How to Train a Dog to Go Potty on Command

Young dog sniffing the grass something that has attracted their attention.
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.

Here's how to do it:

Observe the Dog

Whenever you take your dog out to relieve himself, pay attention to his 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 himself.

Add a Command

Once you have a pretty good idea what to look for to let you know your dog is about to go, it's time to add the command. Wait until you see your dog pacing or spinning, and give the command "hurry up," or any other command you choose. Say the command clearly and wait until he relieves himself.

Reward Good Behavior

As soon as your dog relieves himself, reward him. Give him lots of praise in a happy tone of voice and maybe a treat or two.

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.

This means to get the fastest results, you need to be consistent. Every time you take your dog out, wait for his signals that he's ready to go, and then give him the "hurry up" command. Be sure to reward him for going potty immediately.

Put It to the Test

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 himself getting smaller.

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

Reward Only the Best Behavior

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

Edited by Jenna Stregowski, RVT