How much easier would your life be if your dog would just potty on cue? No more running late because your pup lollygagged thinking you were heading out on a proper walk instead of a potty break. No more staying up past your bedtime while your dog looks for the perfect spot.
Luckily, this dream isn’t so hard to achieve.
Training your dog to pee on command
To teach your dog to potty on command, you want to begin by pairing the action (your dog pooping or peeing) with the verbal request. When your dog begins to go, tell them “Go potty!” or a similar phrase of your choice. Say the cue only one time, then be patient—if you repeat it over and over, your dog may think the cue itself is “go potty, go potty, go potty” and will wait until you’ve said it three times before going.
Repeat this every time your dog pees or poops for several days or weeks, saying the command right after they’ve begun their business.
Now that your dog has had ample opportunity to hear the cue paired with the action, you can begin to ask them to “Go potty!” before they’ve begun. Most of us have some idea of when our pups are about to begin their business because they circle or curve their bodies in a certain way or go to favorite trees or bushes. Start by saying your “Go potty!” cue when you first notice these signs. Ideally, you want to say the cue right before their business begins. Give your dog a treat when they’ve finished to reward them for their behavior. Repeat this every time your dog goes for several days or weeks.
Finally, you are ready to make the request before your dog has given their pre-potty signals (circling, sniffing, etc). Bring your dog to an appropriate location (if possible, one in which they potty regularly) and ask them to “Go potty!” Be patient and give them time to respond to the request. If they don’t respond within a minute or so, move to a new location and try again. Be sure to reward your dog when they’ve completed their business with a treat and/or lots of praise. With practice, responding to your “Go potty!” cue should become second-nature.
Even if you have taught your dog a potty cue, remember that they’ve got physical needs that may not correspond to our oh-so-human impatience. Just because you want them to pee or poop doesn’t mean they immediately can. Some dogs even need a short walk before their bodies are ready to evacuate. “Go potty!” is a request, not an instantaneous command.
How to train your dog to pee in the same spot
Now that you’ve got your dog pooping and peeing on cue, it will be easier to get them to regularly go in a particular location—say, in the corner of your yard or on the fire hydrant outside your apartment building.
The more frequently you bring your dog to that spot, request that they “Go potty!” then praise and reward them for going, the more frequently they will wish to return to that spot. That’s a simple rule of operant conditioning or learning by consequence. Pup wants to make good things happen so if good things happen when he goes in one spot and not another, over time he’s likely to return to the place he is rewarded.
If the location you are trying to encourage your dog to potty in is located in a fenced yard, you will only be successful if you accompany your dog in the beginning. Without your supervision he won’t understand that Spot A is better than Spot B nor will he receive that all-important praise and/or food quickly enough to understand it’s in exchange for going potty in the correct spot. Once he’s caught on and going consistently in your chosen location, he can go out on his own. Just be sure to reward with attention, treats or toys when he’s returned to the house.