Puppy and Dog Toilet Training Tips for Indoor Pets
Like humans, dogs need to follow an established set of rules in order to toilet train successfully. In addition to using crates, piddle pads, neutering, and or repellent sprays, you should also supervise your dog constantly and use consistent, positive cues while housetraining.
Dogs who are less than 12 weeks old are not physically developed enough to control their bladder muscles, so they have to relieve themselves at least six times each day. It is important, then, to supervise your dog constantly and take him outside every 20-30 minutes; immediately after meals and play sessions; or before you go to bed. Look for signs of having to go outside—circling, hyperactivity, etc—and use simple verbal cues while doing so.
If you live in an apartment building, secure a cloth around your puppy’s privates, carry him outside, unwrap the “diaper” when you find an appropriate space, and praise him immediately after he relieves himself there. If you live in a house with a yard, take your dog outside on a leash and reward him immediately when he defecates in the right spot. If he does not relieve himself, let him sniff around so he can become familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells that exist outside of his “den”, or your home.
If you have to leave for an extended period of time, keep your puppy in a crate, but do not leave him for more than four hours. Dogs generally avoid making a mess of their sleeping and living quarters, but they are also limited in the amount of time they can hold their waste. If you will be gone for a full workday, find someone who can let the dog out at least twice each day.
Accidents can and will happen during the housetraining process, so you have to be patient with your new dog. Even if your dog is old enough to understand verbal cues, negative reinforcement (sticking your dog’s nose in his own waste and yelling at him) is counterproductive and emotionally damaging.
If you catch your dog squatting, defecating, or urinating, startle him with a noise, carry him outside in a neutral manner, and set him down in an appropriate spot. Once he finds a place to relieve himself, praise the action with a soft voice, reward him with a treat, and then go back inside.
After one or two weeks of consistent training, accidents should become less frequent, your dog should be able to indicate whether he needs to go outside, and you should be able to make fewer trips outdoors. If your dog is still having accidents after two weeks of training, this may be a sign of a health or behavioral problem.
The best thing to do in this case is to have a veterinarian conduct a physical exam. If the exam rules out health issues, the problem is more than likely behavioral. If your dog has a behavioral problem and is not responding to positive reinforcement, crating, neutering, or repellent sprays, talk to your veterinarian.