Toilet Training


Schedule is the biggest element of proper toilet training. The following is an example to follow until your dog has developed reliable toilet habits.  Each family will have to determine the best schedule that will meet both the needs of the puppy as well as the family. The schedule below works well for bad weather days and indoor training.  If playing outdoors, play with your puppy after toileting until they look like they’re getting ready to go to sleep. At this time, take your puppy to the crate and put them in it for a three hour nap.

The schedule below is not written in stone. It is a guideline only. Modifying the time spans by a five to ten minute should not be a problem. If your puppy has several accidents, the schedule is not working for them. Give me a call and we will determine what needs to be changed.

6:00      am                  Toilet puppy (reward with praise and affection)

6:00 – 6:15                  Training or play time

6:15 – 6:20                  Quiet time, then toilet puppy and put in crate with tiny treat

9:20      am                  Toilet puppy (reward with praise and affection)

9:20 – 9:35                  Training and play time

9:35 – 9:40                  Quiet time, then toilet puppy and put in crate with tiny treat

12:40     pm                Toilet puppy (reward with praise and affection)

12:40 – 12:55              Training and play time

12:55 – 1:00                Quiet time, then toilet puppy and put in crate with tiny treat

4:00       pm                Toilet puppy (reward with praise and affection)

4:00  –  4:15                Training and play time

4:15  –  4:20                Quiet time, then toilet puppy and put in crate with tiny treat

7:20       pm                Toilet puppy (reward with praise and affection)

7:20  –  7:35                Training and play time

7:35  –  7:40                Quiet time, then toilet puppy and put in crate with tiny treat

9:00       pm                Toilet puppy (reward with praise and affection) – offer last water of the day

                                     Pick up water for the night after they have taken their fill. If they do not drink, do not worry. You must still pick up the water after you have                                                 offered it. No more water till morning.

9:00  –  9:15                Training and play time

9:15  –  9:20                Quiet time, then toilet puppy and put in crate with tiny treat

Ultimately, the goal is to toilet your dog as soon as they wake, train and play with them for a few minutes, then crate them. While the pup is in their crate, they will settle and do the sleeping that puppies require while growing so quickly! Meanwhile, we are using the puppy’s instincts to help with potty training. Dogs do not like to pee or poop in their sleeping and/or eating quarters. If they wake and need to go but are confined to their sleeping quarters, they will be obligated instinctively to hold their bladder and/or bowels. You are teaching the puppy to control the urge to eliminate.

We do not like to see a puppy crated for longer than 3 hours throughout the day at any one time. Their bladders are still maturing and we do not want to overtax the system.

Do NOT place bedding in the crate. If the puppy has an absorbent material on which to pee, they will likely do so. This is counterproductive. This is not to say that your dog will never have a comfy blanket to sleep on, but only after they are reliably toilet trained.

Once you know your puppy is getting the hang of your routine (two to three weeks), you can begin increasing the playtime and reducing the crate time. Make certain your puppy is crated for at least one three hour period each and every day for the same reasons mentioned above. Eventually, your dog will be up and about whenever you are but happy to go into the crate whenever necessary. Once they are older and reliable in the house, you want to mix up when the three hour crate time will be. You want your dog to understand that they are fine in her crate any time they are crated.



At first, carry your puppy to assigned toilet area each and every time they go. With the leash on (it is much easier to start with the leash then get them used to going without than the opposite), put them down and wait for them to do their business. Do not allow them to leave the area until they have performed. Try not to make eye contact or speak to your puppy while they are doing their business. This engages them and serves only to distract.

As soon as your puppy assumes the position, give them a consistent cue word: “potty”, “be quick”, “hurry up”, etc.  Dogs have the ability to eliminate and evacuate their bowels on command and this comes in handy more times than you can imagine. Even if your puppy is squatting in the wrong place, say the cue word, pick them up and carry them to the assigned spot. Put the puppy down and say, “good girl/boy!”  They will quickly figure out this is where they are supposed to go.  Do this task with NO frustration as that will affect your puppy negatively.

Never scold your puppy for having an accident! If you do, they will become fearful, knowing that the act brings wrath and they will begin to hide in order to do their business. If your puppy does have an accident, ask firstly if it is due to human error. Often it is the caretaker who has missed the sign, failed to observe the ‘time’, or some other error that is not the puppy’s fault.  Puppies do not have accidents to be spiteful. They do not have the cognition to develop such complex emotional thoughts. They go because they urge hits them.

Placement of the crate should be where the dog can receive adequate airflow for the weather. I like the permanent placement of the crate to be in the busiest room in the house. If it is near the kitchen, the back door is typically located there as well and provides a fast track to the potty area.

A WORD ABOUT FREEDOM – Too Much is NOT a Kindness


It is best if you confine your puppy to the kitchen or another room with a hard floor that allows for easy clean up in the event of an accident. This allows you to relax and enjoy your puppy; knowing that if they do have an accident, the door to the potty area is within quick access and clean up is not an issue.

In addition, too much space to roam around is not a kindness. If you took a four year old child to your local convention center, showed him where the bathrooms are – one time – then went about your activity; would you expect him to know where the bathrooms were 30 minutes later? Not likely!

Keeping your puppy to a small kitchen or dining area for the first couple of weeks when indoors will help them to learn the exact location of the door they are to use when needing the toilet.

As your puppy becomes more reliable, you can expand their area by one room per week. If they have an accident, go back to the previous space for another week.  It’s the old ‘two steps forward, one step back’ principle. You will eventually get there but you cannot rush it. Sometimes your puppy will go through each step with great success and have an issue with the last bit of freedom.  Every puppy is different. Give them what they need and don’t push it too fast.


Teaching your dog to use a specified area for their toilet will allow your family and friends to enjoy a clean and green yard. With proper instruction, consistency, and patience, your dog will learn to use one are for their potty needs.  Installing a dog latrine will cost between $300-500 and is certainly money well spent and with proper maintenance, will be odor free. An area measuring 10’ x 10’ x 3′ deep will last one medium size dog for ten years with proper upkeep. 

  1. Dig down three feet, remove all clay/soil. 
  2. Fill 10’ x 10’ hole with sanitized play sand, leaving 3” from the top of the hole. Make certain you tamp the sand in layers to compact the sand adequately.
  3. Fill top 3” of the hole with washed pea gravel. This gravel has rounded stones that will be less likely to cut your dog’s paw pads.


Your dog latrine will require regular cleaning and sanitizing. Although the process is the easiest thing in the world, it is of the utmost importance. 

  1. Ensure that all solid waste is picked up immediately! It is recommended to keep a covered garbage can in one corner of the latrine area, so you can deposit feces throughout the day and remove at night. There are bag dispensers made to attach to the fence for easy usage, or you can make your own. 
  2. Each month, lightly wet the pea gravel using a garden hose. Next, mist the gravel with a 10% bleach solution. It is easiest to use a garden 1 gallon pump sprayer for the bleach. Let the bleach sit on the gravel for ten minutes, then spray rinse the pea gravel with a garden hose sprayer. Do not flood the area. A five minute rinse is sufficient. It is not advised to do this step during the rainy season as the sand base will become water logged. This step will not be possible during winter weather either.

Once the dog latrine has been used for ten years, it will be necessary to replace the latrine’s sand layer. You will need to remove the pea gravel layer (set aside to reuse), remove and dispose of the sand. Replace with new sand, tamp in layers to install and top off with original pea gravel.

Note: If you reduce the size of the dog latrine, or have more than one dog, a larger dog, etc, you will need to replace the sand more frequently. ALSO if you do not dig down the full three feet, you will need to replace the sand more frequently.


Crates are one of the best inventions ever! Here is how a crate benefits you and your dog:

  1.  Aides in potty training.
  2. Provides a safe retreat.
  3. Satiates the dog’s need to den.
  4. Keeps the dog safe when not supervised.
  5. Can effectively curb guarding tendencies.

Your first chore is to ensure you have the proper sized crate.  This can be really tricky if you have an especially tall, leggy dog or a long, squat dog. Crates generally get taller as they get longer. 

Once your dog is fully crate trained, you can give them a crate large enough to allow them to fully sprawl out during sleep. But this is not suitable for potty training purposes. Here are some recommendations.


For a Full Grown Dog:

  1. The crate should be 1.5 times longer than your dog’s body measured from the chest to the base of the tail.
  2. The dog should be able to stand fully with head erect without bumping their head on the ceiling. This is not always possible for tall dogs but as long as you get one as tall as is reasonable.

For Puppies:

  1. The crate should be wide and deep enough for the puppy to enter, turn in a circle and lie down. If you give the puppy too much space in the crate, they will be more likely to eliminate or defecate in the crate.
  2. In the interest of budget, it is more economical to purchase a wire crate large enough to house your puppy once they are full grown. These crates come with a divider that can be moved in order to properly size the crate for your puppy as they grow.

Creating the Cozy Crate:

  1. One reason wire crates are preferred over the plastic type is that they permit optimal air exchange, which is a big concern for those hot summer days. During the winter, it is best to drape the crate with a blanket or towel to provide a cozy feel and contain the dog’s body heat while preventing cool drafts that may occur. Leave the front 1/4 to 1/3 of the crate exposed for air exchange.
  2. Keep a close eye on your puppy as they grow. They may one day decide that pulling the blanket through the wires is a terrific game.
  3. Safety always comes first. If your dog shreds blankets, do not allow them to have them. Likewise, beds with foam inserts are considered a delicacy by some dogs. Bottom line is if it can be ingested, it is not wise to allow them to have it.
  4. Do not put food and water in the dog’s crate. If you expect your puppy to sleep for several hours before getting up, why would you provide them with food and water that will cause them to require a potty break? This would be no different that you or I drinking a liter of fluid before heading out on a road trip.
  5. It is not recommended to place toys or chews in the crate with the puppy or dog as these are items that are highly stimulating. However, I don’t see a problem with a Kong with a small smear of peanut butter in it. This will occupy your puppy and distract the hesitant puppy from focusing on being left in the crate. It is a lot of work to get the peanut butter out of that Kong and can tire the puppy further before they drop off to sleep. Also, once the peanut butter is gone, the puppy will typically lose interest in it. This will allow the  pup to settle easily.


Getting Started with Crate Training

Note: This is a task that should be started in the morning on a day you can devote to the process.

If your breeder did not begin crate training with your puppy or if you are acquiring a rescue puppy or dog, you will be starting from scratch. There are many ways to crate train but I have had the most success by following the steps listed below. Note: all dogs are different and it is up to you to read their body language. This will let you know how they are feeling about the process.

  1. If you feel guilty about crating your dog, you will have little success. They will sense your hesitation and become fearful of the crate. You are not putting your dog in a cage. You are providing a safe haven for them as well as providing the highest level of safety for them during times you are unable to supervise adequately. Let your guilt go. We don’t allow our children to play on the highway, even if they really want to. It is not safe. You must apply the same resolve to crate training.
  2. Show your dog the crate. Make certain you are calm and quiet during the process. Let them explore the crate. Toss a few high value treats into the back of the crate. Leave the door open during this step and let your dog come and go freely. For two hours, toss high value treats into the back of the crate about once every 15 minutes.
  3. Lead your dog into the crate and block the entry way when the dog attempts to come out. Continue to block the entrance until the dog submits by either sitting or lying down. Once  your dog has submitted to the exercise, invite the dog out of the crate. You do not want the dog to bolt out of the crate at any time, even when they are invited out. If they do, they were not truly submitted to the exercise before you invited them out.
  4. Repeat step three every 15 minutes for the next two hours, gradually increasing the time they stay in the crate by a few seconds each time.
  5. Follow step three, but close the door (do not latch). Wait for the dog to submit. Then open the door, close the door, open the door, close the door, open the door, and invite out. If your dog becomes excited at any time during this step, stop and wait for the dog to submit and become calm again. We do not want the dog to see an open door as the invite to exit the crate. They must be invited by you!
  6. Repeat step five every ten minutes for one to two hours, depending on how calm your dog is during the exercise.
  7. Lead your dog into the crate, shut the door and latch it. Sit next to the crate for 15 minutes – no touch, no talk, no eye contact during this stage! I like to read while I wait.  If your dog falls asleep during this exercise, let them rest. When they stir, go to the crate and quietly invite them out. If they do not fall asleep, that is fine. As long as they are quiet and calm, it is a success. If the dog whimpers or whines at all during the ‘wait’ time, calmly correct them.
  8. Repeat step seven, increasing the time spent in the crate each time. Do a ‘wait’ session every 20 minutes. If your dog is resting quietly in the crate, repeat the sessions with 20 minutes free time between the sessions.  Make the 20 minutes free time a play time, a walk, or run in the backyard. Lots of exercise during the free time will make them ready for a nap in their den.
  9. Continue step eight and begin to wander around the room, walk away, come back, do chores – whatever you would normally do. If your dog becomes alert when you become active, ignore them; they will likely settle. If not, give a firm correction. Make the correction brief but to the point and continue your activity. If your dog has truly submitted to the above steps, it is highly unlikely your dog will become worried when you become active.
  10. By the time you are ready to turn in for the night, your dog will be ready to sleep through the night in the crate. Young puppies may wake during the night to potty but this should be done with little to no voice, minimal touch, and eye contact. Night time potty breaks are all about the business. No play, or they will quickly come to think of the night time breaks as play time. Yikes!

If you experience difficulty during this process, please consult a professional trainer. I have had puppies acquiesce to this exercise, from beginning to end, within a morning. Others take two days with the first night consisting of little sleep. It is, in my opinion, a small price to pay for the immense payoff to both you and your dog.