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  • Writer's pictureMaddie Angevine

From Carpet Casualties to Potty Pro: Six Tips for Teaching Your Dog to Go Outside!



Potty training is about creating predictable routines and rewarding good behavior. This is not always easy! Here, I will cover six of the best practices for teaching your dog that the best canine family members do their business outside, not in the living room. While a lot of potty training discussions are geared toward puppies, these tips can be used for older dogs as well.




Give them ample chances to be successful. 

You may want to experiment with what kind of timing works for you and your dog, but make sure to give them outside opportunities frequently. When I have a puppy who is new to me, I take them outside every hour. If they go potty outside, throw them a mini party! Give them a treat, scratch them behind the ears, play with them and their favorite toy, or provide any other kind of reward that they love. If they don’t need to go, I cut the “potty time” interval in half: If the normal routine is every hour, we will try again in another 30 minutes. If outside time turns quickly into distracted play time, try an outdoor playpen in a less stimulating part of your yard, or attach your puppy to their leash. You can always give them free reign after they potty; that can count as extra reinforcement to reward a successful bathroom break!


Keep an eye on them when they are inside. 

As helicopter-mom as it sounds, if I can’t see my puppy, I assume they’re doing something they shouldn’t be doing. They don’t know any better yet! There are many options for keeping your puppy close, depending on your space and current activity. Use a kennel, a play-pen, or gate to confine them in a space where you can see them. Another option is to attach one end of a leash to their puppy and the other end to your belt loop. The goal is to avoid letting them build bad habits. As is true with training as a whole, dogs do what they practice. Make sure they spend their time practicing behavior you want to see more of by managing their environment so that it’s conducive to forming good habits.


Keep track of their routine. 

It also may benefit you to keep a log. I have used some version of this with all of my dogs, as it may be someone else that lets them out to use the bathroom. We’ve used a whiteboard on the refrigerator, but now my partner and I use a “Shared Note” on our iPhones to communicate if we have given our dogs a chance to go potty, if they succeeded, and in what way. For example, if my puppy goes outside at 3:00pm and goes pee, I will log “3 PM: #1.” Now everyone knows that the puppy will need another trip outside at 4PM. If they pee and poop at 9:00am, I will log “9 AM: #1 & 2.” It is extremely helpful to see their potty pattern emerge. Many dogs have a normal routine that they fall into, just like people. Being aware of their cycle will make success much easier for everyone.


Put it on cue. 

This is incredibly helpful for me, because I like to travel with my dogs. If I can ask them to “go potty” on a small patch of dirt or grass at a gas station or in a yard they have never seen before, I can quickly communicate where the “new bathroom” is at this novel place. While they are actively going to the bathroom in the correct place, I will say my cue “go potty” and reward them when they are finished. Make sure to not get too animated while they are still going, as younger pups may decide to not empty their bladder entirely to come see you instead, and that is not the routine we want to build. 


Pay attention to their water intake. 

In the past, recommendations may have included withholding water or not allowing constant access, and instead offering water to your dog at specific times. While this can be helpful in the way that your puppy may not have to pee as often, it can be detrimental to their health if you are not careful. Additionally, your dog may learn that they have to guzzle water when available, as that can make it a limited resource in their eyes. Pay attention to how much and how often they are drinking water. If they lap up a bowl right after their potty break, you can give them a chance to go outside earlier than usual, just in case.


Clean up correctly. 

Accidents happen! When they do, be sure to use an enzymatic cleaner. While other products may smell clean to us, your puppy can likely still smell the residual odor, which acts as a reminder to them that this is a potty spot. Make sure to clean thoroughly, and with a cleaning product that is meant specifically for this purpose.


Potty training can be incredibly frustrating and accidents in your house are inconvenient. If you continue to struggle with potty training, find a certified positive reinforcement trainer near you, or give us a call. We always love to help set you and your puppy up for success!

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