How to Tell If a Dog Has to Go Potty

Updated On: Tuesday, December 21, 2021 15:52:24 PM America/Los_Angeles

One of a dog paw-rent’s most basic responsibilities is making sure their fur baby’s potty needs are taken care of. But until each dog and their human develops their own individualized routines, it can be a challenge to interpret canine behavior. Does a dog’s pacing signal a need to go potty or do they just have an itch to explore the great outdoors?

Photo by John Price

Luckily, there are some behaviors that can help us understand our pups’ needs better. Signs that dogs have to go potty generally fall under two categories: posture and behavior. The below cues are signs that a dog will likely need to make a trip to the dog bathroom very soon! 


Feeling your pooch staring holes into the back of your head? They’re sending a strong message that they hope you’ll understand correctly. Consider other clues if it’s unclear whether the staring is just a loving gaze or a directed message. If this occurs while next to the door or right before a mealtime, chances are they need to go potty. 

Whimpering or Pawing Near the Door

If you see a dog whimpering or pawing near the door, it’s highly likely that they want to go outside for one of two reasons–to go on a walk or to go potty. However, don’t forget that for many dogs these two things are synonymous. So, grab the leash and head out so your fur baby can take care of business. 

Fidgeting or Antsy Behavior

Antsy behavior like fidgeting or pacing can signal discomfort. While a dog may be able to hold it a bit longer, they are visibly demonstrating their need to go to the bathroom.


Once dogs are getting ready to go potty, they’ll begin sniffing to see where they might want to go. Familiar scents like their own urine or the smell of another dog’s urine can be the green light your pup is sniffing for. 


Circling doesn’t always mean a dog is about to go potty, but sniffing while circling is a pretty good sign. Think of circling as honing in on the right spot before handling business.


Crouching with the tail up means a dog is beginning to go potty! If appropriate, open the door, take your pooch on a walk, or place them on a pee pad so that they can go in a more appropriate space.   

Looking for a way to manage your dog’s bathroom needs between walks? A real grass pee pad like DoggieLawn is the perfect answer to your pup’s potty needs. A natural wee wee pad encourages appropriate potty behavior and you’ll never have to make your fur baby wait to go potty again!