The Four Key Elements of Successful Dog Potty Training

photoPuppies make wonderful companions, but they’re not so cute when they do their business in the middle of your living room. Accidents are certainly frustrating, but you need to understand how your pet thinks. “If I have to do it, then I’ll do it!” is what’s in your pup’s head, and this applies to eating, playing, exploring, sleeping, and of course, eliminating. Since your puppy does not understand anything more than that, it’s your job to teach him where and when it is appropriate to pee and poop. Remember, they’re not the ones with the requirements – we are!

There are four key components in most effective housebreaking methods:

* Confinement
* Training
* Praise
* Timing


The easiest way to potty train a puppy (or a dog that has yet to be housebroken) is to confine him in a crate or cage. At the start of toilet training, don’t place anything on the bottom of the crate (e.g. newspaper, blanket, etc.); your puppy will only destroy it. Most dogs do not want to eliminate where they live, so the crate should just be large enough for your pup to turn around and lay down. If it’s too big, your puppy will do his business at one end and sleep at the other. For puppies that will grow considerably in size, get an adult sized crate and partition it with an divider.

Training and Praise

Personally, I always use a leash when potty training. This allows me to keep my dog close to me so I can watch him and control everything that happens. Puppies in particular get distracted easily, and a gentle tug on the leash can get their attention back. Leashes are also good for teaching an area to eliminate; with a leash, you simply take your pup there each time.

I use verbal cues as well, so once the puppy understands what the words mean, he will know what I want when I want it to happen. I say “go potty” for peeing and “go poop” for defecation. You can choose any word or phrase you want, just remember that you will be repeating it a lot.

Whenever you take your dog out, say the word “outside” again and again. “Do you want to go outside? Let’s go outside! Outside, outside!” Eventually, he will learn that the word “outside” is connected to going to the bathroom. You will be able to ask him if he has to go outside and receive a response such as tail wagging, barking, or running to the door.

When he goes to the bathroom properly, praise him in a happy voice. I prefer to use words because treats or petting can interrupt the act. Remember, you should praise your puppy while he’s peeing or pooping, not after.

Reward your pup with freedom when he does a good job. The best time for him to be out of his crate is after he has eliminated properly outside, but this free time still has to be supervised. You can use baby gates to restrict your pup’s area of freedom or a leash to quickly catch him (without grabbing him, which can make him fearful) when he is about to do something inappropriate.


It is best to always anticipate your pet’s need to eliminate. As a general rule, the length of time that a puppy can be left in his crate without going outside is more or less equivalent to his age in months:

* 2 months old – 2 hours of confinement without a bathroom break
* 3 months old – 3 hours of confinement without a bathroom break
* And so on, up to around 6 to 8 months old.

Your puppy must be taken outside anytime there is a change in activity. He will also give signs whenever he has to do his business. It can be sniffing, circling, suddenly stopping in the middle of play, running out of a room, or a certain look on his face. You will learn how to read these hints sooner or later.

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You Can Ring My Bell, Ring My Bell

Melodies from the late 70’s and early 80’s fill my head when I look at the title of this post.  And, yet it has been a super cool way that my sister and I have trained our Chihuahuas.

It started one day after Christmas when we were taking down Christmas ornaments.  I am one of those hokey Christmas people who don themselves with a holiday sweatshirt and even a bell necklace during the season.  So, I hung that bell around the handle of the backdoor just for a place to put it so that it wasn’t getting in the way (nor incessantly ringing whilst I packed ornaments).  Our pooch, Rocky, needed to go outside – so I opened the back door and in doing so “rang the bell.”

For the next week, the bell stayed there.  Too many holiday happenings and to much decluttering to put boxes and new found treasures away, that I didn’t even recall the bell.  As, it was hanging there, one afternoon, Rocky stood up on his hind legs and “rang the bell” that he need to go outside! What a huge epiphany for me! He had found another tool for communication!

Fast forward to gifting my sister and her husband their new baby Chihuahua a couple of years later.

They were having trouble with potty training, Li’l Bit (he was such a tiny guy)!  So, I shared the bell suggestion.  Li’l Bit would hear it when she would take him out for a walk or to go potty.  And, she would also put him through the motions of hitting the bell and praise him when he did!

Pretty soon, he was “ringing the bell!”

And, now that’s his signal to his “parents” – even if he just wants to go outside and have a look around (we know who rules that roost <smile>)!

If you’re looking for another way to communicate with your four-legged family member, perhaps they can “ring your bell.”

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Meet Boo: Our Featured Dog of the Week

Meet Boo!

Boo and her owner, Tammy, were Facebook fans who connected with us to share some cute photos and their story.
Tammy (Boo’s owner) shares:

“Boo started using Porch Potty when visiting friends. It was so easy for her to use it since they are on an upper floor of their complex. Boo was a rescue puppy that I adopted when she was eight weeks old. She is a very gentle soul who loves everyone. You can almost see a smile on her face when she gets to interact with children. Boo changed my life! Who knew a pet could bring so much joy!”

Tammy Kelley
San Diego, CA

See the Wall of Fame of Our Past Winners!

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