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Updated: Dec 11, 2022

Asking your pup or even a new dog to do something it hasn’t learned (regardless of what the breeder/former owner told you) is asking for problems in the potty department.

What exactly are you asking your pup to do? It’s not so simple as trotting outside and saying “GO.” And you can’t assume that the pup understands it’s supposed to “hold it” until you get to the door, then sit and wait while you put the leash on before you head to that special spot you want the “event” to happen, because you don’t want it to mess up the lawn. And you can't expect to stand there and say something like, “Get busy,” or “Hurry up.” That's a lot of blah, blah, blah to your pup.

If you enjoy failures, be sure to do the above.

However, you really ought to never assume anything. Pups and dogs don’t , but we humans do. And when in doubt, dogs fall back on instinct, learned behaviors, or a combination of the two. It’s up to you to reshape the undesirable into the more desirable with good timing and great rewards. In other words, make it worth the pup's effort to "go" outside.

Here's that human assumption - one behaviors means taking the dog out to the spot and asking it to go. Bad news there. From your pup’s perspective, taking it out to “go” is actually a lot of behaviors linked together in a chain. And if the pup doesn’t understand each part of it, you could be in for a rough time.

Let’s set the pup up for success instead.

Give it limited access to areas it hasn't yet earned to be free in, frequent trips out and high value rewards when outside for going “outside.” Don’t wait until you get back inside, because your timing is way off. You have one a half to three SECONDS to reward your pup to doing the deed! No more!

Here’s some of what I hear . . . from the failure side.

“My puppy doesn’t let me know when it wants to go out.” (Hmmm, jumping from preschool to college already. Not wise.)

“The pup doesn’t seem to be able to “hold it” until I’m ready to take him/her outside.” (Another owner with unreasonable expectations.)

“I yell 'NO' whenever he goes in the house behind my back, or when I least expect it. (Ugh! The worst! Lack of supervision and too many opportunities for failure.)

“I spend forever outside and still the dog "goes" inside on the rug!” (A comination of two problems - confusion and not setting the pup up for success.)

There are more tales, but I’m sure you get the idea. The problem is the owner assuming the dog can read his or her mind and that the pup actually understands, “blah, blah, blah.” It doesn't.

You can’t expect success with your pup until you’ve done your ground work.

Take the pup out right after it eats. (What goes in must come out.)

Spend no more than five minutes outside. (Unless you enjoy cruising the backyard in a January snowstorm.)

If the pup is messing in the house after you come in, don't wait. Put it in a crate as soon as you come inside, then take it out again in 10-15 minutes later. Control the situation. It’s well worth the effort to shape a behavior you will be faced with for its whole life.

Best - give a high value treat to your pup OUTSIDE and as soon as the dog stops “going.” Not when you come inside. Remember, you only have a short window to make your point - in your pup's mind, it should be thinking good things happen when it "goes" outside. And it's up to you to each that.

Never yell, rub your dog’s nose in its mess, or swat it. That’s a huge NEGATIVE. And you’ve just set your dog’s training back. Really. Fear and intimidation are abusive and never productive in the way you think it is. Unfortunately, what you’ve taught your dog to do is fear you, perhaps even people in general. (Do you really want to go down that road?)

The more opportunities you give your pup to go outside, the more opportunities you have to reward it for doing what's right outside, to let it know great things will happen in the great outdoors. And frankly, that’s where I want my dogs to “go.”


The general rule of thumb for a pup "holding it" (in a crate during the day) is the number of months in age plus one (give or take - nothing is written in stone) equals the number of hours the pup should be able to “hold it."

(Sometimes in puppies, especially females, when they urinate more than usual, it might be a UTI. The recommendation here is to get your pup checked out by your veterinarian first before assuming your dog is stupid and it's training is going backwards.


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