In general, it’s always best to house train any dog to “go potty” outdoors, especially if it’s a larger dog. However, there are times when dogs can be trained to do their business in the appropriate place indoors.
This is a handy skill for smaller dogs or if you live in a high rise, can’t get outdoors quickly, or work unpredictable hours. Older, arthritic dogs and those afraid of thunderstorms or snow may also benefit from indoor potty training. Here are some tips to help your dog be successful.
Start early. It’s always best to start housetraining your dog when it’s a puppy. But if you have an older dog, you can use the same techniques to help them learn, too.
Accentuate the positive. Always focus on positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats. Punishing pups for accidents in the house by scolding them or rubbing their nose in them is more likely to confuse the dog and create other problems. If there are potty accidents, simply pick up the pup and take it to the potty area. Clean up the accident area using an enzymatic cleaner that removes scents.
Choose a substrate and location for your pup to potty indoors. There are many options, from potty pads to litter boxes for dogs that can be filled with kitty litter or recycled paper pellets. Make sure the litter is nontoxic in case your dog decides it’s edible. You can also opt for real or synthetic grass, which may be more appealing to dogs who are used to doing their business on grass outdoors. Make sure to clean the potty area often.
Start with crate training. Dogs typically won’t relieve themselves in the same area they sleep. That’s why the crate should be large enough for your pup to stand up in and turn around, but it shouldn’t include extra space for going potty. Place a snuggly blanket on the bottom and toss in some of your pup’s favorite pet-safe toys. Never punish your dog by forcing it in the crate. Make sure the crate remains a positive, safe haven for your pup.
Stick to a routine. In general, a pup can hold their urine for one hour for every one month of age. That means a 3-month-old pup can usually wait three hours before needing to urinate. That said, more frequent visits to the potty area increases the chances of success.
When the pup first wakes up, take it to the indoor potty spot immediately. You can give the pup the cue word “potty,” but otherwise remain silent so he or she knows this is potty time, not play time. Once they have urinated and defecated (if possible), give them praise and a treat. Repeat the trip to the potty place 15 to 20 minutes after eating or drinking water, several times throughout the day and right before they go in the crate for the night.
Give the dog more space. Once your pup has mastered the crate, let it explore the living space, on a 6-foot leash that’s attached to you. That way, you can spot the telltale signs of needing a potty break, such as sniffing the ground, circling or whimpering. Then, pick up your pup and carry it to the potty area and give the cue word, “potty.” If your dog follows suit, provide a treat and praise.
You can also confine the pup to a room with an easy-to-clean floor, such as the kitchen. Place a bed, water bowl and toys in the area, as well as the potty pad. As the pup begins using the potty pad more often, you can gradually increase the space the dog is able to wander in the house.
With a little patience and positive reinforcement, you can train your dog to consistently use the designated potty area, and keep the rest of your apartment spotless.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.