Wouldn't it be nice if your dog would eliminate when and where you wanted him to? Lauren Wojcik of the Manhattan dog walking company LaurensLeash, explains how she used simple reward-based training to get her puppy to go exactly when and where she wants him to.

One of my favorite things to do is teach my dog Grayson new tricks. There’s nothing more satisfying than the moment the light bulb goes off and he realizes what I’m trying to get him to do. High five, shame, and roll over are all amusing party tricks that can win even cat people over, but none of these are my favorite. My favorite trick doesn’t make anyone laugh. It’s not cute or original, but it makes my boyfriend happy in winter at 6am: My dog goes potty on command.

I will never forget the moment I knew that Grayson would reliably pee when he heard those magic words “go potty.” He was 15 weeks and I had flown him home to meet my parents in Buffalo, NY. My parents have a house and two dogs. When it’s time for them to relieve themselves my mom yells “Boys! Want to go potty?” and opens the kitchen door. Grayson didn’t know to go out the door first.He heard the magic words, squatted, and peed where he was standing… on the living room carpet. I beamed with pride.

Getting potty on command is pretty easy. Your dog already does the behavior you’re looking for (peeing and pooping), so all you need to do is grab some treats and capture it! Capturing is all about pinpointing the exact moment your dog does what you want it to do. It’s like taking a photo of that moment. (Because you’ve always wanted many photos of your dog pooping).

1. Pick the word you’re going to use that will mean “go pee” to your dog. You could use the classic “go potty”, the police dog cue “empty”, or “abracadabra!” It doesn’t matter what you say, as long as you say it consistently.

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2. Figure out out when your dog most predictably goes to the bathroom. The three big pee motivators are: waking up, playing, and drinking. What goes in must come out and by setting a schedule for your dog you can predict when he/she will need to go outside. Knowing that your dog needs to go to the bathroom is key in capturing the behavior.

3. When your dog needs to eliminate, leash him/her up and relocate to your designated potty spot. This could be a corner of your back yard, the tree in front of your building, or the curb. If you have any fear that your dog might go before you get to the curb or wherever, pick him up and carry him there (if you can — if you have a Great Pyrenees, this will not be possible!).

4. Wait for your dog to go. Give him no attention as you pace quietly back and forth by the pee spot. When he squats or lifts his leg wait, for him to finish. As he’s finishing happily say your cue word “GO POTTY!” When he is done, give a marker (a verbal “Yes!” or the click of a clicker), then lavish him with praise and something really yummy.

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5. After a week or two give the cue “go potty!” just before the pee happens but still wait to “Yes” or click until after he’s completely finished. (Otherwise, your marker might distract him from finishing his business midway.) One big tip: While you’re teaching this behavior, don’t accidentally punish the “go potty” by returning inside immediately after your dog eliminates. Give lots of praise, toss the ball once or twice, or walk your dog down to the corner and back to let him sniff his favorite spots for 30 to 60 seconds. Once your dog has mastered the behavior, start to vary your rewards. Only reward the quickest pees or the times when you tell him to go when his bladder is empty but he squats and squeezes a few drops out anyway. Every potty should earn praise, but the best ones should earn a ball toss or a special treat.

If you want to put bowel movements on cue as well, pick a different cue to use. You should have two separate cues for “go pee” and “go poo” as they are two different actions. Once your dog has the first elimination on command start working on the second elimination with a new cue. Peeing and pooping has never been so fun.

Featured illustration by Beppe Giacobbe

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