Puppy Potty Problem?  A Complete Training Schedule….

Q: We’re having lots of problems in house training our 8-month old puppy, who insists on urinating in the house. She never eliminates in the same place. Just the other day, my husband asked her if she needed to go out to pee at least four times and even opened the door for her. She didn’t want to go out but within a few minutes she came over and peed on the floor between his legs where he was sitting. Help!

A: It sounds as if your puppy is confused and doesn’t understand what you want. There may have been some unintentional training or communication problems that contributed to the current situation. It sounds like there is an element of submissive urination going on here. Submissive urination happens because the dog is intimidated. Dogs are intimidated because they feel threatened. It may be because someone yelled at them or punished them in some way previously. Your puppy is also confused about where she’s supposed to “go” and she never learned NOT to eliminate in the house. Perhaps she has a little too much freedom.

Set a schedule so she learns there are definite times she will be taken out. This will actually ease things for you as well! This schedule will be maintained for the rest of her life. After the age of 7 months of so, she should only need to eliminate four times a day. These times would be: first thing in the morning, after breakfast, after dinner, and just before bed.

Most puppies up to the age of 3 months need to be taken out 8 to10 times per day, especially after eating, playing and sleeping. A puppy’s ability to “hold it” during the day relates to his age and activity.

Dogs hate to soil their own area: This includes the area the puppy sleeps in as well as any other area in which she is left alone.  If you leave your dog in a kennel, it should be large enough for her to comfortably stand and move around but not too large.  If the area is too big, the puppy will go to the furthest area from the sleeping and eating area in the crate and eliminate.(Be sure you’ve acclimated your puppy to the crate, see below)

If you are housebreaking an older dog do not put him in a kennel if he has not been acclimated to it. (Read The Dog Whisperer Book to learn how to acclimate your dog).  Use baby gates and install them in your bedroom or kitchen area instead.  Over time, you can get almost any dog use to a kennel.

For a newly adopted pup that is 7 to10 weeks old, or one that hasn’t adjusted to a schedule yet, set your alarm to wake up in four hours the first night and take her to urinate.  Add 15 minutes every two days to gradually increase your pup’s muscle control.  Some young puppies can “hold it” for seven or eight hours already, in which case this night-time routine can be omitted.  It’s important to provide the correct opportunities for the puppy to eliminate and avoid the chance he or she might eliminate in the kennel!

House Training Rules

  • No food after 7 p.m.
  • Give the puppy a chance to eliminate immediately before you go to bed.
  • No water after the final elimination just before bed. Do not give her access to a bowl of water during the night. If necessary, you can give her a couple of ice cubes in a bowl in her sleeping area at night. They will slowly melt and provide a little thirst quenching.

House Training Procedure

  • Designate one area outside for elimination.
  • “Call” or “label” the elimination behavior something such as “Hurry-up,” “Go potty,” “Go outside,” etc. But do not add the verbal cue until the dog is circling, sniffing and looking like she’s about to go.
  • As she eliminates, gently reinforce her with a phrase such as “Good girl” or “Yay, you!” or some other words.
  • When she finishes, reward the behavior with a great treat and lots of praise. Great treats include chicken, turkey, cheese, liver, etc.
  • If your puppy doesn’t eliminate within 5 minutes, bring her back in the house and supervise. You can tie her to you or put her back in her sleeping area. Try again 10 minutes later and take her to the spot outside.

It’s important to remember that dogs have a less than two to four second window in which they make associations. In other words, you must catch your dog in the act. Interrupt the behavior as it is happening indoors with an “Uh oh!” or “Oh no!” and quickly escort her out. Once outside, immediately begin to gently encourage her to eliminate.

Many people think that their dog “knows” she has done something wrong because “she acts guilty,” and they put their dog’s nose in the elimination and say “bad dog.”  In reality, the dog has indeed made an association, but the association has to do with pee or poop being linked to something bad happening to her.  But she has no idea who the pee or poop belongs to!  So either catch your dog “in the act” or forget about it. Some trainers also suggest you clean up the pee or poop out of sight of the dog.

Never hit, kick, jerk, shake, shock, hang, swat with a newspaper, roll over or pin to the ground or pinch your puppy. A puppy is a baby and should be treated with love, compassion, and understanding.

Never call your dog to you and then do something negative. For example, if your dog does not like being put in her sleeping area, do not call her into the house and then put her immediately in her sleeping area. (In her mind this would be punishment for coming when called.) Instead, play with her a short time and then put her in the sleeping area.

If your dog doesn’t like going on wet grass or if you are having problems, call a professional dog trainer who uses only positive training methods. Call a vet as well to determine if there are any physiological issues contributing to the problem.

Suggested Daily Routine

A daily routine is very helpful in helping a dog develop a sense of security and confidence AND it is great for house training! Here is a sample of what you might try with your dog. Select the parts that are realistic for you and your family and try your best to be consistent.

7 AM- 8 AM

Take Sparky out of his kennel. Have him lie down or sit before opening the kennel. (The reward is the door opening.) Say “OK” before releasing him. Begin by asking for a 1 second sit or down and gradually increase the time… he must hold the position before you open the door.

  • Take Sparky outside. As he begins to circle/sniff/gets that gleam in his eye that tells you he needs to urinate, call or “label” the elimination process with a phrase like “Hurry-up.” Praise and offer him a treat when he is successful. Bring him back inside the house and let Sparky investigate and say hello to people. Everyone should ask Sparky to sit or lie down before getting petted. Ignore him until he does. Some dogs, especially those who enjoy being out in the yard, learn quickly that elimination means all the fun ends, as they are brought inside right afterward. Those dogs then take longer and longer to eliminate! The trick is to wait until the dog eliminates, then play with him for at least two minutes so he disassociates elimination with the end of fun.
  • Feed Sparky. Be sure to practice come, sit or down before putting his dish down. About 15 minutes after he’s done eating, take Sparky outside to eliminate again and then take him for a walk. (Note: Puppies must have vaccinations before being walked outside of your own yard.) Practice walk without pulling, sit, and down, especially at streets.
  • Take Sparky back inside and allow him to explore a little. Practice the “magnet game” throughout the day. Put him in a kennel, exercise pen or tether* him in a supervised, social area. Give high quality, yummy chewies like Bully Sticks, Greenies, or toys filled with treats, such as a “Kong.” (Avoid pigs’ ears, hooves and rawhides.)

9 AM- 12 PM : Rest time.

12 PM-1 PM

  • Take Sparky outside to eliminate. (Remember to ask him to “sit” or “lie down” before going in or out the door.)
  • Inside or outside, practice 1 to 2 minutes of sit, down, stay, come, go-to-spot, or hide-and-go seek. Make it fun! Vary the routine. Vary the treats.
  • Throw toys and play with him. Have him chase you; do not chase him. Interact with other people in friendly, positive ways. Remember, Sparky must earn treats and affection.

1 PM- 5 PM

Rest time. If your dog is left alone for long periods of time, consider having a dog walker visit.

5 PM- 6 PM

  • Take Sparky outside to eliminate.
  • Repeat the activities listed above. Take him for a walk in the neighborhood; however, be watchful of stray dogs.
  • Practice heeling, walk without pulling, sit, come, down, stay.
  • Interact with people. Ask them to follow “approach and greet” protocols, such as those presented in The Dog Whisperer book. (Explain to other people that he’s in training). Praise his good behavior!

6 PM- 10 PM

  • Give Sparky supervised free time or keep him kenneled or tethered in a social area of your home.
  • Watch TV (especially The Dog Whisperer DVD!), read The Dog Whisperer book, or work on your computer while practicing the magnet game.
  • Give high quality, yummy chewies like Bully Sticks, Chicken Strips, or toys filled with treats, such as a “Kong.” (avoid pigs’ ears, hooves and rawhides).
  • Attend dog training class once a week.

10 PM

  • Take Sparky outside to eliminate.
  • Keep him in a kenneled or tethered* in your bedroom for a good night’s sleep.
    * If you have adopted a new dog, be careful not to distress him if he is unused to kenneling or tethering. Call a professional trainer for advice.


  • As Sparky eliminates, gently reinforce with a phrase such as “Good girl” or “Yay, you!” or some other words.
  • When she finishes, reward the behavior with a great treat and lots of praise. Great treats include chicken, turkey, cheese, liver, etc.
  • If your puppy doesn’t eliminate within 5 minutes, bring her back in the house and supervise. You can tie her to you or put her back in her sleeping area. Try again 10 minutes later and take her to the spot outside.