5 Tips for Potty-Training Your Dog

You’ve arrived home with your puppy or newly adopted dog from the shelter and welcomed them to their new digs.  Toilet training your doggie is an important part of caring for them.  You can think of toilet or potty training your dog as a life skill and a chance to connect and get to know and bond with your new pet over this shared experience.  Whilst some accidents and messes are inevitable, with patience, consistency, and time, your dog will be house-trained and happy to signal when they need to go outside to the toilet.  In this blog, we look at 5-simple, no-fuss tips that will make potty training your puppy or rescue dog a stress-free affair for you both.


1.   Develop an Early Days Toileting Routine

When it comes to beginning potty training your puppy or rescue hound, there is no time like the present.  Whilst dogs only develop full bladder capacity at approximately 12 months of age, they are ready to begin toilet training from around 8 weeks of age onwards.  That means, by the time you collect your new pet from the breeder or the rescue center, they are likely to be able to begin a toileting-training plan as soon as you arrive home.  Every time your four-legged friend toilets outside, you reduce the need for clean-ups, which is ultimately more eco-friendly.  So, there’s no time like the present to get started with your dog’s toileting training. 

When it comes to potty training your pup, consistency is important.  The security of a consistent routine will also help your furry friend to settle and come to trust you.  It will help if you can work from home or take some time off work in the first couple of weeks as you begin to establish a regular pattern of offering access to outside space for toileting.  You can also make space for giving your new dog the time and consistent attention these early days require by outsourcing or pre-preparing some other aspects of home life, at least for the first couple of weeks.  Reading about home cleaning tips for pet parents or preparing some easy-to-cook freezer meals prior to welcoming your new pet may well help you to sail through those early days more easily. 

An early day’s toileting routine involves regular access to an outdoor space for your dog.  As soon as they wake in the morning, provide access to an outdoor space so your puppy or doggie has the opportunity to toilet outside.  Throughout the day, offer access to the outdoors at hourly intervals and after your dog has eaten.  This helps to establish the outdoor space as a consistent place for them to have the opportunity to access. 

2.   Choose a Bathroom Spot

Many dogs like to poop in the same spot.  In the early days of potty training, you can provide consistency around signaling to your hound that the outdoors is a space for toileting by leading your dog to the same spot initially when entering that outdoor space.  In time, your dog is likely to associate that one spot with bathroom space. 

Choosing that one spot is likely to be a joint effort.  In the early days after arriving home, you may find your dog begins to indicate for themselves which space they prefer outdoors as a place to poop and pee.  Dogs use the space in which they toilet as a means of communicating with other dogs and for marking territory.  Sometimes, a dog identifies and chooses its own spot.   Therefore, be alert to notice if your dog seeks to move to a particular area to relieve itself when they first head outside.  If so, aim to allow your dog to go to this spot first when you let them outside. 


3.   The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a helpful way to train your dog or puppy around the types of behaviors you are looking for in them, including toileting outside.  Dogs are social animals and respond to social recognition. 

The good news is, it’s not complicated to positively reinforce the toileting behavior you want to encourage.  Simple words of praise, delivered in a calm and warm sincere tone will be a huge reward and further motivator to your doggy.  You can also add in a pat or a stroke to further reinforce the positive behavior you want to encourage.  Whilst you may feel tempted to offer treats each time you spot positive behavior you’re looking to reinforce, excessive use of treats is not necessary.  In fact, research has shown that dogs find praise equally, if not more rewarding, than food.  A heartfelt “good dog!” or “great work!” delivered in a clear and positive upbeat tone, whilst looking at your dog and placing a hand on them, is likely to be reinforcing for your puppy or rescue dog. 


4.   Avoid Negative Reinforcement When Accidents Happen

Having set up positive reinforcement for outdoor toileting with your puppy or dog, you want to avoid undoing all that great work.  Making a fuss or indicating stress or irritation over accidents in the home is likely to be the type of negative reinforcement for your hound, leaving them confused. 

Accidents are inevitable when potty training your dog and more of these are bound to happen if you chose to care for a senior pet. Aim to accept this fact from the start and commit to dealing calmly, quietly, and without eye contact with your dog when this happens.  In time, your dog will know that outdoor toileting elicits your attention, interest, and praise, whereas indoor accidents offer no such reward or recognition. 

To make cleaning accidents fuss-free, be prepared.  Have eco-cleaning options and green cleaning products to hand so you can mop and wipe without any drama.  Avoid the use of puppy training pads to keep your home clean, as these can be filled with chemicals.  Many eco-minded dog owners find old towels to be helpful in the early days.  These can easily be laundered after any accident and re-used.  In fact, you can also hold off washing one of these towels in those early days and place the urine-stained towel outside the back door of the house, at the point your dog will enter the outdoor space.  Your dog will be able to utilize its sense of smell to associate urine with the outdoors. 


5.   Spot the Signs

As you grow to know your four-legged friend, you will come to recognize their own signs and signals that they’re in need of emptying their bladder or bowels.  As the bond between you develops, your dog will also come to trust that you are attuned to their needs and can help them access the outside space when they do need to go.

Be on the alert for the signs your dog will give about their need to toilet.  Perhaps you’ll notice a way they signal by moving more slowly, or moving in circles, sniffing around.  Perhaps they will vocally signal by whining.  They may seek to find you in the house when they need to go.  Respond promptly to such signals so your dog knows they can trust you and also reinforce such signaling. 

So – training your puppy takes time and patience.  The good news is most puppies can be house-trained within 4-6 months.  Older dogs may take a little longer.  With consistency you and your hound will get there in the end, bonding over the shared experience as you do so.  When this happens, show love to your pets by gifting them eco-friendly pet products. Before you know it, you’ll both feel like the dog that’s got the bone!  


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