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5 Steps to Toilet Train Your Dog Using Positive Reinforcement

Toilet training is one of the most requested issues that clients have asked for training help. A well-trained puppy who knows how to eliminate at an appropriate area can be a blessing, while a puppy which seems to have accidents at multiple undesired areas can be a curse. Take a short read at the excerpt below to see if you manage to identify with this first-time puppy owner’s initial frustrations:

“Yes! We have gotten our new puppy home, but he or she is peeing all over the place! What should I do? I feel so frustrated cleaning up accidents around the home. The puppy seems to be doing it on purpose! They keep having repeated accidents at the same spot despite us cleaning up after them thoroughly. I am feeling so irritated and helpless. What should I do?”

Feel like you have been in this scenario before? You’re in luck!

Here are 5 Steps to Toilet Train Your Dog Using Positive Reinforcement:

Step 1: Use Antecedent Arrangement to Minimise Accidents


Antecedent arrangement means that you are setting up the environment for your dog to succeed. If your dog is peeing all around the house, it is generally safe to assume that he or she is not toilet trained. A dog that is not yet toilet trained needs to be crated in a playpen or crate. Once you manage to keep your dog in a designated area, you may move on to the next step.


Step 2: Keep an Elimination and Activity Log


An Elimination and Activity Log is essential to establishing the routine of any new puppy. Knowing these details establishes a baseline for us to work from. It also answers the when, where, what, why, who and how questions of your new dog. Activity areas in terms of peeing, pooing, feeding, walking and training have to be accurate. After a few days, a general trend would usually emerge. With further analysis of the trends of elimination and activity, we can then establish time periods where extra supervision is necessary. Next!


Step 3: Olfactory Cues are Important for Dogs!

training-tip-template-jan-2019-potty3 smelling

Olfactory cues are cues that are based on smell. Dogs rely on these olfactory cues to determine appropriate elimination areas in the home. Dogs will eliminate at areas where the residual smell of urine is strong. Knowing this, if you soak a puppy pee pad with urine, this provides your dog with a natural olfactory cue, which establishes an initial appropriate elimination area for your dog.


Step 4: Ignore Accidents and Clean Them Thoroughly!

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During the course of training, your dog is bound to have an elimination accident. Even the best training takes time to take effect at a high frequency. Do not reprimand your dog when he or she has an elimination accident. This does not teach your dog anything useful. It only teaches your dog to eliminate at an inappropriate area when you are not around. Not good!

Remember our previous step? Go one step further when cleaning up accidents. Use a pet-safe stain and odour remover to thoroughly remove any residual smells. With an effective removal of all olfactory cues, this prevents your dog from thinking that inappropriate area is the place to eliminate again, thus eliminating future accidents.


Step 5: Reinforce Correct Elimination Areas with Positive Reinforcement

training-tip-template-jan-2019-potty5 reward

Behaviour that is reinforced will have a higher probability of happening again in the future. When you catch your dog eliminating in the correct elimination area, immediately give your dog a treat. We recommend placing accessible treats at the elimination area for faster treat delivery. The faster you deliver the treat, the better chances that your dog makes the connection that he or she is being rewarded for eliminating in the correct area.

Now, toilet training is not so difficult after all, is it? ?

BBA with Merit (NUS), CPDT-KA®, CBCC-KA®, KPA CTP, UW-AAB, Former Military Working Dog Trainer, Level One TAGteacher®, Low Stress Handling® (Certified Silver), Fear Free Certified® Professional & Speaker of Fear Free Speakers Bureau author email author website
Kevin is the Chief Confidence Specialist of Pawrus® Animal Behaviour Clinic & Dog Training Academy. As a Clinical Animal Behaviourist, Kevin resides in Singapore with his long-time friend, partner and Chief Creative Specialist of Pawrus® Pet Grooming Academy & Studio, Jasline Aiw, their Darling Toy Poodle, Iris and Two Lovely Golden Retrievers, Sponge and Bobby (“SpongeBob”).
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