Toilet Training your Puppy
Toilet training often seems like a frightening and somewhat overwhelming concept for new dog owners and their four-legged friends. It can be a very frustrating (and messy) time while everyone learns. However, with a little bit of understanding and patience, it can be a positive experience.
To puppies, the hall rug may seem like an ideal place to go to the toilet, however this does not suit most owners. Toilet training is all about teaching your puppy to toilet in the appropriate places (and ideally at the appropriate times) and rewarding him or her when he or she gets it right, so the puppy continues to do so, for the sake of the hall rug!
Some puppies will arrive at their new home with a preconceived idea of where the right place to toilet is, and it can help to ask their previous carer what toilet habits have already been formed. If there are some toileting habits in place, the new pet parents can often use these habits to make the transition to a new area easier. For example, if the puppy has been trained to use “puppy pads” to go on, you can continue to use these, and place them in the area that you want the pup to toilet in.
Once you have chosen the area/s that you want the puppy to use for toileting, try to take them there frequently and when they are most likely to need to relieve themselves. Puppies are most likely to want to go to the toilet before and after sleeping, right after eating or drinking and after playing. They may not go each time, but take them there anyway, and let them sniff about for a while, even if they don’t go to the toilet, so they will be used to the area and comfortable there and will have smelled all the smells already so that they are less distracted when they do actually need to go. Once the puppy has relieved themselves in the right place, reward them with praise and perhaps a treat (maybe a small piece of a Tucker Time Puppy roll!). You may like to add a cue such as a hand signal or word so that with time, you can let them know that now is a good time to go.
In many cases, your puppy will give you some signals that they need to go to the toilet. These signs can include sniffing the ground, circling, beginning to squat or even pawing and crying at the door to ask to be let outside, so you need to be vigilant too, and provide access to the right place at the right time.
Puppies have very small bladders and their little bodies don’t give them a lot of notice that they will need to relieve themselves soon, so accidents are likely to happen. So be prepared for these and remember that these accidents are just that, and should not be punished. You may need to take a few deep breaths and a little walk, but resist the urge to scold the pup, especially if it the pup has had the accident some time ago. Puppies have short memories (which is why it is so important in training to give a reward straight after the puppy has performed the right action), and if they made the mess some time ago, they will be quite confused by being reprimanded and they won’t actually make the association that the reason they are being told off is the little puddle of urine on the hallway rug – only that you are yelling at them for “no reason”. The result will probably be that you damage the bond between you and the pup, and the pup continues to go the toilet on the rug the next time he or she feels the urge.
Accidents happen either because the puppy has not yet learned which places are appropriate toileting locations, because they could not hold on for long enough, or simply because the urge to go snuck up on them. Pups can also have accidents when they get a little too excited, as they have not gained full control of their bladder “sphincter” muscles, which hold everything in.
When the puppy does go in the wrong spot, clean it up as quickly as with as little fuss as possible. Be sure to remove all the evidence and as much of the smell as you can. Don’t use ammonia-based cleaners to clean up accidents as these can smell a bit like urine and the scent of this can be a cue to the pup that “you went here last time, so go here again next time”. There are a number of enzymatic cleaning products specifically for removing pet urine, faeces and vomit, which are available from pet stores, vet clinics and even supermarkets. These break down the molecules which make the smell, and help to remove any staining, so can be worth investing in.
On the other hand, although it is necessary to clean up the desired toilet area, for the first little while it can be handy to clean up without completely removing the toilet scents. So take away the faeces, or mop up if there is a puddle of urine, but don’t scrub the area completely clean, so that there are some odours left there. The smell will help the puppy to identify the correct place next time round.
With patience and persistence, you and your puppy will get there…. remember that we all had to learn sometime!