When seeing clients, whether it be with a new puppy or a new rescue dog, toilet training is a topic that seems to be pretty high up on the problem list. But why and what can we do to make this process so much easier?
1- Get rid of the pee pads!
These are the bane of my existence! Yes they can be convenient, however dogs and puppies especially, learn to preference to a certain surface quite quickly. These pads teach dogs to look for an absorbent surface inside the house and often they cause confusion between the pads and your carpet.
2- Start off how you want to finish!
If you need to provide an indoor toilet then use a similar surface to what you want your dog or puppy to use outside; Astroturf with newspaper underneath works well, or there are many indoor turf toilets available to purchase.
As often as possible however take your puppy/dog to the desirable outside location.
Place the indoor toilet as close as possible to the exit; inside the back door, at the exit of the puppy pen or laundry. The aim is for your puppy to want to go outside and to begin to understand the route to outside. By putting the indoor toilet away from these areas you are teaching your puppy to walk the wrong way.
Indoor toilets should only be used when the outside toilet is not accessible.
4- Use my feet!
Even with a young puppy we want them to learn the correct route to the toilet. Yes for the first few days you may need to carry your puppy out, however once your puppy is confident in the new home teach them how to find the toilet themselves. Encourage them to follow you.
5- Hold my hand!
The outside world can be a very exciting place for a new dog, and a distracted dog is generally not in the right frame of mind to toilet. Liken it to someone banging on the toilet door whilst you’re trying to go.
Take your dog outside and remain calm and allow the dog to explore and familiarise with the area prior to going. It can take a while!
6- Stay with me!
Dogs’ eyesight is much poorer than ours, so often it can be quite scary to go outside at night and toilet. Don’t assume that just because you put the dog out that it has been brave enough to go out in to the dark and toilet.
7- Watch me!
Just like a human child just learning to toilet you need to keep an eye on them! If you are unable to watch your puppy or new dog then put them in a location that sets them up to succeed, such as a crate, play pen or outside with something fun to do, such as food games.
8- Quiet please!
I’m not a fan of nagging a dog into toileting; “go toilet, do wees, go potty….” How would you feel if you asked to use my toilet then I followed you and then precede to stand outside asking if you were going?
The more information we give the dog the less likely it is to be able to concentrate on the task at hand.
Once you can reliably predict when your dog or puppy is about to toilet then add the cue “go toilet” or similar.
9- To reward or not to reward!
With the majority of dogs and puppies I don’t give a food reward after toileting, however I will give quiet verbal praise such as “good dog” after the act. Although food rewarding can work well with some dogs, I personally have found that many dogs tend to learn very quickly to resume the position to get the reward, and don’t actually toilet!
Accidents are unintentional; even though sometimes it can seem otherwise. Puppies especially are easily distracted and therefore mistakes happen.
If you see your dog or puppy about to toilet then make a noise to interrupt the behaviour then happily take them outside to the appropriate location.
Clean up any accidents with an enzymatic cleaner that breaks down the scent molecule.
And please don’t punish. If you punish a dog for toileting then quite simply they will learn to become stealth toilet-ers and hide away to do their business.
Not unlike human children toilet training can vary depending on the individual. By taking your dog/puppy outside to the desirable location as much as possible you are setting them up to succeed.