The web is filled up with a plethora of articles about the most difficult dog breeds to potty train, but many articles fail to point out why certain dog breeds may be harder to housebreak compared to others and often fall short in providing tips to overcome some breed-related problems. Getting better acquainted with the reasons why these dogs are perceived more difficult to potty train is important so to be better able to help them succeed. Labeling several dog breeds as stubborn or even worse, stupid, is not only unjust, put will put a dent in the potty training process causing dog owners to seek out inappropriate training methods that will potentially do more harm than good.
Trouble with Toy Breeds
Dog breeds included in the toy group often top the list of the most difficult dog breeds to potty train. What dog breeds are we talking about? Chihuahuas, Maltese, papillon, miniature pinschers, Pomeranians and Shih Tzus just to name a few.
These are pups of diminutive sizes that are quite popular among city dwellers and people with small living spaces. While toy breeds have a great reputation for making ideal apartment dogs and perfect lap warmers for chilly nights, they have quite a bad reputation in the potty training department. Why are smaller dogs harder to potty train?
There are various theories, one popular one is because of their tiny bladders. Another one is that perhaps owners of small dogs tend to carry them outside instead of teaching them to signal their physiological needs to potty at the door.
While the above can be factors to consider in the potty training process of small dogs, often something that is overlooked is the owner's perspective. Let's face it: owners of pint-sized pups are more likely to be slacking off when it comes to cleaning up messes left around. A Kleenex can easily wipe up a small dribble and poop can be easily picked up in single one swoop, whereas, with the larger dogs, an industrial mop and a garden shovel is needed.
On top of that, consider the subtleties of being small: a quick squat can be easily missed even by the most attentive dog owners and small dogs can secretly eliminate behind objects without being noticed!
"In the case of housetraining, I would be willing to bet that there is an incentive effect going on. Great danes who still urinate in the house at the age of six months create massive Def Con III incentives to buckle down and get the dog pottying outside, whereas, Yorkies might elicit only sighing or eye rolling."~Jean Donaldson
Tip: Try having the same expectations as if you were potty training a Labrador retriever or Great Dane. In other words, be extra vigilant so that, upon noticing the first signs of your dog needing to go potty, you can quickly give your cue word and head together outside. To prevent your small dog from going potty in the house, do not make the biggest potty training mistake of many novice puppy owners: giving too much freedom at once. Your puppy should be either in his pen, in the puppy-proofed yard, on a leash ( think umbilical cord technique) or under direct supervision in the house that's limited to a small area with nothing blocking your view (and, most of all, strategically nearby the door!)
Struggles with Scent Hounds
Next in line, for the hardest dogs to housebreak are many dogs in the scent hound category. These include basset hounds, beagles, bloodhounds and dachshunds.
Often these dogs are blamed for being difficult to housebreak because they are particularly stubborn dogs. In some cases, they are even labeled as stupid. Oh my!
Hounds are not stubborn nor stupid, they were simply selectively bred by humans for their powerful noses, and it's not their fault if their noses interfere with the process of potty training.
One main issue is the fact their powerful sniffers are still able to detect soiled areas (yes, even after being cleaned) and therefore they have a tendency to return to them because they simply, to put it bluntly "smell like a bathroom."
Another issue encountered is that once taken out to potty, hounds may forget all about going potty and may decide to follow their noses instead.
This is a behavior that can also be seen in several setters, spaniels and pointers, as dog breeds included in these categories have a strong tendency to explore and hunt.
"Some breeds, generally those that have been selected to have a particularly keen sense of smell (e.g, beagles) can be difficult to housebreak not because they are stupid, but because they scent any previously soiled area and return to it." ~Karen Overall
Tip: Avoid cleaning products that contain ammonia or ammonium. Clean up all messes with enzyme based cleaners, and if your hound still returns to the same area over and over, try cleaning again, or worse comes to worse, block off the area with a piece of furniture. To prevent hounds from wandering should you have a large yard, fence off a small area of the yard and turn it into a formal designated potty area or take your hound out on a long leash.
Setbacks with Sight Hounds
Sight hounds include several dog breeds with a history of hunting by primarily using their eye sight. And indeed, the vision of sight hounds is quite amazing!
Several sight hounds though are known for having a reputation as being difficult to housebreak. Irish wolfhounds, borzoi, Italian greyhounds and whippets in particular are often included in the list.
What's up with them? Like the scent hounds, they may be easily distracted, but this time, rather than scent, by sight, namely anything that moves. So one moment they may be sniffing to go potty, the next they are going, going, gone. And when they are sent back inside, you named it: they'll pee and poop on the carpet and owners perceive it as a setback.
Another issue with sight hounds is that many owners of rescued racing greyhounds may have to start potty training from zero, considering that many have only lived in a kennel environment and never in a house before, explains the Greyhound Adoption Program.
Not to mention another challenge: greyhounds and whippets are not too fond of cold weather and may not like to be sent out when it's wet and cold, and who can blame them? They might therefore go out and put their bladders on strike or they may do a quick dribble just to make you happy and "open up the fountain" minutes later on your favorite rug.
"Many racing greyhounds have only ever lived in a kennel environment, with regular ‘let-outs’ for a run and toilet break during the day. Some greyhounds never receive any formal toilet training, and for a few of them, all the world is one big concrete toilet!"~Greyhound Adoption Program.
Tip: a long leash may turn helpful so to keep these dogs focused on what they need to do: go potty! Even if your yard is fenced, keep in mind that sight hounds have long legs and they can easily jump over a fence if motivated enough. Remember that sight hounds may take off after anything that moves and that includes squirrels, bikes and even the neighbor's cat! And to prevent your sight hound from pottying when he comes back from outside, make sure to escort him outside – regardless of the weather, watching him like a hawk and making sure that he has eliminated before coming back inside. Oh, and don't forget a cozy jacket so your dog stays nice and toasty and no more excuses for not pottying in the cold!
Tribulations with Terriers
Terriers are often lumped in lists on the most difficult dog breeds to potty train and these mostly include the smaller, working terriers bred as vermin hunting dogs such as rat terriers and Jack Russells.
Often these dogs are accused for being difficult to potty train because of their temperament.
Terriers are often depicted as being stubborn, independent dogs who are unwilling to take directions from their owners. Sure, terriers are quite smart, but it's not like they have an agenda of outsmarting humans turning into bullies who want to eliminate where and when they want!
Terriers are just tenacious, independent thinkers considering that their job of hunting down underground critters did not require close teamwork with humans.
"Owning a terrier is a unique experience. These little bundles of canine determinedness often behave quite differently from other types of dogs; they can be noisy, feisty and always on the move... Something made each of us decide to share our hearts and homes with a terrier... now we need to accept the consequences of that decision and learn how to train these dogs to be the very best terriers they can be." ~Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell
Tip: as mentioned, terriers are quite intelligent dogs that are quick to learn, and this goes both ways meaning that they are fast in learning good behaviors with proper motivation, but they're equally fast in learning bad habits. Consistency is very important and you must ensure there aren't any loopholes in your potty training program. This of course, applies to any dog, but terriers are just more apt to this.
Slow Maturers Lagging Behind
Think only small dog breeds belong to the list of the most difficult dog breeds to potty train? Think again. Many people are surprised when owners of several large breed dogs are also struggling with potty training their dogs.
The problem with these dogs is that they are quite slow to mature, which often translates into longer times to accomplish potty training.
It's not like these dogs aren't smart enough, it's just that their bodies and brains are just a step behind.
Large and giant dog breeds such as great danes, Saint Bernards, Bernese mountain dogs, Chinese shar-pei, Rottweilers, and mastiffs generally are not fully mature until they reach two years old or older. This doesn't mean though it'll take 2 years to potty train them!
Fortunately, owners are deterred by finding horse-size messes in their homes, and this certainly expedites the process. However, it's not unusual for puppies of large and giant dog breeds not to be fully potty trained until they are on 6 to 8 months old, when other smaller dog breeds may take less.
"Not all dogs develop at the same rate, and clients need to make allowances for this variability even if they have had the same breed or obtained the dog from the same breeder and lines." ~Karen Overall
Tip: be patient! You may go through periods of time during which you think your dog has finally aced it, to other times where you notice a regression. Potty training slow to mature dogs breeds is made of these ups and downs and they're perfectly normal.
The Most Difficult Dog Breeds to Potty Train
So far, we have debunked some myths revolving around the most difficult dog breeds to potty train such as some dogs being accused of being stubborn or plain stupid or others trying to become bullies so they can eliminate where they want.
But perhaps an even bigger myth to debunk is that breed is the only factor.
Even within a dog breed, or even within a litter, there may be great variances in the potty training process from one pup to another. This is because, when having trouble potty training a dog, there are a dozen and more factors to keep in mind.
Is your puppy on a feeding schedule? Adhering to a feeding schedule can help you determine when your puppy is more likely to potty. Are you actively supervising? Failure in doing so means you're missing important opportunities to train. Are you praising and rewarding for going outdoors? Behaviors that are rewarded tend to strengthen and repeat. Are you using puppy training pads? These can be challenging to use.
Are you ensuring your dog enters the home with an empty bladder/bowel? If you don't, your puppy will go potty the moment he comes in. Is the puppy from a pet store? Puppies in stores often come from puppy mills and are more difficult to potty train.
Are you punishing your puppy when he has accidents? Doing so will only make the process more difficult as this just teaches your puppy to secretly go in area out of your sight. Is your puppy peeing when he greets you or when you scold him? You might be dealing with a case of excitement or submissive urination. Does your puppy have a substrate preference? Acknowledging this can make things easier.
And if you're struggling a whole lot, give your puppy or dog the benefit of doubt and, with the help of your vet, determine if you're dealing with a behavioral or medical problem. With all that said, we hope you have attained a better understanding on the myths behind the most difficult dog breeds to potty train, so happy potty training to all!
- Oh Behave: Dogs from Pavlov to Premack to Pinker, By Jean Donaldson, Dogwise Publishing (April 1, 2008)
- Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, 1e 1 Pap/DVD Edition, by Karen Overall, Mosby; 1 Pap/DVD edition (July 9, 2013)
- Why do dogs, a list of the most difficult dog breeds to potty train
- Train your rottweiler: are Rotties among the most difficult dog breeds to potty train?
- Best pet home remedies: here are tips for the most difficult dog breeds to potty train