Toilet training a puppy

By Sindhoor Pangal, Bangalore Mirror Bureau | Jun 1, 2015, 09.10 PM IST

Toilet training puppies is the simplest in terms of technique, but the most demanding in terms of patience. It relies on some basic traits of a dog. A puppy, without any training, has some natural preferences when it comes to elimination. Puppies like porous surfaces to pee on. These include soil, grass, carpets, newspapers, mattresses, carpets etc. They also like to pee on familiar spots. So they will go back to the same spot over and over. Their pee timings are also largely predictable. They mostly pee after waking up, after meals and when excitement mounts during play. The trick to good toilet training is to use this knowledge to our advantage.

To start out, puppy-proof your house. Remove all porous surfaces. All carpets, rugs and mattresses go off the floor. The puppy’s bed can stay. Puppies are wired not to pee where they sleep. That’s nice, is it not?

Well, there is one exception to this rule – puppy-mill puppies. These puppies pee where they sleep because they were forced to do so in the early days. So they will take longer to get toilet trained. They have had it rough. Give such a puppy some extra love and care. Instead of expensive beds, give her a few cotton blankets. These can be washed when soiled. Do not reprimand. Just have patience. It will happen in due time.

Now keep a pee chart. Jot down when your puppy pees and where. Within a day or two, you will get a pretty good idea. Next, decide where you want your puppy to pee. Be practical. Now that you know how many times your puppy pees, pick a place that is accessible enough. A newspaper on a balcony or a bathroom may be ideal in apartments. Don’t worry about graduating to the road. That will happen in due time. This is just for your little puppy with limited bladder control. Provide a porous surface in your designated puppy toilet. It can be a newspaper or a patch of grass or soil. But it has to be a porous surface. Some puppies insist it has to be dry. Most puppies insist it has to be stress free and excitement free. So roads are bad choices for most puppies anyways.

Armed with this plan, the next part is all patience and will work, based on how well you execute your plan. It could take a day, a week or a month. Watch your pup with a hawk eye. Sleep while you pup sleeps. Awake with your pup. When your expect your pup to pee, take her to her toilet. Wait for her to pee. When she does, throw her a “pee party”. Celebrate. Give her treats. Praise her. Pet her calmly. Smile at her. Let her know she got it right.

When she has an accident, clean up the accident area with vinegar to neutralise the odour. Other floor cleaners do not do the job. And this part is important, DO NOTHING. I cannot overemphasise this part. Do nothing. No punishments, yelling “NO!”, rolled-up newspapers, threats of hitting, tap on snout, rubbing nose in or reactions of any kind. The complete lack of reaction has to be in stark contrast to the exuberant reaction when she gets it right. Anything else and the technique fails. The brilliance of this technique lies in this stark contrast created in reactions and in providing them a favourable toilet space.

There is a reason I call it an accident and not a mistake. It really is an accident. Your puppy is a baby, still trying to figure out your rules. She is not making mistakes but is having trouble controlling her bladder. So have patience. She will learn. She wants to learn and please you. She loves you more than you can imagine. 

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