How to Potty Train Your Dog to Go in One Spot

dog lifting leg to urinate on grass
Gerard Brown/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Dogs can make a mess of your yard when they relieve themselves anywhere they want. Dog pee causes brown spots on grass and makes your lawn less attractive. There's also the chance that you'll miss some poop with the scoop, only to step in it later. Plus, it's not very sanitary or appealing to spend time in the yard if your dog does its business anywhere and everywhere, a particular concern for parents. Fortunately, you can teach your dog to relieve itself in a designated potty area.

illustration of how to train you dog to go potty in one spot
Illustration: Vin Ganapathy. © The Spruce, 2018

Choose a Spot

Choose a dog potty spot outside of the high traffic areas of your yard. The spot you designate should be appropriate for the size of your dog. A small area might be fine for a toy or small breed dog, but larger breeds are going to need more space. Your dog won't want to keep peeing and pooping in a tiny area that becomes very smelly and dirty.

Sometimes, a dog will choose its own spot. If your dog often returns to a particular area to relieve itself, try to make this the toilet area. Just make sure the chosen spot is realistic for you and your desired yard use.

Keep the Area Clean

It's important to keep your dog's toilet area clean. You can leave one pile in the area during training to let your dog know that's the right spot, but make sure not to leave any more than that. If the area gets too soiled, your dog may look to relieve itself somewhere else.

Train to Go on Command

One of the easiest ways to train a dog to go only in one spot is to train it to go on command. Take your dog on a leash to the spot you want it to use, and say the cue word. Keep the dog in that spot until it goes, then offer a reward. Only reward the dog when it goes in that particular spot.

Confine to One Spot

Just as you don't allow a dog who isn't housetrained to have free run of the house, a dog not trained to go in one spot shouldn't have free run of your yard. The best way to keep your dog from going outside of the area you choose is to keep it on a leash. Stand in the spot you've chosen, and wait until the dog goes. Don't let it explore other areas of the yard until that happens. 

You can also use temporary fencing to block off the area. Place your dog within the enclosed area and give the potty cue. Let your dog out of the enclosure once it has done its business.

Reward Good Behavior

If your dog relieves itself in the right spot, give it a reward. As soon as the dog goes, praise it and let it off leash to have some playtime in the yard. If your dog doesn't go, take it back inside and try again later. Don't allow your dog the run of the yard if it has not gone potty yet.

Read Body Language

During the times you allow your dog playtime, make sure to supervise it. Keep an eye on the dog's body language.

Most dogs give a sign that they're about to relieve themselves. They pace or spin or sniff. If you notice your dog engaging in any of these behaviors outside of the designated potty area, interrupt it and bring it to the right spot.

If your dog eliminates before you can stop it, then stop playtime and bring the pup indoors. If the dog holds it and does its business in the proper area, remember to reward it.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

If your dog manages to go outside of the spot you choose, be sure to clean it up quickly. Scoop poop or rinse urine with a hose.

Don't punish the dog by scolding or hitting. Instead, ignore the behavior and immediately take it inside. Your dog will quickly learn that relieving itself in the right spot means it gets to play while going anywhere else brings playtime to an end.

You can proof this training anytime you are not at home with your dog. For instance, when visiting someone's home, ask them where they prefer your dog to go. Take your dog to that spot, give the potty command, and wait. The same can be done in a public park by selecting an out of the way spot. Of course, you need to pick up after your dog no matter where you are.