Monthly Behavioural Tip – Toilet Training

Are you having trouble teaching your puppy to urinate outside? Or just not by the backdoor? Toilet training is not difficult, however it is time-consuming. Dogs are social animals and enjoy being part of your family. Before you get frustrated with your puppy consider these important facts.

Toilet Training your Puppy
At a young age puppies have little bladders and therefore need to be taken to the toilet frequently. I.e. after every nap, drink, feed etc. Most puppies do not have full bladder control until 5 - 6months of age.
When going to the toilet, puppies generally have a substrate preference. This substrate may be the soft feel of the carpet, the smoothness of the tiles or privacy of the back corridor. When they go to the toilet on this substrate they are self-rewarding; with the good feeling of emptying their full bladder. Changing their substrate preference, to a substrate you desire, requires you to give a greater reward than your puppy’s self-reward. By rewarding, you increase the frequency of that behaviour.
This means you will need to be with your puppy as they he/she does a wee/poo, to give the treat reward.

Follow the following steps: 
  1. Take your puppy on a lead (leads usually mean business, rather than play time off the lead) to your desired substrate i.e. grass, bark.
  2. Wait for him/her to do a wee (this may take some time, so be patient and refrain from distracting your puppy by talking or fidgeting).
  3. As he/she is doing a wee say your cue word i.e. ‘go wees’, toilet time’. (To help your puppy associate your cue with their action of urinating.)
  4. Immediately after he/she finishes, reward the behaviour (toileting on your chosen substrate) with a treat.
Toilet Training your Puppy
  • Make sure you go out with your puppy to give the reward immediately after toileting. Rather than giving the treat once you are back inside. Or expecting your puppy to go outside and toilet on his/her own and reward once returned to the house. Your puppy may skip a few vital steps (like the toileting outside part), as you are only rewarding coming inside and not the toileting outside. Ending in toileting inside (most likely just inside the door).
  • When your puppy is frequently using the desired substrate for toileting, you can start using praise rewards with only the occasional treat reward.
  • If your puppy does have an ‘accident’ inside and you catch them in the act, DO NOT punish. Urination and defecation is a natural act, and you do not want your dog to be worried about toileting around you next time. Instead, just clean up the mess and take your puppy out earlier next time.
  • When you come home from several hours away and your puppy has been outside all day, don’t assume he/she has toileted recently. Encourage him/her to toilet before allowing inside. Similarly, if you are taking your puppy for a car ride, ask him/her to go to the toilet before getting in.
  • Be patient and consistent by encouraging as many wees as you can on your preferred substrate, by using a treat reward, until the number of wees occurring inside diminishes.

Veterinary Nurse Kirstie Hancock is qualified in animal behaviour with her Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services through the Delta Society. She has lots of great tips and ideas when it comes to misbehaving pets. Keep an eye out for her monthly tips on our Facebook page. Also check out her own business Facebook page - Positive Paws.