routine, while ensuring they maintain proper hydration at specific times. This will help regulate them and will help you better predict when they need to pee or poo. After your dog learns where to go potty, you can go back to any feeding ritual you would like.
Potty training is easy but takes lots of time, and you work all day. Many pet parents don’t have the time for and don’t want to go through the tedious tasks of potty training their puppy. So they call a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant to do it for them in a boarding and training boot camp scenario. This will give the dog a big jump start in providing them with strong beginnings of great potty training habits; however, either way, all of the same protocols listed throughout will have to be followed after your puppy returns to your home or your dog will likely begin peeing in your living room again.
Distractions and other animals
Other dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, bears, deer, raccoons, and outdoor animals in or around your yard can stress out a dog or excite them to the point that they cannot control themselves. When your dog is potty training, other animals may make it more difficult for them to hold it in and more likely for them to make mistakes. Remember, your dog can sense other animals visually, olfactory, auditory, or otherwise through their somatosensory system. Even if we cannot sense other stimuli, your dog can. If a resident companion animal or outdoor animal has access to your crated or penned house training dog, this may cause arousal and/or elimination. Look for ways to sequester a dog so that he may rest and not be stressed or stimulated in close to elimination times.
When you are potty training a puppy, it is important to go slowly. If you start with pee pads covering the entire X pen area and start removing the percentage of the floor that is covered in pads too quickly, your puppy will probably make a mistake. There is no one formula for how fast to reduce the pads covering the floor, but I have found that reducing the size of the floor area that is covered in pads a few inches each day works best. If your puppy makes a mistake, simply enlarge the area covered in pads and leave it like that for a longer time.
For example, when you first bring home a puppy you will have the entire inside of the Xpen covered in wee pads so your puppy can’t make a mistake, then after a few days, begin to make the covered area smaller and smaller, inch by inch. Don’t remove an entire pee pad day by day or your puppy will be sure to make a mistake.
PRO TIP 1: Allow your puppy to eliminate a few times on a pad before throwing it away. Your dog’s urine and feces will lure them back to that location and scent habitually to want to eliminate in that similar area each time. When you are ready to discard a wee pad, don’t throw it away just yet, clean off any feces and simply place it underneath a fresh new one to continue to lure your puppy to where you want them to go potty.
PRO TIP 2: Puppies love to chew things. Your wee-wee pads will get chewed on or torn up if left floating around on the ground. Use some double-sided tape underneath the pad and tape the wee-wee pad to the floor. If you don’t use double-sided tape and instead use duct tape on top of the wee pad taped around the edges, your puppy will likely chew the tape as well. So put the tape underneath the wee pad.
Many people struggle with having their puppy pee while on a leash, especially those that have allowed their dogs to pee or poo in the backyard unsupervised. Of course, having a backyard is wonderful, but not training your puppy to pee/poo on a leash and on cue can cause significant problems in the long run.
A dog urinating or defecating by himself in the backyard with no leash on is an entirely different scenario and understanding for a dog than eliminating in the close presence of people, when a leash is attached or when your dog is being watched. Eliminating in the backyard with no one around is also not the same as urinating or defecating on cue which is what you want to teach your dog.
This is why many parents ask, why won’t my dog pee or poop on the dog walk or in front of me? Simply, they haven’t been taught or conditioned to eliminate on cue, in front of you or while attached to a leash. All of the above scenarios may seem nuanced and the same, but they are entirely different behaviors from your dog’s perspective. Dogs don’t generalize well or at all until taught and conditioned to do so. There are many nuances that can be broken down even further however these are the main scenarios that confuse parents the most and that dogs have issues with.
A doggie door, while convenient for some parents, enables and presents the same behavior problems and potty training issues mentioned above. A doggy door teaches the dog nothing. If a dog has free access to come and go as they please without supervision, it defeats the purpose of dog training.
Dog doors do not teach your dog the goals of potty training mentioned at the beginning of the article. In addition, all of the other poor habits, and health issues will still occur as mentioned above in backyard problems. Dog doors don’t help with potty training a puppy they hurt training and in most cases are not recommended for pet parents.
Other dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, bears, deer, raccoons, and outdoor animals can stress out a dog or excite them to the point that they cannot control themselves. When your dog is potty training, other animals may make it more difficult for them to hold it in and more likely for them to make mistakes.
Remember, your dog can sense other animals visually, olfactory, auditory, or otherwise through their somatosensory system. Even if we cannot sense other stimuli, your dog can.
If a resident companion animal or outdoor animal has access to your crated or penned house training dog, this may cause arousal and/or elimination. Look for ways to sequester a dog so that he may rest and not be stressed or stimulated in close to elimination times.
If your puppy won’t stop peeing and pooping inside the house or in their crate, he hasn’t learned to eliminate outside yet. This is annoying but very common.
Here are some of the tricks and tips I have learned throughout the years of house training thousands of puppies. However these are not the first, go-to methods to try, there are many, more effective, and less time-consuming techniques that will help most dogs and that need to be used in conjunction with these training protocols. So, if you have not read the full potty training guide, please do so and then come back when you are finished.
Many dogs, particularly dogs that are from puppy mills, shelter, and rescue dogs, do not go potty in front of you or when on a walk. They were not conditioned to do so in their kennel, crate, or by themselves.
Most parents try to obedience train their dog at the same time as they are potty training. However, this can be a set up for failure. An important tenet I go by when potty training a dog is: keep a dog on the most consistent and regular feeding and hydration routine as possible.
Specifically, providing a set amount of food and water at specific times. For example, 2-3 times a day for food, and water depends upon a parent and dog’s routine (daily walk, exercise, play, social and sleep schedule). This allows parents to begin to predict how much and when their puppy eliminates.
This is a cardinal rule. This means keeping a routine and regularity at all costs during potty training. On top of that, don’t feed a dog any food that may upset their stomach at this time.
Unfortunately, that means holding off on obedience training and behavior modification while potty training. Because obedience training relies on constant access to high-value foods (treats) and hydration, it interferes with the cardinal rule of potty training.
It’s key to not switch foods, experiment with new foods, or give too many dog training treats during this critical period of potty training. Obedience training and learning new tricks such as sit, down, stay, roll-over, high-five, crawl, play bow, etc., are great fun, but all dog training tricks require constant rewards to reinforce those behaviors.
A dog’s reward/payment system is typically in food just like a human’s reward is typically in money and while potty training, a strict food, and hydration schedule is imperative to success.
Positive reinforcement dog training works best for learning new behaviors and obedience, however, training a canine with high-value food will inevitably alter their poop schedule and routine –something we are trying to prevent at all costs. Further, the more we begin to experiment with a dog’s hierarchy of food rewards, the higher the chance of unpredictable and softer stool/diarrhea.
This is not an endorsement for skipping a dog’s sensitive period or socialization, enrichment or environmental stimulation. It is merely an acknowledgment that potty training is on a continuum and is continually being adjusted. On this continuum, lies a perfectly potty trained dog on one end of the spectrum, and on the other end, an untrained dog that pees and poops all over their crate and/or in the house.
As a dog learns, we ease the stringency of the routine and relax the schedule for feeding and hydration. There are many stops in between.
For example, potty training a healthy 8-week-old puppy may be shorter in duration than potty training a 3-year-old puppy mill dog that has been pooping and peeing on themselves, in their crate from birth to 3-years-old. The latter dog has a long history of learned behavior and a much more difficult habit to change.
The more ingrained the habit or inappropriate house/crate soiling, the stricter I am about the feeding and hydration schedule. After your dog is potty trained, this will all be moot.
When going for a walk, use a 15-foot or longer static long-line (not a retractable Flexi leash) instead of the shorter leash you may normally use. With a long-line, you can provide your dog with some privacy while they relieve themselves. Removing yourself and creating distance from your dog while they find their preferred spot to pee or poop may engender confidence and familiarity with their bathroom ritual.
Potty training protocol for a dog that won’t pee or poop outside, on a walk, on cue in your preferred spot
If your dog gets bored or lies down to rest or sleep call them over and find a different location. The movement will help stimulate your puppy’s bowels and bladder. If you have been out for more than an hour and still no success, bring them back home and utilize the crate for a little while and then repeat the procedure. Read, “Why use a dog crate for potty training” to learn how to quickly influence your puppy’s house training.
Potty training protocol for a dog that will only pee or poop in your backyard, when alone, and not on a leash
It will help you to read what to buy before getting a new dog to help you succeed in puppy potty training.
How to potty train your puppy instructions.
When your dog is not tethered to you, your dog goes back in their properly sized doggy Zen crate. Don’t worry, dogs typically prefer small dark spaces. You are not punishing your dog by placing them in a crate. Your dog’s crate should be thought of like a doggie Zen area. And it would be unfair not to offer that environment for your dog. Remember, the goal is for your puppy to become reliable enough to roam free around your house, not to stay in a crate for life.
They should be in a relatively boring environment for them to do their business and then after they go potty, the celebration begins. A dog should urinate in less time than compared to when they defecate. Urination will take around fewer than two minutes and deification should take fewer than five minutes. If your pup does not go potty, simply bring them back inside to their closed crate and start the clock again and wait another 30 minutes or so and repeat the process.
Eventually when you know your dog has to eliminate you can begin to say a cue directly before your dog is about to go. You can use whatever cue you want to associate with your puppy’s behavior (go pee, go potty, make poopoo, etc.) Conditioning a dog to eliminate on cue has many benefits. Remember, as soon as your puppy eliminates to have a puppy party and begin their walk, not end it. Do not take them inside directly after they eliminate as many dogs consider “inside” to be a punishment and your dog will start to hold it in, and take very long to eliminate for future dog walks.
After all, we all fast from the nighttime, until morning otherwise known as breakfast, literally named to break, the fast. I am sure you can see how 24/7 access to water is not detrimental to your dog.
I suggest providing fresh, clean water at all times after your dog is well potty trained and I do NOT recommend depriving your dog of water when they are thirsty, sick, dehydrated, on medication, after receiving exercise, direct sun exposure, etc.
If your dog has had a long walk, playtime, exposure to the sun, medication, or after eating he may be particularly thirsty so time, measure and manage your play sessions and the aforementioned carefully. During puppy potty training, your dog’s life will be orchestrated to fit into your new potty training schedule.
While potty training and taking into account all of the above, assuming your dog is healthy, I suggest providing all the fresh, clean, cool water your dog can slurp down about every 2 hours. After, pull the water bowl up and start the timer on your watch. Before bed, the last call! Pull up your dog’s water 3-4 hours before you go to bed. And remember to give them all they want to drink as soon as you wake up.
PRO TIP 1: A puppy should be picked up out of the crate and carried, on the way to go piddle outdoors or they will likely piddle in the elevator, stairwell or anywhere on the way outside. Simply pick him up out of the crate, walk over to the spot where you want your puppy to pee and poo, and place him down on the grass or wherever you wish your puppy to relieve themselves. As a smart parent, you should always be prepared and be armed with many high-value food treats in tiny pinky-sized portions (not their kibble) to reward them and have a puppy party immediately after they pee and/or poo.
PRO TIP 2: If you don’t sound foolish and embarrassed lauding your pup with your over-the-top, high-pitched voice at your puppy’s pee and poo party, you aren’t doing it correctly.
PRO TIP 3: What goes in must come out. Dogs are like clockwork. The puppy’s age will tell you how long they can hold in urine and feces. The younger the dog, the shorter the ability to hold in urine and feces. As your dog gets older and has the capability of holding it in longer, you may adjust your times and schedules accordingly.
You will have a good idea by just watching and learning your dog’s cycle to understand their preferred timing to poop and pee after they eat and drink. This requires observation and awareness. Who doesn’t love watching a puppy all day!
It is important to note that no one solution will likely stop the house soiling. This is a team effort. Your best chance of stopping your dog from going to the toilet in your home is with spatial management. However, managing all aspects of your dog’s space and olfactory preferences will make it easier for your dog to build great bathroom habits and stop your dog from house soiling.
Caveat: Just because a crate is the ultimate potty training tool is not an excuse to abuse it. A crate is just a tool, and a pet should not be crated with the crate door closed for more than a few hours at a time and certainly not the entire day while you are at work.
Puppy potty training is time-consuming and exhausting. Parents won’t be successful without the help from these essential products and tools.
This is what you will use to clean dog pee and poop. It turns out that a dog’s powerful nose can smell the chemicals in the protein in urine and feces well beyond after you clean it with your regular daily household cleaner. To really clean those pesky pee and poo stains, you need an enzymatic cleaner. Which breaks down the enzymes that lure dogs to the same substrate again and again.
This will help stop the cycle of a dog preferring to go where they or another dog went to the bathroom in the past.
Enzymatic cleaning solutions clean poop and pee from your dog’s perspective which is much different than cleaning pee and poop from our perspective. This spray will help stop the magnetic pull of a dog to urine and feces and will disconnect the chemical smells of pee and poop from the location.
Remember, a dog can smell a spot where they or another dog has peed or pooped days, weeks, even months after it has been soiled. Dissolving the chemical smell allows dogs to reorient themselves to your new preferred elimination location. Score! Unless we use proper cleaning supplies and methods, the old pee and pooping station will still smell like a dog park to your dog even if it smells lemony fresh to you.
Throw away any cleaning materials that you used when cleaning up your dog’s urine or feces, such as paper towels, towels, newspapers, rags…etc. In the outdoor garbage can that seals off odors. You don’t want those smells lingering and making your home smell more like a dog park. Or at the very least use a closing lid garbage can.
Basically, a Velcro body band that wraps around your male dog’s torso covering his penis. This helps prevent marking and/or mistakes for incontinent and/or confused dogs.
Dog diapers help with female urination incontinence and also helps with the management of male/female pee and poop messes.
These are great to change the arrangement of the house in a hurry. Block off certain rooms and makes your home manageable to watch your dog without having to close your doors. Ancillary, baby gates, and X-pens or partitions are also great to block off the kitchen to prevent counter surfing and hence stopping your dog from eating food that could kill them. Even when not potty training, I typically have several baby gates on hand.
It is critical to use dog X-pens to control and manage your dog’s space precisely. For example, in one of the four corners of the puppy pen, place your dog’s crate. Ideally, a metal wire dog crate that can be sectioned/sized as your dog grows.
Providing only enough room for your pup to stand up, turn around, and sleep comfortably. If you provide too much room, the dog will likely pee and poop in one corner and sleep in the other, defeating the purpose and benefits of crate training. Sizing is critical, which is why even the best plastic crate, or best mesh carrier bags, while wonderful for other applications, should not be used and are not ideal for crate training and house training.
Another option is to position the crate to be part of the puppy pen as seen below so it is not in the corner of the pen but part of the pen, with each end of the pen attached to the sides of the corner of the opening of the dog crate. This is an example of an outdoor scenario. However, I would suggest for most cases this be set up indoors.
The dog crate door may be left open with an additional dog bed placed inside the crate. Of course, when you are managing your dog’s pee, and poop and the dog needs to be inside of the crate, the crate door should be closed.
All other times, only when your dog has immediately eliminated, and you are watching your dog, you may take them out of the pen area to play for a few minutes with direct supervision, or leave the dog crate door open and allow the dog to roam around his doggie den (inside of the open crate but closed pen). Also, your dog should have another dog bed outside of his/her crate in the other corner of the pen. This will be another place for your dog to go and hang out if he/she wants to be outside of the crate.
The pen may be covered with wee-wee pads. Pee pads, newspaper, and tarp are optional depending on how vigilant and controlling you are with watching your dog. I prefer to use sod and to mimic the grass environment in which I wish for my dog to eliminate. You can also sprinkle some recently fresh-cut grass over artificial turf to get your puppy familiar tacitly and with the smells of real grass.
If you have ample time and spend most of your day outdoors and training, you may skip the sod and puppy wee pads since you will be outside for most of the day rewarding your dog when he/she poops and pees.
You may want to consider getting some fake grass, artificial turf, or real grass, especially if you live in a pet-friendly apartment building. A balcony could make a great place to set up this “outdoor environment”.
A dog crate is so vital for puppy potty training that I have dedicated an entire section to them below!
Dog crates are the ultimate house training tool. Crates are amazing for many reasons. The fallacy that crates are bad sounds like the punch line of a pet sitter sales pitch “crate-free” or “cage-free.” This advertises someone’s ignorance about dog behavior, health, and husbandry.
Not only does research show that when puppies are placed in a dog crate overnight that they had significantly fewer house training problems and accidents over the first two months in a new home, but dogs prefer small, dark spaces. A crate should be a Zen area for your dog and has so many beneficial uses, including potty training.
Dogs innately do not like to defecate or urinate where they sleep, who would! We use a dog’s natural inclination not to want to soil where they sleep to our advantage. A dog will hold it in while they are in their crate. Keep in mind, a puppy must go out very often, when they wake up, before bedtime, after they eat, after they drink, after they play, basically every 1-2 hours, depending on their age.
It is also cruel to confine a juvenile, adolescent, or adult dog to a crate for many hours. A dog should have the opportunity to relieve themselves at a minimum of 4 times a day.
In addition, a dog crate is helpful in transporting your dog. Whether you are staying at a hotel, going to the vet, on vacation, to the park, on a car, boat, plane, or train a crate is instrumental. A dog crate offers a safe place for your dog if they are recuperating from an injury, surgery, or illness or if you have visitors that are afraid of dogs or vice versa.
If you have contractors or construction workers coming and going, a dog crate will keep your dog safe from any chemicals and materials lying around and provide a safe, relaxing environment. In emergencies, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes or natural disasters, your dog will feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed in their doggie den.
When using the crate, it must be appropriately sized so that a dog may stand up, without hitting the top of the dog crate and turn around unencumbered. You do not want a crate where the puppy or dog may relieve themselves on one side of the crate and then nap on the other side. This defeats the purpose of the crate. The only time your dog or puppy is allowed to be out of the crate is after he has gone to the toilet in your preferred location after they have just emptied their bowels and bladder
Caveat: If your dog has had a bad experience with their crate, has dog anxiety, fear, is panting, pacing, drooling, yawning, barking, scratching at the crate, etc., do not use a dog crate and call a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, CDBC immediately and work on desensitization and counterconditioning (D/CC).
Clean it up properly. Soiling a properly sized crate is an extreme behavior that a dog learned from being left in unsuitable, neglectful conditions confined for hours/days/months in their crates.
Often times a dog pees or poops in their dog crate when they are coming from dog breeders, overrun shelters, veterinarian dog boarding, hotel dog boarding facilities and kennels, hoarders, puppy mills, or anywhere where a dog’s basic needs are neglected, and a dog is left in a crate or to eliminate in their kennel for a long time during the day/night and sadly is forced to defecate and urinate on themselves.
Like all habits, good and bad, the longer the dog learns to defecate and urinate in their crate where they sleep, the stronger this habit becomes. This is a hard habit to break and a very unfortunate and preventable situation. Look for a certified dog behaviorist to help when a dog or puppy eliminates in a dog crate.
By following the aforementioned advice and tools to help you succeed, you will have success in stopping your dog from peeing and pooping in a dog crate.
Extreme behaviors call for extreme antecedent arrangements. Here are some additional brainstorming ideas on how to stop a dog from peeing and pooping where they sleep. However these are generalizations and everybody’s time, environment, finances, and living situation are different and will call for different experiments.
If your environment is suitable you may try setting up a dog pen outdoors, weather permitting on the preferred location you want your dog to eliminate on. Therefore if your dog makes a “mistake” in their dog pen on the grass, they have actually had success by peeing and pooping where you want them to go, on the grass.
You can also set up this scenario indoors with sod or artificial turf. I would recommend getting some indoor sod made for dogs so that your dog will get the tactile feeling under their paws of where you would like them to eliminate. Indoors, shielded from the elements would be best. So if your dog does make a mistake, it will at least be on the preferred surface area.
This is not ideal, it is much better to walk your dog so you are able to reward them and they learn to pee and poo in front of you, while on a leash, however, if you have few other choices, it is better to have them get used to peeing and pooping on the grass than making mistakes in the crate or on the carpet. Learning will take longer this way, but again it is the best of the imperfect options.
If you go the outdoor pen route, make sure your local weather permits this scenario and use good judgment, do not leave a dog exposed to extreme heat, direct sun, extreme cold, etc. Also, be sure to pick up the poop immediately and check the pen area often so that you know if and when your dog went and to prevent coprophagia.
Typically feeding times are inconsequential and are in the backseat when it comes to behavioral vaccinations and training. After a dog has finished potty training and knows where to go to the bathroom, an irregular poop schedule is a minuscule issue compared to the enormously important training, behavior, and life skills/manners a dog needs to learn.
However, the only time when poop consistency and predictability becomes paramount is when you are house training a dog. Even more so when you are house training a dog that has learned to poop or pee in their den/crate. If your dog is peeing and pooping in their crate, keep the feeding schedule militarily consistent and do not work with food for training in between meals.
Alter your dog’s feeding schedule to fit your schedule once and do not change foods, or schedules, or anything that may cause an upset stomach or change until your dog has learned over many weeks/months where to relieve themselves.
You may not be able to use a crate, may need to change the placement of the crate, the crate itself, or the surface under the dog’s paws. Some dogs prefer darker spaces and light changes. You can control the lighting by placing a sheet or towel over the crate while leaving at least one side open for ventilation.
Spending as much time outdoors and being a strict control freak when it comes to intake of all food and water will help dramatically so you have a better handle on exactly when a dog may need to relieve themselves.
I would suggest being more extreme with the tools, suggestions, and procedures listed throughout. Brainstorming about your specific scenario, living situation, antecedent arrangement, environment, and job will help a behaviorist put together a behavior modification protocol that will help your unique dog get on the right track.
Your dog may suffer from Separation Anxiety Disorder.
If your dog is fearful about going outside, hyper-vigilant, under socialized, fearful, or has anxiety for any reason, these all may cause your dog not to pee or poop outdoors. Some other reasons a dog may not pee or poop outdoors are:
The list goes on and on. As you can see, whatever the reason your dog may be hesitant to go to the bathroom outside, try and find a quiet, less stimulating, intimidating, fearful environment for him to be relaxed enough to go potty.
Some dogs, especially shelter or rescue dogs, are conditioned to go on hard tactile surfaces under their paws such as concrete or pavement and other dogs will only go when the grass is under paw. Whatever your dog prefers, work with his preference as best you can.
If you live in any large city, you may only have access to concrete, conversely, if you live in the suburbs of Los Angeles Ca you may have access to mostly grass. Whatever your living situation, if you want your dog’s bathroom preferences to be changed, this may be accomplished over time by taking it slow and steady and rewarding heavily.
It is never too late to house train an adult dog or puppy. The time you invest now will pay off in spades down the road when you have a household with no one going to the bathroom on the floors any longer.
Your dog may pee when someone comes over because your dog is excitement peeing or submissive peeing
Excitement peeing and why a dog excitement urinates is pretty self-explanatory. Your dog may be thinking, “OMG, OMG, OMG, this person may rub my belly! Throw me a ball! Give me attention! Toss me a doggie treat! Scratch my ears!” etc.
As difficult as it may sound to have guests ignore your furry bundle of love, have guests completely ignore your dog as if your dog is not there. No talking to them, looking at them and no touching/petting them. Complete 100% ignoring your dog when they come to your home.
Here’s the problem, people have a very hard time doing this. Houseguests often cannot help themselves. They habitually look at the dog out of the corner of their eye and bam, your puppy pees all over the rug. Many dogs will excitement pee on eye contact or any kind of attention.
The medical reason for a puppy’s excitement peeing is that a puppy’s urethra (the tube that carries urine from his bladder to the outside) muscle tone is not developed enough to control or hold in his pee. As his sphincter and bodily function control develop and improve, he will likely grow out of this peeing problem. However, excitement urination is not the same as submission urination.
Submission urination often happens when someone makes direct eye contact with a dog, squares up their shoulders, looms over a dog and then reaches over them to pet their head (which some dogs tolerate but do not enjoy) all of these in the dog world are confrontational, threatening and not polite.
This is what some ridiculous reality show hosts do, and it is not recommended. Interacting with a dog this way will cause an already shy, nervous submissive dog with anxiety to roll over, try to appease you, or to squat and pee. That submission urination is communicating, I come in peace, I am friendly, please stop scaring and intimidating me, I am very uncomfortable.
You may notice when you are confronting your dog he may pee all over. The dog may offer other appeasement behaviors such as ears back, lowered posture, avoiding eye contact, tail tucked, or cowering. In this case, the person looking to pet the dog is considered a threat, confrontational, and not polite.
Dogs often urinate in response to a perceived threat (so do humans). The simple solution is to learn how to communicate in a friendly manner with a dog by not being confrontational and/or threatening and to ignore the dog. Don’t use crass, human-centric social mores and loom over a dog’s head, stand over them, square your shoulders towards them, stick your arm or hand out at them, or stare at them. Get some manners, paw-lease!
Just like us, if a puppy is in an extreme state of fear, they might pee or lose control of their bowels and bladder. Very similar to submission peeing.
Greeting a nervous or shy dog correctly will help you prevent submission, fear, and excitement peeing. For beginners, ignore the dog and let them come to you.
If you want to try and lure a dog to you, turn 90 degrees to the dog, bend your knees and go all the way down as if you are a catcher in a baseball game or going to sit in a chair and do not look at or stick your arm or hand out at the dog or in the dog’s face.
If the dog approaches you, allow him to at their own pace and to sniff you, empowering them. If the dog comes towards you do not reach for them, try to pet them, or move quickly. Do not turn and face them. Just allow the dog to sniff you, come to you and get comfortable in your presence on their own time.
Like people, some dogs take longer than others to get comfortable around other beings. If you are approached, and the dog hangs around your space long after exploring you, you may gradually and slowly stroke her chest or his side.
It is polite to come from under his head, not over him. Many dogs enjoy being stroked/scratched behind their ears. Remember, if you must speak, (it is better to remain silent) do so slowly, quietly, softly, and avoid any excitement. Good job! No more submission or excitement peeing!
House soiling is one of the most common reasons people give their dogs up to an animal shelter. Punishment is mean and never stops a dog from peeing and pooping in the house. In fact, it makes the situation worse by causing emotional stress, fractured relationships, and introducing other behavior problems.
If you yell at your dog, hit your dog, rub your dog’s nose in their pee or poop, try alpha rolling them or dominating them or intimidate them in any way, your dog will likely just pee and poop in the house when you are not around once they are punished and become scared of you. Punishment does nothing to help the situation and makes behavior and obedience problems much worse.
Seek help from a fear-free trainer and behaviorist to help stop and prevent house training errors and get your relationship back on the right track.
Potty training takes a lot of time and is trial and error with rearranging the environment to set the dog up for success. Now that you understand the acronym LOSS, and why a dog chooses why and where they want to urinate and defecate you can use this information and tools to change your dog’s behavior and set them up for many years of potty training success.
Never scold or punish your puppy for any reason, in particular for potty training problems. Instead, teach your puppy where to eliminate and reward them heavily. Please be patient.
Depending on how long your puppy has been having house training mistakes and how old they are will dictate how long it takes to fix potty training issues. You are not alone, potty training is fixable and common, occurring in all puppies. Consistency, patience, and repetition will pay off with a skilled force-free, CDBC, and CPDT. Your puppy will thank you.
Potty training takes a lot of time and attention. More time and attention than most parents have to devote to the process. If you don’t have lots of time to potty train your dog, see how we can help and do it for you with our flawless potty training service.
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