Sharing love and companionship top the reasons most people decide to share their home with a dog. Reality comes quickly, in the form of something far less snuggly — dealing with their poop and piddle, especially with puppies. The immediate training goal for most pet parents is to get this piddle-sh*t in the rear-view, by teaching their furry friend good bathroom habits. For many folks, outside v inside is the big win, and many people stop there, but you can also train your pooch to poop or pee when or where you want them to! This neat trick has great benefits: it maintains cleanliness and sanity at home, reduces urine damage to your lawn, and helps safeguard your community and the environment when you and your dog are out and about!
With a little patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, you can successfully teach your pooch to do their doo-ty in a specific spot. Let’s get into the nitty gritty with tips to help you teach your dog this amazing potty trick.
Pick just the right spot on the home front
The first step is to select an appropriate location at home where your dog should poop and pee every day. Look for an area that is easily accessible to your dog and away from busy family areas in your yard. Even scooped poop doesn't leave pristine grass, and no kid wants to slide into first base while sliding through sh*t. Choose a place that’s quick and easy to reach but that's a bit out of the way of foot traffic.
Just a little tip if your property has wild edges: It's tempting to encourage your dog to poop in the tall grass at the edge of your manicured lawn, but there are solid reasons not to. The hidden pile might be "out of sight, out of mind" for you, but Mother Nature still has to deal it's environmental impact. Also, your dog needs to be comfortable pooping where there’s short grass (or sometimes no grass at all) at a boarding facility, a friend’s home, or even an airport's pet relief area lined with artificial turf. Avoid teaching your pooch to sniff out swishy high grass to conceal their doggy-doo, so they don’t search in vain for a place to relieve themselves when they are in the suburban or urban jungle.
Create a poo routine
Dogs thrive on routine just like a lot of human folk, and establishing a regular bathroom schedule is an important step in potty training. Take your dog or puppy out to your designated area at consistent times throughout the day, like after meals, right after waking up, and before bedtime. Puppies will need extra trips – at least every two hours during the day until they get the message that the outdoors is the place to “go.” Consistency is key.
Observe and anticipate when your pup needs to poop or pee
Pay close attention to your dog's behavior and body language. Dogs often display subtle cues when they need to relieve themselves, such as circling, sniffing, walking restlessly around the house, or hanging out near the door. If your dog has learned you are the great and powerful guardian of the door, some may park their butt at your feet and simply stare at you. (My Bella does this. She puts her chin on my knee and hits me with those sad eyes, like lasers). When you notice any of these signs, immediately take your doggo out to go go to their designated spot. When they hit the mark, heap on the praise!
You can even teach your dog another cool trick: Hang sleigh bells on the doorknob if you enjoy this cheerful sound. Some dogs learn to give them a ring when they need to go out!
Choose a poo cue word or phrase. It doesn't have to be poetry
Using a cue word or phrase when you take your dog to the designated area not only helps your dog understand where to go, but when. Use the cue word any time they start to pee or poop where you'd like them to: Just before a car trip, at the beginning of a trailhead, just before you visit the veterinarian to save a fecal or urine sample. etc. Once they make the connection, they'll understand you are watching for a squat or a leg-lift when you say that special phrase. Choose a something simple like "go potty”, "get busy", "dog speed", or even "make my day!" Just be sure to use the same phrase with the same vocal inflection. Over time, your dog will associate this phrase with the act of relieving themselves, making it easier to prompt them when needed.
Keep your expectations realistic. While dogs pee a number of times throughout the day and might be able to oblige you if you prompt them to pee when their bladder isn’t entirely full, they only poop once or twice daily. Even a perfectly trained dog can’t speed up their digestive system on cue. If your dog just isn’t ready to poop right before you leave on a long car trip, you’re probably going to have to accommodate them with extra stops along the way.
Use poo-sitive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement – praise, petting, treats, or a game of tug with a favorite toy – is the most effective training method for dogs. When your dog poops or pees in the designated area, offer enthusiastic praise, gentle pets, and/or a yummy treat as a reward. Associating a successful poop in the right spot with an immediate reward will encourage them to repeat it in the future. Avoid scolding or punishment if your dog has an accident inside the house, or if they run off to a different spot in the yard before you can steer them to your preferred dumping spot. Strongly scolding a dog for relieving themselves will cause a lot of confusion and fear. They’ll probably think you’re scolding them for the actual squat – not for the location they squatted in. Carrots, not sticks, will get you there.
Be patient and persistent
Training a dog or puppy takes time and a lot of patience. Some dogs will pick up the routine quickly, but others may need more time to adjust. Stay persistent, positive and keep up with the training, even if there are occasional setbacks. Remember that each successful trip to the designated area is a step in the right direction.
Clean up accidents promptly
Accidents can happen, especially during the early stages of training. If your dog poops in the wrong place, clean up indoor accidents promptly using an enzymatic cleaner. Scoop up their outdoor poops right away, too. A clean environment will help prevent your dog from confusing other areas with their approved bathroom spot.
A dooloop on every leash is hands-down the least shitty way to deal with poop
Now, it would be great if we could train our dogs to scoop their poop as well, (I could add some rather gross tales about pups who do, in their own way, but I'll restrain myself) but this task falls squarely in the human camp. However, if you have a dooloop clipped to every leash you own or carabiner one to your backpack or toggle, you'll make a win out of #2. When your dog squats to drop a deuce, you won’t be left holding the bag of warm, odiferous squish in your hand or pocket. You can just bag it, sling it on with one hand, knotted or unknotted, and let the dooloop and your leash do the work.
Finally, remember that every dog is unique, so adapt your training methods to suit their individual needs. With time and consistency, your dog will develop good bathroom habits and may even learn to pee or poo on cue -- making life easier for both of you.