Toilet training is not sexy or glamorous, I’ll give you that.
So why should you care? Because thousands of dogs are given up to the pound by exasperated owners, who can’t cope with their ‘inability’ to be toilet trained. So here is my cheat-sheet to toilet training dogs.
1. Be realistic and adjust your expectations.
I was very disheartened when one of my dogs was not toilet trained after a month. It is only after a lot of reading that I realised that some dogs take much longer, up to six months. Give it time.
2. Bring your dog inside, if at all possible.
You may find that your dog’s ‘problem behaviours’ improve dramatically by this simple measure. A dog that spends most of it’s time outside learns to toilet anywhere and everywhere, and at any time of his choosing. It is very difficult for the dog to understand that the rules are different in the house, if it spends only limited periods inside.
3. When your dog is inside, watch him very, very carefully. Not all dogs have the same body language when they need to toilet. Some will start sniffing the ground. Some will turn in circles. Often this happens so quickly you may not have time to react. Get to know your dog’s special signals. If you happen to catch him just before the act, say sharply ‘nah-ah-ah’ to interrupt him, and then quickly redirect him outside to the designated spot of your choosing.
4. Immediately as he toilets, say clearly a ‘keyword’ that he will eventually come to associate with having to go.
Try to choose something you’re not too embarrassed about saying in public and which is short and sweet (“be-quick!” = good; “Hunny-snuggles-come-and-do-a-little-poopoo-for-mama” = bad). Take your dog out regularly so that you have the opportunity to prevent accidents and to use your new keyword.
5. Timing is everything.
There are certain key times when your dog is likely to do his business – eg after vigorous play, after meals, after drinking water. At these times, make sure you take him out and give him a chance. Try not to play with him at these times. If he doesn’t go after 10 minutes, come back in and try again a little later. Use your keyword only when he starts to do his business, rather than’be quick boy, be quick, be quick,’ for ages, as then the words lose their meaning. Remember to praise, praise, praise, when he’s finished; you can even offer a small treat.
6. Consider investing in a crate.
Crates can be a useful tool – if your dog sleeps in a crate, he will be less inclined to want to soil it, as it is his ‘space’. It can be particularly helpful in training the dog to go through the night without toileting. However, in the early days, it is your responsibility to make sure that you take your dog out at least every few hours in the night to give it an opportunity to void. I will write more posts on crate training further down the track.
7. Don’t scold your dog.
This will only teach him to be afraid of you or do his business on the sly. If you come home and see your dog has made an accident, there is no point whatsoever in admonishing him after the fact. He won’t know what you’re referring to and no amount of pointing the poo out to him will clarify things.
There used to be an awful myth that you need to poke your dog’s nose in the mess he made and growl at him so he knows he did a bad thing. These sort of tactics don’t work and will just damage your relationship with your dog.
If you’ve adopted your dog from a shelter, please give it a little more time to settle in. Shelter dogs can be understandably anxious in their new environments, and this can lead to more frequent voiding. They can also have urinary tract infections due to inconsistent voiding schedules in the past. See a vet if toilet training is particularly difficult.
That’s my personal cheat sheet, and it works. Use it for yourself or send it to a friend who may need help with their dog. You might just prevent another dog from being sent to the pound.
Do you have any tips that I might have missed?