Toilet training your new puppy can be loads of fun! This can help to build your relationship with your puppy and make it easier for him to spend more time indoors with you.
The benefits of positive-based toilet training:
Positive-based training allows us to build a strong bond with our pup and ensure that they can trust us. Rewarding the behaviours we are looking for will help the puppy understand what we expect of them. When rewarding our puppy, we need to use something our puppy finds particularly valuable, like chicken! Be sure to spend some time learning what your puppy likes so you always have the best reward.
Giving our puppy every chance possible to succeed:
Keep track of when your puppy might need to toilet such as; straight after a nap, once they have finished a meal, and after play time.
You may see signs like circling and intense sniffing. If you see these signs, lead them to your designated toilet area immediately. It is best to keep them on leash during their toilet break so there is less opportunity for them to get distracted and wander off. Be sure to give your puppy a chance to walk to the toileting area on their own four feet, as you would when they’re an adult. However, if your puppy is having some difficulties then carrying them over these hurdles to begin with is fine.
Now we wait:
Have patience, give your puppy a chance to sniff and get comfortable with their surroundings. This might take a couple of minutes.
Once your puppy has toileted it's time for you to mark the behaviour and reward! Whether you are using a clicker, a whistle or a word be sure to use your marker within 0.5 seconds after they’ve relieved themself. Following your marker reward your puppy with that tasty bit of chicken or treat! This will really help your puppy build the association ‘toileting in the right spot = good things!’.
Remember it’s up to us to help our puppy succeed. It’s important to observe their toileting habits, ensure they get to their spot in time and be consistent with our marking and rewarding of desired toileting behaviour.
What to do when we have an accident:
Accidents are inevitable, so let’s be prepared.
When your puppy has an accident gently and calmly remove the puppy from the area and clean it up ASAP. Be careful to avoid using ammonia-based cleaners like bleach because, to dogs, these smell like urine and can encourage your pup to return to the same spot in the future. Enzymatic cleaners are a better choice! If the accident happens on carpet you’ll need to be extra thorough, you may even need to use a syringe to force the cleaner through the carpet fibers. If your puppy continues to toilet in this spot you can limit their access to the area, place their mat over the area or even feed them in the area to prevent it happening again.
It’s very important that we never punish our puppy for making mistakes. This can cause confusion and anxiety around toilet time. We need to ignore the mistakes and make it easier for our puppy to succeed next time around.
If your puppy is often having accidents, having trouble toileting or having trouble holding on there may be an underlying health issue. Be sure to take them to the vet before trying any further training.
Useful tips when toilet training:
Confine your puppy – Whether you are confining them to one room, a small outside area (with shelter) or a crate, this will help your puppy to learn how to hold on. Dogs and puppies are unlikely to want to toilet in the area that they sleep and eat. However we must make sure we don’t leave them confined too long as their bladder is only small. This method will require some training for both you and your puppy before we can use this reliably and calmly.
Put it on cue – When you take your puppy out to the toilet you can say a word of your choice, for example: “toilet” just as soon as they start to relieve themselves. Use the same word every time and always remember to mark and reward the behaviour immediately AFTER they’ve finished. Putting this behaviour on cue can help when you need them to toilet quickly before a car ride, toilet at the vet or even hurry when it's cold outside.
Model off another k9 family member – If you have an older dog at home who is already toilet trained, they can often help with the process. When puppies are growing up they learn to follow their mother out to the toilet and quickly learn to associate the smell of faeces and urine with going to the toilet. When you get your puppy home, let your new puppy follow your older dog out to the toilet and they may do the same.
Download our toilet training basics infograph –