Toilet training a dog may seem a daunting task but get it right and it sets the tone for the smooth running of the rest of your pet’s training. If your pup is still having a few accidents, read our trouble-shooting advice from pet behaviourist Claire Hargrave.
Once you have managed to get your puppy to go outside, or ask to be let outside, it might seem as if the battle is won
However, all you have done is help them make the connection between where they live and where their toilet is. The tough bit is getting your puppy to overcome the need to go – small puppies have poor bladder control and need to wee frequently – and to hold it in until they can get outside.
To achieve this you need patience and consistency. Start to build up from letting your puppy out every half-hour, to every hour, to every hour and a half, and so on.
Clues that your dog needs the toilet include sniffing the floor and circling
If you see your dog do this, gently pick him or her up and take them outside. It is important to be fast or your pup will have forgotten why he or she is there.
Stay calm as you do this. If your pup is over-excited, he or she won’t go once outside, which may lead you to think they don’t need to – but then they might go when back inside.
Rewards rather than punishment
An animal will never do anything it doesn’t think is appropriate for its needs at that time. Don’t punish your dog for accidents. It will undo the trust you’re trying to build up and gives the puppy no feedback on what he or she is supposed to be doing – it may cause anxiety too.
When your dog has managed to go in the right place, reward them immediately. Don’t give your puppy the treat when he or she gets inside or they will not associate the reward with going to the toilet but with coming inside. Put aside some of your dog’s daily food for this purpose to ensure he or she doesn’t get too much food.
When you’re outside with your puppy, keep him or her on a long lead so you can see where your dog is going and try and initiate a game after they’ve gone to the toilet. This will get him or her used to the idea of toileting first and playing second.
It’s important to mark an area outside for your puppy to use as a toilet
Dogs prefer to go somewhere that smells like a latrine so if following an accident you’re cleaning anything they’ve soiled in the garden, do so in the place you want your dog to go.
If you live somewhere without easy outside access it can be tricky to move the dog outdoors quickly
If you have a small dog, it might be possible to start toilet training in a litter tray area on a balcony. Use soil and home-grown grass rather than cat litter.
Don’t reach for the bleach
If your puppy does go inside, the natural reaction is to reach for the disinfectant or bleach. Avoid doing this, as these materials smell of urine to your dog.
Instead, use purpose-made enzymatic products or you could simply mix up a 20 per cent solution of biological washing powder. This will help break down the enzymes in the urine. Soak up any liquid into a paper towel, then wash the area and dry off with a hairdryer.
To make extra sure the chemicals are gone, spritz over with surgical spirit or even vodka.