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Randy's avatar

How did you train your dog to let you know that (s)he needs to go out?

Asked by Randy (11214points) September 26th, 2010

I seriously need help from you dog pros!

I adopted a Boston Terrier a while back and house training him has been more than a nightmare. He’s fifteen weeks so he’s still pretty young but I’m getting so frustrated.

I got him at nine weeks and since I don’t go to a job, he’s with me 90% of the time or more. He knows that he’s not supposed to go inside. His biggest problem is that he doesn’t convey that he needs to go out. He’ll just stop, squat and do his business but right after, he comes up with a sad/apologetic demeanor, which is how I know that he knows not to go in the house. At the least, that’s him knowing that I’m going to get upset because I scold him every time I catch him. I take him out every few hours and after he eats. Sometimes he goes when I take him out, sometimes he doesn’t. I know he can hold it because at night, he sleeps in my bed and doesn’t pee at all until I wake up and take him out.

In the past few weeks, he’s started a new pee problem where he gets overly excited when he sees people he doesn’t regularly see and he pees in his excitement… Usually on the unsuspecting person. This is a BIG problem because people often stop by my house.

I feel like I’ve tried everything. I give him treats when he does go outside, I’ve set up a bell by the door (which he’s scared of and won’t use) and I’ve even tried taking him out every hour on the hour. Nothing I try seems to work and I’m about to go crazy. I’ve considered getting rid of him because of the frustration and I really don’t want to have to do that.

Please help me guys, before I blow my brains out. Other than this bathroom problem, he’s a great dog.

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34 Answers

chyna's avatar

Do you have a fenced in yard? I have a doggie door, so mine just goes out when she needs or wants to.
It sounds like to me you have to start all over from the beginning again. Start taking him out once an hour, through the same door each time, to the same general spot you would like him to use in the yard. You are right in giving him a treat each time he goes outside. Hopefully he will get it in just a few days. When he pees in the house, take him outside immediately.
When people come over, tell them to ignore him until he is under control, then they can pet or speak to him. Look at the siblings on this question too. I see that @Dr Dredd has asked a similar question and maybe there is some good advice there.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

Just to let you know – terriers are harder to train. That just means it’ll take a little longer to train him.
Training any dog will take patience. I guarantee you, you will go crazy. It will work eventually, if you are patient with it.

We trained our dog (who happens to be half terrier, so you know) to let us know by hitting a bell hanging from the door knob. Well, that won’t work for you, it looks like.

Taking him out every hour on the hour is a good step.
When you get to the area you want him to use, tell him to “Go potty” (that’s the phrase we use) or “Hurry up”. Just something you can associate with him doing his stuff, so later on after he’s made this connection, you can say it wherever you want and he’ll do it.

Also, it might be that he just doesn’t have the muscle capabilities to hold it or he might not recognize the feeling of having to go. Kind of like a little kid potty training. When he makes a mess inside, just clean it up. If you’re lucky enough to catch him in the act, take him out right away. Don’t let him finish inside. While we were training our puppy in March or so, we would take a paper towel from cleaning up a mess that had just happened, and put it where we wanted him to go outside. You have to be careful with this part, not to get it on your hands, but that’s alright. The smell of his pee will tell him, “This is where to go”.

Another thing, clean up messes right away and use a solvent/detergent made to really clean up pet urine. If any of the scent is left, (A human smelling it is one thing. Dogs can smell much better than us.) a dog will smell it and think he can go there. This also helps anybody that might live in the house after you.

That’s about all I can add. Good luck!

BoBo1946's avatar

Key, take him to the same place everytime. And, brag on him when he does his job. Give him a treat. Above all, be patient and love him even when he mess up (if you admonish him when he messes up, only do it with your voice). Love, love, love, and love….and spend as much time with him as possible.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Start by taking him out at regular intervals – maybe every 3 hours or so. When he’s going, repeat a word over and over – my family uses “potty”. Then, when he comes up to you later and you don’t know what he’s asking for (food, playtime, cuddle) you can say “Wanna go potty” and he’ll get real excited and rush towards the door. When people come over, have them not acknowledge him for the first 5 or 10 minutes to give him time to calm down.

If you really can’t get it, take him to an obedience school.

shpadoinkle_sue's avatar

We kept taking him out the back door to go potty and encouraged him that was good. He got it after a couple months that is what he is supposed to do when he wants to go potty.

marinelife's avatar

This breed is known for being difficult to housebreak. You need to be very patient and kind.

“Keep in mind that although a Boston terrier can be trained quickly because of his intelligence the breed is known for stubbornness. Some Boston terriers are difficult to housebreak, although most are housebroken by the age of 8 months.”


BarnacleBill's avatar

I know several people who swear by the bell-on-the-doorknob method. Lab, dachshund, Great Dane – it worked for all of them.

crisw's avatar

Is he from a pet store? If so, you are facing some bigger issues and I’ll discuss them if he is.

“He’ll just stop, squat and do his business but right after, he comes up with a sad/apologetic demeanor, which is how I know that he knows not to go in the house.”

No, that isn’t the case. Dogs don’t have guilt like this. They react in this way because they have learned that the expression on your face when you see the pee means bad things coming.

You have gotten some good suggestions so far. To add to this-
– If he is not a pet store puppy, crate training will definitely help.
– Has he been checked by a vet for a urinary tract infection?
– Do not punish him for peeing in the house. That will only teach him to hide when he pees!
– Don’t let him make mistakes. He should either be directly supervised by you or in his crate or in an area where it’s OK that he pees.

The urinating when he sees people is submissive urination and is an entirely different issue. Never, ever punish it; that will make it much worse!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@crisw But isn’t human guilt just a reaction to what they know is coming? Yelling from their parent, an eternity in hell, etc.

crisw's avatar

@papayalily The point is that the expression on the dog’s face has nothing to do with the dog “knowing he did wrong.”

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@crisw I’d call associating peeing inside with a frown on Randy’s face knowing he did something wrong.
Also, do you have proof that the dog doesn’t know this?

rooeytoo's avatar

When you can’t be watching him, put him in a crate. Most dogs won’t soil their own territory so that will keep him clean in the crate. As soon as you release him, take him outside immediately and then praise exceedingly when he goes. Keep a towel in the bottom of the crate just in case he has an accident. They absorb so the pup doesn’t get full of urine.

I am old school, I believe in a verbal punishment when a dog does something of this nature wrong. I have trained a lot of dogs this way and never destroyed the psyche of a single one by telling them they were bad when indeed they had done something I considered bad. Show him the puddle, tell him bad, take him outside and hang around for a while. He probably won’t pee again but I firmly believe they will get the idea. Positive reinforcement works well but I think it works in conjunction with reward and punishment, not completely on its own.

By the way, just for the record, the AKC does not consider a Boston a terrier. They are in the Non-Sporting group, which is a sort of mixed up group of those who have lost their identity.

crisw's avatar


“I’d call associating peeing inside with a frown on Randy’s face knowing he did something wrong.
Also, do you have proof that the dog doesn’t know this?”

Yes, it has been studied, but I think it’s made clearer with an anecdote. The best anecdote along these lines I can recall is this one, which I am pretty sure is from Ian Dunbar. An owner had a border collie that habitually raided the garbage while the owner was gone, and the owner was convinced the dog “knew it was wrong.” So he had the owner take the dog out of the room with the garbage can, strew garbage about himself, then let the dog back in. The dog immediately cowered and whined when he saw the garbage and his owner, even though the dog had nothing to do with it!

I think we’ve discussed dog stuff in the past?

At any rate, you can “believe in” punishment but that doesn’t provide evidence of its effectiveness in a situation. And there is no evidence that punishing a dog for housetraining mistakes- especially if it’s done after the fact- teaches the dog anything valuable. It may make the owner feel better, and, as I mentioned, it trains the dog not to pee in front of his owner- but it doesn’t teach the dog where to pee!

Oh- in addition- remember this dog has submissive urination issues; I hope we can agree that punishment is not appropriate in that situation? And we agree about the crate!

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@crisw So how is that different than humans?

crisw's avatar

@papayalily I am not sure how that is relevant to a discussion of housebreaking, and I don’t want to take it off track.

snowberry's avatar

Years ago I had a fabulous dog book that told you to clip the sulfur end off of a paper match and stick the paper part half-way into doggie’s rectum. Do this close to where you want him to go. Anyway, he won’t be able to reach it, so the only way to get it out is to poop. When doggie poops, have make a huge deal over him, praise and treat. Done. It worked fabulously for me. My dog got the message the very first time. As for peeing in the house, take him out every hour, and if you’re not taking him out, crate him. They won’t soil their bed if they can help it.

If you try this for a while and you get nowhere, consider doggie diapers. My friend had a mature dog that she could not housebreak. So she got doggie diapers for him. (psst! A sanitary pad fits right in there!). He hated them, but the great thing is he refused to pee in them. So for two weeks he wore them 24/7 unless he was outside. She’d take him out, remove the diaper, he’d pee and/or poop, and before she let him back inside again, on went the diaper. He hasn’t had a mistake since.

Of course, the doggie diaper thing would only work if your dog hated them as much as my friend’s dog did.

Anyway, keep us posted.

woodcutter's avatar

I took her out very often no matter what. Then really make a big deal with the praise after all goes well. I have a Lab/Pyrenees mix so I probably have it easy in that respect. She had maybe 3 mistakes total and was almost inconsolable when she realized she had goofed. Right now it the chewing stuff that is maddening.

crisw's avatar


That’s an old dog-show trick; I have often heard it mentioned but never met anyone who actually did it!

MissAnthrope's avatar

I just finished housebreaking a puppy.. it can be challenging and definitely requires patience. He’s a stubborn, tenacious guy, so it took some real persistence and crate training. Something I read while researching this said that you cannot expect a puppy to be fully housebroken before 6 months. We were very good about taking him out at least hourly and we had accidents all the way up to 7 months, but then all of a sudden, it was like he housebroke himself. He just stopped going in the house and waited to go out.

Using a crate helped. We put him in the crate with a chew toy soon after he ate, left him for 30–45 minutes, and then took him straight outside. We sometimes had to leave him gated in the kitchen when he was due to poop but wouldn’t. We always praised him when he went outside and gave him a treat. Definitely don’t punish or get mad – yelling and scolding won’t extinguish the behavior. If you can catch him mid-pee, clap your hands or say “No!” loudly and firmly.. if you startle the pup, he will associate the unpleasantness with peeing. (Then run him outside)

As for dogs looking ‘guilty’, a study shows that this is a reaction to its owner, whether the dog has actually done something bad or not.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@MissAnthrope Yeah, I just think that guilt in humans is a reaction to their parents, or God, or who they think they ought to be. Which is pretty much the same as dogs. So then it’s not some sort of “don’t treat a dog like a human” issue.

tranquilsea's avatar

We crate trained our dog. When we were home I tied him, via a leash, to my waist. When ever I saw him squat I double timed him outside and praised him for going outside. Through this time I slowly taught him how to ring a bird bell that we hung from the back handle. I used clicker training for that. Within a month he was doing that consistently. Actually, the clicker help train him for nearly everything. House training him took about 4 months of putting all these pieces together.

rooeytoo's avatar

@crisw – where were you, there were dozens of dog training questions that you missed giving your spin. But don’t worry I told them how to do it :-) And by the way the only evidence I can offer to the punishment and reward system are the millions of dogs (and probably children) that were successfully trained that way before someone decided to make some money writing a book about a new and amazing method! I personally trained probably a couple of hundred using that method and don’t recall any of them who ever hid to pee. That’s a good one!

Randy's avatar

I suppose I just need to be more patient. He is still pretty young. I guess I was just assuming he’d have it figured out by now and since he doesn’t, the frustration is building on it’s self.

I really wish he’d go for the bell on the door knob trick like so many of you mentioned but he’s terrified of them. He won’t even look at them, let alone go up and make them ring. He just cowers any time he hears/sees them and tries his best to stay clear. I even tried putting treats on/around the bells and he still wouldn’t go near them.

I do have a crate for him but the only time I use it is when I leave to run errands and don’t take him with me which isn’t very often; maybe two or three times a week for a hour to maybe four depending on the errands.

@crisw Thank you for the link on submissive urination. That sounds like it could be what’s going on with the peeing on people. I never thought about it as a submissive behavior. He is a very timid puppy most of the time. Oh, and he’s not from a pet store. I got him from a breeder.

Thanks for all the advice everyone. I have a slightly different perspective on the matter now. I just gonna have to be more patient and do some deep breathing when I start getting frustrated at him.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@Randy Maybe you need a different bell that he’s not afraid of.

Randy's avatar

@papayalily Hmmm…. maybe. I currently have a few jingle bells tied to a string. It was the first/easiest thing that came to mind. What other options would you suggest?

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@Randy how about one of those bells they have on counters in stores, that you just tap on and it dings? It could be the swinging that he’s afraid of.

Randy's avatar

@ChocolateReigns Well, they don’t swing much because the string is a sort of plasticky type material and the bells weigh enough to keep the swaying down substantially. That counter bell in an interesting idea though. I could rig it up kinda like a doggy doorbell. I’m not sure if he’d take to it or not but it’s definitely worth a shot.

ChocolateReigns's avatar

@Randy Well I hope it works! Try to get him associate the bell with going outside for the specific reason to pee in the spot you want him to. We did this by, when we took the dog out at the specific time (every 3 hours for us), ringing the bells and only going to that area and not going outside of it. If you ring the bell, only go to that area and go straight there. This will show him that he can’t just ring the bell to get outside to play. He won’t quite get this at first. He’ll ring it to try to get you out and then play. But be firm. Only go to his potty area. And for a while, you’re going to have to take him out every time he rings it.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have been thinking, I don’t believe I have ever had a dog who regularly told me when it wanted out. It was always my job to take it out at regular intervals. I always figured if I have to pee then the dog probably has to as well. They sort of adjust themselves to your schedule once they get the idea. Do you ring a bell when you have to pee? Just take the poor thing out frequently and save the tricks for treats.

crisw's avatar


“I don’t believe I have ever had a dog who regularly told me when it wanted out.”

I think it really depends on the situation. We lived for years and years with a dog run with a door attached to the house. Now, we will be putting our house on the market and most buyers don’t want a house with a dog run outside the front door :>D

So, since we do not have a fenced yard, either we take the dogs out or they ask us to go out. And they made that transition easily. One dog comes to us and leads us to the door when he wants out or whines at the door, one stands by it, scratches and barks.

rooeytoo's avatar

@crisw – that is probably the answer. Everywhere I have lived since leaving NYC has had a fenced yard so the pups always have their own door and come in and out as they please. Since the crazy dingo pup considers local possums a bed time snack we now close the door at dusk. So I now take them out for a short walk just before bed and that eliminates the need for telling me later. Although if someone has an upset belly they will generally wake me (never my mate) and let me know they want OUT!!!!! Oct 1 is the official birthday of all 3 of mine since we don’t know exact dates. The akita and the little brown dog will both be 13 and the crazy pup will be 3.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@rooeytoo Ours will always, always tell you when she needs to go out. Sometimes, in the night, she’ll come and stand on your chest until you wake up and take her out (she’s only 4 pounds, 4½ on a bloated day, so it’s cool).

Jackson6's avatar

I have almost the same
issue with my 2 yr old Boston

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