Even before we bring our new puppy or dog home, we need to think about a doggie toilet. I firmly believe that our dog’s feces is our responsibility. Therefore, we need to train our dogs to eliminate on our property so we can see it to monitor our dog’s health, and so we can clean it up and dispose of it.
Choose an area that you don’t particularly care about, as far away from your home as you can manage in the middle of the night in your slippers. Dogs naturally defecate away from their sleeping quarters. If you have children who play in your yard, the doggie toilet should be identified by bushes or a small fence, or different ground cover, e.g. pee gravel as opposed to grass. This will make it easier to keep your children and their friends out of a specific area. Remember that unless your soil is very heavy in limestone, the urine will cause brown spots. Also, a mature male dog will lift his leg on bushes, which usually kills them, so keep this in mind when you choose the piddle place.
Once you have chosen the target area, advise anyone who will be responsible for taking the puppy/dog to the toilet, that this is the only place the dog may relieve herself… and then tell the dog!
Tell her by taking her to the target area on leash each and every time she goes outside to go to the bathroom, and then praise her emphatically for going there. Reward her with something very memorable, so she thinks to herself, “Wow! I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but my person is so happy when I pee or poop behind the bushes, that they give me a piece of liver, or cheese, or chicken or steak! I can hardly wait to go there again!”
When you take her to the target area, you may use a cue word such as “Go pottie”, “Spend a penny”, or “Go pee pee”. (We do not suggest “Hurry up” after we had the case of a dad rushing his children to get ready by telling them to hurry up. Sure enough, Mr. Well-Trained-Rottweiller obliged, by peeing in the house.) Wait no more than five minutes, and as soon as your puppy dog starts to perform, be quiet and wait for her to finish, then praise very enthusiastically, and let her know in no uncertain terms that you are very happy, and that she is the best little doggie in the whole wide world. Give the memorable food treat at the same time, then leave the area and do something fun. Play ball, hide and seek, or if she’s old enough, go walkies.
When you return to the house, put the puppy in her confinement area or if a responsible adult is available to keep an eye on her, she may have a little time with the family. Think of an un-house-trained dog, as you would a two year old child. They are never, ever left un-supervised. All it takes is a second for the puppy to get into serious trouble, and hurt himself, or your things.
- I had her outside, she did everything, and as soon as we got into the house, she peed again.
- How do I punish her, if she goes in the house?
- How long will it take, to toilet-train my dog?
- How come my dog can go all night without peeing, yet has to go so often during the day?
- When can I trust my dog to be clean in the house?
- How do I go from close confinement to giving the dog the full run of the house?
- How do I get my dog to let me know when she has to go to the bathroom?
- I had her outside, she did everything, and as soon as we got into the house, she peed again. ^ Back to top
This happens, and is very frustrating, especially when you have done everything right. Dogs, like people, are usually regular, and therefore, pretty predictable. We suggest you keep a chart for the first month, so you will be familiar with her schedule. Keep a notebook and pencil at the back door (or whatever door you use to take her to the toilet) and write the time of day and the job. I use a capital P to indicate she pooped, and a small p to indicate she piddled. For instance, the chart would look something like this:7:00 am Pppp
9:30 am p
12:30 pm Pp
3:00 pm pThis helps you to remember that usually first thing in the morning she needs to pee three times and poop once before returning to the house.
- How do I punish her, if she goes in the house? ^ Back to top
Great question. You absolutely, never, ever punish a dog that is not yet toilet trained for going in the wrong place. It is YOUR job to have her at the right place at the right time, that is, her doggie toilet, when she has to go. If you have to punish something, go and look in the mirror. If you do punish, you will not teach the dog not to go in your house. You will instead teach her not to go in front of you, and then you are in a real fix, because if she is afraid to go in front of her person, how are you ever going to reward her when she does get it right? Also, I suspect that punishment could lead to stool eating. The dog may understand that the presence of their stool makes their people very angry, so she may get rid of it. One little Yorkie was so clever at getting rid of it, that her person was totally convinced the dog was housetrained – until the Fall came and they turned on the heat. This little Yorkie had shoved her stool down the heating vents on the floor in order to avoid detection and punishment.
- How long will it take, to toilet-train my dog? ^ Back to top
How long did it take to toilet train your child? Like children, all dogs are different and learn at a different speed. Some get it very quickly and others take a little longer. A lot depends on their very early housing. In Mother Nature’s world, pups are taught by their mum to keep the den clean. If, in the human world, the pups haven’t had the opportunity to do this, it makes it a little harder to change the rules.
- How come my dog can go all night without peeing, yet has to go so often during the day? ^ Back to top
Again, like people, dogs are not active at night. They are most active at dawn and dusk. At night, pups are sleeping. They are not eating, drinking or playing, which all cause the need to urinate.
- When can I trust my dog to be clean in the house? ^ Back to top
I’d be a millionaire if I could answer that one. The rule of thumb is for every month of age, she should be able to hold it for one hour. When she is young, the sphincter muscle is not yet developed enough for control, so we suggest you increase the length of time she has to hold it by 15 minutes a week. So when she is eight weeks old, keep her confined for two hours at a time; at nine weeks of age, for two hours, 15 minutes; at ten weeks of age, for two and a half hours; at 11 weeks of age, for two hours, 45 minutes; and bingo, by the time she is three months old, she can hold it for three hours. Although I know of some dogs who can, I wouldn’t expect my dog to hold it for more than six hours at a time. I know how uncomfortable I am if I’m in a situation where I can’t use the toilet.
- How do I go from close confinement to giving the dog the full run of the house? ^ Back to top
Very slowly. Start by giving access to one room at a time. If you have your pup’s crate in the kitchen, start by allowing your pup freedom in the kitchen when you are there. If you have an unexpected accident, try the umbilical method, which is having your pup on leash, and attaching the leash to your belt. This gets her out of the crate, but not out of your immediate attention. For every ten dry days, you may increase the territory to which your pup has access. If you are on the umbilical cord in the kitchen, after ten dry days, take off the leash. Then after ten dry days, always supervised, give access to the kitchen and back hall. After another ten dry days, give access to the kitchen, back hall and laundry room, or powder room … however your house is set up. If you have an accident at any time, go back a step. You also need to remember that the minute your pup is out of sight, there is every opportunity for other trouble, like chewing, or counter cruising, or foraging in the garbage.
- How do I get my dog to let me know when she has to go to the bathroom? ^ Back to top
That’s really easy. Once the dog understands that the treat always comes when she goes outside at a specific spot, she will do everything in her power to let you know it’s time! A special little cry, a glance at the door, sniffing, circling, a determined look at you, are all ways she will try to communicate her urgency to you. If your dog goes to the back door and pees because you weren’t there to let her out, she is not ready to be out of your sight yet. Some people have suggested teaching the dog to ring a bell at the back door. Good idea, but not yet. Again, she is not ready to be out of your sight.