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You love your Beagle puppy dearly, but he is testing your patience. One minute he's playing happily, the next he's peed on the carpet. You've even taken to leaving the back door open so he has free access to the yard, but this doesn't help. All he does outside is play, then he runs right back in and goes on the floor in front of you.
Unfortunately, one day he did this and something inside you snapped. You yelled at the pup. For a while you thought this had helped, because he stopped peeing in front of you... but then you found a wet patch behind the sofa and realized he'd become secretive about his bad habits. Now you have an even more difficult problem to solve, because you don't always know where he is and what he's doing.
If only there was a foolproof way to potty train a beagle....
Potty training is the process of teaching the pup to toilet in a dedicated toilet spot, rather than soiling the house. This is best done using reward-based methods. These teach the pup to think for himself, to work out what he has to do to get a reward.
Be aware of the pup's need to empty his bladder regularly, and give him plenty of opportunity to visit the right spot. Then praise and reward the puppy, so that he links toileting outside to nice things. However, be sure any cue words as specific to toileting, so that he doesn't become confused and think that "good" means he is expected to pee. Also, it's also crucial not to punish the puppy when he does soil in the wrong place, since this can actually slow up training.
And finally, while rare, some pups do have medical or anatomical problems which make potty training difficult. If your pup seems slow to catch on, get him checked by a vet.
Potty training any puppy requires a bit commitment in terms of time and patience. In addition, the following basics will help you get to grips with things.
- Time off in order to spend time with your beagle buddy
- A crate
- A treat pouch or bag for easy access to rewards
- Cleaning products (ensure the cleaner doesn't contact bleach or ammonia)
The Work with Nature Method
Understand the idea
Your beagle puppy has poor bladder control and will need to empty his bladder immediately he wakes, shortly after eating, and every hour or so in between. When you understand the puppy's limitations you can use this in your favor to increase the likelihood of the puppy peeing or pooping in the right place. In turn, this means you are there to praise the puppy and build the idea that toileting in the right place is a super-easy way to earn a reward.
Praise the puppy for peeing or pooping in the right place
When you praise the pup for toileting in the right place, the penny drops in his mind that this is an easy way to get good attention. This makes him want to toilet in the allocated toilet spot in order to please you. As his bladder control improves this means he learns to hold on, in order to 'spend' his pee for a treat. However, it is important you stay with the puppy when he's outside, so that you are there at the right time to praise him.
Recognize peak pee times
There are predictable times when the puppy is more likely to pee. Be aware of these and take him outside, so that he toilets in the right spot rather than indoors. These times are immediately he wakes, after a meal, during vigorous play, and approximately once an hour. Be sure to pop puppy outside before each of these 'high risk' times. If he pees, praise and reward him. If he doesn't go, take him back indoors and watch him like a hawk. At the first sign of sniffing to select a likely spot, whisk him straight back outdoors.
Set an alarm
The fewer times the puppy pees indoors, the faster he learns about toilet training. With this in mind, get into a routine of taking the puppy to the toilet spot. When the puppy is awake, set an alarm on your phone for every 20 - 30 minutes and take the puppy outside. Keep him on a collar and leash so he can't wander off and play. If he toilets, give praise and a treat, if he doesn't bring him back inside, watch him closely, and take him out again 20 - 30 minutes later.
Clean up indoor accidents
Use a non-ammonia based cleaning product to thoroughly deodorize any spots where the puppy toilets indoors. This is because any lingering urine odor will label the area as a doggy toilet and draw him back to it.
Make use of a crate
Consider crate training your beagle. A crate becomes the pup's safe place, his den. When you choose the right sized crate, the pup feels inhibited about soiling it and will hold on rather than wet his bed. Use this at night or at times during the day when you can't be there to supervise at all times.
The Basic Training Method
Reward based training
It's important to use rewards rather than punishment in order to potty train your beagle pup. Reward based training methods work on the principle that when the puppy does something correctly he gets a treat. This sets him thinking about why he got the reward, and repeating that behavior in order to get another treat. Then you can start adding in a cue word, so that the pup understands which action you require at that time.
Praise appropriate pees and poops
As described in the 'Work with Nature' method, take your beagle outside to the toilet spot regularly, especially at certain key times. At first the puppy will squat purely out of coincidence, because he needs to go and he happens to be in the correct place. However, take full advantage of this by praising him in an excited voice, and then offering a treat afterwards.
Read the signs
After he toilets, the puppy will start to look at you expectantly in anticipation of a treat. Once he does this, start adding in a cue word. Next time, as he starts to sniff and find the perfect spot, say your cue word such as "Get busy,", "Empty," or "Toilet". Let the puppy relieve himself, praise and treat him. Do this each time the puppy toilets.
Be sure to respond
Once puppy realizes he's meant to go outside to toilet, he will start approaching the nearest exit and whimpering or scratching at the door. Be sure to respond to this immediately and let puppy out. This is a key step to establishing appropriate toileting habits.
The preemptive toilet command
Eventually, with consistent practice you will be able to say the cue word and put toileting on command. This is invaluable on a wet day when you don't want to be hanging around outside getting soaked while the dog decides if emptying his bladder is worth the bother. It's also useful when you are on a short break from work and only have a small window of opportunity to offer the dog a comfort break.
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Don't: Punish the puppy
Never punish a puppy for an indoor accident. He is unable to make the mental jump between soiling in the wrong place and being punished, so to punish him is unfair and confusing for the dog. The most likely result is that he'll become fearful of you and may even think you dislike his bodily functions and feel it necessary to hide them from you.
Do: Stay with the pup outdoors
It is a common mistake, to let the puppy out and then leave him to it. The chances are he'll get distracted and go off and play. Then when you call him back in, he still needs to go and relieves himself indoors. Instead, when you supervise him you are there to focus his mind and praise him for the happy event.
Don't: Expect the puppy to go through the night
A puppy has a limited bladder capacity and will need a comfort break during the night. A rule of thumb is a puppy can hold on for the equivalent number of hours, as his age in months plus one. Hence, an 8 week puppy can hold on for 3 hours, while a 12 week old can hold on 4 hours. Set an alarm and let him out.
Do: Use a specific cue word
Do use a cue word that is unlike anything else you say. For example, if you say "Good boy," then the dog may mistakenly think he's expected to pee each time you say he's a good boy. Instead, pick specific uses such as "Toilet" or "Get busy".
Do: Visit the vet if you have potty training problems
If you are struggling with a puppy that has regular accidents and you aren't making progress, then check in with a vet. There may be a medical reason, such as a urinary infection, or an anatomical cause for his poor training, which needs to be addressed.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 01/22/2018, edited: 01/08/2021