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Train Your Dog to Pee Outside

Updated on November 15, 2011

Puppies are adorable, but responsibility is the bride of pet ownership, regardless of the species. Every day newspapers and online classified advertisements like Craig's List find people trying to unload an unruly pet with phrases like, "We don't have the time to spend" or "Dog needs room to run." Spending the extra time and patience the first few weeks after your new puppy arrives will help ensure a more healthy relationship between the two of you later.

Crate Training

All of my dogs are crate trained -- even the one that gave up her crate in lieu of sleeping on the foot of my bed every night. From their first moment arriving at home, despite wanting to be held and cuddled, the puppy went into an appropriate-sized crate for about an hour. The crate is its personal space, and unless it's a last resort dogs do not like to sleep in their own urine or feces. This has been true for every puppy I have ever owned, and I've always had success in crate training them.

When taking the puppy out of the crate for the very first time, I snapped on its leash and took it outside. This likely isn't going to be a quick process, so be patient. After the dog did its business (More about this is explained below.) I took it back inside. Every time the dog came out of its crate, we went outside first thing. When we came inside, the dog was offered a little bit of food and water, and after twenty minutes or so the bowls were stored out of reach. If a dog doesn't eat or drink within fifteen to twenty minutes, it's not hungry or thirsty.

We went out a lot those first couple of days, probably every two to three hours. Because I'm a night owl and my husband is an early bird, it was easy for us to walk the dog around 11pm and again around 4am those first couple of nights as well. However, puppies should be able to go at least five or six hours without having to go out, as long as it did not have anything to eat or drink an hour before bedtime, and went to the bathroom before going into its crate for the night. It also helps to have some kind of toy to act as a companion for the night.

Word of not put children's toys or shoes in the crate. Not only is this unsafe for your dog, but it teaches the dog that all toys and shoes, regardless of who owns them, are supposed to go into the dog crate.

The Leash is Your Friend

Any time one of my puppies is out of its crate, it stays on a leash that is hooked to my jeans for the first four to six months of its life. Yes, I said four to six months. For most of them four months is enough time, but some take longer. It might seem obsessive or controlling, but there are multiple benefits, including:

  • Leash training a puppy teaches the it that I am the human, and I am in control.
  • Leash training a puppy limits places in my house that it can explore. And those limited places become, in the puppy's mind, an extension of its crate. As the puppy gets older, I let it stay in the room of the house where I spend most of my time. (For me it's the living room, since my desk is there.) I use gates and other measures to keep the dog in the room with me. Eventually it will have full run of the main floor of our home, but by introducing the space to the dog a little at a time teaches not only teaches it that this is your crate, but also teaches it to respect the crate because the dog should by then feel like a member of your pack, or family.
  • Leash training a puppy prevents it from finding items that are fun to chew. Like crayons. Most dogs outgrow the urge to chew within the first few months, as long as you provide healthy, safe alternatives. One of my dogs is an adult labrador and loves to chew wood, but a rope bone sprinkled with bacon grease is the only reason my antique dining room table survived puppyhood.
  • Leash training a puppy lets you see what your dog is doing at all times.
  • Most importantly, leash training a puppy lets you see when it does the little dance in a circle, scratch on the rug, arching of the back, or whatever sign it gives you in the moments before you find yourself with a mess to clean up off the floor.

When you see this sign that business is about to be had, scoop up your puppy and dash for the door while chanting something like, "Go outside. Puppy has to go outside." This teaches your puppy two things; first, that outside is located on the other side of that door, and second, that business is supposed to happen there.

Use Praise Not Threats or Treats

When your puppy finally squats to pee, pretend that your football team just made the winning touchdown in the last three seconds of the best Superbowl game ever. Jump up and down, cheer, whoop, holler, and say the word PEE a lot -- and say it with enthusiasm! Contrary to popular belief, dogs do know what you're saying. If you can get them to associate the word with what they're doing, then later you can get them to do that thing on command. Just saying "outside" won't work, because sometimes you might want to take your dog outside to play ball or go for a walk, and it just confuses the dog when one term is used for multiple things. Finally, it helps if you use a high pitched voice, and use the word "good" a lot. Good boy, good girl, good dog, good puppy, good mommy's baby, et cetera.

When a dog does go to the bathroom inside the house, ignore it, completely. The worst thing you can do to your dog, in your dog's mind, is to ignore it and show it no attention. Puppies have trouble comprehending the difference between negative and positive reinforcement, and eventually will start peeing inside on purpose just for any kind of attention at all. And for goodness' sake don't throw your dog outside after it pees. A friend did this, and all it did was teach the poor dog that any time it wanted to go outside, all it had to do was pee on my friend's expensive oriental rug. Talk about giving the dog the wrong message!

Using treats can be useful when teaching your dog to sit, shake, and do other "trick" kind of activities on command. However, I do not recommend using treats for teaching a dog to go outside to go to the bathroom. I made this mistake when training my first dog, who is pictured above. She's now an adult golden retriever who feels that if she runs onto the front porch, barks at a squirrel, and runs back inside, the she has earned herself a treat. And if I allowed it, she would do this twenty or thirty times a day, just for the dog cookie, and then she wouldn't touch one morsel of her food. We (hopefully) wouldn't let our kids live off Halloween or Easter candy, and in a dog's eyes, that's exactly how they look at treats.

I hope these tips have been helpful, and welcome your own comments or puppy stories, tips, and experiences in the comments section below!


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