How to Train Your Dog to Eliminate on Command

A simple training program can change your pet's routine

Young dog sniffing the grass
Consuelo Almazán Carretero/E+/Getty Images

Most of us are thrilled when our dogs or puppies learn to relieve themselves outside. But then come the days when we stand out in rain, sleet, or snow waiting for our dogs to pick just the right spot to go to the bathroom. Or days when we're running late and our dogs stop to smell every blade of grass before finally going. The good news is that once your dog or puppy is housebroken, you can avoid these frustrating scenarios simply by training your dog to go potty on command. The process isn't complex, but it does start with understanding your dog's own routines and preferences.

Observe the Dog's Routines

Start by observing your dog's physical cycle. While you can teach your dog to eliminate on command, you can't force a dog to eliminate when it's not physically ready to do so. In addition, you'll need to understand your dog's outdoor behaviors: What does it do in preparation for eliminating?

  • Are there times of day when it seems to need a walk?
  • When you take it outside, when does it urinate or defecate?
  • Does your dog need to poop multiple times a day?
  • Is there a particular time of day when you can pretty much expect your dog to poop?

Whenever you take your dog out to relieve itself, pay attention to its behavior. Dogs usually let us know when they're about to go by doing things such as spinning, sniffing, or pacing back and forth in one spot. Figure out the signs that let you know your dog is about to relieve itself.

Set a Regular Schedule

It's easiest for a dog to learn to eliminate on command when it can anticipate a walk. It's a good idea to have regular walk times; many owners walk their pets first thing in the morning and last thing at night, and add in a couple of additional walks at convenient times after work or school. Even if you live in a safe area and your dog doesn't actually need a collar and leash, it's a good idea to use both during the training period. This will ensure that your dog doesn't wander off or get distracted as it learns to eliminate on command.

Add a Command

Once you know what behaviors will precede elimination, it's time to add the command. Wait until you see your dog pacing or spinning, and give the command "hurry up," "time to go," or any other command you choose. Say the command clearly and wait until your dog relieves itself.

Reward Good Behavior

As soon as your dog goes, reward it. Give your dog lots of praise in a happy tone of voice and maybe a treat or two. Be sure the reward is something your dog will really enjoy and work for, as it will take some practice for your dog to learn to poop on command.

Practice the Command

This command may take a little longer than some others to teach a dog simply because you can only practice when your dog has to go. To get the fastest results, you need to be consistent. Every time you take your dog out, wait for the signals that it's ready to go, and then give it the "hurry up" command. Be sure to reward it for going potty immediately. If multiple family members walk the dog, be sure they do exactly the same thing, using the same commands at the same time. Avoid allowing your dog to eliminate outside on its own during this training period.

Problems and Proofing Behavior

After you've practiced the command over the course of several days, you should notice the time between giving the command and the time your dog relieves itself getting smaller. It's time to test the command.

On your next trip outside, take your dog to the spot where you want it to go, and give it the command without waiting for the pacing or spinning or other signals to begin. If your dog has a good understanding of the command, it should relieve itself quickly. If not, go back to practicing for a few more days and then test it out again.

Once your dog seems to have a good grasp of the command, you can make sure that it goes in a timely manner. Start rewarding it only after those times with a short gap between when you give the command and when it relieves itself. If you give the command and it spends several minutes sniffing around before going, it should not get a reward. The dog will quickly learn to go as soon as possible once you give the command.