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How to Potty Train Your Puppy the Clicker Way

Potty Problems?

Are you having trouble teaching your puppy (or even your adult dog) appropriate elimination behaviors? Don't despair. There's an excellent chance that your dog can be trained to eliminate appropriately outside of the house—and it will probably be easier than you think!

puppy looking up

Factors to consider when training for appropriate elimination behavior are: health, sanitation, intake regulation, recordkeeping/scheduling, reinforcement of appropriate behavior, and management. Tracking pre-elimination patterns is important, too. This article will address each factor in turn, and then address some common potty training mistakes. If you have made some of those mistakes, don't beat yourself up—there's a better way right in front of you. Today is a fresh start!


Make sure that there are no health problems that are causing or contributing to your dog's inappropriate elimination behavior. Before moving ahead with a house training plan, provide your vet with fecal and urine samples from your dog to rule out physical causes for the behavior (contributing factors may include, but are not limited to, parasites, urinary tract infections, and spay incontinence).

Checking for health issues is especially important if you have an adult dog that has previously exhibited appropriate elimination behaviors, and "all of a sudden" is having accidents in the house.

Behavioral health

A dog's prior learning history is important, too. A dog's elimination behaviors are a product of the environment in which he has been raised, and are affected by his learning history.

Pet shop puppies and other dogs obtained from mass breeding operations are often very difficult to potty train. Most of these dogs spent their critical periods of development living in their own feces, as well as those of their cage mates. Living in their own filth has been imprinted on them. It takes patience and persistence to teach these dogs more appropriate elimination behaviors.

Some elimination problems may be symptoms of other behavioral issues. Dogs with separation anxiety may exhibit destructive behavior toward themselves or property, or bark or howl incessantly from the time an owner leaves until she returns. These dogs may also exhibit inappropriate elimination patterns (often very loose stools). On the other hand, destructive behaviors or excessive vocalizations may be a reflection of boredom. In this way, a dog may be indicating that he requires more mental and physical stimulation. If you suspect that your dog exhibits signs of separation anxiety, the best course of action is to seek assistance from a qualified trainer or behaviorist.

There's an excellent chance that your dog can be trained to eliminate appropriately outside of the house.

Submissive urination and excitement urination are elimination behaviors that are directly related to a dog's feelings about environmental stimuli. In both cases, the behavior that needs to be modified is the human's. Tone down greetings to your dog or puppy. Do not scold or reprimand for the unacceptable behavior, as it can exacerbate the existing problem behavior. Just clean up, and continue to reward the dog for calm behavior.

Your behavior matters too, and may need to change. Don't punish your dog after the fact. If you find an accident in the house, simply clean it up. If you did not catch your dog in the act, he is not going to associate your punishment with the behavior. Remind yourself to manage the situation more effectively in the future, and move on! Think of "accidents" as "mistakes," because that is what they are. A mistake on the dog's part, and a mistake on your part for not sanitizing appropriately, managing the situation, or providing enough opportunities for elimination.


A thorough cleaning of all interior surfaces where the dog has eliminated previously is necessary before re-training can begin. Be sure to use an enzymatic cleaner made specifically for the elimination of pet feces/urine. There are many appropriate products on the market; in our classroom we like to use Nature's Miracle. (I'm tempted to buy stock in the company, as we go through gallons of the stuff!).

You probably have already cleaned up old messes using regular cleaning products. While you can no longer detect a smell, chances are good that your dog can, and that's a problem. The scent of previous elimination sites can function as an olfactory cue for elimination behavior. Use a black light to locate elimination sites that require a more thorough cleaning. Residue of urine and feces will fluoresce under the light.

Recordkeeping and scheduling

Never underestimate the importance of good recordkeeping when it comes to training and behavior modification/management. "What goes in must come out," and that's particularly true here! Tracking your dog's food and water intake along with his elimination will help you predict his behavior better—and manipulate its consequences.

Tracking your dog's food and water intake along with his elimination will help you predict his behavior better.

Excel worksheets make recordkeeping easy. Click here for a sample Excel file created just for this purpose. Here you can track your dog's consumption of food and water, his pre-elimination behaviors, and his elimination behaviors. Eventually, this detailed record will let you predict how often your dog will need to eliminate each day, and at approximately what times.

Over the course of several days, make note of every time your dog goes to the bathroom. In the first two columns of the worksheet, record the date and time each time your dog goes to the bathroom. In the third column, write "accident" if the dog had an accident in the house, or "success" if your dog went to the bathroom outside. In the fourth column, enter the letter "U" if your dog urinates, "D" if he defecates, "B" if your dog did both, and "N" if you took your dog out for a potty break and nothing happened. In the fifth column, enter what your dog was doing immediately before elimination: sleeping, napping, eating, playing, etc. Finally, in the sixth column, enter the consequences for the dog. If he went potty outside, did he receive reinforcement and, if so, in what form (food treats, party, play, walk)? If he went potty inside, was he punished? Was the mess just cleaned up without fanfare?

At the bottom of the worksheet there is an "additional notes" section. Observe your dog before he eliminates—what behaviors do you see? Does he sniff around? Scratch at the ground? Write down these pre-behavior indicators so that you know what to look for in the future and can recognize your dog's signals for communicating that he needs to go out.

The last columns of the Excel worksheet are for intake recording. Dogs that eat on a schedule poop on a schedule. I believe that scheduled feeding times are preferable to free feeding for a number of reasons, one of which is the enhanced predictability of defecation. In the intake section, there are columns 1) to record the date and time of each meal, 2) to note if the meal was finished, and 3) to record the time/date water was offered.

At mealtime, leave your dog's food down and available to him for approximately 10 minutes; then pick up whatever food remains. You can opt to use those meals as training treats or in a food-dispensing toy such as a Kong, Tug a Jug, or Buster Cube. I suggest that you make water available every hour, or every few hours, for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Once your dog is eliminating outside the house reliably, you won't need to restrict water intake (although I still do not recommend free feeding).

If multiple family members assist with feeding and potty training, they must also record data on the forms. Print the forms and put them on the refrigerator, where they can be easily accessed by all family members who need them.

puppy looking up

After a few days, you should start noticing patterns in your dog's elimination, and will begin to recognize his pre-elimination behaviors. You will see how many times a day, on average, he needs to go potty. Note approximately how many times he needs to urinate and defecate each day. Use this information to create an elimination schedule that will benefit all family members (two and four-legged!).

Reinforcement of appropriate behavior

Reinforcement is my favorite topic, and is sure to be your dog's favorite, too!

When you bring your dog out to go potty, proceed immediately to the same section of the yard, and be as boring as possible. Ignore your dog, letting him sniff all around.

If he goes to the bathroom outside, have a party! The "party" may include treats, affection, praise, play—whatever your dog likes. Make sure that you reinforce the heck out the behavior you like. If you provide a consequence that is reinforcing to your dog, the behavior will be offered more frequently. And, if you click when he finishes eliminating, you can eventually put the elimination behavior on cue!

If he goes to the bathroom outside, have a party!

If your dog does not go to the bathroom outside, bring him back inside and put him in his crate for a half hour, then repeat the process.

There are scent attractants on the market that are supposed to attract a dog and make him want to eliminate in a certain area of the yard, but I have not tried these products. If you do choose to use an attractant, bring your dog to the scent post to start the potty process.

What about lawn spots? Always bringing your dog to the same section of yard for elimination will keep the rest of your lawn from suffering urine lawn burns. The best way to deal with lawn burn is to keep the affected areas watered well, to dilute the acidic urine, and to use lime to balance the pH of the soil.

Management: using crates and tethers

Crating and tethering are the two most frequently used management options when it comes to potty training. For most families, the use of one or both of these management tools can greatly expedite the house training process. Many times, I recommend a combination of the two techniques.

Tethers are great for when you are home and able to supervise your dog (although you should still work on crate training your dog when you are home, so that being crated does not become a predictor of you leaving the house). Tethering means tying a leash to your waist so that the puppy or dog is leashed and with you as you move throughout the house; a six foot leash will do fine. Tethering allows you to spend more time with your dog than when he is in the crate, and is a great way to form a close bond with your dog. It also provides more opportunity to start noticing pre-elimination behaviors.

Dogs are often confined in crates. When selecting a crate, get one that is the appropriate size for your dog. Ideally, a crate should only provide enough room for your dog to turn around in and lie down comfortably. The most common mistake is to buy a crate that is too large for your dog. Dogs whose creates are too large often are perfectly comfortable urinating on one side of the crate and napping on the other side.

Try to give your dog something to do when he is in his crate. Consider providing a stuffed Kong. If you can supervise the dog while he is in his crate, your options expand. Try squeaky toys, Nina Ottosson puzzle toys, Buster Cubes, bully sticks, pig's ears, rope toys—soaked in low sodium chicken broth then frozen or air-dried—antlers, marrow bones, and more.

A crate doesn't work for every dog. Another option is a safe, enclosed area-generally a puppy-proofed room with an easy-to-clean floor surface. You can also use an ex-pen on a floor with the same type of surface to contain a dog.

It's important to consider your dog and your schedule to determine the option that would be best for your unique situation. Know your dog. Is your dog a puppy mill dog or rescue, or otherwise a product of a high-volume breeding operation? If he has no qualms about sitting in his own filth, a crate may not be an effective tool, and the "safe spot" alternative would be better. Is your dog a puppy? The general rule for puppies is that they can "hold it" for one hour more than they are months old, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule, and differs for each dog. Dogs should not be expected to hold it for more than eight hours at any age.

It's not fair to expect a dog to hold it longer than he is physically able, and you should provide some appropriate elimination opportunity.But if you can't provide enough elimination opportunities, there are options. If your schedule does not allow you to provide your dog with enough opportunities to eliminate successfully in an appropriate manner, consider using pee pads or a dog walker/sitter of some sort. In general, I don't favor teaching dogs to eliminate indoors, but it is not right to put a dog in a situation where he cannot be successful. If you are gone longer than your dog is physically able to control his elimination, you may need to use these training aids.

If you are gone longer than your dog is physically able to control his elimination, you may need to use training aids.

Piddle pads may be necessary if you have a puppy or a dog with health problems. While piddle pads may be a permanent household accessory for those with aging or incontinent dogs, often they can be phased out with puppies as they mature and are able to hold their bladder and bowel movements for longer periods of time. The way to do this is to move the pads closer and closer to the door where the dog will be taken outside to eliminate, eventually abandoning the pads entirely when the dog is eliminating outside. I do know of one or two dogs that have been trained on piddle paddles but now eliminate whenever papers are left on the floor. Keep this in mind if you use this technique!

Don't forget dog walkers and pet sitters. Whenever possible, a well-qualified, insured dog walker or pet sitter (or even, in some cases, a responsible and trusted friend/neighbor) is a better alternative to piddle pad training. It's always best to give your dog plenty of opportunities to eliminate outside.

Pre-elimination behaviors

The term "tell" as it relates to poker is as defined as: "a subtle but detectable change in a player's behavior or demeanor that gives clues to that player's assessment of his hand." Many dogs exhibit their own version of a "tell." In this context it's known as a "pre-elimination behavior."

If you watch your dog carefully, you may notice that he does "x" behavior before going to the bathroom—a sniff, turning in a circle, pawing at the door, backing up, scratching, etc. The better you can read your dog's pre-elimination behaviors, the better able you'll be to provide well-timed elimination breaks, and set your dog up for potty training success.

What to do if you catch him in the act

There is no sense in punishing a dog or puppy after the fact. If you catch a dog him in the act of eliminating in the house, make an "oops!" sound, using a surprised facial expression. This is often enough to interrupt a dog mid-stream, at which point you can quickly take him to his potty spot, allow him to finish, and reinforce appropriate elimination in the correct spot. (Then go grab your gallon of Nature's Miracle and make sure you clean that spot extra thoroughly!)

Common potty training mistakes

There are several common potting training mistakes that pet owners make. Here are some of them, and explanations/alternatives:

  • Finding an accident and rubbing your dog's nose in it, or swatting your dog with a newspaper

Any reaction after the fact is unproductive, and harsh reactions are never appropriate. Work harder moving forward.

  • Using walks as potty breaks

Walks and potty breaks are two different things, at least in the initial stages of house breaking. Potty breaks are trips to the yard specifically for the purpose of elimination. Walks are walks. A walk can be used as a reward for appropriate elimination, but never end a walk following appropriate elimination behavior.

Why is it important to define walks and potty breaks so carefully? Taking your dog for a walk and then ending the walk when the dog "goes potty" negatively punishes appropriate elimination behavior. With that pattern, you remove a stimulus the dog wants (continuing the walk) as a consequence to the appropriate behavior. This response often creates dogs that "hold it" as long as they possibly can, hoping that the longer they hold it, the longer they get to walk. The better they get at this, the longer they hold it; this can produce a dog that goes for a walk and eliminates immediately upon return to the household. It is far better to use the opportunity to walk to reinforce the correct behavior than to terminate the walk after the correct behavior.

  • Not taking your dog out enough

You are responsible for providing your dog with enough opportunities to eliminate successfully. Depending on your lifestyle, your dog's age, and/or health concerns, your financial situation, and more, you may choose any combination of the following: confinement training, tethering, dog walkers, pet sitters, or piddle pads. The most important components of training are providing ample opportunity for elimination and reinforcing every successful response.

The most important components of training are providing ample opportunity for elimination and reinforcing every successful response.
  • Not cleaning with appropriate products

Enzymatic cleaners are a must!

  • Free-feeding

Dogs that eat on a schedule poop on a schedule! If you know when your dog is thirsty, you know when your dog needs to urinate!

  • Attributing your dog's inappropriate elimination to spite, jealousy, or anger.

The behavior is far more likely related to a medical problem, an insufficient reinforcement history for appropriate responses, insufficient opportunities for success, the wrong cleaning products, or a combination of these factors.

  • Too much freedom, too soon

If your dog is having frequent accidents in the house, take a step back in training. Go back to where he was reliably achieving success—was there more opportunity to go out and more supervision inside?

Potty training success

What are the odds of potty training success if you follow this systematic approach? Generally, the results will be positive, provided that the elimination behavior that needs to be changed is not medically based.

Be sure to consider each training factor, your dog's history, and your own lifestyle and schedule. Use your recordkeeping data, avoid the common pitfalls, and you'll be able to modify the elimination behavior effectively.

Dogs don't want to live in a soiled environment. Every dog would prefer to live in a sanitary living space. With a little patience, some diligence on your part, a clicker philosophy, and the tools and strategies provided, it's only a matter of time until success is achieved.

About the author
User picture

Casey Lomonaco lives in upstate New York, where she offers editorial, writing, and behavior consulting services through her company Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training. When she is not working with or writing about dogs, she is knitting, reading, or hiking in a forest—with dogs.

Using walks as potty breaks

i have a question about this, i have been using walks as potty breaks for a while now. but what i dont understand is where you state :
"Taking your dog for a walk and then ending the walk when the dog "goes potty" negatively punishes appropriate elimination behavior. "

i am a bit confused about this because----
for a bathroom break: i walk my dog out of the house and on a leash and we go downstairs onto the grass and she potties and then we walk back up (i live in an apartment building) when shes done and go home.

for a walk: i walk my dog out of the house on a leash and we go down and onto the grass and she potties. when shes done we go for a walk. 30 min later come back home, now during the walk she does rarely eliminate a couple of more times on other grass but i guess this is just marking territory. 

my question: in a way, since both processes start the same way, i am using the walk as a bathroom break right? because what does she know which is the walk time and which is the bathroom break...what does she know that we are going down to walk or we are going down to bathroom. and i believe this applies to any dog, because no matter what after a bathroom break we all walk our dogs back in the house. so in the end do we all negatively punish the dog for eliminating appropriately? 
so can someone explain this a little better to me? (my dog is housebroken already and i have no problems with elimination in the house, i was just reading this article for an opinion and this statement caught my eye)

I have a 9 or 10 week puppy

I have a 9 or 10 week puppy (a mutt) similar to a long haired dash hound that came from a couple giving away a litter of puppies. The puppies have been outside and not handled by the previous owners much so she cowers when approached by humans.  She is getting better about being approached and handled but we are afraid to scold her much as we do not want to make her more afraid. I also have a 6 year old shitzu. My husband and I both work. We have a doggie door which the shitzu is accoustomed to using to obtain outdoor access to eliminate. The new puppy has been shown the doggy door, can and does use it to get outsinde but continues to eliminate inside. I have a 10ft x 20ft vinyl tile floor room that door is in and have tried to gate that room to allow indoor relief from the Texas heat and limit access to the remainder of the house, but the puppy clibs the gate, or just urinates inside anyway. K have placed pittle pads in the gated room in the areas I have had to clean up urine and poop but she refuses to go on the pads, instead going about 1 foot away from the pad to eliminate. We are exasperated. Please advise.



TAMIMCCAIN's picture

Going inside after being taken out

Our 15month female Olde Tyme Bulldog that we have had for about 6 months has started going potty as soon as we bring her in from taking her to potty. We got a male English Bulldog that is about 10months a couple months ago and she seems to have gotten worse since then.

She is VERY smart and picks up most 'training' fairly quickly, but she is also very rambunctious and likes to run and tear thru the house. She plays rough actually dragging the male by the ears across the floor until he has scabs all over his head. She used to bark a very high pitched irritating bark whenever we went out of sight until we tried a shock collar. It only took one time so now we just lay it close to her crate and it will beep if she barks or whines too loudly and she is quiet. She used to never go potty in her crate, but now she will and she acts like she prefers to go in the house even though we never punished her or made a big deal about it. If she does go outside she will pee and then take 15 minutes or so to finally get around to the other. We own a business, homeschool, and lead extremely BUSY lives so we really don't have that much time to wait on her. I started putting her on an outside line when eating because we would take her out, feed and water them, and she would stop in the middle of eating to go in the house, then continue eating. But it has gotten SO hot lately (Alabama) that I hate to put her out in it.

I can't figure out why she waits to get back inside to go when we have just taken her out, and we always praise her for going outside, but ignore it if she goes inside. Any ideas?


I wonder if you've made any progress with this problem, as it is similar to the problems

I am having with the two Malchis we have who are 8 weeks old. In our case, I stop them in

mid act, and move them to where I would like them to eliminate, and they flat out refuse. I can't

always afford to sit with them for 3 hours until they absolutely can't hold it any longer sometimes.

They don't seem to be afraid of the place I would like them to eliminate, they'll go there on their own

whether I am with them or not. They're also doing just fine with the other aspects of clicker training.

Laurie Luck's picture


Try to keep the dogs with you -- or crated. I suggest a tether (hook the dog's leash to your belt), so you can start to notice the precursor signals that he's about to start to go to the bathroom. Also a really tight and frequent "outside" schedule will help as well. Put the food bowl down for 15 minutes at mealtime, then remove it until the next feeding. Take the pup(s) out 15 minutes after feeding them, after they wake up from a nap, right after a vigorous exercise session, etc. And absolutely zero house freedom. Always on a tether (or crated). Good luck, this takes patience, consistency, and a frequent bathroom schedule.

Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

Clicking Potty Training

When do I click, when she starts using the bathroom or when she's finished?

I could be wrong, but kikopup

I could be wrong, but kikopup said to click after because otherwise you may interrupt them...maybe someone else could verify this..

Laurie Luck's picture

I could be wrong, but kikopup

If you're going to click, click as soon as the dog is finished. Clicking in the middle will usually interrupt the pup as he's looking for his reinforcement! :)

Laurie Luck
For Clickertraining.com
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
See my profile and contact information at

potty training and biting

Hi I have a shitzu pup she is 16weeks old....I have read all your articles about potty training.I have been trying very hard with this and days she does good and other days she's bad.Like today for instance..we went out at 9am and was out there til 1pm she peed twice but never pooped till 4pm in house on peepee pad.I have put these pads where she has gone before in my kitchen. I have to get that cleaner natures Miracle sounds great.Today wasnt an ordinary day..usually the pup eats in the am and about an hour later poops and usually after dinner she poops too..but not today she is quite off her normal schedule.And the other problem I have her ..I would like to know how to get her to stop barking when I leave her and she continually bites and chews when petted.Have any ideas would be truly appreciated.I do crate her but she hasnt been in crate too much lately cus I have been home from an operation...she use to be on a tight schedule...will this be bad for her when I go back to work..and what should I do to get her use to it again.Thankyou,

                                                                                   Lori Donegan


We have a toy poodle 4 months old.  I take her out in the morning and she does her business.  Then I let her walk around the yard some before going in.  I feed her and take her out during the day several times but she does have some accidents every few days.  How do you train a dog to go to the door to let you know she needs to go?  Also, if I get a clicker do I click it when she pees or poots outside?  Should I give her a treat after?  Also, I let her stay outside with me running around in the yard while I do work or projects so she is outside most of the day but somtimes after being out for several hours she comes inside and has an accident. 


how to start

I'm so confused....I have a 10 week old beagle puppy and for the most part she goes outside...I heard of the clicker thru other dog owners and by watching Animal Planet.  How do I begin the training?  Can I start this early?  Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated.

Re: how to start

If you still have questions about clicker training, here are some of the results of the research I have done, and what I have been doing for my own puppy...And yes you can begin with your puppy at ten weeks... Mine is eight weeks old, and is doing great!

- Establish that the click means a treat with your puppy. Your puppy will want to do the things that you want it to because it means they'll be getting a treat, and the sound of the clicker tells them what is coming. Start by simply clicking the clicker and giving the dog a treat. It will tell your puppy when it hears a click, a treat is coming!

- Click during the desired behavior, not after it is completed. The timing of the click is crucial. Don't be dismayed if your pet stops the behavior when it hears the click. The click ends the behavior. Give the treat directly after the click.

- Click when your dog or other pet does something you like. Begin with something easy that the pet is likely to do on its own. (Ideas: sit; come toward you; touch your hand with its nose; lift a foot; touch and follow a target object such as a pencil or a spoon.)

- Click once (in-out.) If you want to express special enthusiasm, increase the number of treats, not the number of clicks.

- Keep practice sessions short. Much more is learned in three sessions of five minutes each than in an hour of boring repetition. You can get dramatic results, and teach your pet many new things, by fitting a few clicks a day here and there in your normal routine.

- Fix bad behavior by clicking good behavior. Click the puppy for relieving itself in the proper spot. Click for paws on the ground, not on the visitors. Instead of scolding for making noise, click for silence. Cure leash-pulling by clicking and treating those moments when the leash happens to go slack.

- Click for voluntary (or accidental) movements toward your goal. You may coax or lure the animal into a movement or position, but don't push, pull, or hold it. Let the animal discover how to do the behavior on its own. If you need a leash for safety's sake, put the handle over your wrist or tie it to your belt.

- Don't wait for the "whole picture" or the perfect behavior. Click and treat for small movements in the right direction. You want the dog to sit, and it starts to crouch in back: click. You want it to come when called, and it takes a few steps your way: click.

- Keep raising your goal. As soon as you have a good response - when a dog, for example, is voluntarily lying down, coming toward you, or sitting repeatedly - start asking for more. Wait a few beats, until the dog stays down a little longer, comes a little further, sits a little faster. Then click. This is called "shaping" a behavior.

- When your animal has learned to do something for clicks, it will begin showing you the behavior spontaneously, trying to get you to click. Now is the time to begin offering a cue, such as a word or a hand signal. Start clicking for that behavior if it happens during or after the cue. Start ignoring that behavior when the cue wasn't given.

- Don't order the animal around; clicker training is not command-based. If your pet does not respond to a cue, it is not disobeying; it just hasn't learned the cue completely. Find more ways to cue it and click it for the desired behavior. Try working in a quieter, less distracting place for a while. If you have more than one pet, separate them for training, and let them take turns.

- Carry a clicker and "catch" cute behaviors like cocking the head, chasing the tail, or holding up one foot. You can click for many different behaviors, whenever you happen to notice them, without confusing your pet.

- If you get mad, put the clicker away. Don't mix scoldings, leash-jerking, and correction training with clicker training; you will lose the animal's confidence in the clicker and perhaps in you.

- If you are not making progress with a particular behavior, you are probably clicking too late. Accurate timing is important. Get someone else to watch you, and perhaps to click for you, a few times.

- Above all, have fun. Clicker-training is a wonderful way to enrich your relationship with any learner. I hope that these tips help. =)

not knowing what is normal urine retention for an active dog

I have only raised one bichon from puppyhood and he was extremely easy to housebreak using positive training methods.  I now have a female bichon (11 months) from the same breeder and am perplexed by her behavior.  She rings a bell to go out to poop about 80% of the time.  Almost 20% of the remaining opportunities, I can read her signals and prompt her to ring the bell with the word "outside".  I just cannot figure out her behavior around urination.  I restrict her water intake to 1 cup daily (she weighs 10 pounds), offered in 1/4 cup intervals.  Since we brought her home at age 4 months, I have been using the clicker to mark "pee pee" --not too quickly because she's highly distractible, but not quite at the end either. 

I take her out first thing A.M. and stand with her in the same spot.  If she doesn't go, I tie her to a 20 foot lead and wait 5-10 minutes.  If she still doesn't go, I put her back in the crate for 30 minutes.  One day, the in/out of the crate went on until 3:30!  Other days, she pees within 5-10 minutes, seems very pleased by all the praise, gets to zoom around the house freely for 30 minutes of play with her toys and chewies, then often settles down with a chewy.   I had thought by this age that it's reasonable to expect she would not have to pee again for another 2 hours or so.  However, when playing freely outside, I've observed that she often has to pee every 45-90 minutes  ON OCCASION.  Other times, she will go longer even when playing.  I just can't figure out her schedule, which leads me to take her out every 30 minutes. 

I feel I must crate her or tether her after 30 minutes of freedom.  When I tethered her to me the other day, she peed 45 minutes after elimination (I thought she was being a good girl sitting, so I didn't catch her before she finished).  I am not certain if I am making the situation worse taking her out every 45 minutes to an hour (does she pee to get a reward and thus not learn to hold it longer?)  On the other hand, it seems unreasonable to put her in the crate after only 30 minutes of freedom.  Since I don't pick up on her signals when she's tethered to me, I don't trust that method.  I have kept daily records from day one and the only patterns I can see is that she had accidents often enough at 45-60 minutes following elimination that I can't expect her to hold it longer and that I MUST regulate her water intake.  I don't understand why she rarely rings the bell to go outside to pee, but she has a high rate of ringing the bell to let me know to poop--doesn't it make more sense that the more opportunities she has to practice ringing the bell to go outside to pee (and get a reward), she should have learned that behavior before she learned to ring the bell to let me know she's got to poop? 

I'm very confused about what I am doing wrong here.  She hasn't had any UTIs so far, I feed her a home-cooked diet to discourage stone formation and UTIs and every time she has an accident (she peed in her crate two days in a row last week, after going months without peeing in her crate), I test her urine for a UTI.  She is a highly distractible dog, so clicker training in general has been more of a challenge with her than with my other 4 previous dogs (3 were adopted, so never had the puppy housebreaking challenge with any but one).  She is not highly motivated by food--even things like home-cooked lamb liver, chicken, etc., but loves to play, run, lick, so those are usually her rewards when she rejects the food reward.  But that means she is not getting the immediate reinforcement (other than verbal).  She started sniffing around after 30 minutes of play after a LONG pee, so I took her outside and she didn't do anything for 5 minutes, so I had to put her in the crate to write this email to be certain she wouldn't have an opportunity for an accident. 

It's hard to imagine how she is ever going to have more time outside of her crate with this uncertainty about how long she can hold her urine....do you know what is normal for a 10 pound female pup at 11 months?


I'm having the same problem with my rat terrier.  I'm very frustrated and I don't want to alienate him.  I don't scold, although I have shouted NO when I caught him in a squat near the door.  He can be outside for a couple of hours and come in and eliminate on the floor.

He was in a cage at a pet store over 8 weeks.  He will go in the cage as well since it seems the thing to do I believe.  The demeanor of the dog is making it difficult and I can't always watch him every second of the day even though I'm retired.  I will be walking him more often and intend to try clicker training but without constant observation I don't have a very positive outlook right now.

He's a great dog otherwise... everything the books say about a rat terrier.  I find there are days I don't like him very much but I know I have to somehow find a way to reach him with this behavior problem.  Once past this, he's already shown me he's a keeper for sure... great personality.  Until then, I'm washing my floors a patch at a time.  He's over 5 months now and I could use a break.

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