Getting Your Dog To Use A Designated Potty Area

Ayla writes to us about getting her dog to use a designated potty area:

“I have a 6 1/2 month old Labrador/chow mix puppy. She will only use the potty area [gravel section] when I have her on a leash, but goes where she wants to [outside] off the leash. When I take her on the leash she will go straight to the correct area to pee, but only after I walk her for long periods of time before having a bowel movement. It seems as if she does not really know that she is outside to go potty. I have been saying “get busy” for months now and I think she knows what that means, she just doesn’t want to go until after we walk, and walk and walk and then she wants to play [I don’t play with her at that time, but tell her to ‘get busy’. Sometimes she goes in 10mins. and other times it could be 4-5 hours after eating. I can not figure out her schedule.”

Lynn (DPTrainer4) replies:

Hello, Ayla. One of the things that seemed to cement the idea of pottying in a certain area was to let my dog make a mistake. It’s a similar concept in housetraining–you can set the dog up for success, never have an accident and it can go one of two ways: the dog will understand the idea and never go in the house, or it’ll try at least once to see if the result of pottying inside is any different than outside.

Part of it was to let her run free in the yard on a long line (our yard is not fenced, and until she was trustworthy off-leash, we long-lined her). If she made a mistake and squatted in the grass, she was immediately corrected and taken to her potty spot. She did try it again, and defecated in the grass, and again she was immediately corrected on the long line. At this point, she can be in the middle of an invigorating fetch game and when she has to go, she goes to her own spot.

If she doesn’t want to go after eating, that is fine–it’s her schedule and her perogative. When you take her out to go out potty, that is what you’re out there for, you’re not out to play. There is business to attend to, and it seems like you’ve been establishing this. If she needs to walk around, she can walk inside her spot so that when the urge strikes, she is right there (although admittedly, dogs have excellent control over their bodies and CAN “hold it” unless medically impossible). While maturation will hopefully get her on a schedule, the idea is for her to associate the area with the urge to potty and the relief she feels when she does so. If she decides to not go, that’s fine: back inside and try again later.

Hope this is of assistance to you!