House Training a Dog: More Tips

In last week’s post, I gave some tips and talked about our experience house training Nix. However, the post focused mainly on general guidelines and what we did inside the house, but I didn’t talk about what we did outside. Therefore, this week I will focus on that.

How did we Potty train her outdoors?

Nix digging at the park

We basically used positive reinforcement to teach her to do her business outside. This means that whenever we went out with her, we carried a bag of treats. Whenever she peed or pooed outdoors, we’d tell her “well done!!” and give her a treat. In this way Nix learnt that “well done” meant “a treat is coming” and she also associated the treat to her behavior.

You should bear in mind that, early on, the dog will feel comfortable doing his business in certain places, and not at all in others. Therefore, it is best to bring him to the places where he has relieved himself previously. In general, they tend to prefer dirt, grass or sand rather than pavement.

An intermediate step would be to praise the dog when he does his business in the terrace. In our case, we almost had no opportunity to do so, as I think she only used it twice before she started relieving herself outside all the time.

When should we stop rewarding?

Once the dog has been completely house trained, a question that may come up is when to stop rewarding him or her. In our case, it came very naturally. At one point Nix was clearly more comfortable doing her business outside and she was no longer interested in the reward. She preferred sniffing around instead. I don’t remember how long it took, but I don’t think it was more than a month or a month and a half.

Expect accidents

Even if your dog does most of his business outside, bear in mind that accidents will happen. Most of the time it will probably be your fault more than the dog’s. Let me explain. Nix is smart, but hasn’t figured a clear way to tell us she needs to go outside. What she does is that she starts running around and pestering us. This would be a clear message if she only did that when she needs to do her business outside, but she does that at other times, for example when she is excited or is bored and wants to play with us.

So we had to guess whether it was that she was in crazy mode or she really needed to go outside. In particular, I remember one day that she was really annyoing, but we wanted to finish dinner before taking her out for a walk. We were downstairs, in the kitchen. She went upstairs for a second and then came back down. When Manel went to look, it turned out she had peed there. That day we couldn’t really scold her, as it was mainly our fault.

dogs can manage themselves

In spite of the accidents, dogs are pretty smart and are able to manage their bathroom needs. Over time, I’ve noticed the following things in Nix:

  • She decides where to pee according to her need to do so and where she is. She has some kind of internal preference scale, and depending on how urgently she feels the need to relieve herself, she will wait until she gets somewhere she likes (the park, for instance) or not (the pavement).
  • Many times she poos on the way back home, after we’ve been to the park. I believe that she knows she is going home and therefore it will be a while before she gets another chance to do so. I don’t think that at that time she urgently needs it, but she takes advantage of the opportunity before it’s too late.

My overall advice would be not to worry too much about house training. I believe that by following common sense and a bit of rewarding your dog will be house trained very soon, even if accidents happen from time to time. Good luck!


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