“Why? What difference does it make?” It doesn’t make a difference to them. You have to show them there’s a reason to care, to differentiate where and when they go. People also tend to think just because they’ve made the outdoors available it should be a slam dunk.
They have a doggie door, or they take their dog outside “literally for, like, 40 minutes!” Or, worse, people just boot their dog outside for a while and expect them to “get it.”
So who’s potty training the dog while they’re out there? The squirrels? You have to do it.
Predictably, this misunderstanding also means that people think a dog that’s pooping or peeing inside is part of a Machiavellian plot to show the humans who’s boss. Your dog’s making mistakes because they don’t understand your weird, alien, human customs. Adding human rules is confusing.
Be a good guide and take the time to show them how to do it right, and why it’s in their best interest to care about it. Going to the bathroom for dogs is also a matter of convenience.
Let’s say you work in a giant office building where there’s a bathroom five feet from your desk.
There’s also one on the other side of the building. You’d probably consistently choose the closer, more convenient bathroom, right? However, if there was a good reason to go the extra distance to the other bathroom, you’d have to make a choice.
Maybe it’s cleaner, maybe it’s better stocked, maybe a friend’s desk is on the way. Thus, your choice to make an effort is being reinforced. Let’s stay in that imaginary office building for a second and look at it another way. You could either get a $50 bill every time you went to the far bathroom, OR you could get yelled at and berated every time you used the closer one.
Both of those would get you to use the same, far away bathroom, but one would put a little pep in your step, and the other would have emotional fallout that would affect your work!
Learners gravitate towards opportunities for greater reinforcement. This is an example of the Matching Law in psychology.
Seeking reinforcement is always more compelling in the long run than avoiding punishment. Thus, the plan isn’t, “Potty outside, or else.” The plan is, “Let me show you how fabulous it is to go outside.” That’s your mindset. This is how we change that “one rule” in your dog’s mind.
Now that you’ve got your mindset dialed in and you’re ready to “update your dog’s software,” the next essential key of potty training distills down to structure, schedule, and supervision. This is the foundation upon which your potty program is built.
STRUCTURE mkes it easier to design the training for your household. It also allows you to identify weak spots quickly.
SCHEDULE makes things predictable for both your dog, and you. The humans in the house should all be on the same schedule so your dog can fit into the groove.
UNDER DIRECT SUPERVISION allows you to capture the good stuff, and interrupt the rest so you can make it productive moving forward.
These three pillars aren’t just for your dog, they’re for you and your family, too. With that in mind, it becomes easier to prepare your mind and plan your space for success before you start:
- Pick One Door — use the same door every time you take your dog out.
- Pick One Spot — go to the same spot every time you go out.
- Pick one “Door Phrase” — condition it to the One Door and use it every time you cross the threshold.
- Pick one “Go Phrase” — condition it to initiate going potty on cue. • Regular feeding — control the input/output.
- Regular trials — take your dog out at predictable intervals. Engineer smart confinement — reduce mistakes! Let’s zoom in on each of these components and get into some granular detail.
PICK ONE DOOR Using the same door every time creates predictability and structure.
Using a FLEXI LEAD Leash for Potty Training is HIGHLY SUGGESTED, Do NOT Use it for walks… Put it on as SOON as you open the Crate, DON’T let them have freedom to dash, and pee! Keep it structured.
By Adding a Fast Connect Martingale Collar to the Routine Makes it SUPER easy to Potty Train your Pup. https://amzn.to/36IQBXo
It’s easy to directionalize your dog’s brain and train them to ask to go out. Later, you can use other exits like doggie doors or a sliding patio door, but for now, make it stupendously simple to be consistent for your dog (and all of the humans in the house).
PICK ONE SPOT The same goes for the potty spot in the yard. Pick one spot in the yard, or a spot outside wherever you live, and go to that same spot EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Everything right now orbits around predictability, and structure. Ritualize the process so it becomes muscle memory.
PICK ONE “DOOR PHRASE” Choose and use one, consistent phrase to condition your dog towards the outdoor spot. My phrase is “Outside or Go Potty.” You can use that or any similar phrase you like, as long as it’s not something you use for anything else in obedience. Use this phrase every time you cross the threshold with your dog to go potty.
Don’t use it for walks, and don’t use it going out to the car. This is just for potty training. When you’re taking them out, say “Let’s go outside,” or something that incorporates your phrase.
You will condition this to be a specific redirect. It will directionalize their brain to the door → spot → potty ritual. This will become super useful later on!
PICK ONE “GO PHRASE” Your “Go Phrase” is the word or phrase you use to cue your dog to begin going potty. During your outdoor portion of the 3/10 Cycle (that you’ll learn about shortly) you’ll use your Go Phrase as soon as your dog enters their One Spot.
Over time, this phrase will be conditioned to trigger your dog to go potty, almost on command. Believe me, this is super convenient when you’re out and about, or traveling.
My Go Phrase is “Hurry Up! Hurry Up.” I’ve had clients before use “Do your business,” or “Get to it,” and other similar things. As before, it doesn’t matter what you use, as long as you’re consistent.
REGULAR FEEDING If you control what goes in and when it does, you have better control over when it comes out!
This is Structure and Schedule. We recommend that you feed at regular times, and that you only leave the food down for 10-15 minutes. We do not recommend free-feeding (leaving it down all day). Behaviorally and nutritionally, routine is always a better option for pet dogs! If your dog is eating all day, that means they’re pooping all day.
Compartmentalize that! Put it on a schedule to help yourself. Likewise, keep the food simple to begin with. Table scraps (NEVER) and weird treats will just create stomach upset and less predictable potty times. If you’d like to learn more about the power of routine, timed feeding, please REACH OUT for a phone call or zoom meeting and we will get you back on track.
REGULAR TRIALS Go out first thing in the morning, after meals, after confinement, after naps, and before playing (and even after). This is part of the Schedule component. These are all super common times for a dog to need to go. Time your efforts to coincide with their body and you’ll be setting yourself up for success!
For puppies, take them out at regular intervals commensurate with their age. The general rule of thumb for puppies is that they can hold it for one hour per month of age plus one.
- At 1 month ≈ 1-2 hours
- At 2 months ≈ 2-3 hours
- At 3 months ≈ 3-4 hours, and so on ENGINEER SMART
CONFINEMENT Check in the client blue book page 31 and 33 if you have any questions about time. Make sure to put on the leash as you OPEN the crate door… This is called structure.
During potty training, your dog does not have security clearance to wand er the whole house. You have to reduce the spaces they spend time in until potty training is completed. This is temporary. We all want our dogs to have free-range freedom in the house, but this is contingent on their potty training being on point. Do this work now because it will affect your long term happiness.
Trying to play catch-up later will be far more difficult and frustrating. We dive a little deeper into the minutia of Confinement in the Appendix.
STICK TO THE RITUAL
It’s important that you and everyone else in the household stick to your Structure, Schedule, and Supervision guidelines:
• Your dog needs to go out at regular intervals, and in reliable contexts.
• When going outside to eliminate, everyone needs to use the One Door along with the Door Phrase consistently.
• Then, everyone needs to run to the One Spot every time and use the Go Phrase.
• Everyone that’s responsible for the dog’s care and feeding needs to be feeding at consistent times in the same way.
• Everyone needs to understand the dog’s confinement schedule and stick to the “Security Clearance” guidelines.
As you do this work—and it is the same every time— you will ritualize this routine. You’ll wear a groove in your dog’s brain and moving through the routine will be almost on autopilot. Not only does execution become stupendously easier for you, but it also creates predictability for your dog.
Predictability creates confidence and stability. Confident and stable dogs develop into can-do participants in the family! We know this with kids, and yet we somehow forget it with pets. Well-behaved dogs (and kids) have clear procedures and routines with sensible steps laid out that have been rehearsed, reinforced, and repeated. Willy-nilly management where everyone in the house just does their own thing is abysmally counterproductive. The only thing predictable about that is that you will fail.
PUPPIES SHOULD NOT HAVE SECURITY CLEARANCE TO THE WHOLE HOUSE!
This is important to potty training, bite-inhibition, and household manners in general. In all my years, the people that have struggled the most with their puppies have had weak
Structure, Schedule, and Supervision.
PUPPIES (and new dogs of any age) EARN THEIR UPGRADED SECURITY CLEARANCE WITH POTTY TRAINING AND HOUSEHOLD ETIQUETTE. Start with that Hyperstructure, with very little autonomy. Then, as your dog demonstrates better self-control and buy-in, you can relax the structure and allow them to enjoy more autonomy.
Running through The Cycle is where the rubber meets the road in your potty training program. Most people get this part all messed up, and then they have spotty results (pun intended).
FOLLOW THE CYCLE! It’s 3 minutes out, and 10 minutes in. Based on your Structure, Schedule, and Supervision, you should have a good idea when it’s time to take your dog out to potty. Put your puppy dog on flexi lead leash when you take them out.
This is just to keep your dog from bailing out on you (Structure and Supervision) Go through your ONE DOOR and use your DOOR PHRASE. Then run right to your ONE SPOT and use your GO PHRASE. Only say it once. Then, deactivate while you wait (On-Switch training).
YOU WILL ONLY WAIT 3 MINUTES, TOPS
- People tend to spend too long outside.
- Typically, people walk around and make it a “sniff ’n’ stroll” waiting for the dog to go.
- Then the dog potties, and they go inside.
- Thus, pottying means the end of sniff ’n’ stroll time. You want to reverse that paradigm! Take your dog out to potty ON LEASH right from the crate. Potty training is not a walking exercise, though; the leash is just to keep them from toddling away from the spot.
Carry a small dog or puppy out to their area if you have to.
Otherwise don’t really worry how pretty it looks. You just need get to your spot quickly. Clip on, go through your One Door with your Door Phrase. Then, RUN to your potty spot.
Don’t take your time getting your dog out there. They might pee or poop on the way. Hurrying also tends to jiggle the plumbing so that they really want to go the moment you let them stop and sniff the toilet area. Don’t walk your dog or pup around the yard; that’s a reward for doing their business.
You picked your One Spot toilet area—maybe somewhere they might have gone before. Use your Go Phrase, and deactivate while you wait. Also, if you walk your dog around to potty, then you might accidentally teach your dog that pottying is the end of exploration time.
Then they tend to hold it until you go back inside where it’s less interesting. Make pottying the gateway to other things they want to do: walking, playing, snooping around, etc. Reverse the paradigm.
Give it three to 5 minutes. Usually, a dog will pee right away, especially right out of short-term confinement. However it may take one or two minutes for them to poop. Three minutes will give them ample time to do their business without being too long.
If they haven’t done the whole shebang in 3 minutes, then CYCLE through your 10 minutes inside (we’ll get to that in a minute). ON-SWITCH POP into life when your dog goes! Activate! Make that moment really stand out in your dog’s mind, we use the phrase “hurry up! said a few times.
They should feel like they switched you on by going potty. It is therefore vitally important that you reward onsite.
Reward your dog THE INSTANT THEY FINISH POOPING OR PEEING, not one second later. This will be easy since you’re right next to them.
If you reward them when they come in they’ll think they’re being rewarded for coming in. That makes being inside better than being outside, and then they’ll think, “Why would I go outside?” DON’T MESS AROUND!
- Use the best treats you have.
- Prolong the reward event.
- Follow up with a sniff ’n’ stroll.
Use something fabulous like freeze-dried liver or rotisserie chicken. Give your dog THREE, sequential treats and big praise. You need your dog to think: “WOW! I never get such amazing presents when I potty inside. I just wanna go to my outdoor spot!”
Now, you can go inside and enjoy time with your dog without too much worry (but do keep an eye out!). Relax, play, cuddle, and spend quality time together! If your dog does not go potty during the 3 minute portion of The Cycle, then move onto the 10 minutes inside portion.
Go back inside, and supervise your dog! Keep them on leash with you or confine them. Use a DIFFERNT 4 or 6 foot nylon leash attached to them when INDOORS. They can’t have the option to sneak off to go potty somewhere else in the meantime. And, if they start going in front of you, you can quickly interrupt it and run outside to your potty spot.
If nothing happens during the 10 minutes, and you’re pretty sure they need to go, repeat the cycle and do 3 more minutes outside.
If your dog gives “signs” or starts going while you’re inside: interrupt, use your conditioned Door Phrase, and GO GO GO! You can clap your hands, say “Outside! Outside!” And, since they’re already on leash, buzz right out through your ONE DOOR to your ONE SPOT and cycle through 3 additional minutes.
say “Hurry Up!” a few times in an excited voice then treat I mean PAY OFF like a slot machine jackpot… BRING the best stuff you have out there…
- Clapping your hands or making a loud noise is meant to stop them abruptly.
- Using your Door Phrase: “Outside! Outside! Outside!” is meant to be a specific redirect. We want to directionalize them to the proper area in the context of eliminating.
- DO NOT FRIGHTEN THEM—this is not a reprimand.
- Even if they don’t finish outside, this routine will still plant those seeds in their brain.
If your dog went in the house and you missed it, reprimand yourself for not paying attention! Mistakes are a big set back. A lot of whats in the blue book is helping you design the environment to a) make it easy to get it right, and b) to make it hard to make mistakes.
Remember also that you cannot just put your dog outside. You must take your dog out yourself. You need be there to provide guidance and feedback for what you want, otherwise you create an indiscriminate dog with no reason to care when or where they go because NO ONE TOLD THEM. Don’t be lazy; take the reins.
CYCLE THROUGH 3/10 UNTIL YOU GET RESULTS I’ve personally done this with a client’s dog in her back yard. I did three full cycles and her dog went on the fourth. Do the math; it was nearly 45 minutes until that dog went potty. Then we partied, played in the yard, and that started the ball rolling. After that, potty training went pretty fast for the owner.
Moral of the story: DO THE WORK, AND DON’T CUT CORNERS. WHEN TO CYCLE: As I said, planning is part of your Structure, Schedule, and Supervision. Go out first thing in the morning, after meals, after confinement, after naps, and before and after playing. Time your efforts to coincide with their body and you’ll be setting yourself up for success!