How to Teach Dogs to Go to the Door When They Need to Urinate

If accidents happen, don't punish the dog.
Barry Austin Photography/Lifesize/Getty Images

One of the crucial aspects of house-training is getting your dog to let you know he needs to go outside to relieve himself. Without this communication, you’re left guessing, or hoping that your dog goes when you let him out. But once you’ve taught him to communicate his need to go potty, you’ll see a reduction in toilet accidents around the house.


Your dog probably already gives signals that he wants to go outside to potty. These signs may include circling, scratching at the door, whining and pacing. Observe your dog’s behavior to gain an idea of his toilet routine. This way you’ll be able to anticipate when he’ll need to go outside and you’ll be better placed to react. You may wish to consider keeping a diary so that you know how long after waking, eating and drinking your pooch will need the toilet. Generally, you'll take the dog out immediately after waking and eating, but you'll get an idea of how long after each event it will be before he's generally ready. Set a schedule around that, but realize it can vary.


To successfully teach a dog a new trick, you need perfect timing. Using your understanding of his toilet routine, place yourself in a position where you can observe your dog without distracting him from doing what he’s doing. As soon as you suspect he may need to go outside, entice him to the door. Simply approaching the door and calling his name should accomplish this.


As soon as he arrives at the door, give him a food reward. With sufficient repetition, your dog will learn that good things happen to him when he approaches the door. Open the door once he’s taken the treat and let him into the enclosed yard. If he relieves himself, lavish him with verbal praise and physical fuss. You may experience a few false starts, but eventually you’ll get into a pattern.


Over time, you’ll need to drop the reward from the process, otherwise your dog will think that all he has to do to get a treat is to go to the door. Your aim is to teach him to approach the door only when he needs to potty. Once he’s in the habit of approaching the door, release the treat only when he completes the potty process.


You can refine the house-training process by teaching your dog to give you a signal when he needs to go out. By teaching him to paw at or nudge a bell with his nose, you can equip your dog with the means to let you know, in no uncertain terms that he needs to be let out. Keep the bell by the door so that it forms a logical part of the toilet-training process.