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Puppy Toilet Training Do’s & Don’ts – 15 Quick Tips To Help Your Puppy Ace It!

April 20, 2021
April 20, 2021

So, you’re toilet training your puppy or dog – and you’re struggling. Totally understandable!

As always? Rebarkable is here to help!

Toilet training is a killer phase. So much time, so much effort, and then the inevitable accident. You just think you’re through the worst of it, and there’s that lovely “gift” on your Nana’s rug, and your heart just sinks. 

We’ve all been there. 

All successful dogs know and understand how and when to go to the bathroom, they know how to ask and they know where that stuff belongs – and where their pee and poop doesn’t belong? Is in your home. So let’s teach! 

What I want to do now is lay down a few rules, a few do’s, a few don’ts, a few tips for getting you and woof through this stage of learning. 

French bulldog puppy being monitored whilst dad works from home - There won't be any toilet training mistakes here!
French bulldog puppy being monitored whilst dad works from home – There won’t be any toilet training mistakes here!

Do Watch Them Like A Hawk

Observation is actually the most underestimated part of owning a dog, in my opinion! The more you can watch, learn their little ways and patterns, the more you’ll learn. This goes doubly for when you’re toilet training. Toilet training will reveal that your puppy has a pattern before they want to go for a wee – you will notice it if they keep doing a particular thing before they pee, like Indie (my boy) used to to do a little sniff in a circle when he needed to pee.

If you do notice a pattern? Like, puppy peeing on a rug, or in a certain spot – making that rug or that spot unavailable? Is a great idea. 

Don’t Believe in “Revenge Poops” 

This one is a novel concept, but no, if your dog or puppy poops in your shoe? They’re not being spiteful. Dog’s don’t know spite! They don’t know how to be vengeful. But, if you have scolded them, it may be their attempt to hide their poop. So yelling is really not going to make that one better…

Golden Retriever Puppy by an alarm clock - because knowing the time between toilet breaks is really important too!
Golden Retriever Puppy by an alarm clock – because knowing the time between toilet breaks is really important too!

Do Be Consistent

As with everything in dog training? Consistency is king! If you can be consistent with your approach to toilet training? You’ll see much quicker results. And even when they look like they’re rocking it? Keep being consistent, it’ll be relatively painless and quick if you can! But that said…

Don’t Believe In Hocus Pocus

I’m not referring to the movie, because the movie is a timeless masterpiece. But, the super dog claims of “Toilet trained in 2hrs or less” is totally rubbish and you really shouldn’t believe it. It’s hokum! Horsefeathers, baloney and total twaddle. It’s not possible. Dogs can be trained and they can understand when they’re meant to go to the bathroom and where – but toilet training takes time! And there’s a lot of learning on both parts – because it’s pure, non-verbal, interspecies communication.

Do Expect Regression in Toilet Training

It’s pretty normal for lapses to happen. Believe it or not? This is normally your fault. This usually means you’ve done something to cut back on a reward or compromised your schedule a little too early. So take a step back and increase the rewards, and tighten up on your monitoring, you’ll get there!

Do put in a Routine 

Having a routine in place is really key, if you can take them outside after every nap? That will do a good chunk of the learning. After they eat, and after play is really important also. So make sure that you can commit to that, and you’ll really get toilet training done quickly! 

Did you know?

Our pupdates actually give you the amount of time a puppy of your pup’s age can go between toilet breaks, depending on whether it’s overnight or daytime?

Do Have Realistic Expectations

Be realistic about your puppy. Knowing how long they can go between bathroom breaks is really going to be useful for you, and understanding that occasionally? Accidents happen! be patient, take a deep breath and start again. You’ll get there! 

Do not rub their nose in it 

An old practice that never had any real logic to it. It is punishment, it’s weird… It’s just gross, let’s ditch it, huh? And because of the nature of how dogs learn (did you know a mark, reward or a punishment must be applied within 2 seconds of the action for a dog to learn from it?), it means that you’d have to have pretty much caught your puppy in the act of pooping on your bed before taking the decision to do the unthinkable… little bit of a weird choice to make in my opinion! Just get them outside!

Did you know a mark, reward or a punishment must be applied within 2 seconds of the action for a dog to learn from it?

Successful bully puppy learning where to go potty / toilet outside
What a good puppy! Celebrations, Praise and treats would be the next step on this wonderful little bully puppy after toileting in the right place!

Do praise! 

When puppy goes outside and does their business, make it a celebration. Really reward them for doing the right thing with premium treats (like chicken, cheese and hotdogs!) and with lots of praise and maybe even some games! 

Don’t scold or punish 

Again, there’s a two second window to apply any correction (if you believe in that) so, unless you’ve watched puppy do their business where they shouldn’t (which begs the question why you watched as opposed to interrupting it… you weirdo…) – then you can’t correct. Besides, corrections only make puppy see you as scary, which will cause problems later. So scolding or punishments is one of those things that we just don’t need to do. Much better, much kinder options – so let’s use them!

Do use enzymatic cleaners on accidents! 

The benefit of an enzymatic cleaner is that they remove the smell as well as the germs? We all know dogs (and puppies!) are driven by their nose, this goes for accidents too. If a puppy can smell their business there? They’re much more likely to go back to that spot. So clean away the smell too.

Leonberger puppy not enjoying his puppy pad. Toilet or Potty Training is something that's tough enough, so let's just do it once.
This Leonberger puppy not enjoying his puppy pad. Toilet or Potty Training is something that’s tough enough, so let’s just do it once.

Don’t use puppy pads

Personally, I advise to avoid puppy pads when toilet training. I find they add in a step that’s unnecessary for puppies, that you waste time focusing on training to a puppy pad – when you could just go straight to outside. Yes, it will mean getting up at awful hours to brave outside, but overall it has a much better effect, and you never reinforce the idea that peeing indoors is acceptable. 

The only time I might say to do this? Is if you’re in a climate where it’s dangerous for puppy to go outside to learn to toilet, thick snow or scorching temperatures, or floods (but I’m pretty sure you know that!)

Do make sure your household is united

Do you know how many times this goes wrong? Everyone in the family has to embrace the same approach to toilet training – or any training! You cannot scold whilst your partner praises – there are too many mixed messages. These things lead to confusion so it’s always best to unite and create consistency across the whole family unit as this is how puppy will learn the best! 

Bells don’t add anything except a communication barrier.

Ali Smith

Don’t use bells to help toilet train

This is a bit of a novel… modern way of teaching your puppy to communicate when they need to go to the bathroom. This is done by hanging them somewhere in your home in order to let your dog ring them and let you know to go outside for their bathroom break.

Why am I saying no? Well… you know I’m all about raising puppies to be adaptable, diverse members of your family? Bells don’t add anything except a communication barrier. If you can understand your dogs actual communications, you don’t have to worry about bells. You don’t have to worry about anything. 

You can go to your aunts flat, you can go to your local shop, your local pharmacy or wherever and you don’t have to bring a set of special jingle bells to make sure your dog can communicate. Not to mention that if you have professionals (such as daycare or a home boarder) involved, they may not be able to use the bells – which means you’re setting your pup up for failure in other homes. 

little cocker spaniel puppy feeling a little lost outside, do you wait for her to pee or poop, or go inside? toilet training is full of tough decisions.
little cocker spaniel puppy feeling a little lost outside, do you wait for her to pee or poop, or go inside? toilet training is full of tough decisions.

Most importantly? Manage the situation

Whether you’re using a crate, a playpen, or monitoring throughout. Set your puppy up for success. Make sure you don’t allow accidents to happen. Dogs and puppy’s learn by repeat successes (same as we do!) so if you’re using a crate or playpen – make sure they’re in there when you can’t watch them.

Extra!

If you decide to use a crate with training? This is a wonderful tool when used right! Don’t fall into the trap of using it when you just want a little quiet or as a way to avoid training your puppy to share your space! 

Totally freaking true whether it’s a child or a puppy! Rugs, dog beds, anything on the floor… maybe even your jeans… yum. Expect to run your machine a little more, because it happens.

Remember, they will learn.

Overall? I want you to remember that toilet training is a finite process. They’ll get it! Promise you. Be patient, be consistent. You’ll get there! All dogs can learn suitable places to go to the bathroom.

If you’re still struggling? Join up for our Pupdates – they’ll really help you nail this down! 

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