So, here’s the thing about dogs. They don’t come with built-in manuals that explains to them how humans want them to behave. They have no way of knowing what we want from them! This is especially true when it comes to toilet training. Therefore the responsibility falls 100% on you as the owner to put in the work if you want your dog to eliminate outside.

8 steps to successful toilet training

How do we then go about convincing our pups to eliminate where we want them to? Simple. We make it absolutely worthwhile for the dog! This is why we use treats and praise in training. Not to bribe the dog, but to create an association in the brain: “when I do a certain thing I get treats and love, therefore, I must do this thing again!” Follow these steps to toilet train your dog:

  1. The first step is acceptance. Accept that this is going to take some effort on your part. But pushing through with vigilance and consistency will reward you with a dog that does not mess in the house.
  2. You will need to keep a keen eye on your pup – remember, it’s your job to prevent accidents in the house, not the puppy’s!
  3. Know the times when your pup will need to eliminate. Generally this is after sleeping, eating and play. At eight weeks old a pup will need to urinate around every 75 minutes.
  4. Call your pup outside to the spot where you want him to do his business every time after he has slept, eaten or had a fun play session, and then additionally every hour.
  5. Wait for pup to wee and when he does, immediately offer a lovely treat and praise him in a happy voice. Really make a big fuss about how amazingly clever he is!
  6. Also watch your pup during the day – this is where the constant vigilance comes in. If you see him sniffing and walking around in circles, quickly take him outside and once again reward when he did his business.
  7. If you want, you can choose a word, for example ‘wee-wee’, and say it every time your pup urinates. This teaches him to associate that word with the behaviour of peeing, thus enabling your dog to eventually urinate on command when you use your chosen word. This is very useful, as you will be able to, for example, ask your dog to ‘wee-wee’ before going on a drive or if you need a urine sample for the vet.
  8. Stick with the above plan – it will be worth it! Sometimes problems do arise, for example with pups sold in pet shops. Dogs do not like to soil their living space, but in this case they are forced to do so which leads to stress and possible difficulty with toilet training. Just another reason to never buy a pup from a pet store.

The problem with punishment

If your pup has an accident in the house it is vital that you do not shout at your pup or dish out punishment. Always keep in mind that he is not being naughty – he is simply following natural instincts. Also, your dog will likely have no idea why he is being punished! Imagine the following scenario: You see a wet spot on the carpet. You call the pup, and start shouting at him. Dogs live in the moment. He has no idea that you are shouting at something he did an hour ago. Instead, he is associating the shouting with the last thing that happened – him coming to you when you called him. See how terrible this is? The only thing the shouting achieved is to make the pup scared of coming to you. The same goes with rubbing the pup’s nose in his urine. He doesn’t know what he did wrong – you are just scaring him. If an accident happens in the house, just keep calm and clean it when pup is not looking. Always use a product that doesn’t contain ammonia, as ammonia smells like urine and will encourage pup to use the same spot again.

(To read more about punishment, click here.)

Published in Animaltalk, January 2019