The Zone: Training Your Dog Where to Poop in Your Yard

We've had a few clients ask us if we know how to train their dog to poop in a specifically designated area in their yard.  These are folks who have a large yard and want to reduce the cost of having a pooper scooper walk the entire property or folks who simply want to know where that poop is going to be!  So we thought we'd start finding some answers for them.  

Enter Nancy Schumacher, founder of Best in Behavior and CPDT-KA Certified Dog Trainer.  She uses a positive reward-based approach to dog training and was kind enough to give us some advice on this topic.  And as she notes: summer is the best time to start this kind of poop training!  Read on for her expert advice ...

"Training your dog to take care of their ‘business’ in a specific area of your yard is easier then it sounds. It takes patience and consistency but young puppies and older dogs can be trained to go in a dedicated zone. The area does not need to have any special surface but should be a defined area. An easy way to do this is to cover a small area with mulch or to stake out an area.

If you are working with a young puppy, start first thing in the day by taking your dog out of it’s crate on a leash and quickly walking outside to the area. Do not slow down or stop as it will be easy for the pup to have an accident. Run to the zone and keep the dog on leash. When you get to the area stand still and let the pup have the length of the leash. By running to the spot you have shaken up the dogs bladder and he will most likely go immediately. When he does go give him enthusiastic praise and a treat.

This is an image of a young boy rewarding his dog with a treat for using "the zone" properly.  The image illustrates how to train your dog to poop in one particular area of your yard.

The treats will be used every time for the first few days and then weaning off to a random treat now and then.  Leave any waste in the area so the smell will trigger the pup next time he is in that area. Puppies should not be allowed off leash in the yard during this training unless they have taken care of #1 and #2.  As a new pup owner you will be focused on when the dog has to go. Every time you are taking him out he goes on leash to the zone. If you catch him about to go in a different area when playing, interrupt him and bring him over to the zone. He should equate going in the zone with lots of good things; praise from you, treats and then being allowed off leash.

Older dogs need to learn that going in the Zone makes good things happen as well.  When you are training an older dog who up until now has had freedom to go wherever in the yard it is very important to establish a new routine. When the dog needs to go out, you need to put on the leash and bring him to the area. It is important that all family members are on board with this. If some people are leashing the dog and bringing him to the zone and some are not the dog will go with what he is used to which is going anywhere.  When he goes in zone be sure to make a big fuss with lots of verbal praise and a treat. Most dogs are highly motivated by food treats and will be happy to comply with going in the zone for a tasty treat.

With consistency and positive reinforcement you can train your dog to take care of business in the area you choose. Summer is a great time to start this training as the weather is warm and the days are long."

Many thanks to Nancy for taking the time and care to be our guest blogger on this topic!  If you have any questions for Nancy she can be reached via her website: