Dogs, they love scratching at the door, apparently pleading to go outside so they can use the bathroom. They also love doing everything except using the bathroom after you painstakingly dislodge yourself from the couch, leash them up and take them for their seventh freaking walk of the day. Fortunately, much like how you can teach them tricks, you can also train your dog to pee on command. It may take some time, but hey, you might be able to chill on the couch in peace for once.
“Training your dog any commands requires consistency, patience and positive rewards,” says Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer at the American Kennel Club. “Many commands can be taught, and a very useful one can be to ‘go’ on command.”
The process is quite simple: “Choose a word to associate the task, such as ‘go potty’ or ‘business,’ and make sure your dog hears the command as soon as he or she performs the behavior,” Klein explains. “Then reward the behavior with a treat or high praise.”
It can also be helpful to lead your pup to the exact same spot whenever you practice this command, so they know to go when they get there. “Determine the location you want your puppy to go, preferably close to your exit and near your house or apartment,” Klein suggests. “Keep your puppy on a leash, and restrict his or her real estate to a very small area, then wait until they eliminate. Puppies have very short attention spans and will want to play and explore, but first things first.”
You should also limit the time you spend at that designated bathroom spot if they refuse to go, rather than waiting around forever and having an existential crisis. “If your puppy or dog doesn’t eliminate within about five minutes, take them back inside,” Klein says. “Then try again in about 15 minutes by taking them to the exact same location and repeating the process.”
While puppies are generally more receptive to training and learning commands than older dogs, note that canines rarely gain full control of their bladders until four to six months of age, so patience is important. You can, however, make some safe assumptions about when your puppy may need to go. “Puppies can be anticipated to eliminate after they wake from sleep or naps, and after drinking water or eating meals,” Klein explains. “If crate training, quickly and efficiently taking or carrying your puppy right out, without lapsing to put on a coat or perform other tasks, will improve the odds of your success.”
“Remember,” Klein continues, “positive rewards will yield success. Never scold or punish a puppy for not performing an act, as it will only frighten and inhibit the intended behavior.”
Note: Even if your dog learns how to use the bathroom on command, they may very well continue to scratch at the door on a constant basis for no apparent reason.