There is a widespread misbelief that toilet training a puppy is a simple task. Regular drinking, eating and going out on a potty break is all it takes, right?
Another popular misbelief is that puppies can be fully toilet trained in as little as a week or two.
While some smart puppies might learn this swiftly, such a lax toilet training protocol will leave most puppies partially trained and prone to frequent accidents.
Worry not, in this article we aim to give you a failproof toilet training plan and explain what not to do while toilet training your new family member.
What Is Toilet Training?
Toilet training or commonly known as housebreaking refers to the process of training your puppy or dog to relieve itself at appropriate times of the day and places.
Toilet training is usually needed with puppies, but you may also need it for older dogs lacking previous training.
The older the dog is, the more challenging the toilet training process.
Is Toilet Training Easy?
Dogs are instinctively clean animals, and they are reluctant to soil their nest.
In nature, young puppies will spontaneously learn not to do their businesses where they eat and sleep.
Their mother keeps the den clean and teaches the puppies not to associate their home with toilet areas. Since the mother removes the scent, making the association is easy for the puppies.
When kept indoors, for the puppy the entire home represents the nest. Therefore, in theory, toilet training a puppy is not very difficult.
However, keep in mind that puppies don’t have reliable control over their bladders, specially when young.
Although housebreaking starts when you bring the new puppy home, it is important not to punish it for making mistakes at first.
Experts suggest that the right time to start toilet training your puppy is between 12 and 16 weeks of age. By that time, the puppy has enough control over his bladder and bowel movements.
How Long Does Toilet Training Take?
Toilet training usually takes 4-6 months. However, some puppies may need up to a year.
How long the toilet training period will last depends on several factors:
Some puppies are instinctively cleaner and will avoid spoiling where not allowed, while others may be messy and more prone to accidents.
Some puppies learn faster, while others are stubborn or even pee and poop on the floor as a sign of protest.
Smaller breeds have smaller bladders and quicker metabolisms, thus requiring more frequent trips to the toilet.
Sometimes it may be necessary to break your puppy’s old habits and establish new ones. Your puppy’s previous living conditions can influence the pace of toilet training.
The Toilet Training Strategy
Now, it is time to explain the toilet training strategy in a nutshell and cover the necessary tools, techniques, and practices.
Tools needed for potty training
Before implementing a toilet training protocol, it is advisable to be prepared and get all the tools needed. These include:
Puppy Toilet Training Tools
- A crate of proper size: To keep the puppy safe while not monitored and to prevent making mistakes since the puppy will be reluctant to spoil its den.
- A dog gate: You may use it instead of a crate or in combination. The gate will keep the puppy from wandering around the house and making mistakes in different places.
- A leash: Taking your puppy out on a leash is essential even if you are in a fenced garden. If not on a leash, chances are the puppy will be more tempted to play and investigate its surroundings than to do her business.
- Potent stain and odour remover: Cleaning soiled spots prevent the puppy from re-using them as toilet areas.
- Treats: To immediately reward the puppy after potting in the right place. That way, the puppy will learn to associate the potting activity with a pleasant experience.
An example of these tools:
potty training tools
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Crates rank number one as potty training tools. The principle behind using a crate for potty training is that dogs refuse to spoil their living areas.
For the crate to work, it needs to be of the right size. Big enough for the puppy to be comfortable, but not too big so that the puppy would feel that it's ok to use one corner as a toilet area.
In the crate when the puppy feels the urge, she will inform you by scratching and whining. Once your puppy shows signals, act swiftly.
If you leave your puppy unattended, she will do her business inside the crate.
Establish a routine
Puppies do best on a regular and well-established schedule.
When trying to start a pattern, you need to pay attention to several moments:
Establishing a routine
- Frequently take your puppy outside to reduce the risk of accidents and get him used to going out regularly
- If your puppy asked to be taken outside and once outside gets distracted, you can trigger her peeing or pooping instinct by wiping her bottom with a wet and warm washcloth
- Pick an outdoor bathroom area: Choose a spot or let your puppy choose it, and then be consistent in using that same place
- Implementing a regular feeding schedule: Simply, everything that goes into your puppy on a schedule comes out on a schedule
- Picking up the water dish: You could remove her water bowl around two and a half hours before bedtime to reduce the risk of your puppy relieving himself while you sleep. Most puppies can hold it for up to seven hours during sleep
- If the puppy wakes you up in the middle of the night because she needs to use the toilet, don’t make a big deal of it. Don't talk or play with your puppy, turn on as few lights as possible and take her out
The best way to prevent accidents is to take your puppy to do his business when you expect him to. Learning to recognize body signals will come very handy.
Naturally, puppies will need to relieve themselves
puppies need to go to toilet
- First thing in the morning
- After eating
- After drinking
- After playing
- After chewing a toy or a bone
- After spending some time in the crate
- Upon waking up from a nap
- After extreme excitement
It also advisable to watch your puppy’s body language for apparent clues, like:
puppy body language for toilet
- sniffing the floor
- whining or barking
- running with the nose to the floor
- scratching at the door
- getting ready to squat
Expecting your puppy to make mistakes is a given part of the potty training process. When young, puppies don’t have complete control of their bladders.
If you actually catch your puppy peeing or pooping in a non-allowed place, try interrupting it by making a startling noise such as clapping with your hands and saying ‘’out’’.
If the puppy doesn't react, pick him up and take him to the toilet spot.
If the puppy runs to the toilet or holds while being carried, reward him with a positive reinforcement speech or a treat.
Cleaning soiled spots
Thoroughly cleaning spoiled spots is crucial when toilet training.
That is because dogs are immensely motivated to continue soiling areas that smell like urine or faeces. When your puppy relieves herself in the wrong place, collect the pee or poop and place it in the right toilet spot.
This is because if the accident area retains the poop or pee smell, your puppy will be tempted to do her business on that spot in the future. If the disinfectant covers the smell of the accident, and it will repel the puppy from using the spot.
Until trained, puppies tend to relieve themselves on carpets instead of on easily-cleaned tiles and surfaces. There is a reasonable and straightforward explanation for why puppies prefer carpets.
Because of their softness, carpets offer puppies the same feeling as standing on grass. Therefore, a puppy’s natural target would be the carpet set furthest from its sleeping and eating area.
Praise and reward
It is vital to praise or reward your puppy as soon as he is finished with his business. A gentle talk, food treat, short walk are the perfect positive reinforcement techniques.
Plan if you're not home
If you have a very young puppy and need to be away from home for over 4 to 5 hours, the responsible thing would be to find some additional help.
You can either hire a pet sitter or make arrangements with a neighbour to take your puppy for a bathroom break.
Puppy Pads: To Use Them Or Not To Use Them?
When it comes to puppy pads, the experts’ opinions are quite contradictory.
On one hand, puppy pads are suitable for unvaccinated dogs that should not stay outdoors. On the other hand, reports suggest that puppy pads are linked with more extended toilet training.
Plus, teaching the puppy to relieve itself on a particular surface may create a life-long surface preference. Therefore, perhaps the best compromise would be to use puppy pads only as a temporary solution.
If you decide on using puppy pads, you need to use them right. In a nutshell, it is recommended to move the pads closer and closer to the door slowly. That way, when it is time to go out for potting your puppy will be ready.
Additionally, it will build an association between the door and the potting activity. With time and practice, going out that door will trigger the elimination in itself.
What To Avoid During Toilet Training
To understand what not to do during toilet training a puppy, you need to realise that puppies don't see their waste the same way as we do.
While we know peeing and pooping on the floor is a mistake, it's a natural and physiological need for the puppy. Not to mention that most puppies find poops not only entertaining but tasty too.
Punishing your puppy
Conservative advise suggests punishing the puppy whenever he does his “business” out of the designated toilet area. According to this advise, that is done by either swatting the puppy or rubbing its face in the waste.
Today we know that this technique is not only confusing for the puppy but also inefficient and unhealthy.
Also, most puppies tend to relieve themselves when nobody is watching. Imagine the following situation: you come home from work and see a pee pond or a poop pile on the floor.
Chances are the accident happened long before you came. If you punish your pet, he cannot understand why. Trying to correct a behaviour long after the accident happened is useless.
Even reprimanding tones are felt like punishment for most puppies. Additionally, punishing damages your relationship with your puppy by making her fearful and stressed.
Disrespecting your dog’s ‘’hold time’’
Another significant and unfortunately common mistake is expecting the puppy to hold it for longer than she can.
Every puppy has a different ‘’holding time’’.
A rule of thumb is that the dog’s ‘’hold time’’ equates to its number of months expressed in hours.
For example, a two-month-old puppy can hold it for two hours, while a four-month-old puppy can hold it for around four hours.
However, there are exceptions to the rule. Usually, as the puppy grows, it should hold it for longer, especially during night time.
It is no secret that every puppy parent wants a fast, reliable, and efficient toilet training strategy.
Although toilet training is a straightforward process, it is not a magic trick that your puppy can learn in a day or two.
It is an ongoing, lasting and tiring process, and more often than not, there will be misunderstandings, confusion, and frustrations for both you and your puppy.
Keep in mind that successful toilet training requires patience and understanding that the puppy is just starting to learn the rules.
A final helpful tip, while toilet training is to never walk around the house barefoot – you never know if a smelly package or wet surprise is waiting for you to step on it.
Haven't decided yet? Here is our top XXX:
Puppy Toilet Training Pack
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No, it is unreasonable to expect a puppy to be toilet trained when only eight weeks old. At this point, you should be focused on preventing accidents, not actual toilet training.
For a puppy to be considered fully toilet trained, it needs an average of four to six months. However, some puppies may need as long as a year.
Yes, puppies younger than four months cannot hold during the entire night. However, once older than four months, they will be able to sleep through the night without the need to relieve themselves.
Reports suggest smaller dog breeds are harder to toilet train. The top 5 most challenging dogs to toilet train are really small-sized and include the Bichon Frise, the Jack Russell terrier, the Yorkshire terrier, the Cocker Spaniel, and the Chihuahua.
However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and just because your puppy is on this list, it doesn’t mean you will face challenges during toilet training.
No, in fact, female dogs tend to be cleaner and faster learners, making the toilet training process in female puppies easier and much quicker.
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