Potty Training

How to toilet train your puppy

House training aka Potty Training is easy once you know exactly what to do, but tremendous effort is required. Many often set exceedingly high expectations for a puppy and expect him to pee correctly on the very first day. Fail at it, and risked getting screamed at, beaten up, or have their face pushed closed to where they just peed.

We all love having a clean house, and the same is applicable for dogs. Puppies naturally like to keep their 'nest' clean, unless they have been raised in dirty conditions. The ideal message we want to send across to the dog is that the whole house is their 'nest', and they will have to go outside or to a specific material if they want to relieve themselves. It is very common for the puppy to flounder initially and make a few mistakes, but if you know exactly what to do (steps to take) and is present at the right time, he will learn more quickly. The keys to effective toilet training are active supervision, consistency, timely reinforcement, proper interruption, and sticking to a routine.

Follow the guidelines we have for you to achieve success!

  1. Decide where you would like the dog to potty
  2. Send the dog regularly:
    - First thing in the morning
    - After feeding or drinking
    - After naps/sleeping
    - After playing
    - After training sessions
    - After any excitement, such as when visitors arrive
    - If he/she looks like he/she is about to go (it's good to be paranoid at this point of time) - common signals includes sniffing intently, circling, faraway expression, unable to focus, sudden hyperactivity,
    - Every hour or so if none of the above has happened
  3. Observe and supervise the dog so that you are able to deliver a timely reward
  4. Praise, cheer and reward the moment the dog does it right
  5. Confine to a pen or a room: Never allow an untrained dog or puppy unlimited access to more than a room or kitchen
  6. Active supervision whenever the dog is uncrated, especially when he had just engaged in an activity mentioned above. If you must leave the puppy for something, even for a minute, pen him/her up.
  7. Interrupt mistakes
  8. Never punish late

 

In Singapore, not many of us are blessed with a house with a backyard, and given our hectic schedules, we often have to paper train our puppies instead of the typical outdoor training. As such, this article will focus mainly on indoor potty training.

Success lies in routine, active supervision and an understanding of the dog

When puppies need to relieve themselves, they will naturally look for a surface that is similar to what they are accustomed to. This is crucial information to note so that you will have an appropriate understanding of the type of surface to prepare, in order to achieve success. This would mean that if your puppy is bought from a pet shop, which has concrete ground, he will most likely search for a hard surface, such as your kitchen floor. If you're lucky, and manage to secure yourself a puppy from an ethical breeder, who would raise the puppies in a house and be taken outside by the breeder to go on grass, or one that separates the puppies' bedding area and their doggie bathroom area with different materials, your puppy will most likely be housebroken when they arrive. In contrast, if your puppy came from a farm where most spend their life in cages, they would take a longer time to find the right material to potty on.

Is my puppy too young for potty training?

Potty training can commence once the puppy is more than 12 weeks to 16 weeks old as they will then have the capacity to hold their bladder. A rough gauge for their bladder is an hour for every month. 2 months old puppy, if taught well, is able to hold it's bladder for 2 hours. The ability to hold is also dependent on the size of puppy; a toy breed, miniature breed has a smaller bladder hence it will have to go to the bathroom more often as compared to a bigger breed.

 

Potty Training - Crate style

Crate style, in my humble opinion, is the most effective way of potty training a puppy. We're basing it on the fact that a puppy will not soil at where he eats and sleeps (unless you force it to - by stretching the hours beyond the bladder tolerance of a puppy). It is good way to train a puppy to hold his pee till you open the crate and let him out.

 

Preparation for potty training

Getting your dog used to the material of the doggie bathroom

Many often overlook the fact that if the dog isn't comfortable or familiar with the material, they will naturally not use the tray as their toilet. Before commencing on potty training, you will have to ensure that the puppy is comfortable stepping on and off the material. If the dog isn't comfortable stepping on it, you can help the dog by luring the dog onto the tray with food, or reward the dog for stepping on it. You can stop rewarding the dog as soon as the dog is comfortable stepping on and off the material.

Getting your dog comfortable being in a crate

It is impossible to simply throw a puppy in a crate and expect him/her to like it. Conversely, it would be traumatic. The key to successful crate training is early association. One of the first things that they are conditioned to, in Puppy kindergarten of The Positive Academy is early association to crate, and that's exactly what we would recommend you to do when you first receive your puppy.

Place the crate in a high traffic area like the living room and, whenever the dog isn't looking, drop a couple of treats at the back of crate. Do not direct the dog to the crate, instead let him discover it on his own. Feed him meals in there, always with the door open. Should you decide to feed a dog a chew or give him a chew toy, you can tie the chew to the back of the crate using heavy string so that the dog must lie in the crate in order to chew on it.

 

After a couple days of this, you can then start to teach the dog to enter and exit on cue. Verbalise any command that you prefer: bed, crate, inside are some of our commonly used terms, then follow by tossing a treat into the crate. Praise as the dog enters and eats the treat, and then let him/her exit. Repeat this process a couple of times and then slightly change the order of events; instead of throwing the treats into the crate after you verbalise the command, wait for the dog to enter the crate before giving the treats. If the dog doesn't enter the crate, simply wait. Do not repeat your command, and do not give in by throwing a treat in. Just wait. And if he walks away, end the training session without any comment. Try another session in a little while, still withholding the reward until the dog goes in on his own. When he does, give him double or triple the reward, commence a few more rewarded repetitions and then end the session. Always end the session when the dog still wants more.

 

Once the dog is going in and out of the crate on cue, you're now ready for the lock in. Send the dog in on command, pay him and let him out. Repeat this step a few more times before closing the door. Now ask him to go into the crate, close the door, and continuously feed him treats for 1-2 minutes before opening the door. Repeat this for 2-3 more times before ending the session.

Start another session with him locked inside, and with you walking around the crate and/or around the room, throwing treats into the crate occasionally and finally, opening the door and letting him out (after a couple of minutes). Ensure the whole experience is a positive one and the dog isn't barking or whining.

 

Once your dog has experienced a couple of sessions with closed door, it's time to add some duration. Crate him while you're doing your work, or watching tv and be sure to provide him with a couple of chew toys or edible chews. Ensure the crate is right next to you while you're at this step, send the dog into the crate, close the door and give him something good before starting on your work. You should try to leave for a few times but always ensure you'll be back within a minute or so. Be sure to ignore any noise, agitation or tantrum from the puppy. Try to keep the first session of crate training within an hour, and only let the dog out when he is quiet and not misbehaving. When you do open the door, behave nonchalantly and make the exit anti-climatic. All the good stuff should happen while he's in crate, and behaving nicely.  Now spend the next few days crating the dog with the door closed when you're home, going about doing your usual stuff. Ignore any noises and ensure you provide plenty of incentive for the dog to be in the crate.

The next step is leaving the house. The first time you do, just leave for a minute and come back. Then do five minutes, fifteen, thirty, an hour, two, three, and four hours. Randomise the duration and not always simply in incremental timings. Leave and arrive without any big hooha. Always ensure the puppy is trained and played with before the longest duration of lock-in.

Guidelines and key points to note

  1. You must ensure the crate is large enough for the puppy to stand , turn around and lie down, but not big enough for him to use a corner as bathroom
  2. Gradually increase the time spent in crate, not more than 1 hour per session for the first week
  3. Do not use the crate if the puppy is eliminating in it. If there is any bedding, remove the bedding and try again. Possible causes of the problem could be that he came from an environment where living conditions force him to eliminate on where he sleeps, the duration you're locking him in might be too long, the crate being too big for him, or he is simply too young to hold it in
  4. Ignore any noise, frustration, or tantrum from the puppy when he's being crated up. Only let the puppy out after at least 10 seconds of good behaviour.

 

Pen set up while the dog preparing for crate training

While you're preparing the puppy for crate training, it doesn't mean the dog will have free access to the house. We recommend providing the puppy with it's dedicated area, all puppy proofed, and floor layered fully with pee pads.

Now that your dog is used to the material, gotten used to the crate and you have the pen all set up, its time to move on to potty train your dog.

The crate is the safe zone, a place where your puppy will not eliminate. The idea is to make the puppy hold its bladder, waiting to be release to the padded area. As mentioned above, it's paramount to make sure all feeding (exclude the rewards for potty correctly on the papers) happens in the crate, so as to create the effect of a nest.

Line the area with pads. Initially the puppy will pee all over the area but with this set up, the puppy will always be successful. Once the puppy pees, he is allowed 30 minutes of freedom outside of the pen, supervised.

Always remember to remove the soiled pee pads. Dogs are clean animals and will try not to reuse the same pee pad. As we're encouraging the puppy to pee on our preferred material, it's best to set them up for success.

As the days pass, slowly reduce the amount of pads in the fenced area.  I highly recommend removing the pads around the crate first as dogs prefer not to eliminate the area around their nest, which is the crate.

Each time that you manage to catch your puppy in action on the pad, softly say the command you prefer; "wee wee" "potty", repeatedly. Once the puppy is done with his business, praise and reward the dog with multiple rewards. Repeat this process multiple times and your puppy will slowly build an association between the action and the word, of which you can ultimately use to encourage the puppy to go to the toilet in the future.

Once you're able to reduce the number of pee pads down to one, you're ready to move the pads around the fenced area to test the puppy - if it truly understands what material to urinate on. Randomise the location of the pad within the pen, while steering away from the crate area.

If your puppy is able to consistently pee on the pad, its time to move the puppy a slightly bigger area. Bring the crate along with the pad to slightly bigger area, say a room or a kitchen. Alternatively you can open up the pen and lead the puppy back to the area on hourly interval. If your puppy eliminates on the wrong surface, interrupt the puppy by using a clap and immediately lead the puppy into the pen area. Remember not to hit or scream at the puppy during this interval as it might scare the puppy and in turn cause it to not eliminate infront of you. During this point of time, it is still highly recommended to not allow unlimited access to the house, instead, always provide an area that would set your puppy up for success.

At this point, your puppy should be at the stage where he is able to take himself to the pad, to relieve himself. Slowly expose your puppy to a bigger area with access to the pad until he is fully potty-trained. It can take anywhere from a week to months to fully potty-train a dog, so be patient.