One of my earlier clients had a wonderful Italian Greyhound named Aldo. The client lived high up in a tower in Bonita Bay and Aldo often would not be able to “hold it” after walking to the elevator, then down the elevator maybe stopping a few times, marching through the lobby or parking garage, then getting to the grass, then being able to go. As you might imagine this process could take upwards of 10 minutes and as they say, when you go to go, you GOT to go! We discussed training pads but because dogs may end up confusing them with areas rugs, bathroom mats or just a magazine on the floor we came up with a different solution. Aldo was trained to toilet in the client’s walk-in shower. This worked for this client. While we are all different, the one common thread in toilet training is the schedule and location of toileting should ultimately be determined by the human, not the dog.
Speaking from personal experience having raised 5 dogs from puppyhood to adulthood and having helped thousands of dogs with Bark Busters Home Dog Training, toilet training is annoying, a pain, possibly personal and work schedule disrupting, and absolutely necessary for you and your dog. This task is not something that can be outsourced as it is a part of your relationship with your dog. The keys to toilet train a dog are leadership and discipline or consistency.
When it comes to toilet training we are basically dealing with two types of training. The first type is a puppy, hopefully around 3 months of age and we are really just trying to get their schedule figured out and slowly shift it towards our schedule. So, some basics concerning this type; Puppies should be able to hold it for about an hour longer than they are months old, depending upon activity level. So, a sedentary 3-month-old puppy should be able to hold it for about 4 hours. Do not take the dog out every two hours because guess how long the dog will learn to “hold it” for? Correct! About 2-hours. Once the puppy starts to move, you are looking at significantly less time and perhaps no time at all. I call this “the airplane effect.” When one is sitting down you likely can hold it for longer than you think. However, when people get off a plane most people head to the bathroom. To limit moving around and sneaking off the use of a crate is suggested. Personally, I am not a fan of the playpen with potty pad as you are still teaching your dog it is okay to toilet inside your home. Now again, if that is what you want, then great. Just make sure this is something you can live with for the rest of the dog’s life.
There are six times a puppy should be taken outside, under supervision, for about 30 minutes to toilet:
If you have your puppy inside with you, be aware of where he is at all times. The puppy that disappears from your immediate area is a puppy up to mischief toileting or chewing.
Puppies should be confined to a sleeping area, preferably a crate that is just large enough for the puppy to turn around and sleep in. He should be placed in a bedroom with a family member. When the puppy cries, take him out to the designated area to toilet. As your puppy toilets, say “go potty,” “busy, busy” or “quick, quick.” Praise your puppy AFTER he has finished toileting. (No dog over eight months old should be left in a crate for more than eight hours. Remember to monitor your puppy while he is in the crate.)
An idea for a toileting area if space is limited is to place a box of sod on your patio. You can take the puppy to this area and train him to eliminate there as his designated area.
Alternate feeding in the areas in which you do not want your puppy to eliminate. Also, leave fresh drinking water in those areas. Puppies generally will not eliminate in those areas where they eat, drink or sleep.
Feeding your puppy a nutritious, well-balanced diet also helps because pups that are fed naturally will defecate less (about 25% less). Look for ingredients on your dog food package that contain real meat, less meat meal, and little or no by-products or grains.
Lavender oil also helps your puppy associate the smell with his den. Place a few drops of lavender oil in the water when washing his bedding. Place a few drops in the water of a spray bottle to spray everything in your house.
Also, place some lavender oil in the water with which you mop your floors. Finally, take a towel that has been dipped in a lavender oil and water mixture and rub it all over your puppy. He will start to associate the lavender oil smell with his den. In this case, his den will be your entire house, not just his crate.
Keep things as simple as possible. Your puppy will make mistakes, but if you follow the above regime, mistakes will be at a minimum. If your puppy does make a mistake, simply sop up the urine with a sponge. Then, squeeze out the urine throughout your backyard where you want him to go. Be sure to clean the soiled area thoroughly so no odor is left to confuse him
You may also place his poop in areas where you want him to go (instead of just putting it in the garbage). Your puppy will soon associate those smells with the outside areas in which you want him to relieve himself.
Tips for training adult dogs are: Do not allow your adult dog to be alone in the house (except when crated or confined to a small room such as a laundry room or bathroom) until he has established his outside toilet area. Even when you are home, your dog should be under strict supervision and confined to a certain area (such as the family room) unless he is with you. Note that older dogs mark their territories by urinating or defecating in strategic areas informing other dogs “this is my territory.” Even some dominant females do this. Do not confuse this with toileting in the wrong place. If your dog is marking, spray Bitter Apple in those spots to discourage marking.
There are six times a dog should be taken outside to toilet:
If you want your dog to toilet in a specific area outside:
Your dog will make mistakes, but if you follow the above regime, mistakes will be at a minimum and eventually will be non-existent. If your dog relieves himself in an unacceptable area, you may correct him only if you catch him in the act. Never become physical by grabbing or dragging your dog. You are his teacher. Be patient and positive. If you catch him in the act, correct him with a growled BAH and immediately guide him to where you want him to go. Praise him lavishly as soon as he is there. He may not do anything at that point, but he will get the message. Then, back in the house, sop up the urine with a sponge and squeeze it out throughout your backyard where you want him to go. Be sure to clean the soiled area thoroughly so no odor is left to confuse him. You may also place his poop in areas where you want him to go (instead of just putting it in the garbage). Don’t expect perfection too soon. Expect him to make mistakes in the early stages of his training, and remember that the training is up to you.
Be patient and consistent. It may take two to three weeks (or longer) to toilet train your dog.
The second type is always an older dog, say 6 months and older, who just toilets anywhere it pleases. In general, these dogs are often small, bark a lot, pull on the leash, get picked up when misbehaving, jump up wherever and whenever, and sleep in bed. This is a dog who needs leadership and discipline. Your leadership and you need to be disciplined. For these dogs, those keys I mentioned are needed. Being a Momma Golden Retriever and showing the puppies leadership is how this gets done. I don’t care if you like this behavior or that behavior, watch what this mother does. The exercise we call “claiming” achieves this and if you are a client struggling with toilet training you need to get past all the cute things your dog does and act like this Momma. Simply put, if your dog can do what they want, whenever they want, and never be educated like the puppies in that video, how do you think you’re going to shift your dog’s toileting habits to what you want? No really, I am genuinely asking because I would like to know. While there is more to what we teach than claiming these second types are all about you and your relationship with the dog. So long as the dog thinks they are the decision maker in the house, not much if anything will ever change.
If you have read this article and implemented what we discussed but still are having issues then you have the second type of dog mentioned here and you do not have a toilet training issue, your dog stole your keys. You better go get them.
For our comprehensive guide to Housebreaking a Puppy to go Outside or on a pad, please click HERE.
For PUPPY TRAINING TIPS, please click HERE.