Potty Training for Service Dogs - The Ultimate Guide

Potty Training for Service Dogs

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Introduction

Having a potty trained dog is the number one priority for every dog owner I know. It’s even more essential for a Service Dog, as they won’t be allowed in businesses without a firm handle on this skill.

Being able to potty your Service Dog on command is extremely helpful, especially if you are traveling and may have limited opportunities to relieve your dog. Nobody wants to be waiting around for 20 mins, trying to coax it out of them, only to be forced to give up and spend the rest of your outing in fear of an accident happening!

We’ve raised more than a few puppies and have successfully taught them to potty on command, anytime, anywhere, within 30 seconds of hearing the cue. We’ve gotten so good at this, that our most recent dogs will go nearly instantly on any surface we indicate.

Over the years we have honed in on the perfect Potty Training plan, and now we’re sharing it with you. This plan has many other benefits as well, such as: building a good foundation for loose leash walking, keeping your dog/pup out of trouble, and increasing their desire and drive to work with you.

This tutorial works best when started as young as possible, but older dogs can follow along as well, with a few tweaks. If you are working with an older dog that is not potty trained or if you are working with a dog that is potty trained but you’d like to have them go on cue, please be sure to read the Notes section at the end of this guide. This program also works best if you can be with your puppy at home during the day, but can be applied to those who work away from home with a couple changes.

What You’ll Need

  • A Potty cue. “Get Busy”, “Go Potty”, “Hurry Up” are common ones, but you can use whatever you prefer.
  • Leash (I use the Ruffwear Slackline leash)
  • Collar/Harness of your choice (We use something like this collar, or this harness. Be sure to measure for a correct fit.)
  • Food Treats (kibble, hotdog, string cheese… We like Stella and Chewys.)
  • Crate (Just large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. We recommend purchasing a wire crate large enough for your dog as an adult, with 2 doors and a divider to start small enough and adjust as your dog grows. Here is our favorite.)
  • Toys your dog loves (Our puppies like this, this and this)
  • Kong filled with kibble, bananas, peanut butter or other goodies and frozen. (We start with 4 so we always have one available)
  • Safe chew toys (We like this and this)
  • Optional – Soft crate for your puppy’s first few weeks (Very easy to put in your bed or on your nightstand so you can comfort your puppy during the first nights. Also convenient for the early car rides.)
  • Optional – Snuggle Puppy (Our favorite tool to help prevent separation anxiety)

Keys to Success

In order to succeed with this potty training program, it is very important to stay consistent. Certain behaviors from your dog should lead to the same response from you EVERY TIME. This helps your dog to know what to expect from you and makes the learning process go much faster. Pairing consistency with a structured schedule, tailored to set your pup up for success, at a pace that they are ready for, will give you amazing results.

Accidents and mistakes are inevitable. That’s life. The more we can prevent those accidents, the faster training will progress. While a potty accident isn’t the end of the world, each one means it will be that much longer before before your puppy is *Fully Potty Trained*. But don’t be upset if and when your dog makes a mistake. Getting mad or frustrated is one of the worst  possible things you can do during the potty training process. If you feel yourself losing control, the best course of action is to crate your dog and take a break.

  • UP NEXT: Step 1 - Commit to a Schedule
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    Service Dog Society

    The Service Dog Society is dedicated to the education, training and support of service dog handlers, their friends and family, service dog trainers and programs, puppy raisers, businesses, the general public, and anybody else who has questions about these marvelous helpers.

    Our goal is to provide as much information as possible, in a centralized location and in an easy-to-follow format. We know first hand how overwhelming the process of getting and/or training a service dog can be, for everyone involved! Our hope is to alleviate some of the confusion and difficulty that is a part of the process.