Toilet training or house training as it is sometimes called is probably the first thing we want to teach our new dog or puppy! All puppies and dogs are different, and will learn at different rates. There are lots of things we can do to help speed up the process in a kind and fair way!
If puppies have come from a breeder who has started teaching them to toilet outside, they will already have a head start! However, if your puppy has been kennelled in an area where it sleeps and toilets it doesn’t know any different.
Positive Toilet Training!
Positive reinforcement can help speed the process up. Every time your dog or puppy goes to the toilet outside of the house make sure you stand with him, then use verbal praise and a food reward whilst you are with him, immediately after he has toileted. This will teach him that going to the toilet outside is good and he will want to keep doing it!
Get on schedule!
At first young puppies will need to be let out to toilet every 30 minutes to an hour. Try to stick to a schedule, and if necessary keep a record of toilet times and habits. This will help you to be able to predict a routine in the future. Always take a young puppy out straight away after they have woken up after a nap, first thing in the morning, last thing at night and after any playing or excitement.
Make sure you go outside with your dog and wait a few minutes to see if they need the toilet. Your dog will often have a particular spot in the garden that they prefer, so guide them towards this, on-lead if necessary. Praise and reward them for going as soon as they have finished. If they don’t go to the toilet this time be extra vigilant for any signs that they might need to go, such as sniffing, circling or going to a favourite spot.
If you are not able to watch your puppy for these signs consider using a crate or puppy pen as part of your toilet training.
For night time toilet training you may wish to try waking your puppy up at night for at least one toilet break per night. Set an alarm midway through the night then wake your puppy up and take outside for the toilet following the guidelines above. Keep this as calm and fuss free as possible. This will minimise the need for the puppy to wake you up asking to go to the toilet.
So what to do with inevitable accidents?
Make sure that the puppy is out of the way and that you are matter of fact and calm about cleaning up. Puppies can pick up on any stress you may be feeling. Use an appropriate biological cleaner rather than bleach or an all purpose cleaner. A good biological cleaner usually needs to be left to soak and will remove any scent that will encourage the puppy to go back to that same spot again. Other cleaning products will not do this.
The problem with Puppy Pads.
Some new owners will try training their dog to toilet on puppy pads, mats or newspapers at first before teaching them to go outside. This can actually slow the toilet training process down – we are essentially teaching the dog to toilet inside! If you follow this method you will still then have to train them to toilet outside and you may find that they toilet more indoors in inappropriate places. You may also find that puppy pads are great fun for your puppy to tear up and run around with! If our end goal is a dog that toilets outside it will be much quicker to start with this straight away.
‘He knows he has done wrong!…’
Many owners wrongly believe that their dog or puppy knows that they have done wrong when they have toileted in the house as they look ‘guilty’. What actually happens is that your puppy reads your angry body language, or learns from experience that you will punish them if they have toileted in the house. They will then try to appease you with submissive body language. If your puppy has an accident inside he will miss out on his praise and reward but we mustn’t punish him for going to the toilet inside. It is an accident and he didn’t mean to do it!
If we start shouting at our dogs, handling them roughly or even rubbing their nose in their accident they will learn that we are scary. This can have an effect on our relationship with our dogs and impact on other aspects of training. It can even lead to further behavioural problems – some puppies will start to eat their own accidents to ‘hide’ it from you so that you don’t punish them.
Keep at it!
Some puppies won’t toilet out on walks for the first few months, so it is common for them to hold on until they get back home where they feel more secure to toilet. Toilet training can take up to 6 months and it is well worth putting in the hard work early on. Laying a good foundation for your toilet training will pay off in the long term!