A dog that will “go potty” on command is a time saver, as well as a convenience; it also may eliminate the need for a doggie door. On car trips, your trained dog will really be appreciated when you stop for your own “potty break” and can count on your dog doing the same. I currently have 4 dogs, ranging in age from 2 to 9 years old, and they all have been successfully taught to eliminate when instructed to do so. Two of my dogs sleep in the house; the other two sleep in the heated garage. With empty bowels and bladders, they sleep through the night, and I’ve yet to get up to “an accident.” We don’t have a dog door in the house, and the dogs are not caged overnite. Of course, they have also been trained to whine or let us know if “the urge” strikes, but that’s another matter.
The technique is simple and uses both reflex and association training. I’ve used it with every dog I’ve had and never had a dog that couldn’t or wouldn’t cooperate. I’ve found that puppies are the easiest to teach this command by implementing it during regular potty training. But older dogs can definitely be taught, as well.
First, come up with a word or phrase to use when you want your dog to relieve itself. I use “go pot;” one sister uses “do your business;” another sister uses “hurry up.” At any rate, pick something that appeals to you, is easy to use consistently, and won’t be confused with something else.
All dogs will reflexively be prompted to relieve themselves when they encounter the smell of dog urine or feces. So, the next step in training is to find an area you want your dog to use or where he has recently relieved himself. It’s generally a good idea to pick up any feces already there. The residual smell is enough, and some dogs will avoid an area where there is already a feces deposit.
Take your dog to the designated area and let it wander around and sniff. As he does, repeatedly tell him to “go pot,” or whatever you’ve chosen as a command. Be patient; this can take some time. When your dog begins to relieve himself, continue to encourage him with the “got pot” command. When your dog finishes relieving himself, immediately cover him with enthusiastic praise.
This command should be taught both on and off leash. With a puppy, it’s easy to begin off leash; an older dog may need to first be trained with a leash, unless your yard or chosen area is small. It would be rather difficult to chase a large sniffing dog around a big yard, yelling “go pot! go pot!”
It works best if you also first learn your dog’s signals when he’s outside and about to relieve himself. That’s a good time to use your command and reinforce his behavior.
Dogs are creatures of habit, and once you’ve trained and reinforced good potty training habits, you’ll have done yourself and your dog a big favor.