The current lockdown being implemented due to the Corona virus outbreak creates both problems and opportunities to train your new puppy. The area of toilet training is one of the areas in which an opportunity to create lifelong sound toilet habits with your puppy exists. As Explained in Educating Alice: The Essential 4 Step Guide to Training the Perfect Puppy – Read on:
Toilet Training Your Puppy
When looking at toilet training there is a difference between training a puppy and training a slightly older dog. With a puppy at, say, 8 weeks you are beginning with a clean slate and you can start her off the right way, rather than having to unlearn bad habits, before good habits can be encouraged.
The same principle underpins both situations. Take the time to create the right environment to develop good toileting habits. Minimise the opportunity to make mistakes and then patiently rehearse the good habits with your pup, reinforcing those habits with verbal praise, stroking and small treats.
Before you get your puppy, plan ahead. Where will your puppy be trained to go to the toilet? It’s worth having a look at the type of toilet area that the breeder has. If the breeder hasn’t already started preparing puppy in this regard I would be asking myself why not? And what else they have neglected to start? If they haven’t the time or knowledge to start puppy off the right way in this regard they probably haven’t started it the right way in other respects.
Look at the breeder’s toilet area. If your chosen puppy has already learned to toilet on grass then you might consider creating a small grass toilet area at home in your garden.
If you do not want your dog to toilet on grass then you will need to break this habit when you get your puppy home, but you should do so gradually. She has undergone a lot of other changes. Keep a bit of familiarity in regard to toileting.
For example, if you want your puppy to toilet on concrete you might wish to fence off the grassed area so she cannot access it and develop a habit you do not wish her to continue. Confine your puppy to the area you want her to use. If possible get some soil or surface material from the breeder’s toilet area. Put this in your chosen toilet area. If the puppy smells familiar toilet material, it is more likely to use the one at your home.
If there is no pre training by the breeder then you are starting with a clean slate. You should prepare a small, fenced-off area of concrete, paving, grass, or even bark chippings as explained in Part 1, to ensure you train your pup on the surface of your choice.
Should I Teach Puppy to Poo When I Walk Her?
When you get a puppy you can elect to train her to toilet when on a walk, or in your garden toilet area before you take her for her walk. In my opinion the second option is best, as it helps a great deal with other areas of her training.
By teaching toileting in the garden it means that you are not reliant on taking your puppy for a walk in order to have her perform. You are also less likely to have your puppy poo when out walking and have to carry a bag of poo with you for a long time between poo bins. You will of course still need to carry poo bags, but these should be for emergency use only, not regular use.
Teaching toileting in the garden is also beneficial to training loose-lead walking, as you are not in a rush to get your puppy to walk for a poo, because she has already done it before you left home. This means you can strictly stick to your loose-lead walking routine. If you are dependent upon walking your puppy to her toilet area, how do you deal with lead pulling? With a garden-trained puppy, if you are training loose-lead walking and she is trying to pull, you can be resolute and refuse to go on until she walks nicely. With a puppy who needs a walk to perform you may face the choice of a puppy who pulls on the lead, or a puppy who poos in the house. Garden train your puppy and you should avoid both of these issues.
The only downside is that if the puppy has rigidly been toilet trained at home, she might be reluctant to toilet elsewhere, but this is a rare occurrence and can be remedied a lot more easily than correcting poor toilet habits at home.
Setting a Good Poo Routine
In order to create a good routine there are certain things that you need to understand. Your pup’s metabolism will process her food at a certain rate. Your puppy will poo when this process has taken place. By noting the time that you feed your puppy and noting when she poos, you will be better able to schedule her pooing routine.
Puppies are not robots, but you will be amazed how quickly you can set a pattern. You will note I said you set the pattern. Your puppy needs help with this, so resolve to help her and she will learn quickly. Of course you can choose to ignore this advice and not bother, or cut corners, and you will be cleaning up her poo for many months, or even years to come. It’s your choice, but if you don’t have the time to help your puppy learn this important routine, then you don’t have time for a puppy. Get a stuffed toy instead.
Food In, Poo Out
Puppies will tend to empty after they fill up. Food in, poo out. Get into the habit of putting your puppy’s food down at the regular time and giving her no more than 10 minutes to eat it. If she hasn’t eaten it in 10 minutes she is not hungry, or you are feeding too much.
When she has eaten, take her out to your chosen toilet area and spend time there with her. Ensure that this area is large enough for her to move around and settle for the toilet, but not so big that she can spend 15 minutes patrolling it.
Don’t talk to her, it will distract her. If she does a wee, the second she has finished gently praise her with nice voice, but not too much, then allow her to carry on to do a poo. Again, be there, but allow her the time and space to toilet. Don’t speak, command her or anything else that will divert her from the job in hand. This might take time, but please be patient. If it is raining, wear a waterproof, if cold, wrap up warm. If you are uncomfortable you will rush your puppy and put her off. Don’t do this!
When she squats down to poo, let her. Don’t distract or interrupt her. When she has finished, reinforce her action firmly in her mind with verbal praise, a gentle fuss, and a little treat.
If it is raining when she has performed you may take her straight inside and this is a further reinforcement. She probably doesn’t want to be out in the rain. If, however, it is nice weather and she wishes to explore, let her. You do not want to teach her that as soon as she goes to the toilet, the fun ends. That will encourage her to hold on!
Some pups prefer to poo before eating and I would recommend giving the pup access to her designated toilet area for a few minutes before feeding. Depending upon what she has been doing prior to feeding it is likely that she will need to have a wee, so this is a good practice that you can reinforce. This may be something I accidentally reinforced with baby Alice, but it worked really well for her.
Leaving Puppy Alone to Toilet
It is not good practice to leave your puppy unattended in the toilet area during training. How can you know if she has performed? If you have not seen her do it, you should assume that she has not done it. If you bring her in without seeing her perform and she comes inside and does it in the house, then it is your fault, not your puppy’s fault. Training involves the rehearsal of behaviour. Every time you make this mistake you allow her to rehearse undesirable behaviour, making the whole toilet-training process much longer.
When Accidents Happen
Try to limit puppy’s access to areas where she has mistakenly toileted, as we don’t want a pattern to be set. Clean the areas affected with a weak solution of bicarbonate of soda (Baking Powder). This will leave no residual scent, unlike the use of bleach or disinfectant, which will only attract your puppy back to that spot, to toilet there again.
If you are still living in the dark ages and decide to punish puppy for her mistakes, on the advice of a bloke down the pub, you will make matters even worse and in all honesty you should consider whether dog ownership is for you. (You should also consider stopping putting your children to work sweeping chimneys before Social Services get wind.)
Even with the best routine, mistakes can happen. A puppy is not a robot. Dogs are inherently clean animals. It is your job to provide the environment and sufficient opportunities to develop and practise clean habits whilst she is young, and best able to learn.
Leaving the Door Open
In good weather it might seem a good idea to leave the door open so puppy can come in and out and go to the toilet whenever she wants to. This can create both good and bad patterns. Puppy learns to use an outside toilet area, but does not learn to hold herself.
When the bad weather comes and the door is closed, owners think toilet training has been achieved, but she has never learned to wait and hold herself. Suddenly puppy needs to go and the door is closed, so she does it in the house, much to the frustration of the owners and the distress of the puppy. This is more commonly associated with piddling rather than pooing, as pooing tends to be quickly synchronised with the feeding routine. She can only feed when you put food down for her, so you should always be there to take her to her toilet area as soon as she finishes eating.
If you have already gone down the open-door route, the matter can be overcome by a bit of reverse engineering. Puppy knows to go outside and use her specified area. We now need to teach her short periods of control. Spend time closing the door for 15 minutes then opening it and taking her out for a piddle and praising her. Then extend the period of time the door is closed in a gradual process, until it is closed for an hour or more at a time, always remembering to go out with your puppy to reinforce good toileting, as soon as you open the door again.
Setting the Piddle Pattern
Whilst your puppy will usually do 3 to 5 poos per day, she will go for a piddle far more frequently.
The toilet area has been selected and you need to encourage puppy to use it as often as possible. In the early days I would be taking my puppy to the chosen toilet area every 30 minutes, when she is awake. As she learns to expect regular visits to the toilet area these intervals may be gradually extended from 30 to 40 minutes and so on up to a couple of hours. On days when you can’t carry out this routine with her, for whatever reason, confine her to her crate to prevent accidents, but be realistic about what she can do as a puppy. Fortunately she will spend a lot of time sleeping, so ensure she is not disturbed too much, particularly by children. An unscheduled awaking is likely to lead to an unscheduled piddle.
There is a strong link between feeding, sleeping and toileting and setting a good pattern in any of these elements has a knock-on effect on the others. Set good patterns in all these areas and you will be setting good behaviour and training patterns for life.
Your puppy will piddle when she wakes up, so it is good to ensure that puppy is sleeping where you can keep an eye on her. This can be helped if you have decided to crate train your puppy, because you will hear her stirring and moving before she has the time to get out of bed and have a piddle. She is highly unlikely to piddle in her bed, and as she cannot leave the crate, it will give you some vital time to go to her, open the crate and carry her outside to her toilet area. You then remain there, with her, until she piddles and then reinforce it as before.
When she first wakes up, don’t let her walk outside. She might want to stop for a quick one on the way out and you won’t be quick enough to get down and scoop her up when she starts, so carry her. Create the routine early and be disciplined with yourself.
When puppy has been playing she is completely focused on the game in hand. After a period of play it is almost inevitable that puppy will suddenly remember that she needs a piddle and will do it wherever she happens to be.
When the play has taken place in the house most people remember to take puppy outside to perform, but often, when the play has taken place outside, you will assume she is empty because she has been outside and so you will take her in. That’s when she suddenly remembers she hasn’t been. As before, if you haven’t seen her piddle, you must assume she hasn’t done so.
After playing, allow the excitement to subside and for her to calm down. If children are present, send them into the house as they are a distraction, take her to her toilet area, and let her perform. Then reinforce her desirable behaviour with verbal praise, stroking and possibly a little treat for being such a good girl.
Your puppy will invariably want to go after eating her meal. Be ready as soon as she has finished eating to take her to her toilet area and go through the toilet routine. For some reason baby Alice would always go for a poo before she had her meal, as soon as she heard me preparing her food she would stand at the child gate asking to go out. After eating, she was still taken out again, but would only do a little piddle after dining. As long as you know her routine, you can accommodate your puppy and ensure there are no little mishaps.
At night your puppy should be able to have a secure, undisturbed night’s sleep. Setting a good bedtime routine, coupled with a structured feeding and walking pattern, will help puppy get through the night clean and dry. Be realistic. If you need 12 hours of sleep every night, your puppy will not be able to hold on for that long. Six or 7 hours would be the absolute maximum, so during training you might need to have a few late nights and a few early starts. As your puppy gets older and the toilet training is going well I would recommend slowly increasing the length of her sleep by say 20 minutes per week, until you get back to your regular night-time routine.
I have already explained the importance of setting feed times and noting how long your puppy takes to process her food. I would suggest feeding a light cereal meal such as a Weetabix about 30 minutes before lights out.
Allow your puppy to eat her supper and then take her outside for her last piddle and poo as explained above, reinforcing good behaviour accordingly. Having finished toileting, take puppy to her crate or secure sleeping area and bed her down, with the lights out. Then go to bed yourself and do not disturb your puppy by mooching around and unsettling her.
I recommend an early morning start, say 6am. Get up and go straight down. If puppy is already awake quickly remove her from her bed and carry her outside to perform her morning toilet routine, reinforcing good behaviour as explained. If she is still sleeping allow her to wake, whilst you observe her, then carry her outside.
If she has had an accident during the night remove soiled bedding and wash in a neutral detergent and rinse well. Ensure you also clean the sleeping area thoroughly with weak bicarbonate of soda solution.
Your puppy is an inherently clean animal, but she is little more than a baby. Take the time to establish a regular and easy-to-achieve routine and reinforce her desirable behaviour by rewarding her. When things go wrong remain calm and do not punish your puppy. That will only make her afraid of you and may also make her afraid to toilet, especially when you are near, for fear of being punished.
Clean up accidents quickly and use a solution of bicarbonate of soda that leaves no residual scent; this may prevent her being attracted back to that spot by the smell of disinfectant.
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