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Become an expert: how to toilet train a dog

Brown dog peeing advice
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Congratulations on your new puppy, that little bundle of fun. You’ll have noticed that he likes to deliver little bundles of horror. Packages and puddles around the house. You’ll be wondering how to toilet train a dog

By G. John Cole

Toilet training a dog isn’t too hard. But if you think it’s tough to reason with a human child who’s potty training, just try reasoning with a puppy. You’re going to need patience and a strong stomach to toilet train your dog. Here we go.

Dog toilet training: the pleasure principle

The first thing to remember when toilet training a puppy or an older dog is that punishment is not effective.

In the first place, for some reason dogs respond to praise better than punishment. Probably to do with their good hearts.

But more importantly, your pup is likely to misunderstand your scolding. If he poos indoors it’s because he doesn’t know the difference. So if you tell him off, he thinks you’re punishing him for pooing – regardless of his chosen site.

This can make him afraid to go to the toilet in front of you, even in an appropriate place. He may even continue weeing and pooing indoors, but where he thinks you won’t find it.

Plus, puppies have weaker bladders and may have less control over their bowels while they get used to the food you have chosen for them. They pee when they get excited. And of course they pick up all sorts of stomach bugs while out exploring the world.

So he doesn’t always have the choice where and when he goes. Punishing him for an irrepressible urge to purge makes no sense.

Use praise instead. Find a word to encourage him to go when you’re out walking. And learn to praise him when he performs appropriately. You can even give him a treat after a particularly well-performed outdoor poo.

Dog toilet training: a new routine

A dog may not understand reason, but he soon learns a routine or certain cues. That’s why so many dogs respond to the Eastenders theme tune as if it were Pavlov’s bell. Or they show up for their after-dinner treat thirty minutes after chow time as though they were watching the clock.

Take your puppy out regularly. He may need to pee every couple of hours or so until he gets older. So set certain times to walk him around the block, and certain times to put him in the garden. This should include shortly after his mealtimes. Go with him to the garden so you can praise and treat him when things follow their natural course.

Don’t forget to watch out for signs of an impromptu performance. A dog who keeps circling the carpet or sniffing the floor, or who can’t settle, may be awaiting a delivery. It’s ok to break the routine if it saves a spillage!

Just to recap, when you’re toilet training a puppy, take him out regularly:

  • First thing in the morning.
  • Every 2-3 hours.
  • Ten minutes after he eats (adjust this as you learn the speed of his ‘system’)
  • If he shows signs of needing to go.
  • And be aware he may need to go in the night.

Dog toilet training: special tips

There are a couple of other elements of dog psychology to bear in mind as you toilet train your pup.

This is where you develop trust in each other, so be sure to maintain that routine. Be firm but never punish him. There will be mistakes. There will be smells. That’s the deal.

You also need to be clear with him. Have one word for praising him when he goes to the toilet, and one for general praise. If you have the same word for everything, you may accidentally train him to poop every time you say ‘good boy.’

And also be clear about the back garden. Until he’s trained, don’t just leave the back door open for him to come and go. Use it as a toilet place until he realises that’s what it’s for. After that, it can become his playground too.

Dog toilet training: how to toilet train a dog quickly

If you need to train an older dog, the principles are mostly the same. It should be quicker than with a puppy. Though if you’ve adopted him, keep in mind that he may have all kinds of toilet-based traumas affecting his performance.

Start with regular toilet excursions every hour. Make it more often if necessary. But gradually reduce it to two-three walks a day plus garden visits.

Again, never punish him for a transgression, or rub his nose in it. Instead, use praise. If all else fails, consult his vet: there may be behavioural techniques he can suggest for your specific doggo.

Be patient, be regular, be calm, and everything will come up smelling of roses!