How to begin toilet training?
The first step in toilet training your puppy is to choose an area where they can toilet. This could be a safe zone outside, a training pad inside, or a grass mat on a deck. Whichever you choose, ensure you are able to get there with your puppy in a timely manner when it’s toilet time. Creating a routine for toileting will help both you and your puppy – they will learn the right place to toilet and when, while you can help to ensure that your house remains accident free. The best times to take them to their toilet spot are when: they wake up, after playing, after eating, after drinking, after a cuddle and once you take them out of their crate.
Take them straight to their toilet area, preferably on a lead so they learn that toileting on the lead is an acceptable behaviour (if this step is missed, some puppies will begin to have aversions to toileting on leads which can cause training issues later in life). Once they have been to the toilet, choose a key word with which to associate the act (examples: tinkle, toilet, wee-wee or go busy) and give them praise e.g. ‘Yes, go busy!’ with a treat as a reward. Remember as spoken about in the training article that rewarding with a high-value treat will encourage your dog to repeat their behaviour.
There are some key signs for your puppy needing to use the toilet, and once you can recognise these, you will be well on your way to establishing a set routine.
These signs include:
- Sniffing the ground
- Finding somewhere to hide
If your pup exhibits these signs, calmly lead them to their designated toilet area, and wait until they do their business. Reward them for going to the bathroom. If they don’t go toilet, then don’t let them run around the house, and if they are crate training put them back into their crate for five-ten minutes then try toileting them again. This way they will learn that they don’t get to run around and have fun again until they go toilet. Teaching them to go toilet on your terms instead of when they’re desperate will allow you to have greater control over their toileting habits as they age; this will also help if you are going on a long car ride, or going somewhere that you know they won’t be able to toilet for a period of time.
Things to consider:
- Where will your puppy’s toileting area be?
- Remember when to take them toilet
- Recognizing the signs that they need to toilet
Things to keep in mind with toilet training
While toilet training is straight-forward in theory, puppies are young and excitable, and accidents will happen. Be prepared for accidents with some pet stain and odour remover just in case (try not to use anything ammonia based) to fully remove any residual smell. If the area isn’t properly cleaned, then your puppy may choose to go toilet in that spot again as they will still be able to smell the pheromones left behind and recognise it as an area to toilet. Remember, not to punish your puppy for having an accident, instead take them to the area they should be going to remind them of the right place. If the toilet area for your puppy is outside, you will need to be attentive to your puppy as you will need to keep watch for the signs of your pup needing to use the toilet as they won’t be able to take themselves outside, unless they have free access.
If you do tell your puppy off for toileting inside, they might associate that as being told off for toileting in front of you, meaning in future they may try to hide their business from you, or they will begin to refuse to toilet even when you are in the right place with them. Patience and positive reinforcement are key with toilet training, so be prepared for a few accidents, and ensure you have plenty of praise and treats on hand for when your puppy does the right thing.
Spend time with your puppy toileting on different textures or substances. For example, if your puppy is only used to toileting on grass, they need to get exposure of going to the toilet on surfaces such as concrete, bark or wood, as they may struggle with the change. By having that key word for toileting and exposing them to different textures from a young age will help them to understand that they can toilet where they’re allowed, when they need to, regardless of it potentially not feeling familiar.
By taking your puppy toilet on lead, you will be able to get a great idea of your pup’s normal output vs their input. This will help you to notice if your puppy is toileting a lot, without eating or drinking anything excessive, or if something they’ve eaten has adversely affected their stools. If this is the case visit your local Animates Vetcare Clinic, who will be able to assist you with your concerns.
Be aware that some puppies may take their time when finding somewhere to toilet, or they may like having some space between you. If this is the case for your puppy, and you’re toileting them on lead, allow them to walk as far away from you as they can while still being on lead, and ensure they are not being distracted from the task at hand. If they are distracted, a quick reminder to ‘Go busy’ should prompt them to focus, and you may find a longer lead beneficial for toileting. When toileting, some pups will mark with their pee, or dig the dirt near where they’ve gone toilet. This behaviour is normal and shouldn’t be discouraged, unless they are digging up your garden.
Things to consider:
- Don’t punish your puppy if they have an accident
- Invest in some good quality pet stain and odour remover to remove the residual toilet smell
- Always use positive reinforcement with your puppy
- Train your puppy to toilet on different textures
- Remind your puppy of why they’re outside and give them space if they need it
If your puppy doesn’t go toilet outside, or, for example, you live in an apartment, you may consider using puppy toilet training pads to get them toilet trained, and then use pads to slowly move them outside. This can sometimes be counterintuitive to puppies, so where possible training them to go straight outside, or to their approved area, is preferred.
Fake grass for toileting is also a well-used option. These are squares of fake grass that sit on a tray, so that when your puppy goes busy, the tray catches the urine, while poo stays there for easy removal. To clean these, a hose and a spray with some pet spray is nice and easy. Consider using the fake grass too if you plan on taking your puppy on a boat, so they get used to the idea young. Make sure you are cleaning these consistently as some puppies may be put off if it is too dirty.
If you are worried about your pet’s urine degrading the quality of your lawn, you can also purchase some items to help with this; pet rocks to go in the water to help balance the acidity of their urine, or a pet pee post which helps encourage your pup to go toilet where it’s placed. This may also help with reminding your pet of the location it needs to go pee, so can also work as a training aid.
Remember, your puppy will go toilet where it can until they’ve been trained not to. Spend the time with them while they’re young reinforcing correct toileting behaviours so you don’t end up with an adult dog that toilets inside. If you need any further tips, consider attending one of Animates' Puppy Preschool classes, or find a dog trainer who can offer you more advice.
Things to consider:
- Look into training pads
- Consider using a fake grass toileting tray
- Spend time training them how to properly toilet now so you have a well-behaved adult dog