04 March 2011

Toilet training your dog

If there's a problem with your puppy or dog messing in the house, use this information to find out why. When the cause is identified, it's easy to find a successful solution.

Trainers refer to this as toilet training as opposed to house training. The reason being it is good to have your dog eliminate on command even though it may live mostly outdoors. This allows you to ask your dog to urinate if you need a sample for the vet, or show the dog which area of the garden you want it to perform its toilet in. Should you need to take your dog out in the car, you can ask it to perform its ‘business’ before you leave, avoiding stops on the side of the road which can be dangerous to both you and your dog.

Intact Male Dogs

  • One of the most common causes of this behaviour is when a puppy has been kept in a cage (normally with several other pups) before being adopted. A dog is a naturally clean animal and will never soil where it sleeps. Unfortunately, pups like this, who are also often taken away from their mothers too young, don't learn where to soil as there simply isn’t any other place to perform the behaviour.  Another reason for only buying a pup from a reputable accredited breeder!  This situation is much harder to change and the pup may need to be crate-trained (small crate) first in order to teach it another elimination pattern. Pups like this have to be supervised constantly while the training is carried out – see a specific section on this at the end of the article.
  • Another reason why a dog may perform inappropriate elimination is out of fear. A fearful dog will often go into the submissive ‘playbow’ position when greeting another dog or human and eliminate at the same time.
  • Additionally, you may find that the dog will go outside to eliminate during the day, but messes at night. Something as simple as supplying a light in the area where the dog eliminates so often can make a difference.
  • In the case of rescue dogs, they may have been shouted at or even worse when in the process of elimination and are just plain scared, so tend to do their ‘business’ when nobody is around and often in the wrong place. This can also happen with non-rescue dogs where the previous owner has shouted or smacked the dog while eliminating inappropriately.
  • Excitement – sometimes dogs just get so ‘over the top’ that they can’t control themselves. 
  • Dogs suffering from separation anxiety or over-dependency on their owners often perform inappropriate elimination. If you suspect your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, you are best served to call in a professional to assist with this. Some of the key indicators that separation anxiety is present are that the dog refuses to eat unless the owner is present, it barks/whines/howls constantly when the owner is out, or the dog becomes destructive in the owners absence. The dog is not doing this to spite the owner as many people think – it simply can’t cope!

  • Make a game of this by getting your dog's attention by saying ‘come Fido, weewee’s’ or a similar phrase and acting all excited. The dog will normally rush to go with you to this exciting event!
  • Have a handful of nice treats in your pocket as you rush outdoors.
  • Timing is crucial in this exercise, and the second your dog either lifts its leg or squats to perform, go overboard again ‘good Fido, good weewee’s’. 
  • As the dog finishes, offer a treat with further praise, repeating the new cue word. This is for the dog to start associating the behaviour with the cue and will make it easier to train this exercise.  


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