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Times change. When your old dog was a puppy, you covered the kitchen floor in newspaper and let him do his business indoors. Then, gradually, the area of newspaper shrank down until he was just going on a small island of paper. However, when you mentioned this to the breeder of your new puppy, you noticed her hiding a snigger.
As it happens, training methods have moved on. While the newspaper method still has a place (especially for people who are out at work all day) it is now considered outdated.
Instead, there are more positive ways that encourage the pup to think for himself and chose the right area to toilet. This speeds up training and makes for a more successful outcome more quickly. So by what magic is this achieved? Read on and find out.
Teaching a pup to pee outside is all part of potty training and having a clean dog in the house. Successful toilet training depends on recognizing how often the puppy needs to pee and then rewarding him when he goes in the right place. By doing this, the puppy links spending a pee in the right place with getting an easy reward, and he starts holding onto his pee in order to 'spend' it for a treat. This encourages the pup to learn self-control and inhibits him from going in the wrong place.
Labradors are intelligent dogs and what makes the task even easier is that they are highly food motivated. This means the pup will work that bit harder in order to get even a tiny treat.
Potty training can be thought of as consisting of a number of elements, which include learning where the toilet spot is and how to have control over the bladder so that he holds on to go in the right place.
One of the most important tools you need for toilet training a Labrador is to use patience and work with a knowledge of what the pup is physically capable of doing at a young age. It is inappropriate to punish a pup for having an accident in the house, so you also need to be patient and accept the inevitable will happen form time to time.
In addition, you'll need:
- Cleaning equipment for those inevitable 'spills' indoors
- A crate
- a collar and leash
- A bag or pouch to keep the treats handy at all times
- A timer or phone with a timer function on it
The Limit Accidents Method
Understand the idea
A puppy's natural instinct is to relieve himself at a spot that is far away from his bed and food. But in a house this can mean the pup simply goes to the far side of the room, rather than going outside. It's therefore important to limit the pup's opportunities to pee in the wrong place by a combination of preventing him going inside coupled with praising him like crazy when he does pee outside. Preventing him peeing indoors is doubly important because each puddle acts as a scent marker that encourages him to go back to the same spot another time.
Crate train #1
A crate is the pup's own space that he looks on as a den. This provides him with a sense of security and also a place where you know he's safe and hasn't got the opportunity to toilet in the house. Choose a crate that allows the pup to stand up without banging his head and lie down with his legs outstretched, but not much bigger. Provide him with a comfortable bed. However, the crate shouldn't be much bigger than that or he may use a corner of it for toileting in.
Crate train #2
Crate training is covered in a separate article, but the general principle is that the crate is only ever a source of security and pleasure, and never used as a place of punishment. Once the pup is crate trained, whenever you are unable to supervise the pup, pop him inside. That way he is unable to dirty the house and get into bad habits.
Supervise at all times
Limit the puppy to one or two rooms in the house. This makes it easier to be vigilant and have him in your sight at all times. The reason for this is to spot those telltale signs that he's about to toilet, such as sniffing or sidling up to furniture. The moment you notice this, run him outside to the toilet spot.
Keep him on a lead
In the house, for the purposes of potty training, consider keeping the pup on a collar and leash that is attached to your wrist. This prevents the pup from disappearing behind the sofa and also the tugging on the lead as he sniffs out a toilet spot will give you the head's up about what's on his mind.
It's inevitable that the pup will have accidents in the house from time to time. However, because you are watching the pup you will know exactly where they are and be able to clean them up immediately. Use a solution of biological washing powder (test that the flooring is colorfast first) then rinse well with fresh water.
The Right Timing Method
Recognize a puppy's bladder capacity
Young puppies can only hold their bladder for around 30 minutes. Also, before around 10 weeks of age the puppy has no bladder control, so when he needs to go he'll go there and then. The trick to getting the dog to pee outside is to know this and keep putting the pup outside at key times when he's likely to need to go, and hence make sure he goes outside.
When is a puppy most likely to pee?
There are a number of occasions when it's a fair bet that the puppy will need to empty his bladder. These include: when he wakes, after eating, after playing, and every 20 - 30 minutes when he's awake. Know this and put him outside onto the toilet spot at each of these points, to increase the chances of him toileting outside.
Set an alarm
When the puppy is awake during the day (not so much at night) set an alarm on your phone, 30 minutes after his last pee. Take him outside then. If he doesn't go after 5 minutes, bring him back in but watch him even more closely. Then pop him back out after 10 minutes to try again.
Jog the puppy outside
When puppy wakes, he'll need to go potty. Pop a collar and leash on him and jog him outside briskly, without giving him the chance to stop and squat on the way. This helps to jiggle his bladder and will make him more likely to toilet once he gets out there.
Get the puppy to focus
Once outside, discourage the puppy from playing until after he has relieved himself. This means staying outside with him on a leash so that he can't distract himself playing with leaves or digging a hole.
The Praising a Pee Method
Understand the power of praise
If you kept totally silent when the puppy pees in the right place, he would eventually learn to toilet there but it's going to take a long, long time. The secret to speeding things up is to praise the puppy for a well-placed pee, so that he tries to replicate the action in order to earn more praise and a treat. This teaches him bladder control as he'll learn to hold on and go in the toilet spot to get that easy treat.
Start out by being happy when the puppy pees in the right place. As he squats and pees say "Yes" in a happy voice, then after he finishes give him a treat. Just be careful not to be too excited or he may be distracted by your enthusiasm and stop mid-stream.
Add a cue word
When the puppy is getting the hang of things and starting to look up at you as he pees, in anticipation of a treat, add a cue word. Chose something that won't embarrass you (or the dog) when said in public. Good choices are words like "Get busy,", "Toilet", or "Gadzooks!"
Make a fuss of the puppy
After he's toileted, give him a treat and make a big fuss of him. If he's been on the leash, let him off in the yard and play with him. This is an extra reward and a powerful way of incentivizing him.
If you catch the pup as he's about to squat, then make a noise to startle him and whisk him straight outside to the correct spot. However, never punish the puppy or chastise him after the event. The puppy won't link the punishment to the place and will only become fearful of you.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 02/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021