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House Training Small & Sensitive Dogs

Housetraining small breeds can be a challenge!


  • total 100% supervision,

  • total confinement (crate training) when you can't

  • total supervision.


Go back to "House Training"

The hardest part is "total" ... It's so hard to keep something no bigger than a hamster in your total vision at all times, but therein lies the issue. Out of sight, probably pottying!


Management is the most effective tool you have. Baby gates or a playpen to keep her in the same room you are in, or leash her to your chair or belt so she can't ever be more than a leash length away at any time.  If the dog is really tiny, a "kangaroo pouch"!  If you have to answer the phone or make dinner, put her in her crate or a playpen in the room you are in. Take her outside on an unfailingly regular schedule - every hour on the hour and make every outing a party with cheering and cookies.


No correction!  if caught in the act and scolded, the next time the dog will find a "safe place" - unseen.  Not because she's sneaky, but because being yelled at is unpleasant, so to be avoided.  If you don't know how to ask, or have become afraid of the person you need to ask, you will find a safe place to go.  Behind the couch, down the hall, in the basement.


Be committed to discovering just what little signal - pause mid step / ear twitch / sniffing pattern she does right *before* she squats so you can redirect and respond with "Do you need to go out?" "YAY! Let's go OUTside!!" You can also teach her to ring a bell to go outside.  Once she knows how to tell you that she'd like you to open the door, the rest will be much easier.


Potty pads are one more step to get rid of if the ultimate goal is to get your pup to go outside.  If you must have an indoor toileting area in the interim, try a low sided tray with a piece of sod or dirt - copy the surface of the intended outside target. In the long run, having an indoor potty area will slow down the process of getting the pup to go outside, so avoid it if you can.

Litterbox Training, More Indoor Freedom  & Going Potty Outside

If you live in an apartment or condo and you have an outdoor deck, you might consider a litter box. Many tiny dog owners train their little apartment dogs to go in a litter box instead of making the trek into the great outdoors. For difficult house training challenges, it can be an option.  Check out the Pup-Head Portable Dog Potty with K-9 Grass!

Litter box training video


Is your puppy mentally and physically comfortable outside?  If the big world is scary, the stairs to get there are terrifying, or the grass is wet and cold, your puppy is naturally going to prefer the warmer, safer indoors and will avoid you, rather than ask to be taken out to the dreaded yard.  Especially at night when it is dark and there are boogeymen in the shadows and it's colder! 

Help them enjoy the yard when it's not so cold or scary.  Spend time outdoors when it is warmer, playing, sitting in the sun with your little peanut on your lap to help him learn that the yard is safe and a great place to run and have fun.  Get your puppy used to being under your umbrella when it's not raining so it won't be one more hard thing about being outside when there's precipitation.  Buy him a comfy coat.  Shovel a path in the snow so he can find the grass. 

Stay with your puppy!  Stay with him so the instant he is finished, you can have a happy celebration and run to the house.  When your puppy discovers that the fastest way to get back inside where it's warm is to hurry and go quickly, your trips will be a lot shorter!  Cold or frightened dogs don't like to be locked out alone.  By staying with them, they know the way back in is a sure thing.  A dog door can also be a huge help once they are potty trained and know to go outside.  Then they can go out when they need to and spend as much or as little time as they want without feeling locked out.

Marking?  Marking is about leaving messages, and it's different than a house training issue.

Dog diapers - belly bands for boy dogs.  If you can't watch your dog, these will keep his messages to himself and off your furniture!

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This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People -ditr_training @ -



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