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4 Easy Steps to Teach Your Dog to Go Potty On Cue

Author: Cathy Madson, MA, FDM, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Published: February 13, 2019

Updated: April 9, 2023

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golden retriever going potty on grass yardWe’ve all been there – tapping our foot waiting in the dark or the rain for our dog to do their business. Don’t they know we’ve got things to do and people to see?

Teaching your dog to go to the bathroom on cue can be helpful in saving you time, as well as helping you potty train your pup. It’s easy as a puppy to get distracted by the sights and sounds outside and forget the purpose of the outing in the first place; sometimes they need a little reminder. Let's put it on cue!

Teach Your Dog to Go Potty On Cue In 4 Easy Steps:

  1. Take your dog to their designated potty spot outside. This can be an area that they’ve shown an inclination to go to the bathroom before, or an area of your choosing. (You can use a potty attractant spray to encourage your dog to go in a specific place.)
  2. As your dog begins to go to the bathroom, say “Go Potty” (or whatever cue you’d like to use) in a calm, natural tone of voice, only one time.
    Don’t say it too loudly or with lots of excitement, as you don’t want to interrupt their potty time. If you say it over and over again, your dog will learn that their cue is “go potty, go potty, go potty.”
  3. Once they finish going to the bathroom, reward generously! Use treats, praise and petting, or play – whatever your puppy finds rewarding!
  4. As your dog learns the association between the phrase “Go Potty” and the action of going to the bathroom, you’ll be able to start saying the cue before your dog is showing signs of doing their business.

Nice job! You’ve just taught your dog the verbal cue to go to the bathroom when asked. Remember, your dog might not physically need to go to the bathroom when you ask, so don’t get frustrated if they don’t go potty right away after you give the cue. With consistency and positive training, you’ll soon have an easy way to remind your pup it’s time to do their business.

How Long Should You Stay Outside With Your Dog If They're Not Going Potty?

When you're outside on a potty break with your puppy, don't allow them too much time to get distracted and forget the whole reason for being out there in the first place — if they haven't gone after 1 to 2 minutes, head back inside, put them in their crate or their "puppy zone," or keep them close by and under your supervision so you can watch for signs they might need to go to the bathroom again.

If your dog is still a young puppy in the process of potty training, try another outside "business trip" after waiting 10 to 15 minutes; if they still don't go after 1 to 2 minutes, go back inside, and wait another 10 to 15 minutes before trying again. Repeat this schedule until they are successful in going potty outside. If you have an older dog, they might simply not need to go to the bathroom, and you don't need to return outside as frequently as if you had a young puppy.

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About the author

Profile picture for Cathy Madson

Cathy Madson, MA, FDM, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

As Preventive Vet's dog behavior expert and lead trainer at Pupstanding Academy, Cathy focuses on helping humans and their pets build a strong relationship based on trust, clear communication, and the use of positive reinforcement and force-free methods. With over 13 years of experience, she has had the opportunity to work with hundreds of dogs on a wide variety of training and behavior issues. Beyond her one-on-one consultations through Pupstanding Academy, she also teaches group dog training classes at Seattle Humane. Her specialties include dog aggression, resource guarding, separation anxiety, and puppy socialization.

Cathy is a certified Family Dog Mediator, and certified through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, holding both the CPDT-KA and CBCC-KA designations. Cathy is a Fear Free Certified Certified Professional, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Pet Professional Guild, and the Dog Writer's Association of America. She has also completed the Aggression in Dogs Master Course.

When she's not geeking out about dogs, you can find her reading, hiking with her two Cardigan Welsh Corgis, or paddleboarding.