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There is no doubt Buck is a member of the family. He sits with you on the sofa, you have to clear up after his mess and he sometimes drives you up the wall. Because he is a Great Dane, he also eats as much, if not more than most of the family. Fortunately, you love everything about him, including their larger than life appetite. But if he's truly to be part of the family, then why not train him to take some responsibility and use the toilet?
Training your Great Dane to use the toilet actually comes with several advantages. Firstly, you won’t need to take your gentle giant out to go to the toilet several times a day, including in the freezing cold of winter. But also, this type of training could make you social media famous. Who doesn’t giggle when they see a video of a huge dog using a toilet?
Although it may be slightly messy to start with, training your Dane to use the toilet isn’t going to be as complex as you might think. The biggest hurdle is showing them at the beginning what it is you want them to do. However, once they understand, you just need to reinforce the behavior with rewards until it becomes a habit.
If your Great Dane is a puppy then training may be much quicker. Firstly, they have weaker bladders so you’ll get to practice numerous times throughout the day. They should also be at their most receptive. You could see results in just a week. But if they’re older with years of practice going to the toilet on the ground, then you may need up to six weeks. If you get this training right you’re guaranteed to get guests laughing whenever they come around.
Before you can start training, you will need to gather a few items. Treats or small pieces of your dog's favorite food will be required. You will also need toys and a clicker for one of the methods. A step and a plastic tub will also be needed.
You will need to set aside some time each day to take the dog to their new toilet regularly. The more frequently you can practice, the sooner you will see results.
Apart from that, you just need some anti-bacterial spray and patience, then work can begin!
The Steady Transition Method
Before you can direct them to your actual toilet, you need to get them associating going to the toilet with a word or phrase. So say ‘toilet time’ just as they go for a pee or poo. Say it in a high-pitched voice. Note you can use any word or phrase you like.
After a few days your dog should associate the phrase with going to the loo. Now place a plastic tub outside in the spot they usually go to the toilet. Use the ‘toilet time’ command and point to the plastic tub to draw their attention to it.
As soon as your Great Dane has finished going to the toilet in that spot, hand over a tasty reward and give them lots of verbal praise. The happier they feel at this point, the more likely they are to use the tub again. Practice this for a few days.
Now bring the tub inside next to the actual toilet. Follow the same steps as above to get them using the plastic tub. This should help get them used to going to the loo inside.
The real deal
Once your dog looks comfortable using the plastic tub inside, place it in the actual toilet. Again follow the same steps, using the command and rewards to encourage them to go. After a few days of that, lose the tub and continue to use the command. Before you know it they will be in the habit of using the toilet.
The Clicker Method
The first thing to do is get the dog familiar with a clicker. A clicker is a fantastic way to communicate with your dog and signal to them when they have done something right. In fact, it could significantly speed up the learning process.
Start clicking whenever they go to the toilet outside. You can then give them some verbal praise and a treat play around with a toy for a minute or so. It’s important you click within a few seconds of them finishing their toilet, otherwise they may not associate the action with the reward.
Now you need to introduce a verbal cue when they go the toilet. Great Danes can learn hundreds of different commands, so use any word or phrase you like. Just make sure you give it in a playful voice and stick with one command.
Now you need to get them used to going to the toilet inside. So take them to the toilet area and point, use the command and encourage them to go. It may take them a little while to catch on, so be patient.
Click & reward
The command will get them going to the toilet, you just need to click and encourage them if they go in or near the toilet to begin with. You want to encourage any promising signs. Just like humans, they will get more accurate with practice.
The Tub & Step Method
The first step is getting your Dane to associate going to the toilet with a command. You can use any word or phrase you like, just make sure you only give it once. Also, give it in an animated voice.
Now place a small plastic tub outside where they normally go to the toilet. Use the command to encourage them to go there and then reward them with a treat or toys straight afterwards.
It’s important you clean the tub regularly. However, if they are struggling to go then you may want to just pour the last toilet visit away. This is because if they can smell they have been there before then they will be more likely to go again.
After a few days take the tub inside and place it in the toilet. However, you may want to place a plastic step in front of the toilet. This will be particularly useful if your Great Dane is a puppy as it will help them get high enough. Then continue to reward them when they go to the toilet in the tub following your command.
Lose the tub and command
After several days your dog should be comfortable going in the plastic tub in the toilet. Now you just need to remove the tub and encourage them to go there with the verbal cue. Then several days later, you can lose the command. They will now be in the habit of using the actual toilet.
By James Barra
Published: 03/23/2018, edited: 01/08/2021