Eliminate on Command
If you plan to travel with your puppy, have rushed, hectic mornings
or simply don’t relish standing in the rain while
Rover takes his sweet time going potty, you should teach him to
Eliminate on Command. Not only will it speed up the process of
having him empty out, but it provides you with the convenience of
being able to control when and where he will eliminate.
That you can teach your dog to eliminate when and where you tell him
might, at first, sound miraculous. But, a command, even one that
tells him to do his business, is nothing more than a stimulus to get
him to perform a certain behaviour. Although elimination is a
natural, biological function, dogs also eliminate to a wide range of
visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli. Very young puppies are
stimulated to urinate and defecate by their dam licking their ano-
genital area. Older puppies respond to both pressure on the bowel or
bladder as well as to the sight of their littermates eliminating.
Adult dogs use feces and urine to mark territory. It is not at all
unusual for resident dogs to mark droppings left by strange dogs that
have wandered through their territory. Many dogs, especially males,
will mark their territorial boundaries at the sight or sound of a
The process of teaching your dog the command to eliminate is
straightforward and simple – have him hear the command as he
performs the behaviour. Then reward the behaviour. When you
determine that he needs to eliminate, take him on his leash to the
spot where you want him to use as his toilet area. Command him to go
and continue to repeat the command until he does. As soon as he
eliminates, praise him profusely and reward him with something that
Step one. Determine that he needs to go.
Predicting when your dog needs to eliminate is fairly easy. He will
need to go shortly after he eats or drinks. The younger he is, the
shorter will be the time between ingestion and elimination. He will
need to urinate almost immediately after waking from a nap. If
crated, he will need to eliminate after any length of time in the
crate. In fact, putting your dog in his crate for an hour or so will
almost insure that he will eliminate quickly. A play session when
Mum, Dad or the kids arrive home is sure to cause him to need to go.
And with young puppies, you are safe in considering that he will need
to be taken outside about once an hour during the day for each month
of his age.
It is imperative that a responsible adult watch the puppy while he is
loose in the house. They will each give you a signal that they need
to go. This signal will vary from puppy to puppy, but they will,
all, if you’ll watch them, tell you of their needs. The signal may
be that he starts to sniff the area. Many start turning in a tight
circle. It’s a sign that you need to scoop him up and take him
Step Two. Have a designated toilet area.
From a cleanup point of view, it is best to choose one specific area
as your puppy’s toilet. Dogs are creatures of habit. If you take
him, each time, to the same spot, it will, in a short time become a
signal to him that it is potty time. It will also, later, help to
prevent him from choosing your steps or patio as his bathroom. This
is a good idea from a strictly training point of view as well. The
scent left by his previous visits act as a powerful olfactory
stimulus. It is necessary to clean up after your puppy’s visit as
many dogs refuse to walk in an area fouled by feces. An easy way to
do this is to insert your hand into a plastic bag, scoop up the
feces, turn the bag inside out and seal it.
Step Three. Keep him in the area.
Most puppies, unless they are restrained, will spend their time
outside in play. They will chase butterflies, sniff where the mice
have scurried through the grass, anything except doing what you have
brought them there to do. When you give up and take them back
inside, they will suddenly remember their need. It is advisable to
take your puppy out on his leash. Let boredom remind him of why he
Step four. Limit his time.
Allow your puppy not more than five minutes to do his business. The
entire point of this training is to teach him to go quickly when you
tell him to. Standing around for long periods of time teaches him
that you have nothing better to do than wait for him. If, after five
minutes, he has not eliminated, simply put him in his crate. Leave
him there for fifteen minutes. Then try him again.
Step five. Reward success.
Reward is the key to all successful dog training. When your puppy
goes within the allotted five minute time span, immediately praise
him. Reward him with something that he wants. This last is the
tricky part. The reward must be something that he wants, not just
something you think he wants. For many puppies, being taken off the
leash is sufficient reward. House dogs, that are inside all day,
might consider a long walk adequate reward. For some it might be a
tasty food treat. For others,a chance to chase a ball.
The opposite of reward is punishment. Inadvertently punishing your
dog after he has eliminated can quickly condition him to hold it as
long as possible. Most of us adhere to a tight work and social
schedule that sometimes makes an extra fifteen or twenty minutes to
spend with our dog hard to come by. If you are going to succeed in
teaching your puppy to eliminate on command, you absolutely must make
this time available.
When you rush him back inside as soon as he has eliminated, what you
are teaching him is that he will get to stay outside longer if he
holds it longer. To teach your puppy to eliminate on command you
must avoid inadvertent punishment. You can do this by observing a
Always give your puppy ten minutes of reward time after he has performed
the way you wish.
David the Dogman’s A-Z Guide to Dogs
ISBN 84-89954-08-09 available from Bookshops or direct from