How to Potty Train a Rescue Dog


Potty training a rescue dog can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. On the one hand, there are many advantages to doing this. One advantage is that a well-trained dog will be better behaved and easier to live with. Additionally, potty training your pet can make it easier to take them with you when traveling. On the other hand, potty training a rescue dog can have some challenges as well. Because the dog may have been in many different environments prior to being adopted, it may require some patience to acclimate them to their new home and routine.

In order for potty training to be successful, consistency and patience is key. First of all, you should create a consistent schedule for feeding, playing, and exercising your rescue dog. Make sure these activities happen at the same time each day to help establish routines for your pet. Next, establish house rules for acceptable behavior such as where your pet should go when they need to go outside. Show the dog what you expect of them by helping guide them into those behaviors using positive reinforcement like treats or praise when they follow your rules correctly. Finally, when setting up their designated potty area pick an area in the yard that is close enough that they won’t forget but also far enough away from play areas that they won’t confuse it with where they shouldn’t go potty.

While it is important to reward good behavior right away because consistency needs to be maintained in order for potty training goals to be achieved. If mistakes are made or accidents happen don’t scold the dog – instead just calmly lead them back outside and remind them of where their designated spot for going potty is located outdoors so that the behavior can begin to become fixed in their minds more permanently over time with frequent reminders from you as their owner/caretaker whenever possible.


When I adopted my rescue dog, Leo, he was about three months old. He was a sweet pup but had not been potty trained at all. Despite the challenges of my old apartment, I was determined to successfully potty train him and after some patience and perseverance, I did it! It wasn’t easy as it takes a lot of hard work and dedication when trying to teach an older dog new tricks. But by following these simple steps outlined below, you too can create a successful potty training program for your rescue pup like I did with Leo!

Getting Started

1. Establish a regular routine: When potty-training a rescue dog, it is important to establish a regular schedule. Since the dog may have had unstructured days and nights in a shelter, having an organized routine for the pup will help teach it that there are certain times for potty breaks. Creating schedules for feeding times, playtime, nap time and bathroom breaks should be done each day at the same times and can be adjusted as necessary depending on how quickly your pup learns.

2. Take your pup outside regularly: While establishing a routine is key, taking your pup outside to go to the bathroom throughout the day is equally important. Once you determine what times of day he/she needs to go out (either first thing in the morning or right after meals) make sure you stick with that timetable in order to help acclimate them to their new environment and begin building muscle memory of when they need to go out to do their business.

3. Use positive reinforcement: Rewarding good behavior with treats or verbal praise when your rescue pup successfully makes it outside is also important and will create an extra layer of comfort since associating going outside with something positive can help solidify it sooner rather than later as part of their daily routines. Especially during the early stages of training, rewarding good behavior when they use the restroom can speed up the process and let them know that you are approving of their efforts.

4. Clean up messes appropriately: Whenever mistakes happen during potty-training you must stay calm and patient but still clean up the messes appropriately so there’s no lingering scent still present in those areas after cleanup has happened – this will help remind them not to do it again. Additionally if your pup has gone on furniture or other items around the house, deterrent sprays can used afterward so they learn that certain places aren’t appropriate spots for making a mess.

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Establish a Training Area

When potty training a rescue dog, it is important to create and establish a designated training area. This can be inside the house or outside, whichever works best for the circumstance. Within this area, place puppy pads, newspapers, or other protective coverings should your pup have an accident. Familiarize your pup with the designated spots and reward them with praise and treats when they use it correctly. It is also important to give them specific commands (e.g. “go pee-pee” or “go poo-poo”) that will help them to recognize what you are asking them to do. Additionally, be sure to clean up accidents immediately so that your pup doesn’t mistake residual odors for acceptable areas of use. Keep in mind that persistence and patience are key components in any successful potty training routine so don’t give up!

Determine the Dog’s Comfort Level

Potty training a rescue dog can be challenging, but with patience and the right strategies, it is possible. It is important to recognize the dog’s individual levels of comfort and to take those into account while developing your potty training routine. One way to determine the dog’s comfort level is to observe signs of stress such as panting, pacing back and forth or growling when someone approaches him or when doing certain activities. As soon as you notice any of these signs, pause and take a step back in order to make sure that the dog feels safe and secure. If needed, consider working with an animal behaviorist who can help you identify additional stress signals that are specific to your pup in order for you to be able to tailor calming exercises accordingly.

Set Up a Schedule

A potty-training schedule can be an essential part of housebreaking a rescue dog. Set up a regular routine so that your pup has the same time to go outside each day. This will help them get into a habit of going in the correct place, and you’ll have an idea when they need to go based on the schedule. A good rule of thumb is about 45 minutes after meals or drinking water for small breeds, and two hours for larger breeds. Take your pup out first thing in the morning and make sure their last visit to the outdoors before bedtime is at least two hours before his sleep time. Make sure to take your pup out again after a nap or playtime as these are times they may need to ‘go’. While outside, give them some time to walk around and sniff before settling them down in one spot where you can always observe them in order to reward when they ‘go’ correctly. It is also important to not allow any distractions like playing with toys or fetching balls during this process, as it can prevent them from concentrating on doing their business in the designated area. Utilize positive reinforcement by verbal praises with pets or treats whenever your pup successfully goes ‘potty’ outside and always avoid scolding or punishing when accidents occur inside; instead just clean up without drawing attention to it. With patience and consistent effort, rescue dogs too will soon learn how to potty train properly.

Tackle Potty Issues

Positive reinforcement activities are an effective way to address any potty issues that your rescue dog may have. These activities should begin during the early stages of training and should continue throughout the process. A few simple examples of positive reinforcement activities include providing treats after a successful trip outside, verbal rewarding with a happy tone whenever your pet goes in the right place, and playing games while out on walks.

Rewarding good behavior is essential when it comes to potty training; however, gentle corrections are also necessary. This means that if your dog has an accident inside the house or reaches for something you don’t want them to have, firmly say no and take the item away. This can help your pup learn to understand boundaries and stick to them during potty time! It is important not to be too harsh in situations like this since rescue dogs often come from backgrounds where they’ve experienced trauma or neglect so extra care must be taken throughout the process. Additionally, talk with your vet or trainer about strategies they recommend as they will know best how to approach educating your special pup correctly.

Provide Positive Reinforcement

Whenever you see your rescue dog going to the bathroom in the right spot, be sure to give them positive reinforcement by praising them and giving them a treat. This praise can be anything from saying words like “good boy” or “yes!” in an excited voice, to giving them a bite-sized snack. Giving your dog treats during potty training not only recognizes their good behavior but also reinforces it – this encourages them to repeat their successes and speeds up the process of potty training. You should always provide positive reinforcement as soon as possible after they use the restroom; this lets your dog know that they are doing something correct and allows them to associate going potty with rewards!

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Instilling Potty Etiquette

Potty training a rescue dog may seem like an insurmountable challenge but with some patience and guidance, it can be accomplished. To instill proper potty etiquette, you will need to demonstrate the desired behavior you are expecting from your new pup. First, it is important to introduce them to their designated potty spot and make sure they receive positive reinforcement when they use that area. The pet should get praised each time they eliminate in their designated spot with treats or verbal encouragement such as ‘good’ or ‘clever boy/girl’. Secondly, if your pup has an accident in the house then they should be taken back to their designated spot as soon as possible. Doing this gives them the chance to remember where they are supposed to do their business next time. When dealing with messes, ensure that all odors have been cleaned up properly and take your pet for a longer walk afterwards; using this extra exercise may help keep accidents at a minimum in the future. Potty training a rescue dog may require more patience than usual but with smart reward-based techniques and consistency, most pups can learn quickly where it is allowable for them to go potty.

Consolidating the Training

It is important to not only teach your rescue dog how to potty train in your home, but also teach them to use the restroom wherever they might be. To do this, you need to demonstrate how the training is practiced and reinforced in other environments. Take them when you leave your house or yard and bring them to a specific area that they know they should use as their restroom. You can bring treats with you during these excursions and reward them every time they go in the right place. If they don’t go after being taken outside, just have them wait a bit longer before taking them back inside or repeating the same process again. The key is to keep reinforcing the idea that going outside is where they should go to take care of their needs. Once your rescue dog has mastered using the restroom outside when you take them on adventures away from home, then it will be easier for both of you when feeling the need to visit a public restroom space such as at a beach, park or anywhere else with people present.

A Final Word

Potty training a rescue dog is an incredibly rewarding process that can have numerous positive impacts. Rescue dogs start from scratch without any prior potty training and are often understandably anxious due to the changes in their life that have led to them being in your care. However, with patience, consistency, and of course plenty of praise, you will be able to potty train your four-legged family member. Get ready for some patience and also some messes along the way – every dog is different and may take more or less time depending on their personality and individual needs. Establishing a routine with wake up times, walks, meal times and nap times is vital in order to provide stability. Clean up any accidents promptly as this will help reduce the scent which may entice your pup back to the same spot. Lastly, remember establish rewards for your pup when they successfully go in the right spot; this reward could be treats, cuddles or another activity that they enjoy – but above all else make sure it’s something positive!

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