Let’s Potty! (Teach your dog to “eliminate on command”)

“Go potty, get it done, hurry up, do the deed and let’s potty” are some of the phrases used to  start the elimination process.  Yes, you can actually teach them where and when to do their business.  One student uses the words “cricket creek” to trigger the process.  Of course, I had to ask, as curiosity got the best of me but turns out that this was the name of a park they visit daily so it just made sense to him.  You can use any word or phrase but I highly recommend you choose one you are comfortable repeating while out in public

Eventually, your dog will respond just as easily as most; if properly taught, will respond to the common  “sit” command. If this sounds too good to be true, please continue reading.

For those that have no choice but to walk the dog for elimination, whether your dog is a puppy or an older dog, you really do have the advantage.  Since you are right there with them,  why not just add a few words to the process.  You will see the quickest results first thing in the morning.  Initially, try to take them to the same area on a leash, even if your yard is fenced.  As soon as they start sniffing, repeat your phrase calmly and quietly. If the dog starts fussing with the leash, just ignore them.  On the other hand, if your dog is still at an age of which you can out run them, (not a very large window here) simply carry them to the spot if the leash is just too distracting.)  Be very patient with the youngsters as life in general is distracting to them.

Repeat the command as often as necessary to start the process.  As soon as the pup starts eliminating, calmly praise them once or twice but not to the point of distraction. When they finish, you can stop the praise.  No need for a big celebration following the process as your dog will forget what the fuss is about and will probably join you in the festivities. Of course, we are very happy that this activity occurred outdoors instead of in but some dogs will start jumping all over you and get out of control if you allow it.

This process works for all elimination phases regardless of ground surface or distractions.  Yep, it really does work.  Again, even if your yard is fenced, you will still need to take them to the desired area on a leash.

This is an excellent way to housetrain the dog; big or small; young or old.  Give them a couple of weeks to catch on.  Most get it within a few days but be patient as each dog is different.  Next, try it in on leash in a different dog friendly area .  Be sure to have a clean up bag with you because your new system is going to become very effective in a short period of time.

“What is the point of this?”   Why should I bother?

I always seem to be running late and those seem to be the days when the dogs just want to take their sweet time. After all, they know you are leaving soon. They just know.  Try to get them out at least a half hour before you plan to leave and do not make any car key noises until they are already comfortable in their crate or other area of confinement and you are ready to walk out that door.

Some dogs are very wise to the fact that after they “do their business” during the walk, you turn right around and take them home.  Many adult dogs will “hold out” longer and longer just to keep the walk going.  (We have steps 2 and 3 for the wise, stubborn ones.) Just post a comment and we will set you up with Step #2.

What about traveling with your dog?  Wouldn’t it be great to have them “go” immediately upon command at the rest areas?  This way you know they are comfortable for the rest of the trip . This also holds true if your trip involves an overnight stay in a hotel.

What about those bad weather days?   Some dogs are too distracted on a very windy day.  Cold, snowy days also happen for many of us.   But, for a lot of them (and us) rainy days are the worst.  Some are just too  annoyed by the rain that they cannot be bothered.  Any of you have one of those dogs that sticks their head out the door, realizes it’s really raining and their look implies “No, thank you.  I’ll just get on with my breakfast, please.”   Those bad weather days will generally have you leaving a bit earlier for work or an appointment, as it is and now your dog has declined the offer to go outside.

Male dogs are usually not too fussy where they “go” but a lot of the girls are.   Traveling is not  fun when your girl only wants to “go” in her yard, in her spot and only when no one is looking.

Getting back to the male dogs…you might have to lead them to a couple of trees to start the process.  Once their bladders appear to be empty, bring them back in.  They don’t need to water every tree in the yard and  especially while out on walks.  If you are trying to walk for exercise or obedience training purposes and allow them to eliminate randomly every 2 minutes; it will be difficult to accomplish your goals.  If you pay attention, you will see that 3/4 of the stops are “dry runs” anyway.  They can stop and sniff when, where and if you direct them.

There are those dogs that purposely want to save their “business” for the walk.  This can get old really fast and it’s always going to be on the day you forgot to bring a pick-up bag.   These thrill seekers will also benefit from steps 2 and 3.

I’ll bet there will be a time that your vet will ask for a urine sample.  (That sounds like a fun time now, doesn’t it?) Yes, it is more challenging than obtaining a sample of something that just sits there and it might take a couple of tries but you will succeed.

This technique also works for those dogs that can use a litter box or other type of indoor elimination setup. The list goes on and on…

Light at the end of the tunnel…

In time, for those that have a fenced in yard, eventually you can just let them out the door and point to the spot while giving the command.  Always keep an eye on them (you need to make sure they actually accomplished something) and we recommend that they never be left alone unattended.

To sum up, in the words of my good friend, Dr. Marge Smith (now deceased), quoted directly from her book Eliminate on Command, published in cooperation with The Foundation for Applied Studies of Animal Behavior ,1984-

“You can establish a conditioned reflex in your dog by associating a special sound with the beginning of both urination and defecation.  Fifty to seventy-five repetitions are needed in order to establish a functional result.  When the repetitions have been adequately carried out, the sound itself will cause the dog to “feel an urge” and respond to it by eliminating anything contained in his bladder or bowel at the moment.

From then on, whenever you say the trigger word, even at a strange time or place, your dog will do his best to eliminate almost immediately.

Helpful hints

Feed the dog the same amount of food at approximately the same time every day.   Take them to the same spot for the first couple of weeks.  Dog should be on leash.  Very young pups may be too distracted if not used to a leash yet, so you can carry them to the spot.  Pick your word or phrase.  (something you can say in public…)Repeat your words until the dog starts eliminating.  Calmly praise.  Stop the praise when they are finished.  Do not bring the dog into the house and immediately put in crate.  Allow at least a few minutes for that after they come back into the house.

Gradually, make the transition to off leash. (In a fenced in area only.)  Stop within 6 feet of the area, point and give them the command.  Do this for a week. The next week work up to 10 feet, etc.  If the dog starts to get lazy with this, you may have to go back to using the leash.  Be patient and soon you will be able to open the door on a rainy day and easily direct them to their spot.

Please remember to pick up after your dogs.


Dog Notes, Inc.

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4 Responses to Let’s Potty! (Teach your dog to “eliminate on command”)

  1. Pingback: Poop Patrol Update | Dog Notes Inc Blog

  2. Pingback: Eliminate on Command…No. 2 Revisited | Dog Notes Inc Training Blog and more!

  3. Erin says:

    We are having a terrible time with our dog and would love some advice…she is definitely the ‘Step 2 or 3’ sort you mention in your article; she is 1.5 years old and rather bright. We are at our wit’s end and have no idea how to get her to potty on command, as the traditional methods aren’t working. Our inability to get her to go potty on command has made us late for work, meetings, etc. on numerous occasions; it has us standing outside for long periods of time in the pouring rain, blistering heat, snow, etc. We have tried using treats, naming her potty behavior (go potty, etc.) using a clicker, etc….but nothing seems to be communicating the message to her for some reason.

    She is a rescue dog and was 9 months old when we adopted her. When we first adopted her, she would not do her business at all without a long walk. We know that you aren’t supposed to walk a dog until AFTER they have done their business, but we got desperate when she would go too long without going potty at all. I should mention that we live in an apartment complex, so we potty her on leash only. She will now potty without a walk, but will only use a chosen area for a few months before she refuses to use the area anymore. She has done this 3-4 times over the last year and is now beginning to refuse the area we are currently using.

    Here is a recent example. Last night, she peed at 10:30pm. When I took her out this morning to her ‘spot’ after breakfast, she wouldn’t pee or poop and I needed to leave for work. This left me with two choices–bring her back inside, crate her, and leave for work anyway OR walk her to a different area of the complex and see if she will go there. It becomes a lose, lose situation either way. If I bring her back inside and crate her so I can go to work, class, etc., she won’t get another opportunity to go to the bathroom for many more hours–I assume this is really unhealthy, especially not peeing. Conversely, if we allow her to seek out a new potty area every few months, we’re going to eventually end up having to walk 2 miles in the snow/rain/heat, etc. to get to her newest potty spot because she has already refused all the areas nearest our building.

    Also, if we stand still while she is on leash and limit her potty area, she will not go at all. We end up walking her all over the grassy area before she will go. Sometimes, she won’t go at all…she will just stop and stare at us and won’t even sniff.

    She is very deliberate about asking to go outside. She will either stand by the door or come and ‘get’ us by sitting down, whining, etc. However, half the time, she doesn’t use the bathroom when we take her out and is apparently just telling us she wants to go outside in general. As a result, when we are home, we end up taking her out all day long because we don’t know when she actually needs to go and when she just want to be outside. We have turned into her human butlers and are not sure how to fix this. We have tried writing down when she pees and poops so that we can establish a potty schedule, but her bathroom habits vary each day. Sometimes, she will pee when first taken outside in the morning, but then ask to go out an hour later to poop. As you can tell, we are really frustrated, she is frustrated and our relationship is suffering as a result. Can you help us, please??

    • dognotesinc says:

      Hi Erin,
      The first thing that comes to mind is this-when you mentioned she will not urinate in the morning, do you think she is eliminating somewhere in the house that you just haven’t found yet as the girls can urinate on a carpet and it starts out as just a very small spot until it has a chance to spread out and may be difficult to spot depending upon the color of the carpet. Is she crated at night?
      Honestly, you are doing a great job and I apologize for the delay in responding to you-have been so swamped responding to the parents of Greyhounds with corns on their toes.
      You are truly ready for step # 3. I’m hoping by getting her to poop in the morning-even if she hasn’t peed yet, will prompt a pee after the poop.
      Get yourself some baby suppositories. They do not need the 10-15 minutes to take effect and you will most likely not even use the entire length of it.
      Take her to the spot where you want her to eliminate. Insert the thinner end of the baby suppository. You can leave a bit hanging out. We are not trying to soften up what’s inside but by opening things up a bit, it should give her the urge to do. The suppository will pop out with the poop. Hoping, she will pee after pooping.
      Many, many people have used this with tremendous success. Works for dogs that won’t go out on the rainy days, etc. And, you’re right-even if they don’t have an accident, it’s not healthy for them to hold back.
      Years ago, when more of us smoked, someone always had a book of matches on them. We would insert a match (not the sulpher end) and of course, not the hard stick matches and definitely not the longer fireplace matches…(There would always be one student in our classes that would ask “when do we light it ?”)
      One would have to moisten the cardboard end of the match-generally by using their mouth. I loved telling the story of the gal that had a small, furry dog and was trying to insert the match. She tried a couple of times without success and then moistened it again. Thank goodness I was able to stop her before she tried to moisten it a third time…Good luck!

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