How to Potty Train Your Difficult Small Dog

potty train dog

by Adam Conrad, founder of

Potty training small dogs can be difficult. Because of their small size, they also have small bladders and high metabolism, which requires more frequent trips outside than a larger dog would need.

It also takes a while. Some dogs can be trained to use the bathroom outside in 4 to 6 months, while others can take up to a year to train. This can be incredibly frustrating for owners that just want their dog to stop going to the bathroom inside their homes.

You probably got started between three and four months old. If you adopted your puppy later, and he learned some bad habits from his previous home, it may take even longer to train them. Small dogs, in particular, have a harder time with potty training because they are so small.

This article is for those small dogs that have a hard time learning the new rules of the house.

Learn Your Dog’s Signs

All dogs give off signs that they need to use the bathroom, whether that is whining or scratching at the door or running around at a full gallop. If you see your dog giving off these signs. If you see your dog squatting to use the bathroom, grab them as quickly as possible and take them outside. This will usually help them to finish their business outside, at which point you should give them a treat.

Create A Routine

Make sure that your dog knows that they get to go outside and go to the bathroom whenever you wake up in the morning, whenever you get home from work, and whenever they need to while you are home. You can do this by creating a routine for them, and walking them around the same areas so they get used to the smells and realize that they are supposed to be going to the bathroom. A good routine is to let your dog go outside to use the bathroom after meals and when they wake up from a nap, as well as right before going to bed or leave for work.

Be Realistic About Their Needs

potty train small dog

Potty training a small dog can be a frustrating experience.

Your dog is going to need to go to the bathroom multiple times a day. A good rule of thumb is that dogs can hold it for one hour per month of age, up to nine months. However, even you would not want to hold your bladder for nine hours a day. You notice that your dog needs to go the bathroom more often than you are able to make happen during the day, you may need to look into hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to come in while you are at work and let your dog use the bathroom outside. If your dog knows that they will be able to use the bathroom outside, they are more likely to willing to hold their bladder while you are gone.

Control their Diet

Whatever goes into your dog must come out at one point or another. By feeding and watering your dog at specific times during the day, you will be more attuned to when they will need to go to the bathroom than if you just free feed with kibble throughout the day. You need to make sure that you are feeding them a high-quality food as well. High-quality foods will take a little longer to digest because there is less filler, and they’ll be healthier in the long run for having it.

Make A Decision About Puppy Pads

For small dogs and fancy houses, puppy pads can be a lifesaver. However, it can undo some of the work that you have done with training your dog not to go to the bathroom inside. If you are struggling, and you know that you cannot let them out every single time they need to go to the bathroom, then puppy pads might be the right choice for you.

Avoid Negative Reinforcement

Many of the old-school tactics for training dogs are actually more harmful than they are helpful, like rubbing their nose in the mess, or scolding them after they have an accident. They don’t understand what they did wrong, so they just think that you were mean and they will be more likely to hide that they have had an accident to avoid being punished.

Instead, just clean up the mess, and continue on with your training. Have treats and praise at the ready whenever you take your dog outside, and use them like candy to reward them whenever they do use the bathroom outside. This positive reinforcement is the

Clean Well

When a dog has an accident, they leave behind a lot of pheromones and other scents. You may think that you have cleaned up all of the mess that they left behind, but you need to make sure that you use a pet odor cleaner. If you do not clean up their odors, they are going to be more likely is the bathroom in that spot again, because it smells like their urine already. There are special shampoos and carpet cleaners that are designed to pull up all of the pheromones that get left behind by dog accidents, so make sure you have some on hand. These are often labeled enzymatic cleaners, and you need to follow the instructions on how to use them to get the best results.

Talk to A Vet

If you have done everything on this list and your dog is still struggling not to use the bathroom inside your house, there may be a physical problem at hand. Talk to your vet to see if there is anything wrong with your dog that might contribute to the issue. If not, you should talk to a behaviorist or a dog trainer to see what they recommend for your dog

Be Patient

Last but not least, you’ll need to be patient with your dog. At the end of the day, they are trying their best to please you. Remind them that even if an accident happens that you still love them. You are their entire world. Small dogs especially need a lot of love and attention shown to them.


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