This is a question we get all the time from dog owners concerned about their lawns. Unfortunately, the common practice of restricting a puppy’s choice of bathroom locations to only one small area may hurt your housebreaking efforts. Why? Because the key with housebreaking is to form a habit of elimination outdoors.
Puppies who are permitted to travel around in the yard and choose their spots, more quickly develop preferences to go to the bathroom outside.
The feel of grass under their paws, the smells of the outdoors, and the ability to move around and choose their spots, all contribute to faster progress in house training.
Some puppies are a bit fussy about other things as well – like weather, surfaces, and proximity to the owner. For these dogs, adding yet another roadblock to housebreaking is even more risky.
So as a general rule, we do not recommend attempting to teach your puppy to only use one small area of the yard for elimination. Taking him to the same spot over and over might eventually teach him to prefer that particular area, but it is also likely to slow down your housebreaking efforts.
In addition to the “moving around” factor, Lindsay’s Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training (Vol. 3, page 79-80) gives another reason for not using one small spot over and over during puppy training: “In the morning, the puppy should be taken to the same general location [e.g. the back yard] and vocally prompted to eliminate…we say “Hurry Up, Hurry Up”
As the training process progresses, the puppy should be encouraged to eliminate in different locations near and away from the home, thus preventing the behavior from becoming overly contextualized to particular substrates and locations. [emphasis mine].”
This advice might not be welcomed by dog owners who are concerned about burn spots on their lawns. The good news is that some dogs will naturally seeks the perimeter of the yard for elimination.
If so, that’s great. Also, male dogs who have been neutered after reaching sexual maturity will insist on lifting their legs on vertical surfaces (fences, trees and shrubs), which also tends to reduce the number of burn spots on the lawn.
But for most of us, some urine-nitrogen-burn-spots on our lawns are an inevitable part of dog ownership.