One of the most stressful and frustrating exercises for a new puppy’s guardian can be toilet training. Just when you think the puppy has got the right idea, you find another puddle.
What do you do?
The association with a toilet spot will be built of the following things:
- Smell (of urine, faeces or ammonia);
- Substrate eg: what the surface is made of (this can be grass, sand, tiles, newspapers etc);
- Occasionally a word, command or sound; and
- Physiological things like feeding, sleeping and playing.
The easiest method of toilet training is to take advantage of the puppy’s natural instincts. Dogs in the wild are fastidious about keeping the den and nests clean. Dogs generally do not toilet where they sleep or eat. Dogs and pups are most likely to go to the toilet after feeding, playing or upon waking from a sleep.
Initially, the puppy should be confined to a small area of the house (such as a puppy pen/ laundry/bathroom). This enclosure should contain the puppy’s bed and water and feed bowls and the puppy should be fed in this area.
Keep a close eye on the puppy when he or she wakes from sleep or has had a meal or has been playing. The puppy will appear agitated and show signs of needing to go to the toilet. You just need to notice these and respond quickly before the pup makes a mistake and goes in the wrong place. Sometimes they will sniff the ground or even walk around in a circle. If you see these things happening, then carry the puppy quickly and calmly outside on lead and let them go to the toilet. Letting the puppy go to the toilet off lead and alone the puppy will usually get side tracked and forget what he was meant to do. As soon as the puppy has gone to the toilet, give them lots of praise and command them “toilet – good dog”. The puppy will eventual associate the word “toilet” with the right action of urination or defecation.
The closer you can observe your puppy in the first few days, the less chance there will be for mistakes, then the quicker the puppy will understand and be more relaxed. Each time you take the puppy outside, give the word “toilet” and try to use the same spot. As the puppy grows up they will head for that area of the yard.
If you still encounter problems start with a small ‘den area’. That is very important. Make it easy for yourself and the pup at first by having a limited area to keep an eye on. Choose any small room with a floor that is easy to clean as the den. Place the food and water bowls and on the opposite side place a few newspapers for the toilet area. Once the puppy is using the newspaper you can enlarge the “den” area. Place the top newspaper (which is wet) on the bottom of the pile. The smell will encourage the puppy to use this area. The soiled papers can then be placed outside in the yard to encourage the puppy to ‘toilet’ in the area of your choice. Access to the rest of the house can be made slowly, once the puppy is reliable.
You must expect accidents occasionally. Never punish the puppy by rubbing their nose in the ‘accident’. Reprimanding the puppy will only confuse them as to what you require from them. If you catch the puppy in the act of toileting, don’t reprimand – don’t say a word. Just quickly lift the puppy outside and give the command – “toilet”. If you reprimand the pup, you could just end up with a stressed and confused pup, which makes sure they goes when you are not around to scold them.
Some puppies and older dogs will urinate because of excitement or anticipation of seeing their owner. Usually, puppies will grow out of this habit. With the older dogs, it is a little harder to control. Encourage the dog to be relaxed during greetings and to lessen the excitement. Do NOT scold the dog.
After the puppy or dog has urinated in the house, clean the area with a non-ammonia based product e.g. BIO-ZET laundry powder. Leave a bowl of clean water in that area. Even feed the dog the next meal in the same area.
Some extra tips
When adopting an adult dog, most are toilet trained but some are not. Even those who are trained may have learnt to go in places that are not acceptable to you, and you may need to re teach a new place to toilet. Some dogs adopted from Refuges have learnt to toilet on concrete and may need to be retrained.
To do this:
- Limit unsupervised access to any concreted areas.
- Observe the dog closely at times when they are likely to need to go to the toilet.
- Take the dog to the desired location ON LEAD, stand there and wait without interacting with the dog until the eliminate then reward generously. Letting the dog go to the toilet off lead and alone the dog will usually get side tracked and forget what they were meant to do.
If the dog is defecating frequently then limit the times when they have access to food so you are home to do the toilet training.
Reward for doing the correct thing. Do not punish for mistakes – it is better to ignore and make it even easier for the dog to get it right next time so you can reward them for the correct response.