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Potty Training Dogs: 9 Tips for Busy Pet Parents

So, you took the plunge and got a dog—but he’s not potty trained. Whether you are housetraining a puppy or helping an adult dog learn the ropes, potty training dogs takes time. In a perfect world, there’d be someone home 24 hours a day for the first few weeks to help your new dog learn, but few (if any) of us live in a perfect world. What’s a busy pet parent to do?

First of all, take a deep breath. Next, accept that potty training dogs may take a while, especially in a super-busy household. Then, check out the tips for housetraining a puppy or grown dog below, which will help ease the strain as you teach your new canine the ropes.

1. Get a dog walker.

Potty training dogs, especially small dogs and puppies, partly depends on getting your dog outside often. Having a dog walker come in once or even twice during the workday can make a big difference. You could do this for just a few weeks to get the ball rolling, but if you spend long hours away from home, having a long-term arrangement with a dog walker is a great idea. Look for a dog walker with a certification from an organization like the Dog Walking Academy to make sure your four-legged friend gets the best possible care.

Get tips for hiring a dog walker.

2. Hire a local teenager to let your dog out into the yard.

A lot of teens would love to make extra cash playing with your dog and letting them out to potty. Ask the person to send a quick text and photo so you can be sure the visit happened as scheduled.

3. Head home during a break.

Take a break from the office grind and enjoy the great outdoors on a walk with your dog during lunch. Bring along Frisco Refill Planet Friendly Dog Poop Bags so you can clean up after your dog. Bonus: Walks are great bonding time!

4. Set up a pen for longer times away.

Crates, like the Frisco Fold & Carry Double Door Dog Crate, are great when you’ll only be away a short time. Unfortunately, young and small dogs—even those with housetraining experience—may not be able to hold it for more than an hour or two. It’s also unhealthy for your dog to be stuck in a crate for more than a couple of hours; like people on planes, dogs need to move their legs regularly.

For longer periods away, block off the kitchen, bathroom, or another tiled area using a pet gate, like the Regalo Easy Step Extra Tall Walk-Through Gate. You can also set up an ex-pen, like the Frisco Dog Exercise Pen. Put Frisco Training & Potty Pads in the area to create an “indoor dog potty.” A pee pad holder like the Dogit Clean Training Pad Holder may help your dog “color within the lines.” You can also try an artificial turf pad like the Petmaker Indoor Restroom Puppy Potty Trainer or a Puppy Pan. (For more on training your dog to use a pan, see Dog Litter 101: What It Is and How to Use It.)

No matter what you use, the goal is to give your dog a “legal” place to potty when they can’t hold it any longer.

5. Set an alarm.

When you take your dog for a proper walk, your dog is more likely to potty in the right place. Instead of just letting your dog out in the yard for two minutes before you leave for work, set your alarm a little earlier and give your dog a 15- or 20-minute walk before you leave for the day.

6. Keep an eye on your dog while they’re in the yard.

It’s easy to assume your dog has pottied when they haven’t. If you let your dog out on their own, they may roll in the grass or dig in the dirt instead of pottying. Watch them while they’re out there so you can be sure they’ve relieved themselves.

7. Don’t interrupt your dog mid-potty.

Many people housetrain their dogs by giving them treats for pottying in the right place. This is a great idea, as long as you time things right. Make sure to wait until your dog has finished their business, so you don’t accidentally interrupt them partway through. Then give them the treat.

8. Learn your dog’s potty patterns.

Some dogs pee just once and are done. Others like to leave their mark in a lot of different places. If your dog is a serial pottier, but you only give them one chance to potty, they’re more likely to wind up pottying in the wrong place later.

9. Potty accident? Take a breath.

If you do find an accident when you get home from work, take a breath instead of taking it out on your dog. Your dog has long since forgotten what they did. Even if you catch them in the act, scolding your dog is not a good idea. Many dogs misinterpret the anger to mean “never potty where a person can see me.” Then they refuse to potty around people—even on walks or in the yard—or potty secretly behind the couch instead of out in the open (where you can at least find and clean it up more easily).

Dogs come into this world believing that everything is a toilet. Humans disagree. It takes time for dogs to learn where the designated toilets are. If your dog makes a mistake, they’re probably confused, or has been asked to hold it too long. Instead of getting angry (see above), revisit the steps above to figure out how you can make things easier and clearer for your dog.

Potty training dogs takes patience and time, but it can be done. The tips above will help make potty training easier and less stressful for both you and your dog—even if you are a busy pet parent!

By: Irith Bloom
Irith Bloom is on the faculty at Victoria Stilwell Academy and a certified animal trainer with multiple certifications, including CPDT-KSA, CDBC, VSPDT, KPA, CTP and CBATI. She's also certified in TAGteach, a positive reinforcement method for coaching humans. Her company, The Sophisticated Dog, LLC, offers training on the west side of Los Angeles for a variety of pet animal species. She presents at conferences and seminars worldwide, and her writing has been published in print and online. In her free time she volunteers for the Los Angeles County 2020 Healthy Pets Healthy Families Coalition, Wallis Annenberg PetSpace, and National English Shepherd Rescue. She shares her home with a rescued English Shepherd named Franklin and her husband Aaron (not a rescue).

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