How to Train a Stubborn Dog That Won't Potty Train

Raising toddlers is notoriously difficult. Once children start to discover their autonomy and think for themselves, they can stubbornly insist on doing things their own way. The same is true of dogs. Sometimes a dog will decide that toileting inside is just fine, and you may struggle to convince him otherwise.

A golden retriever puppy potty training
How to Train a Stubborn Dog That Won't Potty Train
credit: DieterMeyrl/iStock/GettyImages

Breeders and pet stores may tell you that house training a puppy in five days is possible, but this simply isn't true for every dog. If your stubborn dog digs in his heels, you'll have to do the same. Your dog has four heels to dig in, however, and you only have two, so prepare yourself for a potentially lengthy standoff. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks you can use to ultimately win the war and successfully potty train even the stubbornest of canines.

Visit your vet

If your pooch just can't seem to make it outside to potty, take her to the vet. Your vet can help you rule out health problems that can cause inappropriate toileting. If your dog is suffering from diabetes, a bladder infection, or another health problem, holding her waste until she goes outside may be physically impossible for her. In this case, no amount of training will solve the problem, and you'll both end up utterly frustrated. If your dog does have a medical issue, ask your vet how to treat it and, if necessary, how you and your dog can learn to work around it.

Avoid punishing your dog

Although many people view their dog as their baby, dogs are not furry humans, and you shouldn't treat them as such. While punishing your children is often effective and appropriate, the same isn't true of your dog. In fact, stubborn dog breeds often cop an attitude when punished or scolded, making training even more difficult. Punishment also may backfire and teach your dog only to fear you or fear going to the bathroom in your presence.

Instead of punishing your dog, calmly and quietly clean up accidents and ignore him while you do so. If you catch him in the act, clap or firmly say no and then take him outside immediately. When he does toilet outside, give him a treat and lots of praise. Throw a little party for the two of you as soon as he is done doing his business. Your dog is much more likely to respond to this positive reinforcement. If you've been following the common advice of rubbing your dog's nose in his accidents or sharply reprimanding him, you've just been getting in your own way and making potty training harder.

Check your dog's crate

If you're using crate training as a tool to help with potty training a stubborn puppy, make sure the crate you use is an appropriate size. Your dog should have enough room in her crate to comfortably stand, turn around, and lie down. Too much extra room causes problems. Crate training works because dogs don't like to eliminate where they sleep. If your dog's crate is too big for her, she'll have enough room to turn one corner into a toilet and still sleep happily in another. In her mind, there won't be any reason to go outside.

Distinguish between potty time and playtime

Playtime is fun and a great way to exercise your dog. While taking your dog out into the yard for a rousing game of fetch is a wonderful thing to do, he may get confused if he plays in the same place where he toilets. He may think you're taking him out to play, in which case he may neglect to go to the bathroom until you bring him back inside. To alleviate this problem, take your dog to the same spot in your yard every time you go out for a bathroom break. Keep your demeanor all business when you're in the bathroom and go back inside as soon as he finishes. Take him to a different spot when it's time to play. Sometimes, seemingly stubborn dogs are just confused.

Imitate mom when toilet training a stubborn puppy

Newborn puppies rely on their mother for everything, including help learning to go to the bathroom. To stimulate a puppy's desire to toilet, her mother will lick her posterior. If your puppy refuses to toilet when she is outside, standing in for her mother may let you force the issue. When you take your puppy outside to the bathroom, take a warm, wet washcloth with you and rub her bottom with it. The sensation will be similar to that of her mother licking her and may encourage her natural urges to take over.

Let him think he is winning

Stubborn dogs like to do things their way and on their timeline. If your pooch has strong opinions about toilet training, try hanging a bell from your doorknob where your dog can easily reach it. Ring it every time you take your dog out to go to the bathroom. Soon your dog will learn to ring the bell when he wants to go out to the toilet. When he decides to ring the bell, he gets to be in the driver's seat. He can think he's controlling the situation rather than you. Exercise caution, however. Make sure you go outside only to toilet after a bell ring, and don't play with your pooch once you get outside. If you do, your pup will ring the bell when he wants to go out and play rather than when he has to go potty.

Consider going high tech

Unfortunately, potty training is often complicated by the fact that you simply can't be with your dog all the time. One way to combat this is to treat yourself and your pup to a fancier pee pad. Thanks to modern technology, deluxe pee pads have become an option. These devices add a sensor and treat dispenser to traditional puppy pads. When your pup relieves herself on the pad, the sensor detects the moisture and automatically dispenses a treat. In this way, you can offer your dog positive reinforcement for good behavior even when you're not home.