I remember very clearly what it was like to toilet train my last dog. I nearly went mad! We adopted our dog when he was 5 months old and for all of those months, he was kept in a pen where he did everything- eat, sleep, play, wee and poo. “It will be a breeze”, I said to my husband.
After all, how hard can it be to toilet training a puppy / dog? Well, it took me another 10 months to fully toilet train my dog and at 14 months old, he finally went to the toilet outside! So when a client rings and tells me they are having problems toilet training their puppy or dog, I can fully empathise! This blog is about the mistakes we make when trying to toilet train our puppy. Remember though, these are also relevant if you are trying to toilet train an older dog, a foster or a rescue dog. MISTAKE # 1 You do not make it clear to your dog where you want your dog to toilet When your puppy/dog arrives home they do not have toilet-training already programmed into their brains. To a dog it is very natural to go to the toilet anywhere. Most dogs won’t go to the toilet right next to their food or water bowl but that really is the only rule they have. In the wild, they go to the toilet anywhere they like. When they come into your home, they do the same thing (and no, they don’t know that this is your home and they should not toilet there). And here is where mistake # 1 comes in. Human beings do not make it clear to a dog where they should go to the toilet (nor do they then reward the dog for going there). Humans are very good at telling the dog off when he/she goes to the toilet in the wrong area but how is that helpful to your dog? What information have you given the dog to let them know WHERE they should toilet? And what makes it worth their while to go there? Solution: Take your dog outside, wait for your dog to go to the toilet and then reward your dog straight after he or she has gone to the toilet. The dog will soon learn that going to the toilet inside gets them nothing but going outside gets them lots of tasty bits of food!! Your dog will learn very quickly that toileting outside will get them a yummy bit of food so they will increase their behaviour of toileting outside. “Ah, that is where I am suppose to go to the toilet!!” your dog says. MISTAKE # 2 You do not take your dog out enough You will need to take your puppy out every 20-30 minutes to ensure that you set him or her up to succeed and they have the chance to do the right thing by going to the toilet outside. Left to their own devices, puppies will wee and poo when their bladder or bowels tell them to. And if that is inside, well so be it! And don’t expect this to be for a week or two. Toilet training a puppy can take up to 6 months so be prepared to spend lots of time outdoors with your puppy! Remember, your puppy only has a small bladder and cannot hold on for too long, thus the constant trips you will need to make outside with your puppy. For dogs over 12 months, their bladders are bigger so you can hold off longer but I encourage the owner to take their dog out at least every hour to ensure no toilet training mishaps indoors. MISTAKE # 3 You punish your dog for making a mistake that you allowed to happen This is something that humans just cannot get their head around. Puppies and dogs SHOULD NEVER, EVER (DID I SAY NEVER) be punished for going to the toilet in the wrong place. You have allowed your puppy or dog to toilet in the wrong place so don’t punish them for your mistake. I have heard of people pushing the dog’s nose in their wee or poo, yelling, screaming and/or smacking them, saying NO in a stern voice, hitting them and worse. It upset’s me greatly that I still hear these forms of abuse being administered to a dog for going to the toilet in the wrong place. Instead, let’s use our big human brains and TRAIN our dogs. If you make a mistake and let your dog go to the toilet in the wrong place, ignore the dog until they have finished and then clean it up with the appropriate cleaner. MISTAKE # 4 You are not consistent in your training Toilet training requires consistency from the human. You need to keep up with taking your puppy outside every 20 minutes, rewarding your puppy when he or she goes to the toilet outside, never punish your dog if they do go inside, ensure you restrict access for the puppy inside the home (our next point) and continue to do this for as long as it takes. MISTAKE # 5 You give your dog too much access in the house This is one of the most common mistakes I see people doing with their puppy or even newly adopted dog.
If you give your dog too much access to the house, chances are you cannot contain or supervise the dog to prevent toileting inside the home. It depends how your house is set up but ideally you will want to give your dog access to the lounge room, probably kitchen because it is usually at the back of the house and then outdoors to the backyard and that is it. Of course, if you are spending some time in the bedroom or study, take your puppy with you into that room only, shut the door and supervise carefully. If your puppy/dog only has access to where you are most of the time and access to the backyard, then you will be able to supervise much more closely, preventing any toileting inside and your puppy from wandering to another rooms to do his/her business! If you would like further help with toilet training your dog, please head over to our Training and Behaviour page so we can help you get toilet training under control! Xx Dogaholics Dog Training and Behaviour Services (Dogaholics is a dog training and behaviour service located in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area of NSW.)