Dog Training: Stop Your Dog from Going Potty on the Patio

What do you do when your dog chooses the wrong place to potty outside?

By | Posted: September 16, 2014, 8 a.m. PST

Many dog owners face housetraining issues, such as soiled indoor rugs or urine stains, but not every canine potty problem involves the indoors. A dog that potties in inappropriate outdoor areas can also cause annoying problems, such as people stepping in a mess they didn’t expect to be there. Leslie Cox of Ashland, Ky., faces this situation frequently with her dog, Molly Sue, a 5-year-old Chihuahua-Dachshund mix, and wants to teach her better habits.

The Dog

Cox and her husband chose Molly Sue as a young puppy from a litter that resulted when a nonprofessional dog sitter allowed a friend’s female Chihuahua outside with an intact male Dachshund. Molly Sue fit in well with the Coxes’ 4-year-old daughter, Kate, and their 7-year-old, mixed-breed dog, Alexis. Cox describes Molly Sue as having a low-slung Dachshund body with a Chihuahua head, and adds, "She’s very smart, so she learned the house rules quickly.”

 

Molly Sue
 

 

The Situation

Cox initially took Molly Sue outside frequently into the fenced yard and watched to make sure she pottied. As Molly Sue grew, Cox let her out while she watched from the doorway. The young dog invariably performed her business quickly and ran back to the door, Cox says. Once she felt confident that Molly Sue knew to potty outside, Cox stopped supervising every trip.

"Soon, however, I noticed little messes on the paved driveway or patio, especially when the grass was wet or needed to be cut,” Cox says. "If I didn’t notice the mess in time, then someone would step in it or drive through it and spread it out on the pavement.” Cox tried to watch Molly Sue to assure she stayed on the grass, but after having another baby, a boy named Cody, Cox didn’t always supervise Molly Sue’s outings.  

The Expert

Denise Nord, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed, of Rogers, Minn., is a charter member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an Australian Shepherd Club of America obedience judge, and an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen evaluator. Nord has been featured on television and radio programs, andcompetes with her Beagles in various canine sports. She works with hundreds of dogs every year and says she appreciates the opportunity to learn from them all.

The Plan

Nord first suggests that Cox keep Molly Sue on a fixed eating and elimination schedule. "A regular eating schedule makes it easier to predict when she’ll poop,” she says. Supervision proves equally important. "Go out with her on potty trips, and restrict her access to hard surfaces,” Nord suggests. "If necessary, place a doggie exercise pen in the grass to put Molly Sue in during potty times.”      

When Molly Sue does go in the grass, Cox should give her a huge reward, Nord says, and further advises Cox to keep the grass mowed short so it doesn’t tickle Molly Sue as she squats. "There are attractant products made to entice dogs to a certain spot,” Nord says, "I’ve had mixed results with them, but they might work with Molly Sue.”

Nord cautions Cox never to admonish Molly Sue regarding her potty problem. "Telling her she is a bad dog will only make her resistant to pottying in front of a human,” Nord says. "If she gets away from you and eliminates on the hard surface, bring her inside when she’s done and go clean up.”

"It takes approximately 21 days to change a behavior,” Nord says. "So, for the next three weeks you must go out with her every potty trip, reward her when she goes, clean up immediately to keep the area fresh, and only give her free access to the yard when she’s empty.” Once her habits improve, an occasional refresher course should keep Molly Sue on the right path.

 

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