Ok so I read over... this question and there were some really good tips here, however... My 3 month old Shetland Sheepdog just won't go outside in the first place...

He is paper trained for inside, and in the day he has someone come see him to look after him, to let him out in the garden etc. Our aim is to give him treats when he toilets outside - at this point I'm not fussed about where in my garden he toilets so long as it IS in my garden, however he has stopped toileting outside and waits to go inside again. He used to toilet outside, and would receive plenty of fuss etc for doing so. He has a daily 20 minute walk - with a good 20 minute break in the middle where we sit and he can sniff around and relax - but he won't toilet on walks either, even when we walk with a friend and her dog goes.

Recently we spent 4 hours out with a friend, in her garden, on a walk etc and he held his bladder for the entire time and only went when we got home, which seems an incredible feat for a 3 month old small breed pup...

What we are doing... is that when he starts to go to the toilet inside we open the back door and move him to some newspaper outside (this is linked to how my in laws toilet trained their Shelties) however he then just clams up and won't continue... Until he is allowed back inside. Often he will toilet inside and then sit at the back door and ask to go out, which is the wrong order!

What can we do to improve this situation? Will moving him outside eventually click, if we use treat training, and as he becomes more controling of his ablutions?

Update taking Cedrics advice we played ball in the garden for a good 10 minutes and got our first outdoor wee wee in three weeks. Duely rewarded too!

  • Excellent, progresses however small they are are always good, mainly for your motivation to keep going in the right direction.
    – Cedric H.
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 7:58
  • 1
    Agreed :) it's all baby steps but if he keeps joining the dots it'll hopefully click!
    – Aravona
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 8:00

2 Answers 2


That's the problem of doing some kind of toilet training inside. Now he has to learn to go outside and also unlearn that going on the puppy pads / newspapers inside is OK.

The main criterion for dogs is not really the location, inside or outside, etc. but the substrate: grass, dirt, etc.

Before 4 months puppies should not be expected to be toilet train. That means that you should just keep trying, harder.

Getting him to go while outside is easier if he was allowed to run a lot. You can also kind of "massage" his belly (young puppies don't defecate by themselves, the mother licks their belly to stimulate urination and defecation).

Try to see if you can see a pattern of when he needs to defecate: just after eating, waking up from a nap, etc. Then you can anticipate and moving him outside quickly.

So maybe a deceptive answer but to sum it up: keep moving him outside as soon as you notice that he'll go inside, treat and praise him a lot when outside.

  • Thanks for the answer, good to know we are on the right track at least... As for a pattern he is rather random but I'll try and see if there is one!
    – Aravona
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 8:14

Cedirc H. is right in that you can't expect him to hold his eliminations yet. I'd heard a rule of thumb once that sounded about right. It said that you can expect a puppy to hold it in for about 1 hour per month old they are, not to exceed 9 hours. Granted some dogs can hold it longer sooner and my grandmothers keeshound once pitched a fit on vacation and wouldn't eliminate for 2 days till we got home from the beach. However, it's a good starting place.

Like Cedric said, you need to get him used to going outside, but there are a few things I though worth mentioning. One is that any dog is more likely to need to go after the following: waking up, eating, going for a walk or other exercise, and playing. So you can try these things to help your dog succeed. Take him out after doing any of these things. When he wakes up, take him for a walk. You don't need to let him sniff around or stop to potty. It's a walk, not a sniff. He can smell everything he needs to while walking along due to a dogs incredible nose and in the wild only the leader can call a halt or the pack would never get anywhere. I do caution watching your dog for exhaustion, because that's a long walk for a 3 month old small dog. I would pick him up when he seems tired and let him walk again when he starts to wiggle. He'll build stamina that way. Bring him in from the walk and feed him, then take him out to potty.

If he doesn't go to the bathroom, which is likely from what you've said, take him back in and try in another 15min. Once he goes you can trust him for a couple of hours, but until he does, don't let him have the run of the house. People allow puppies to much territory, thinking they're being nice, but until he comes to see the whole house as his domain, he'll see anything not in 'his territory' as new areas to mark. You don't have to crate him all the time and shouldn't, but he should either have an exercise pen, which you can attach to his crate so he can go in and out, or be confined to a smaller, easy to clean area, like the kitchen. Expand his territory as he shows he can handle it. If he won't go potty you need to keep him on a leash while inside or he needs to be in 'his' area.

Next you need to treat the areas he's gone to the bathroom in. Dogs want to naturally remark their scent when it fades and you're setting him up to fail if you don't clean with a special scent removing cleaner where ever he's gone inside.

If you keep this up and don't get overly upset about accidents a puppy can't help yet, he should be on the right track and be potty trained in no time. Another trick I use is wait till the dog has actually started going to the bathroom and in mid squat and give the command 'go potty'. Repeat this every time he's in mid-potty for a couple of months, then when you take him out, give the command as a pavlovian response and hopefully, he'll immediately feel the need to go, the same way a cat demands food every time they hear a can opener. You don't have to treat an outside potty as food encourages them to go again, but you can praise. Lastly, as an extra precaution, you can start feeding him on a schedule. If you feed him a set amount of food twice a day, at the same time, and take it up after 30min, then he should feel the need to eliminate at the same time. Just like many people get on a schedule. People do it with babies and dogs with some success. Good luck.

  • He has only a penned off section of our kitchen in the day, and he doesn't exceed the 20minutes walk recommended by our vet (5mins x months +5mins) he just gets a break where he is allowed to stop and sit and sniff for about 20mins. All he does is sit at our feet in this time :) the kitchen is cleaned with an enzyme treatment where he toilets, and he goes out regularly between his meal times which are fixed. But he doesn't, as I said to Cedric, have a routine for toileting at all, he's very haphazard for 3.5months.
    – Aravona
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 19:32
  • As in, he doesn't regular pee after play or drinking or food or a walk, he just picks a time and pees... We are trying a routine for him but he can hold his bladder so long he doesn't go when we wish him to.
    – Aravona
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 19:35
  • That all sounds great. At this point, the only other thing I could personally suggest is to just stick with it. I can't guarantee that it will improve, but I think it's very likely. This may just be a case where you have to keep at it an out stubborn him. I've never had one that this hasn't worked for eventually, so I can't advise past here, but I feel like if you keep it up, he'll eventually get it. Maybe you could have a play day one weekend and try to keep him outside all day. We do this with ours at the river. He'd have to go eventually and it may encourage him to go on the grass.
    – Dalton
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 13:46
  • Yeah we did this on Sat and he went happily outside, and yesterday evening after a wee outside he looked up at me all 'Where's my treat?' and to combat that inside toilet's get quietly tidied away with no fuss and no reward... so hopefully as he grows and can hold it longer he'll want to do it outside more. Thanks for the advice :)
    – Aravona
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 13:52
  • 1
    Your welcome. Like I said, it may just take time. Anytime he goes outside is an improvement. 1% improvement for 100 days is 100% improvement, so don't get discourage if it doesn't look like you're making progress. Also, I can tell you with dogs and horses, that they'll do well, then get really bad, right before it clicks and they get really good.
    – Dalton
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 13:58

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