Can I really teach my dog to empty (aka go potty) on command?


Ever been in a hurry to go somewhere, and you know you will be gone for a while, so it’s vital your dog go potty?

You let your dog outside, either on its own or via a leash, and all the dog has on his mind is sniffing, playing or investigating the yard causing you to be frustrated and late.

What if you could just say a “cue” word and your dog would be compelled to do his business, enabling you to get on with your day?

Here, at Otter Tail Kennels, I train dogs to go potty with the command of “empty”. It’s easy to teach and comes in handy frequently.

To teach the empty command, I use classical conditioning learned from Mr. Pavlov from the late 1800’s. For those that remember psychology in school, Pavlov had dogs salivating at the ring of a bell. How did he do that? Simply by ringing a bell each time, prior to giving the dog food. Over time, the dog associated the bell with being fed.

I approach teaching the empty command in a similar way. Every time, and I repeat every time, the dog is going potty, I casually say the word “empty”. After doing this for several days, I then say the command just before I detect the dog is about to defecate or urinate. After saying the word each time the dog goes potty, it is only a matter of time before all I have to do is say the word and I get the conditioned response I want.

A couple of caveats.

First, the dog will actually need to go, if their system is not in need the command will fail.

Second, and most importantly, I do not ever test the dog with this command. I have had several people request I say the command, just so they can see the dog respond. This is a recipe for disaster. Again, only say the command when you know the dog is able to respond.

Until next time, happy retrieving!

Steve Smith