Why Are Small Dogs Hard To Potty Train

by PhD Zazie Todd, an accomplished novelist.

Small Dogs Are Less Likely to be House Trained than Big Dogs

However, a study has found that tiny dogs are more likely to be completely housetrained if they have attended training.

This website contains affiliate links, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I could get paid when you make certain purchases.

Small dogs are allegedly more likely than huge dogs to have accidents inside the house. According to recently published research in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, small dogs are much more likely than large dogs to make mistakes during housebreaking. Together with veterinarian behaviorists Drs. Lisa Radosta and Amy Pike, Dr. Amy Learn, a resident in clinical behavioral medicine at Florida Veterinary Behavior Service, conducted the study.

It’s crucial to discuss because when dogs struggle with housebreaking, their owners may decide to put them in an animal shelter or use punishment (which is associated with risks such as fear and anxiety).

The research examined variations between tiny dogs (up to 9 kg) and large dogs (18kg or more). Because there was some overlap with breeds in other categories, dogs weighing between 9 and 18 kg were not included in the analysis.

95% of large dogs and 67% of small dogs, respectively, were fully housebroken. (This was defined as always eliminating during the previous two months only in areas the owner considered appropriate.)

The most typical indication that a dog has to go outside, in both small and large dogs, is if it stands at the door. The second most frequent signal for large dogs was looking at the owner, and the second most frequent signal for small dogs was the “other” category of ad hoc signals.

If little dogs had any kind of formal instruction, they were more likely to be housebroken. Additionally, there was a link between how much instruction tiny dogs had and how successfully they were housebroken. Due to the lesser proportion of large dogs who were not fully housebroken, this association did not hold true for them.

These findings are consistent with prior research that revealed small dogs receive less training and are also given different treatment than large dogs.

Small dogs may not be completely housetrained for a number of reasons, according to the authors, including:

  • Due to their smaller bladders and faster metabolism, tiny dogs require more frequent urination.
  • Owners of little dogs are more understanding of accidents since they make less urine.
  • Small dogs are more likely to reside in apartment complexes since it is more difficult to transport them outside in time for a bathroom break.
  • Small dogs are more likely to still have “babylike” characteristics, which makes them more likely to be indulged or to be forgivable for errors.
  • Small dogs are less likely to undergo training, and their owners might not be as knowledgeable about proper housebreaking techniques.

735 dog owners (235 small and 500 large) participated in the poll. The survey found that Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Schnauzers were the most popular small dog breeds, while Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and “pit bulls” were the most popular large dog breeds.

Although it is a great big sample, this is a convenience sample of participants who were recruited online (mostly via social media) and is not necessarily typical of dogs as a whole. We don’t know if the percentages of house-training failures are representative of the broader community because survey respondents may have been more likely to have dogs with problems.

To fully comprehend the reasons behind these disparities between small and large dogs, more investigation is required. It would be very fascinating to learn more about people’s training techniques and how they relate to the success of house training.

The results imply that it is particularly crucial to make sure owners of tiny dogs have adequate information about how to house train their dog, which will be of interest to anyone who works with dogs.

Check out my book Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy if you enjoyed this post. It is referred to as “the must-have handbook to bettering your dog’s life” by Modern Dog magazine.

Is toilet training a small dog difficult?

Smaller dogs can be more challenging to house train, in my experience as a dog trainer. Not because they are radically different creatures, but rather because we frequently give small dogs a pass. Their excretion is considerably more manageable and smaller. It’s not a big sacrifice if they enter the residence just once or twice.

However, especially with our little ones who we transport everywhere, we all want our dogs to be well-trained and housebroken. Being out and about while your dog uses the restroom indoors is the most uncomfortable situation imaginable.

Here are some fundamental guidelines for housebreaking even the smallest adult dogs:

  • Assume that your dog has to take a break every four hours or less. Even if your dog sleeps through the night, holding it while awake is much more comfortable. Consistently try to take your dog outside every four hours.
  • Set a time to leave. To remember to do this every four hours, set an alarm on your phone. Your dog will eventually get the hang of it, even if they don’t go.
  • Make sure your dog follows a regular eating and drinking regimen. You can regulate when food enters and exits your body if you can control when it gets in. About 30 minutes before a scheduled bathroom break, I would time my meal times. Because each dog is unique, you should adjust the time to suit his or her demands. Water can be used in the same way.
  • If you notice your dog entering the home, make a loud noise (to distract them, not to fear them), then hurry outdoors. Even if there is no additional trash, they begin to realize that there is a problem with the site and will start to eliminate more outside.
  • If your dog does accidentally enter the house but you weren’t aware of it, just clean it up and go on. Because your dog is unable to recall entering the house, punishing him or her will simply cause uncertainty and perhaps even cause the habit to regress.
  • When your dog does venture outside, treat him or her repeatedly. Make it a party whether you provide sweets or offer verbal compliments! When you’re yelling or caressing your dog outside, keep in mind that it’s easy to terrify him, so make sure your praise is motivating rather than overwhelming.

Practice time has come. You won’t have to worry about an accident when carrying your purse dog about town any time soon!

Call a Certified Professional Dog Trainer in your region for assistance if you’re still experiencing issues or if your dog has severe outside anxiety.

The founder and CEO of Fetchfind, a talent acquisition and services company focused on the pet business, is Jaime Migdal, CPDT KA.

Which dog is the most challenging to housebreak?

Whatever breed of dog you have, potty training them takes persistence, effort, and patience. But some dog breeds are infamously more difficult to housebreak than others.

The following breeds are recognized for needing a little extra endurance when potty training:


Pugs, who are notoriously obstinate, could be difficult to housebreak. Fortunately, they have a strong treat-motivation. Just keep in mind that this breed is prone to weight problems, so while giving your pug treats during the potty training process, make sure to go by the 10% guideline.


Dachshunds are intelligent but unyielding. They are difficult to entice outside in the rain or snow because they typically don’t like the bad weather. When educating your Dachshund to use the toilet, be firm, consistent, and use positive reinforcement.

Bichon Frise

The Bichon Frise is a beautiful toy breed—when they aren’t urinating on your carpet, that is. Consistency and clear expectations are essential because bichons are quite independent and stubborn. Puppy pads might also be effective for this little breed.


If human control is not established from an early age, Dalmations, one of the most clever and willful breeds, may easily believe they are in charge. A Dalmatian must be trained to use the toilet with confidence, consistency, and strict expectations.

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers are a breed with a high level of intelligence, and if their trainer is not respected, they may be quite inventive in discovering methods to breach the law. The secret to teaching a Jack Russell is to begin early so they learn to regard you as the alpha male in the household.

Afghan Hound

Afghan Hounds are sensitive and independent dogs that might become defensive in the face of strong demands. To create reliable habits, they need a lot of time, patience, and positive reinforcement (such sweets).


Pomeranians are known for their boisterous sass and top-dog attitude, yet they can be challenging to toilet train. Establishing early dominance and having an abundance of goodies on hand are necessary for successfully toilet training a Pomeranian.

Although toilet training these dog breeds may be challenging, their company is well worth the effort.

Any dog can be successfully trained if a clear toilet training strategy is created and followed. Just as you would your dog along the way, reward yourself for a job well done. You can do this.

How should a little dog be trained to use the bathroom?

Puppies thrive on routine schedules. They learn from the timetable that there are set times for eating, playing, and going to the bathroom. Puppy bladder control typically lasts one hour for every month of age. They can therefore hold it for roughly two hours if your puppy is two months old. If you wait much longer between potty stops, kids might have an accident.

Take your puppy outside frequently—at least once every two hours—as soon as they awaken, throughout and after playtime, and after consuming food or liquids.

Choose a site outside where you can relieve yourself, and bring your dog there every time (on a leash). Utilize a specific word or phrase that you can eventually use before your puppy goes to the bathroom to remind them what to do while they are going. Only after they have gone potty should you take them for a longer stroll or some fun.

Every time your puppy urinates outside, give them a treat. Reward them with praise or treats, but do it right away once they’re finished, not when they go inside. This step is crucial since the only way to teach your dog what is expected of them is to praise them for going outside. Make sure they’re done before rewarding. Because they are easily distracted, puppies could forget to complete until they go back inside the home if you praise them too quickly.

Set up a consistent feeding regimen for your dog. A timetable determines what goes into and what comes out of a dog. Puppies may need to be fed twice or three times every day, depending on their age. Your puppy will be more likely to go potty at regular intervals if you feed them at the same times every day, which will make housebreaking simpler for both of you.

To lessen the probability that your puppy may need to go potty throughout the night, remove their water bowl around two and a half hours prior to bedtime. Most pups are able to sleep for around seven hours without getting up to use the restroom. Don’t make a big deal out of it if your puppy does wake you up in the middle of the night; otherwise, they’ll believe it’s time to play and won’t want to go back to sleep. Don’t talk to or play with your puppy, turn off as many lights as you can, take them outside to go potty, and then put them back to bed.

Are larger dogs simpler to housebreak than smaller dogs?

According to a recent study from a team of researchers in Virginia, a dog’s size can determine how completely and successfully it can be housebroken.

House soiling is one of the canine issue behaviors that is most frequently reported. Finding (or stepping in) a pool of urine or a pile of dog waste is not only unpleasant, but it is sometimes accompanied by an outburst of resentment directed towards the offending dog. This has the potential to significantly impair the attachment between owners and their dogs if it is done often enough. Dogs are given up to shelters for the third most common reason, which is frequent house soiling (behind only aggression and excessive noise).

Dogs have a natural tendency to keep their sleeping and eating quarters tidy. In wolves and other wild dogs, the mother would lick the puppies and even eat their excrement to keep the den tidy. When the pups are able to move around, they are instructed to urinate and poop outside of the den.

We are able to housetrain dogs thanks to their genetic propensity to keep their dens tidy. The idea is to persuade the dog that the house is a den and that there are specific spots (often outside) where he or she can relieve themselves. Housebreaking animals with no evolutionary connection to den living is significantly more challenging (think of monkeys, pigs, or horses, where it may be impossible to eradicate soiling in the house).

Recent findings from a group of researchers led by Amy Learn of the Veterinary Services of Hanover, Behavior Department, in Mechanicsville, Virginia, suggest that a dog’s size may affect how successfully it may be housebroken. They gathered information through an online survey, which they made available on a number of general veterinarian practice and referral center web pages as well as social media pages using a service called SurveyMonkey. A lot of questions were asked in the survey, such as the dog’s physical traits and whether or not it had ever taken any kind of formal obedience training.

The crucial query, though, was whether the animal was fully housetrained. The investigators indicated that a thoroughly house-trained dog is one that has continuously pooped outside in the environment or in a location selected by the owner for at least the last two months (barring exceptional circumstances). (That specific location might be a pee pad or some kind of litter box arrangement.)

The investigators divided the canines into groups based on size as their initial step. Small dogs were those weighing less than 20 pounds (9 kg), and giant dogs were those weighing more than 40 pounds (18 kg). The data from dogs who fell in the middle (between these weight restrictions) were eliminated, leaving a total of 735 cases in the analysis, in order to make any potential differences based on size more distinct.

To me, at least, it was astounding how much the size of the dogs affected the efficiency of house-training. Among tiny dogs, 67 percent were thought to be fully housebroken, leaving 33 percent whose owners claimed they hadn’t attained the necessary standard of cleanliness. In contrast, just 5% of the large dogs were determined to still be engaging in house-soiling activities. Of the large dogs, 95% were thought to be fully house-trained.

One unexpected additional finding was that tiny dogs were more likely to be regarded as thoroughly house-trained the more formal obedience training a dog had had, from basic obedience lessons up through competition-level training. This is unexpected because typical obedience training do not contain any exercises specifically designed to prevent house-soiling; instead, they concentrate on teaching the dog to respond to a variety of commands.

Large dogs were considerably more vulnerable to the impact, possibly because there wasn’t much more that could be done to increase how well-trained they were already.

The explanation for their findings is a little baffling to the researchers. They speculate that little dogs might have a relatively high metabolism and may require more frequent urination due to their limited bladder size. Another theory is that small dogs are increasingly prevalent in homes and apartments without easy access to the outdoors, making it harder to get an agitated dog outside in time to prevent accidents.

They do point out that behavioral differences between large and small dogs have been discovered in other studies. One important set of prior findings that might be pertinent is based on the idea that maintaining a clean home necessitates some kind of specialized training.

There have been some claims that larger dogs are smarter than smaller canines, or at the very least, easier to teach. If accurate, this could explain these findings. This investigating team does not, however, appear to be persuaded that each of these hypotheses provides the complete solution. Thus, they are left with the obvious conclusion that a dog’s size does matter when it comes to housebreaking.