Potty Training 101

My name is Masa the St Bernard.  Some call me Sasquatch, but I’m actually a 165lb canine.  When I was first adopted from Animal Care Centers of Brooklyn, I was a hot mess.  This Yeti was not used to city living.  I was a 120lb monster that placed giant poop track marks all over the apartment.  I once hurdled over the couch and fired hosed the entire living room.  

Don’t ask. I was confused.  

Lack of house training is the number one cause of dogs being surrendered to shelters.

This occurs when a dog is not potty trained at an early age with consistency.  Potty training in NYC can be particularly difficult because we don’t have backyards.  We have to hold it through the hallways, the elevators, stairs and common areas– which means we need predictable patterns to learn how to eliminate on the right spot.  We also have to learn to pee on concrete, which is not half as fun as marking trees and grass.  Although we tend to like smelly things, believe it or not, we prefer to avoid our own excrement.  

Here are some tips on how to effectively potty train dogs.  Whether they are old or young, be consistent with this method, and your dog will learn to promptly eliminate outside so we can live in harmony.  

  • When learning how to potty train, the most important factor is confinement.  Don’t allow us to be free in the home.  We will pee on your carpet and bathroom rugs.  Use a training crate or a pen for confinement and never isolate a dog behind a closed door such as a bathroom.  
  • Don’t give us any soft bedding in the crate or pen until we are controlling our bladder. The bedding will compel us to eliminate on it and we will push it aside.
  • If we have any accidents on bare floors, use a solution of 50% vinegar and water, or an enzyme cleaner to fully remove the scent.  If we peed on the rug, we will most certainly repeat on the same spot unless it is laundered or professionally cleaned.  It’s best to remove all carpet or rugs until we are fully potty trained as we will be drawn to the scent of our own urine.  
  • Provide us with a consistent schedule for the housebreaking routine.  This allows us to anticipate the time, and for you to predict our needs.  To start, the more often, the better– for example, morning, afternoon, evening, and right before going to bed.  The younger the dog, the more we will need to go out until we have mastered our bladder control.  
  • Feed us on the same time every day– ideally, twice a day.  Leave the food out for 15 minutes and feed me only in the confined area to reinforce cleanliness.  We don’t like to soil the areas we eat.  
  • Don’t leave our food bowls out all day.  Free feeding will cause erratic elimination habits, and it will prolong our potty training as we eliminate shortly after we eat.  
  • If changing our diet, introduce new food to us slowly.  New food can make our stomach more active, and hence, we might need to go out more frequently.
  • Supervise us while we are out of the confinement area with a leash or a tether attached to you at all times.  Allowing us to roam freely in the apartment will compel us to find a good spot to pee in the house.  
  • Measure the water intake, or provide frozen ice water bowls to prevent us from guzzling water.  What goes in, must come out.  Let us drink to our heart’s content only when you are home and you’re able to let us out in good timing.
  • Remove out water bowls a few hours prior to bedtime.  This will prevent us from soiling our crates in the middle of the night or wake you up at 2AM in the snow storm.
  • Once we are starting to understand the art of bladder control, start widening our confinement areas.  But do this slowly!
  • If we had an accident, don’t reprimand us if you did not catch us in the act. It doesn’t make any sense to us.
  • If you caught us in the act of peeing or pooping in front of you in the incorrect spot, firmly startle us with a verbal correction and take us to the correct location.
  • Always take us out from the same door, using a predictable command such as “outside”. It’s helpful to hang bells or chimes on the door and ring them as you say “outside”.  Soon, we will learn to ring the bell when we need to go out.  
  • Take us out to the same spot on the leash every time we go outside.  Attach a word to the action, such as “Go Potty!”, repeat this command until we eliminate.
  • When we eliminate, praise us profusely!  Provide us with high value treats which is reserved specifically for potty training. Celebrate my accomplishment.  Your praise is what makes us perform.
  • Give us plenty of exercise during this period of potty training.  Confinement is the most crucial aspect of expeditious potty training, but we need to let our steam out because excess confinement can lead to a buildup of frustration.  
  • Leave appropriate and safe chew toys in the crate to prevent boredom.  Help us associate the crate as our happy place– we like to snooze comfortably in a safe, confined area.
  • Use a command such as “Go home” to encourage us to enter our crate.  When we enter, give us treats so we associate the action as a good thing.  
  • Once we have consistent control, provide us with bedding to make our crate comfortable.  
  • Most importantly, be patient with us.  NYC is a tough place to potty train, but with consistency and predictability, we promise to master this art of potty training.