There are three kinds of dogs – ones who refuse to go outside when it’s snowing/raining/just plain cold, ones that want to sniff around forever and make you wait for aeons in the bad weather, and dogs who do their business and come right back inside (I’m not even sure that dog exists to be honest). The good news is, you can actually train your dog to pee/poo on command, just like any other training skill. Here are some tips to make that happen this winter.
Whether you have a puppy or an adult dog, learn to recognize his signal for needing to go to the bathroom.
One thing we know about pretty much all dogs and puppies is that they need to go after eating or drinking, after sleeping or being in a crate for a few hours, and usually after playing. Get your dog on a schedule of taking him out after these events occur, and look for signals that he may need to go – going to the door, sniffing a certain area, going in a tight circle, or starting to squat or lift his leg.
Pick a spot that is the designated “potty spot”.
This might mean taking her out on a leash in the backyard to one particular spot, or one patch of grass near your apartment, but picking a spot (at least for now) that she always pees in will help her learn that when you go outside to that spot, it’s time to pee.
Hang out there until she goes to the bathroom.
Take her to the spot and just hang out there, you don’t need to say or do anything. Wait until she is done with her doody duties, and then say your magic potty word (“go potty”, “go pee”, “abracadabra”, whatever you want – just make sure everyone who takes out the dog uses the same word).
After she finishes, tell her “yes” or “good” (whatever word you use to tell her she did a command correctly), or if you are using a clicker, this would be the time to click. Then reward with a treat or praise, whatever is most motivating for your dog. This is called capturing the behavior vs. teaching the dog the behavior (teaching is what we do for most training skills).
If she just sits down and stares at you for five minutes, go back inside and try again in 15-30 minutes. This is why it’s helpful to know that she definitely has to go, so you aren’t going in and out all night trying to figure it out.
Continue to take your dog to the designated potty spot and say your magic potty word as he is finishing up her call to nature. Say your version of “you did it right!” or click and then treat and praise.
When he starts to look at you after he’s done, you’ll know that he’s getting a hang of the routine. This could take a couple days or a couple weeks since all dogs learn at a different pace.
Use the magic potty word as he is going to the bathroom.
Now that we know your dog is getting the hang of it, say the magic potty word as he starts to go, but don’t say your “you did it right!” word or click until he is finished. We don’t want him to stop mid-stream because he wants the reward.
After doing this for about as long as it took your dog to get the first step above (a couple days or a couple weeks), then start saying the magic potty word as he starts to lift his leg. Don’t forget to continue to praise and reward.
Use the magic word when you go outside to the potty spot.
Now you are ready to take your dog to his potty spot and tell him to “go potty”, “go pee” or “abracadabra” and chances are very high that he will do it. Reward and praise and voila!
Continue to reward him until he will pee on command 9/10 times, then mix up the reward, and eventually you won’t need it at all (although a “good boy” is always nice!).
Generalize the skill (aka practice it in different places so your dog will go anywhere on command).
The more you can stay consistent and keep going to the same spot, the quicker this will happen, and know that if you change your dog’s potty spot, you may have to go back and re-work this skill a bit. Dogs can have a difficult time generalizing, so just because he can go potty in the back yard on command, doesn’t mean he will be able to go potty in the front yard on command the first time you try it. Once he has it down in one spot, start trying other spots to help him generalize the skill.