I bet you’ll read this and think… This is a lot of pottying. This is just overkill! Yes. It is. The goal is to have your dog outside when they need to go potty. Because each time they go potty in the house, they’re practicing a behavior. It’s a lot easier to teach a behavior (going potty outside) when you don’t have to phase out a behavior already in place (going potty inside). And puppies need to go potty a lot. Remember, they’re baby animals. And like any baby, they take up a lot of your time. It may not be fun to go through this intense potty training schedule now, but it pays off for many years to come.
Please note that puppies may not have full control over their bodily functions until around 6 months of age. No dog is perfect. They can have accidents. They can’t hold it forever. Health issues occur.
Each dog’s digestion varies, so study your dog and adjust potty schedule accordingly.
The main factors for success are consistency, supervision, timing and setting the dog up for success.
If the dog has an opportunity to go potty in the house, then try to learn from it and see if you can prevent it next time. Seriously, don’t punish the dog. It’s a mistake on YOUR part and sometimes on the dog’s. They are not out to be vindictive or to “get us”. They are dogs. The concept of no bathrooming anywhere they feel the need to is an alien concept to them. So, chalk it up to a bump in the road on the way to house training.
If you catch your dog in the act of messing in the house, gently interrupt them just enough so that they stop, but not enough that you scare the bejesus out of them! Then get them outside right away so they can finish up and then praise and reward (if you have a fearful dog, make extra sure not to startle or scare them!). Going potty outside should be SO much more rewarding than going potty in the house.
Waking up : Right away
You coming home : Right away
Before you go out : Right before you leave
Before you go to bed : Right before you go to bed
Eating : 5-15 min later (5ish minutes for young dogs)
Drinking : 5-15 min later (5ish minutes for young dogs)
Any exercise, including playing : 5-15 min later (5ish minutes for young dogs)
That doesn’t count taking the dog out EVERY 30-45 minutes on the hour. Every waking hour, I mean. And if that trip is unproductive, then bring the dog back in for (carefully supervised) 5-10 minutes and then out we go again and repeat until it’s productive. Note that you should always be supervising a new puppy/dog, but at this time, you need to step up your game even more!
Puppies can only hold it for so long. Yes, even at night. Don’t count on a full night’s sleep. Typically it’s like this:
1 month old puppy can hold it for up to 2 hours
2 month old puppy can hold it for up to 3 hours
3 month old puppy can hold it for up to 4 hours
And up until 6-8 hours. I don’t like to have ANY dog hold it for more than 6 hours.
New adult dogs get taken out in the middle of the night. Yes, haul yourself out of that comfy bed!
Teach your dog to tell you when they need to go potty. This might be by you listening for a special bark or whine, getting them to nose target a bell hung on the door handle before letting them out, get them to step on a doggie doorbell that sends a signal to speakers that chime before going out. Etc.
Baby gate off the room exits in your house so you can keep the dog in the same room with you for supervision. This way, they can’t wander off and go potty if you should forget to pay attention. Or use an exercise pen to keep them with you.
Put a bell on their collar. When you hear silence, check out what your dog is up to. They just might be getting ready to go potty on your nice carpet.
A 10-15 minute walk, or other exercise, following a meal can lead to better digestion and also speed up how fast they have a bowel movement.
Watch out for signs that indicate that your dog may be getting ready to go potty. Intense sniffing, circling, crouching down, lifting a leg, going to a known marking spot or something new (typically for male, unneutered dogs but neutered males and even females have been known to do this too), and anything else that you’ve observed through careful study of your individual dog.
This is NOT my method of choice! It’s highly invasive and can be intimidating to some dogs, especially since they can’t take flight if scared. IF your dog enjoys human company A LOT, you can try the tethering system. This is leashing your dog and attaching the leash to your body so they can’t wander away from you and get into trouble. I do NOT recommend this for most dogs. It may be best to use a flexi leash (the tape kind, NOT the thin string) so that you can give the animal more room when you’re stationary, and then retract the slack when you’re walking around and might trip over a long leash.
Feed high quality foods, especially with fiber, that produce firm stools. It’ll make it easier to clean up after them if it’s not wet and loose. A feeding schedule will help you determine when your dog will need to go potty.
Use enzymatic cleaning products to remove all scents from accidents, to prevent the dog from deciding a spot is their designated toilet.
Put going potty “on cue”. When you see your dog going to the bathroom outside, say, “Go potty” (or similar) and then praise and reward when they’re done. This way, you can tell them to go potty when you take them out and they know exactly what you want them to do. VERY useful for traveling or when the weather is bad.
Give your dog personal space to go potty. Some dogs are shy and don’t like to feel crowded when attending to their “business” because it puts them in a vulnerable position.
If you want them to go potty in a designated spot, always lead them over to it for potty time. Praise and reward.
Anxious/fearful dogs may still go potty in the house despite all this. But don’t punish them for it. This is their way to communicate with you via chemical signal. They have no idea that this is very annoying and gross for you. This kind of dog needs more than just stringent house training to fix the problem. The anxiety needs to be addressed. You also need to be sure that they have a very safe, sheltered spot to eliminate outside. Some dogs will feel vulnerable broadcasting chemical signals outside, and crouching down and engaging in bathrooming behaviors.
If your dog goes potty on a potty pad or newspaper, move it closer and closer to the door and then eventually outside for potty time and encourage your dog to go on it. After a while, phase it out by cutting it in half, then like a week later, cutting that in half, then another week later, cutting that in half, and so on until it’s gone.
UNLESS you want to keep an indoor toilet as an option. This should be perfectly fine and I actually recommend it for service dogs, pet dogs for inclement weather, when dogs get sick or older, when you get sick, travel, etc. If your dog doesn’t already use one, stick one outside and encourage them to go potty on it by bringing them over to it and rewarding any interest and pottying near/on it. You might try sneaking an edge under them as they’re going to see if that works. Don’t scare them. Eventually, with enough consistency, they’ll hit the target. Be consistent and set up many opportunities to practice pottying on it. When this is successful, move it around so that they understand what the target is as opposed to just a general area. Eventually move this closer and closer to the house, and then eventually inside to a designated spot. You might consider a potty pad holder so that they can feel it better under them and not go off the sides, or a fake grass toilet (they sell these on Amazon or you can make your own). Be sure to also sometimes allow for pottying outside without a pad to prevent untraining them to go potty outside without it. IF you want your dog to continue using the grass, pavement, etc. You can also provide a potty pad in their ENCLOSED sleeping area. I use an exercise pen to shut them in with their bed, a few toys and any free floor room is covered with potty pads. Or if you use a crate, you can just never take the pad out of the crate and always leave it there as an available option.
No meals or water *changes* (this isn’t pulling water, this means cleaning and refilling with fresh water. This can encourage drinking even when they’re not thirsty) before bed. If you notice that your dog drinks a lot throughout the day, then DON’T pull their water before bed, and talk to your vet! If your dog has diabetes or any other health conditions, then ask your vet before pulling their water! I do NOT recommend pulling a dog’s water without permission from the vet! Even with permission, your dog/puppy may be harboring an unknown condition that requires frequent hydration. This is risky stuff. Better safe than sorry. It’s my preference to not pull water at all.
Males can store urine just for marking! You have to supervise, supervise, supervise to make sure that he doesn’t get a chance to mark in the house! When you stop him (as described above when you catch them going potty in the house, gently interrupt, don’t startle, and get them outside) from practicing that behavior, it fades from his repertoire (for the most part, you’ll have to be careful in new environments, and when introducing new objects and other animals to the home). In the meantime, you can use a belly band to keep your house urine free if you don’t catch him in time. This is a management tool! Not a cure. Be sure to change it very frequently and keep him clean! Otherwise, he can get urine burns, UTIs, or other problems!
Sick and older dogs often will mess in the house because they can’t control it. Medical reasons, such as spay incontinence, urinary tract infections, parasites, diarrhea, lack of muscle tone, nerve compression, amongst others, will need to be addressed. If a dog is having trouble being house trained, or starts messing in the house suddenly, a vet check is in order. (Section soon to come for elderly dogs. You don’t need to euthanize for this if you don’t mind some extra effort and time.)
Always praise and reward when your dog goes potty outside (wait until they finish!). Some dogs really enjoy when you go nuts with praise and rewards. Other dogs will enjoy a much calmer level of praise and reward. Don’t chase them down with the reward! This can intimidate them. The key is to praise them once they finish and then they come to you for the reward portion. Also be sure to hide your reward so that they stop begging and do their business! An airtight bag or small container stored by the door (out of their reach but in your’s) is a good idea. Or you may choose to wear a treat pouch most of the time so that they lose interest in you being a walking treat dispenser.
You can also use a crate. Most dogs won’t go to the bathroom if they can’t then walk away free and clean from it. I do NOT recommend crate training for ex-puppy mill breeders, ex-feral dogs, and sick or elderly dogs because they likely WILL mess ON themselves. The crate can keep your home clean (and your dog safe) when you can’t supervise. But don’t turn the crate into a negative place! A crate should be your dog’s own little den of sorts. Do NOT use a crate if your dog injures themself in one! Dogs with separation anxiety may not be able to be left alone in a crate when you’re not nearby! The separation anxiety will need to be addressed by a qualified animal behavior professional.
Crate training: A long, narrow crate is ideal. You provide a potty area with a potty pad or newspaper at one end, and a bed and toys and water at the other end. The dog won’t want to mess the newspaper because it’s so close to them, but if they have to go on it, it’s better than washing their bedding. Eventually, the newspaper/pee pad will be removed and there’s no more room to go potty except RIGHT where the dog is lying/sitting/standing. So most will not do it, they learn to hold it.
The dog is placed in the crate at night to sleep, and when you can’t supervise them. I prefer to use a puppy pen/exercise pen/baby gates when I’m home with the dog, and a crate for sleeping and when I have to go out. I also will use it randomly throughout the day, when I am home and can hang out with them, to show them at that being in the crate doesn’t equal them having to be alone.
To get your dog to like her crate, you’ll need to build value for it. I don’t recommend just sticking a dog into one and expecting everything to turn out well. Please do NOT leave your dog in their crate for hours on end! No more than 6 (8 is pushing it, IMO) hours straight for an adult dog, tops! Much less for a puppy! Unless you have an adult dog that sleeps through the night. Don’t use a crate for a punishment. If you absolutely have to do a punitive time out, try to use a spare room that your dog never has to use so that a negative association forming won’t matter. (Hint. Do not use the bathroom where they need to get baths!)
Build value for crates by leaving the door open so they can come and go in it at will when you’re around the supervise, feeding meals in them, giving treats in them, putting comfy beds in them, put special time crate only toys and chews in them, and crate your dog at random times during the day so your dog doesn’t associate the crate with you leaving. You can also place the crate next to your bed so that your dog doesn’t feel like they’re being isolated at night.
You can also play “crate games”. Please search on Youtube for that term to find instructional videos.
You have some options here. Some incontinent dogs can wait just long enough to get to an indoor toilet. In this case, it’s helpful to teach them to use an indoor potty, like artificial turf ones.
Some dogs will have incontinence just when they sleep. You can use waterproof mattress covers to protect beds and other furniture. Just tuck loose ends underneath.
For urinary incontinence, you can use diapers. Likewise for fecal incontinence. Feces will fall out of most diapers, but look into the PooTrap harness system. It catches it and keeps it away from your dog’s skin.
When using diapers, please be sure to check and change it often. Cleaning your dog often and keeping their skin dry is of the upmost importance or they may get urinary tract or skin infections.
You can also keep them confined to exercise pens that you’ve set up in places where you spend the most time. You can use vinyl flooring, waterproof tablecloths, or other waterproof floor covers.
If necessary, you can stimulate them to urinate or defecate. Please ask your vet how.