How to Potty Train a Small Dog

By Lisa McQuerrey

Potty train your small dog by getting into a consistent routine, or consider indoor training options that are suitable for a small breed pup.

Basic Potty Training

Housebreaking a dog of any size is a matter of consistency in routine. A dog should be taken to her designated bathroom spot, via leash, after waking or confinement and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating, drinking, playing or heavy chewing. Give a small treat and lots of praise to reinforce a successful bathroom trip, and clean up accidents -- without verbal or physical punishment -- with an enzymatic cleaner to protect against re-marking.

Use a consistent word command when you take your dog to the bathroom, like "potty," to reinforce the behavior you want. This will also be helpful if you train your pup to use an indoor bathroom, but still want her to understand she is allowed to go outside when you're on a walk or visiting company.

Crate Training

Confining your pup to a kennel or a baby-gated hard floor room during the training process can help establish good habits and reduce potential problems of inappropriate elimination in the future. Make sure the crate is large enough for your dog to comfortably stand up and turn around in. Pups under six months of age can't hold their bladders for more than three or four hours, so keep that in mind when scheduling bathroom breaks.

Some small breeds are predisposed to frequent or excitement-triggered urination. Take this into consideration when choosing your dog and deciding on a housebreaking option.

Outdoor Hazards

Some little dogs can get chilled very quickly, which can make outdoor housebreaking a challenge. Make trips fast during inclement weather, and put your pooch in protective clothing, including booties, when temps sink below freezing. Also be wary of predators that may be tempted to snatch your dog -- even from a leash -- when you’re on bathroom duty. Carry a water bottle full of pennies to toss at any predator that comes your way when you’re outside and avoid brushy areas where predators lurk.

Litter Box and Pee Pad Training

Small dogs can be trained to use the bathroom indoors on a permanent basis via litter box or absorbent pee pads. Treat these indoor bathrooms the same way you’d treat a designated outdoor spot, taking your pup to the area as part of your routine, or when she indicates she needs to go.

Indoor dog bathrooms are good options for high-rise dwellers or pet owners with mobility issues. Situate your indoor potty spot in an out-of-the-way area with a hard surface, like a laundry room, and regularly clean the areas to keep them smelling good.