Although owners love their dogs, they don’t love the results of the dogs using the entire backyard as a potty area. Urine stains can kill grass and leave ugly yellow patches. And no one wants their kids playing among urine and feces. Here’s how to teach your dog to potty in one specific area:
Nicole Wilde is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer and the author of six canine-related books, including Help for Your Fearful Dog and So You Want to be a Dog Trainer. She presents instructional seminars worldwide, works with shelter and rescue groups, and is considered an expert on wolfdogs (aka wolf hybrids). Her books and seminar DVDs are available through Phantom Publishing.
- Help your dog to discriminate. If your entire backyard is one substrate—for example, all grass—it’s harder for your dog to make the distinction between the desired potty area and the rest of the yard. Consider creating a special potty area with a different substrate, such as pea gravel, wood chips or, if necessary, plain dirt. If your backyard is dirt or concrete, consider putting in a square of sod.
- The puppy pen trick. If it’s not possible to create an area with a different substrate, help your dog to understand where you’d like him to potty by setting up a folding metal puppy pen in the target zone. Periodically put your dog on leash and walk him (or carry him) to the pen. Close the gate. As soon as he’s finished, praise him and let him out. Be sure to guide your dog to the pen each and every time you take him out to potty. Eventually, once the habit of urinating and defecating in that particular area has been established, you will be able to remove the pen.
- Don’t leave your dog unsupervised in the yard. If you do, he’ll have the opportunity to potty anywhere he’d like, which will undo all your hard work. If you must leave him during the day, your dog can be crated up to 3-4 hours (unless he’s a very young puppy), or confined to an area such as a bathroom or kitchen with a baby gate across the doorway, with “wee wee pads” to urinate on.
- Place some encouragement in the area. If your pup has left a “souvenir” in another area of the yard, bring it to the designated potty area. You can also use a few drops of one of the bottled products that are designed to encourage urination in a particular area. If you are using wee wee pads in the house, place a soiled one in the outdoor potty area.
- Use a verbal cue. Teaching your dog to urinate on your verbal cue can be an immense help when trying to teach him to potty in one particular area. (It’s also helpful during rainy weather so you don’t have to stand outside waiting for your dog to go, and when you’re traveling with your dog.) The trick is to use a cue such as, “Go potty,” but don’t say it until you see your pup circling and sniffing. Since he’s already thinking about the need to urinate, he will associate your verbal cue with that feeling, and will eventually eliminate when asked. Once he gets the idea (normally it takes a few days to a few weeks), simply take him to the designated potty area and give the verbal cue.
- Be patient. It takes time to establish new habits, for both people and dogs. It may take a few weeks of consistent effort on your part, but it will be worth it in the long run.