Adding Supervision, Structure and Positive Reinforcement to Teach a Puppy to Potty Outside

By: David Codr

Published Date: May 10, 2015


Tinker, the little guy pictured here in front with his room mate Rocko, is a four-month-old Papillion who’s potty issues were driving his guardian crazy.

Potty training can be a very frustrating time for a dog guardian, but it doesn’t have to be. I have had amazing success in potty training dogs within a week by adhering to a very a structured format.

Although he was a puppy mill dog from Tully’s (please NEVER buy a dog from them, they supply a very high percentage of my clients), Tinker was not potting in his kennel. This is huge as puppy mill dogs are often neglected and left in side a kennel for days at a time affording them no opportunity to potty anywhere else. Fortunately in Tinker’s case, he stopped going potty in the kennel once he was offered an alternative. The problem is the alternative was all over the house.

I sat down to discuss how his guardian introduced the concept of potting outside to her puppy. As a former dog guardian, she was perplexed as to why the dog was so challenging to potty train. She took the dog outside, told it to go potty, then got frustrated when the dog failed to do so. She was giving Tinker plenty of time outside, but instead of eliminating, he would wander off to explore or play with Rocko.

In actuality, the length of time a puppy is outside isn’t correlated to their likelihood of going potty unless its for rather extended periods outside. When I potty train a pup, I take it out in the morning after it spent the night sleeping in a kennel just large enough for the dog to sit, stand or lay down in. What you don’t want is the dog to be able to walk over to one side of the kennel, potty, then return to the other side to sleep.

That is unless you have a kennel designed to potty train a pup. These kennels are constructed rot give the dog two spaces; one just large enough to lay down on and a small opening to the other side of the kennel where a puppy pad is positioned.

When using this kind of kennel, the dog needs to be restricted to an area under direct and constant supervision or attached to a leash that is held by a handler at all times its outside of the kennel. The goal is to eliminate the dog’s ability to potty in inappropriate areas by not giving it any access to said locations. The only options remaining are to use the puppy pad in the kennel or go when outside.

While you are potty training a pup this way, its important that someone monitors the dog when outside so that they can introduce a command word like potty. While Tinkers owner was using the word, she failed to properly teach the dog what the word meant.

We teach the word potty by having someone watch your dog whenever its outside and as soon as the dog starts to eliminate, the guardian starts to repeat the command word “potty” over and over with a one second pause between each occurrence.

Once it finishes, I drop to a crouching position with my arms open wide and call the dog over. Once it recalls I spend a good minute petting and caressing the dog while repeating the command word in a warm calm tone. If I am using a treat, I repeat the “potty” command word the second I pop the treat into the dog’s mouth.

If the puppy hears this command word in a consistent delivery (calm voice with normal pronunciation) whenever it eliminates for a week straight, most dogs “get it.”

For the morning ritual, I suggested their family the puppy outside and give it just five minutes to do its business. If it doesnt go in five minutes, it not ready to go. You can stay outside and wait for longer than five minutes, but my client and most people just don’t have that much free time.

After bringing the dog back inside, place it on a leash attached to your belt or place it back inside the kennel for 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes is up, take the dog back outside and give it another five minutes. Keep repeating this ritual until the dog eliminates outside or on the puppy pad.

If the dog has an accident, i usually place the paper towel I clean the urine up with in the kneel on the potty pad. This helps give the dog a signal that this is an area to eliminate in. Tinker’s guardian had been doing that but reported the pup simply shredded up the paper towel. In this case, simply rubbing the urine stained paper towel on the puppy pad lightly will do the trick.

Its a pain to have someone constantly watching the dog when its outside, but if you can commit to a week solid, I have yet to meet a dog who doesn’t put two and two together and stop the accidents. If Tinker’s family can make that week long commitment, I suspect his accidental discharges will quickly come to a stop.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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