Dog for 9/18/19

Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at

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Dog Gone Problems,

I just got a 5-month-old double doodle. He goes in and out the doggy door, which opens to a deck, by himself. I trained him in two days. He will go down the stairs into the yard to use the potty just fine. How can I train him to go out to potty all by himself? I’ve only had him three days, so hoping it will just take some time. I would love some tips to speed the process along.




Hi Nancy,

Congrats on your new dog. Sounds like a smart one, which should make solving this problem pretty easy.

First off, you need to come up with a fun word that means to go outside. Dogs are the only animal on the planet who can read a human’s facial expressions, so coming up with a word that makes people smile and laugh can provide your dog with added motivation.

Next, have a family member or friend outside with a plethora of wonderfully stinky high-value treats your dog loves. I often use chicken liver.

With your dog and you inside near the dog door, have the person outside call your puppy by name. When your pup goes through the dog door, they should find this person right outside the dog door. When the pup is completely through the dog door, have them give him a treat and then say the command word after the treat goes into his mouth.

Call your dog back inside, pet him under his chin and say "Sit." Have the person outside call the dog again, but this time move one step farther away from the door. Keep repeating this process for 10 treats, then have the humans swap places. When you go outside, stand where the other person was standing when they finished. Practice the routine for another 10 treats.

The next time your practice, the person should be at the same distance from the door as they were when they stopped last time. Maybe a few feet closer. Practice for another five to 10 treats.

At some point, when the dog is running through the door with glee, try saying the command word when the dog is inside with you and someone is outside waiting. If the dog goes through the door on his own, have the person on the other side give five treats in a row, saying the command word after each one. We call this a jackpot, and its a great way to reward a big accomplishment like responding to the command word.

Once you can say the command word and have the dog go out, you need to start providing the dog with things to discover and motivate him to stay outside and explore. You can leave a small trail of treats from where the person was standing to the grass the first time. The next time, leave another trail, but add a small pile of shredded cheese at the end of the trail (which should be in the grass).

The cheese promotes sniffing the ground, which is healthy and may lead to other exploring. The goal here is to provide motivation to go outside and progressively increase the length of the stay.

Practice this a few times, but keep moving the shredded cheese farther into the lawn — maybe one foot farther each practice. While you are doing this, use less treats for the trail, spacing the treats farther apart. At some point, you will stop with the trail and just leave some shredded cheese on the lawn for your dog to find.

You can also leave new toys outside, as well as chewy items like bully sticks, cows ears, etc. The idea is to leave good stuff outside for your dog to find, which gives him more incentive to go out and explore. With enough positive exposures, your dog will go out often looking for them and this should lead to going potty on his own as well.

Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.


Submit your pet questions to David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and question to Visit for more from David.

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