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Potty Training

Potty Training a puppy or dog is teaching them to go pee or poo outside.

In some cases people may train their dog to go on Potty Pads inside the house in a designated area.

Potty Training is not to be confused with marking. Some people will have a dog that was potty trained and now around a year of age starts peeing in the house again. If the peeing occurs on the corner of furniture, walls, on beds, etc. then this is often a dog claiming territory. This is most commonly caused by a dog that would like to be boss and is trying to improve their position within the pack. This most commonly happens with Male dogs but Female dogs can also mark.

This is often a result of people within the home not following Pack Structure Rules and more frequently happens with people who consider themselves to “spoil” their dogs. Giving away freedoms to a low ranking dog such as an Omega can be fine. If you try to give freedoms to a high level Beta or Alpha, they will often begin marking territory in the house. Often times just implementing Pack Structure Rules will make the marking behaviour go away. We will go over other things to help further down.

Methods for Potty Training You May Have Heard

  1. Rub their nose in it and punish the dog.
  2. Reward the dog for going outside.
  3. Stomp your feet and clap your hands if you catch them in the act and then take them outside.
  4. Ring a bell - Teach your puppy to ring a bell to go outside.
  5. Bark to go outside.

Rub their nose in it and punish the dog

Pros: This was the old school method of potty training a dog and it worked well for many dogs. I have heard lots of people tell me they only had to do this once or twice and the dog never went pee or poop in the house again.

Cons: A lot of dogs will learn that it is merely dangerous to go pee or poop in front of you. They may then try to run off and hide whenever they need to go to the bathroom. This makes training much more difficult to manage and recognize when the dog has to go to the bathroom. You may also smell pee or poo in the house and find yourself going on an unrewarding Easter Egg hunt to find the hidden treasure.

People are largely switching over to other methods such as the following.

Reward the dog for going outside

People will take their dog outside frequently to go to the bathroom and reward the dog with praise, treats or toys right after they go to the bathroom. This method works quite well. The clients that take their dog out every 30 minutes have the best success.

Stomp your feet and clap your hands if you catch them in the act and then take them outside

This is designed to be a minor consequence for going in the house. It is used to startle the dog and hopefully stop them in the act so you can immediately take them outside to finish their business.

If you have a very sensitive dog this sudden loud noise could be too frightening for the dog. You would then need to use less “enthusiasm” in your stomping and clapping for that particular dog.

Even if they stop, many dogs won’t resume going outside when you do take them right after. The point is to stop them and not scare them like a smack on the butt or rubbing their nose in it.

Ring a bell - Teach your puppy to ring a bell to go outside

Pros: Many dogs catch onto this quickly and once they do they seem to have potty training figured out very close to the same time they learn to ring the bell. It can also help notify the people the dog has to go outside especially if the door they are let out is further away from where the people usually are.

Cons: This can become a demanding behaviour. The dog wants in and out and in and out. They can quickly learn to abuse this system. In some cases once the dog has learned to go outside people can stop using the bell and will often see the dog sitting near the door and take them outside.

The other main con is when training a dog to ring a bell that hangs from a door a dog can learn to paw at a door to go out. Many doors have been completely ruined by a dog pawing at the door. If you take your dog to a friends place they can paw at their door as well which may not make your friend very happy.

They do have bells for dogs like the desk top bells you ring for service. These bells are on the floor and can work much better as it keeps the dog from pawing at the door.

Bark to go outside

Some people say they wished their dog would bark to let them know they need to go outside.

Pros: When a dog does learn to bark to be let outside they usually know for sure to go pee and poo outside. It can also help notify the people the dog has to go outside especially if the door they are let out is further away from where the people usually are.

Cons: This can become a demanding behaviour. The dog wants in and out and in and out. They can quickly learn to abuse this system. It can also teach the dog to bark for a lot of other things. It can just make barking in general much worse. This can be problematic for people in condos or with roommates. There are a few dogs we have worked with where barking needed to be fixed immediately otherwise the dog was going to be evicted from where they lived.

What Are the Best Methods for Potty Training?

  1. 30 Minutes - Clients that take their puppy out every 30 minutes have the best success with potty training.

  2. Scheduled Feeding - By having scheduled feeding times you get a much better idea when your puppy has to go pee and poo. People that free feed may find it is a “crap shoot” to know when the dog is going to go pee or poo.

  3. Type of Food - Food containing Corn or Grain is used as fillers. This can wreak havoc with potty training. A food containing fillers can make a dog drink a lot more water to flush out the fillers. They can drink two to three times as much water as normal which means a lot more pee. If you think your dog poops out more than they eat this often means their food contains a lot of fillers. Foods more dense with nutrients will cause smaller poops since more is used in the digestion. Dogs on raw food will often have the smallest poops you will see. There are many good kibbles out there now if raw food isn’t your thing.

    Veterinary Food can surprisingly contain a lot of fillers in the way of corn and grains. I am no expert on nutrition so I will tell you what I have found over the years. Some Veterinarians we have spoke to said there are certain companies that sponsor their education on Pet Nutrition in Vet School. These companies even give them free food for their own dogs. Many veterinarians also work for a larger company and the company makes a lot of money selling dog food as well. It can be frowned upon if these Veterinarians do not sell any food. We heard of one veterinarian who they threatened to take away her license because she recommended raw food. It seems like their hands can be tied as to what they can recommend. Also if you go through University you would think what you are taught is the most accurate information. It could be possible that some companies care more about profit than they do the well-being of your dog.

    The good news is that the more people learn about what works well for their dogs, companies will provide what people want to maximize profits. Kibble used to be fairly low quality and had lots of fillers. Now it is much easier to find good quality kibbles.

  4. Kennel or Exercise Pen - If you can’t watch the dog closely it is good to put them in their kennel or an exercise pen. Most dogs won’t mess in their den area unless you make them hold it longer than they are capable of.

  1. Journal - Write in a journal when the dog eats and when they typically have to go to the bathroom. This will better help schedule your bathroom breaks for your dog.

  2. Sit at the Door - We train dogs to sit at the door before taking them outside. This way if you see the dog sitting at the door you know they have to go outside (unless they like the cool breeze by the door). This is a polite way of asking to go outside.

    Some people may say they won’t notice their dog if they go to sit by the front door. If a puppy is in potty training and also being trained not to chew, if you take your eyes off them for a moment these people will have a very difficult time training their dog. When out, your puppy should be watched 100% otherwise they should be placed back in their kennel or exercise pen so they cannot practice getting better at Negative Behaviours.

  3. Designated Pee and Poo Spot - We have designated spots in the yard we take the dogs to do their business. If you don’t you end up with land mines all over the yard. This takes longer to clean up and the kids may not enjoy rolling in dog poop.

  4. On Command - Training your dog to go pee and poo on command is very helpful for training. The way most people do this is say “Go pee” (or whatever command you want) while the dog is sniffing and getting ready to go pee.

    The faster way for a dog to learn is to only say “Go pee” when the dog is actually going pee. We also say “Go poop” when the dog is actually going poop. The reason being, your dog is like an ESL Student (English is their second language). If you say “Go pee” the whole time they can think it means, “Sniff, take my time, check things out and then go pee”. By just saying the command when they actually do the deed is the fastest way to make the connection.

    Then reward your dog with praise, and treat or a toy after they go. This helps make the connection faster.

  5. Times To Go - There are a few key times a dog will need to go shortly after these indicators:

  • Nap - Shortly after a nap a dog often needs to go pee or poo.

  • Crazy Play Time - Dogs often need to run around to get their bowels moving to have a poop. If you all of a sudden see a whirlwind crazy puppy, that is a good time to take the dog outside.

  • Sniffing - If you see your puppy enthusiastically sniffing, especially if it was close to where they had an accident before, this can often mean they need to go to the bathroom. Some dogs just really like to sniff so it can be difficult to tell when they need to go. Your journal will help out with knowing this.

  • Whimper or Bark - A whimper or bark can sometimes mean they need to go outside. If this just happened for the first time, this often means the dog can quickly learn to bark to demand all kinds of things. See article on barking for how to deal with this.

  1. Restricted Access - Only allow access in one or two rooms to start. As the dog does well for a week you can add access to another room and build up from there. Too much access and a dog may not relate all this space as den area so they may choose to find certain spots to pee or poo in.

  2. Play Area - When you are about to give access to a new room it can be good prior to that to play in that room. You can work on obedience, games and have meal time there so it seems like Den Area so the dog is less likely to go pee or poo there.

  3. Scatter Kibble - If a dog is bad for peeing or pooing in a certain spot you can clean up the mess with a Pet Enzyme Cleaner and then do meal time in that area. By spreading kibble on the floor in those areas a dog will not typically want to mess where they eat. For some people this has completely solved potty training problems.

  4. Pet Enzyme Cleaner - Getting rid of the smell so the dog can’t smell it really helps. Nature’s Miracle is a common Pet Enzyme cleaner that people use. URE-OUT is also an excellent Pet Enzyme Cleaner and one of the best we have found. They are just starting out so the website isn’t super user friendly yet but there is a phone number you can call and if you search under Products you can usually find how to order them online.

Gone Long Periods of Time

If you are gone during the day longer than your puppy can “hold it” there are a few options:

  1. Have someone take your puppy out for you.

  2. Kennel and Exercise Pen with Potty Pad - You can have potty pads in an exercise pen where your dog’s kennel (with door open) is also inside the exercise pen. This way they can go out of their kennel to go pee on the potty pads. Some dogs want to chew the potty pads so an option is to have an almost litter box type design with a grate overtop so the dogs pee and poo will help fall through where the pup can’t get at it. The grate can look similar to furnace vents so be careful your dog doesn’t want to go pee or poo on those. The best scenario is to have someone come let your dog out during the day.

Sleep Through the Night

Some people can’t remember the last time they had a good nights sleep due to potty training and would very much like to get a good nights sleep.

These things can help out a lot:

  1. Type of Food - Use a good quality kibble with no fillers.

  2. Feeding Time - Look up in your journal when the dog eats and when they typically go to the bathroom. It can help to move feeding time earlier in the evening so your dog has a bowel movement right before bed. Conversely it can help if you feed your dog right before bed so their bowel movement occurs in the morning when you wake up.

  3. Restrict Water Before Bed - You don’t want to dehydrate your puppy. It can help to take away water 1-3 hours before bed. Then take your puppy out every 30 minutes for a pee break before bed. This helps ensure a more empty bladder to help sleep through the night. You can give your puppy a little drink right before bed to satisfy their thirst. You just don’t want them to load up their bladder.

  4. Wake Up Before They Do - If your pup gets up at 3 am on the nose you can set your alarm for 2:50 am so you wake your dog up and not the other way around. Otherwise it can become habit for your dog to wake up at 3 am. Then you can start pushing that time back later and later before you get up to take them outside.

  5. No Naps Before Bed - A person may often take their dog out for exercise when they get home from work. Then the people go to eat and relax and the dog sleeps. Then right before bed the dog is full of energy or in the middle of the night they are full of energy. It can be helpful to exercise them later in the evening. You can also exercise them less intense and draw it out longer so right before bed your dog is good and tired. We would often play fetch or games about 30 minutes before bed so the dog would be good and tired when we went to bed.

More Difficult Scenarios

  • Dogs who aren’t kennel trained
  • Always have access outside
  • Dogs not suited to the cold
  • Puppy mill dogs
  • Spoiled high ranking dogs marking territory

Dogs who aren’t kennel trained

Some people find it cruel to kennel train their dog at all so they don’t. It is good for sure to train your dog to be good without needing a kennel. Dogs that are kennelled for 8 hours or more a day their whole lives don’t live the most exciting lives. We tell people to ask the question “Would you want to live your dog’s life?”

Kennel training can be very helpful for Potty Training and teaching a dog not to destroy things in the house.

If a kennel is not used it can be difficult to keep an eye on the dog. They can easily get into the habit of peeing or pooping elsewhere in the house. We have worked with families where there was a lot of tension between family members because the dog was peeing or pooping in the house. We knew of one lady with three dogs and the husband was so fed up with her not training the dogs that he took two of them and gave them to someone else and didn’t tell her where they went. Other family members were mad at each other because they had to tip toe around the house so they didn’t step in a puddle of pee or poop. Using a kennel doesn’t have to be forever, often just for a few months to get the dog on the right track.

Always have access outside

These dogs often do great with access outside and never have accidents in the house. The only downside is if they ever need to go somewhere else that they don’t have access to outside. These dogs may have never learned to “hold it” so they may choose to go pee or poo in the house as soon as the urge hits them.

Doing a bit of kennel training or restricting access outside while you watch them can help build their tolerance to “hold it”.

Dogs not suited to the cold

Small dogs often are most subject to this problem if they don’t have much for a winter coat and don’t spend much time outside anyhow. Bigger dogs with short hair can also be a problem.

Solution: If we were to deal with an issue like this we would probably build a small green house type building that can be warmed by the sun. You could have a small heater in there that you can turn on when the dog is sent in there. The dog can then go to the bathroom outside in that warmed environment.

There is also an option to get a custom jacket with pouches where you can added “heated hand packs” which are for your gloves but could be used to heat the dog.

A covered area can work well for dogs that do not like the rain.

Puppy mill dogs

This is the worst case scenario and the hardest to train. If a dog has been subjected to peeing and pooping in their own den area for months or years they will often have no issues peeing and pooping in the house right where they are when they have to go. Be prepared for a lot of work!

Take the dog out very frequently (every 10 minutes even) and reward lots any time they go outside. Say “go pee” or “go poop” whenever they are going outside to help put it on command.

If you have the option to sleep outside with your dog that would be best. Then they get into the habit of going outside easier. Teach them to ring a bell or bark to be let outside. Use a tasty treat to reward them for whenever they go to the bathroom outside.

Spoiled high ranking dogs marking territory

This is different from potty training. However the dog is still peeing and sometimes pooping in the house. We deal with this type of scenario a few times a year.

It is most commonly a small male dog under 10 pounds. In many cases a person gets a small dog to have as a companion lap dog. Choosing a high level Beta or Alpha for this role often causes a lot of problems. If a person wants a dog for this role they are much better off getting an Omega.

In these cases almost all Pack Structure Rules are not followed. The dog has free reign of the house. They start thinking it is their job to be boss and will often begin marking territory in the house. This may be peeing on the side of furniture or walls.

Solutions: The easiest fix is to put a diaper on the dog and that at least stops the dog from causing any more messes. Some dogs don’t like the feel of peeing in the diaper so as a result they stop marking. Wearing the diaper long enough (Core Rule: Training Phase vs Management Phase) and the dog doesn’t need the diaper anymore and is now good.

The way we deal with this is through implementing all Pack Structure Rules. We exercise the dog and anytime they are in the house and going to be unsupervised we will tie them to their tie-out point or put them in their kennel. You don’t want them being able to go off and practice marking. Doing this for 3 months often gets them set back on the right track. They are content to be tied or put in a kennel as they are exercised enough beforehand to ensure they are tired.

This can be a tough case to solve as these dogs are often very demanding and throw temper tantrums if they do not get their way. The person may experience an Extinction Burst.

If you are in this position, you may share a lot in common with clients we have had in the past in the same situation. They typically don’t like the idea of having the dog follow through on rules, they prefer the ideology of spoiling. They are also not a fan of the idea of kenneling or tying the dog up.

This is a case where training the person is more of an issue than training the dog. If you are in this situation you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I able to provide Pack Structure Rules?
  • Am I able to confine my dog by tying them up or putting them in a crate to train them properly?

If you are not then you may consider using the diaper method. It is also important to know that this type of dog will need a lot of rules and structure. Dogs like having a confident and capable leader, it reduces their stress. They are canines and we are primates, they have different natural rules than us. Since we are primates we often think the canine rules will show that we don’t love them. However in the canine world when the rules are followed they understand you are the leader and you will keep them safe. It reduces their stress and increases their happiness.

Once the dog is doing well the person must keep following the Pack Structure Rules otherwise the dog can think the person no longer wants to be boss and they take over again and begin marking territory.

This just boils down to being the wrong match between human and dog. From our experience the success of this type of case is low due to the outside limits human and dog exhibit. The human is at the outside limit of wanting to spoil and not following rules. The dog is at the outside limit of wanting to be boss and not respect the rules. If either one could move closer to the center then there would be harmony. You can pretty well bet the dog isn’t going to come to the center. That leaves the human with coming to the center. That is a long way for the human to move so it is tough and not always desired.

The most often time we hear about this scenario is from a person phoning on behalf of their friend or family member. They want to help them out and even pay for training. If the person with the problem isn’t seeking the help themselves they almost never come for training.

This is a tough case to solve and as of yet we have not figured out a way that works for this scenario. We find that people are much harder to train than dogs are.

Best advice we can give you if you have to stay at a place that has this issue:


  • Never leave your shoes out as they are target.

  • Keep your bedroom door closed as the dog will often come in to mark the side of the bed, right on your bed or even in your suitcase.

  • Keep your suitcase up high and not on the floor.

  • Read the Pack Structure Rules and follow them. This can help the dog see you as higher ranking. Be prepared for a battle as once you try to increase your position the dog may go on a peeing rampage. This is referred to as an Extinction Burst. It worked for the dog at one point in time and now that it isn’t, the dog will try it for longer and harder.

We worked with one client where her son went off to University and came home on the weekends. The dog would come greet him excitedly and then run to his room and pee on his bed. The mom asked what she should do. We said her son should go pee on the dog’s bed. Then we said we were kidding.

They all got a good laugh out of it and her son said he was sure thinking about it.

Maybe it works, we have never tested it. If anyone does, let us know how that goes :)