Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting event. You have a new companion and a new member of the family, hopefully one who’s going to be around for anything from ten to twenty years.
This new pet is going to provide a lot of fun and may well end up being an important contributor to your emotional wellbeing. But in the early days, as your pet integrates into its new home, you could find yourself becoming stressed as you progress through that most trying of dog-developmental phases – toilet training.
Don’t panic. While is unarguably messy at times, toilet training your puppy successfully is really just a matter of patience, the right technique and perseverance. The tips below will show you how to do it.
The Right Frame of Mind
Toilet training your puppy actually starts with you. Accepting at the outset that the process will take a few months and that there will be plenty of mishaps along the way will help both you and your pet avoid counterproductive anger and unnecessary unhappiness. Just regard toilet training as a task that you have to work your way through.
Dogs aren’t humans. They don’t instinctively know it’s wrong to relieve themselves on your carpet. Neither do they have the cognitive ability to associate punishment after the fact with going to the toilet in the “wrong” place. Understand that this is a learning process for them, a process that in some respects runs counter to their instincts.
It might also help to remember that many puppies don’t develop full control over their bladder until they are four months old.
Rules of the Game
When toilet training your puppy keep in mind two rules:
- Punishment won’t work. If you find your dog has messed in the house and you take your anger out on it by inflicting some sort of punishment (rubbing it’s nose in the mess, scolding etc.) the dog simply won’t associate the punishment with the act of going to the toilet. All you’ll end up with is a confused and frightened dog.
- Positive reinforcement will work. Praising your puppy for toileting in the right place, if carried out immediately, will create a positive association between praise and the act of going to the toilet in a spot that’s acceptable to you.
You can make the process of toilet training easier on yourself by initially restricting your puppy’s living space. By confining the pup to a small, easily cleaned area of your house you’ll be able to monitor it more easily, you’ll avoid finding unwanted deposits in other areas of your house, and you’ll take advantage of the puppy’s natural instinct for cleanliness.
Dogs are clean creatures and they will not willingly mess near their bedding or near their food and water. Confining your dog to an area that does not allow it to mess more than a metre from its food and bed will make it reluctant to toilet inside.
Of course, for this approach to make sense you have to provide the dog with ample opportunity to relieve itself outside.
Toilet training a puppy demands a fair bit of time and vigilance. Puppies will want to toilet upon waking, about half an hour after meals, and after a period of indoor play. Knowing this, you can pay more attention to the pup at these times and watch for signs that it is preparing to relieve itself.
You’ll come to know the behaviour of your own dog soon enough, but pre-toilet signs include sniffing the floor, exploring and circling. When you see your dog exhibiting pre-toilet signs, take it outside and place it on the spot where you want it to go to the toilet – use the same spot every time to build a toilet association.
Make sure you take the dog immediately to its toilet spot and do not divert it with play along the way. It may also help if you have the dog on a lead at this time to prevent it running around the garden and forgetting why it was out there in the first place.
It is also beneficial to associate the act of toileting with a specific verbal phrase. Placing the dog on its toilet spot and saying something like “toilet” will create an association between the act of toileting and the phrase. This becomes useful for future commands and to target your praise to your dog’s toileting.
As soon as the pup has finished toileting praise it with a calm and loving “good dog”. If you use a “toilet” phrase then something like “toilet – good dog” will teach your pet exactly why it is being praised. If you like, a food treat can also be used.
If you cannot monitor your pup all the time, place several sheets of newspaper on the far side of your dog’s (confined) living area, away from its food and bed. This will at least limit the area you have to clean.
Once the pup gets used to using the newspaper and learns that this is where it is supposed to go to the toilet if it can’t get outside, you can extend the amount of the house it has access too without too much fear that it will treat every room as a toilet area.
If you catch your pup in the act of toileting in an inappropriate place do not scold it. Simply pick it up immediately and take it outside to its toilet spot. When it has finished it’s toileting, praise it.
By controlling your natural reaction towards anger, limiting your pup’s initial living space, allowing plenty of access to an appropriate toilet area, being consistent in your behaviour and by understanding that scolding is counterproductive you’ll successfully toilet train your puppy.
To learn more about toilet training your puppy check out this video.