Ask the Dog Trainer: Proper rewards when potty training

Dear Kendall,
I have a four-month-old Labradoodle puppy named Sachet and we are struggling with potty training. I work from home and take her outside frequently, but she often pees on the carpet right in front of the porch door, in our living room’s dark corners and inside of her crate. Help!
Potty Purgatory

Dear Potty Purgatory:
My husband and I raise and train puppies to become service dogs every year, so we sympathize with your struggle. Don’t worry, with a combination of scheduling and supervision, your potty training woes will be a thing of the past.
My first suggestion would be to discuss Sachet’s frequent urination to your veterinarian and confirm that she doesn’t have a bladder infection or other medical condition that is impeding her progress.
Dogs have an exceptionally keen sense of smell, so begin by scrubbing all floors in your house with a urine odor removal spray, ensuring that all scent is removed from previous accidents. Wash her toys and remove all bedding from her crate. As she advances you can replace her blankets but until then, a clean, plastic floor makes accidents easily visible.
You can also check that her crate isn’t too large; sometimes when the crate is massive puppies are content to potty in a corner and then go to sleep by the door. Ensure that her crate is just large enough so she can go inside, turn around and lie down comfortably and make adjustments as she grows if needed.
Now for the training part! Young puppies over the ages of three months are generally able to hold their bladders for around an hour for each month they’ve been alive. You can set Sachet up for success by making sure that she isn’t going to bed after gorging on water, and set an alarm to remind yourself when it’s time to take her potty. In our household, our water bowl gets picked up around 7 p.m., and our household is asleep by 10. This gives our dogs a few hours after “last call” to visit our backyard and enables them to sleep soundly without the discomfort of full bladders.
When your alarm goes off, it’s time to put Sachet outside. Clip her on a long leash and pocket a couple of treats. Stand outside and remain still as she wanders around and sniffs. If she squats it’s praise party time! Channel your inner Glee and serenade her with an abundance of love and a treat or two. If she doesn’t go potty after waiting outside for five minutes, then replace her in the crate, wait 10 more minutes or so, and return outside to try again.
Throughout the day, it is helpful to keep Sachet close to you via a tether or in a play pen so she can’t wander around your house and potty quietly in a corner. If you see her about to squat, you can clap your hands loudly to interrupt her, inquire “do you have to go potty?” and lead her to the backyard. If, however, you find an accident several minutes later and you weren’t able to interrupt it as it was occurring, then you should not scold her. Just reset your alarm and keep a closer eye on her in the future.
Dog’s learn best through their successes, so remember to reward Sachet when she walks to your back door and looks at you, when she pees outside and when she does her business quickly. By following this plan, you shall be set free from Potty Purgatory and enter the pearly gates of House-trained Heaven.
Kendall and Chandler Brown are owners of Custom K-9 Service Dogs, a dog training business serving Minden/Gardnerville, Carson and Reno. For information go to or email


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment