Fast asleep in bed, my sleep-deprived brain somehow still registers the tiny baby-whimpers that Mr Tuna is making. I hear it, but after two weeks of very little and very broken sleep, I just can’t bring myself to open my eyes.
Then I feel him scramble over me and jump onto the ground.
Instantly, the adrenalin starts pumping and I bolt upright, grab puppy and race for the door. It’s a race against his bladder – will I make it in time, or will his baby bladder no longer be able to hold on and start it’s release on our way there? Heart thumping, I still somehow make calming sounds for him so he knows that he’s not done anything naughty to warrant this sudden grab-n-run. Finally at the door, I somehow manage to open it whilst holding onto a wriggly puppy, then shuffle to his “toilet” corner of the garden and gently place him down so he can finally answer the call of nature.
While Mr Tuna is an inside dog, toilet training is one of those things that you really need to get down pat for inside and outside dogs in the first few weeks of living with a new fur-kid. Not only will it make your life easier in the long run, but you’re also guaranteed that if you need to leave your dog with another family or (god forbid) have to adopt him out, it will be easier for all involved.
Puppies will instinctively “leave the nest” in order to go potty, and if you can take advantage of this, it will make the toilet training process a LOT easier. My recipe for toilet training is that I will have my pup sleep next to me (yes, on the bed) for the first few weeks of his life – this way, you will feel and hear them wake up and cry and be able to take them outside as soon as possible!
For those who sleep like the dead or don’t like having their dogs on the bed, the alternative is to set an alarm to go off every 2-3 hours after puppy goes to bed – for example, if bedtime is 10pm, set an alarm for midnight, then 2am, then 4am, then 6am. Puppies have no bladder control at 8 weeks of age but will quickly learn the “bathroom break times” if you follow the same routine. After about two weeks, you should be able to scale back to just one or two toilet breaks during the night – Mr. Tuna is now 15 weeks old and is now able to hold his bladder through the entire night till he wakes up in the morning!
Also make sure that you praise and reward your puppy for going toilet correctly – do not get overly excited as you don’t want them to get so stimulated that they stop going potty and start wanting to play, but give them praise in a low, soothing voice and as soon as they’re done, give them a special yummy treat (such as a small piece of low-fat cheese).
And one last piece of advice? Never ever punish puppy for going toilet inside as this will just create a dog anxious about going toilet around you and could build the wrong association (e.g. “going potty inside when mom can see is BAD, but when mom can’t see then it’s OK!”). Things like rubbing a puppy’s nose in their own mess long after it’s been created do nothing but make your puppy scared of you since they’ve long forgotten doing it and don’t understand why they are being tormented.
So here are your tips in point form for how to toilet train your puppy – if you follow them, you may have a furry bundle of joy who is perfectly toilet trained in under a month!
- Keep puppy close at all times when awake, so you can watch them and take them outside as soon as you see them do the toilet squat (first photo).
- Because they lack bladder control, make sure you take puppy to go toilet after any excitement, 5-10 minutes after they have a drink of water, 30 minutes after every meal, and for the first few weeks, about once every hour. If they don’t go potty within about 5 minutes, bring them back inside, then take them back outside in another 10 minutes. Rinse, lather and repeat till they finally go toilet.
- Remember that puppies need frequent toilet breaks while asleep, so set your alarm to take them outside every 2-3 hours for the first few weeks of their life, then extend to just once during the night, and eventually (by the time they’re about 12-14 weeks) they should be able to hold it throughout the night.
- Praise and reward your puppy every time that they go potty in the correct spot outside – praise should be in a low, soothing voice, and reward them as soon as they’re done with a high-value treat such as a small piece of low-fat cheese or real meat.
- NEVER punish your puppy for going toilet in the wrong area – puppies can only understand immediate action/consequence so rubbing their noses in a mess that you’ve discovered will confuse and intimidate them, and punishing them WHILE they are going potty will not communicate what you want either.
- IF puppy makes a mess inside, make sure to clean it up with a good enzymatic cleaner. Regular cleaners will not suffice as even if the spot looks and smells clean to us, puppies will still be able to smell the trace and want to pee in the same area. Instead of paying $30 for a special enzymatic cleaner from the pet store, you can just use Bio-Zet (enzymatic laundry detergent) diluted with water as this will remove all traces of the smell – and the added bonus is that once puppy is completely toilet trained, you can use any leftover in your washing rather than throwing it away!