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How great would it be if your big dog used the toilet, the same as you and the rest of the family! Especially if you could train him to put the seat down and flush. He might be the best-trained member of the family!
If you have a large dog, picking up large... err… parcels left in the yard is probably not your favorite dog-related chore. It’s gross and smelly! If you cannot get your dog outside all the time because you have to be away at work, or have mobility issues, cleaning up indoor potty business on newspapers and puppy pads from a large dog can be especially unpleasant. How much better if your dog could just flush it away!
We are all familiar with cats using litter boxes and some cats have been trained to use a toilet too, what about your dog? Although dogs are not as fastidious about their potty habits as cats, they can be trained to use the toilet too, and with large dogs that do not require steps or special adaptations to reach the toilet, the training process can be simpler. At least your big dog should not be afraid to fall in the toilet! The two keys to training your dog toilet use are rewards and supervision.
To teach a dog to use a toilet you will need to teach your dog several skills, and then thread them together for successful toilet use. You will need to train your dog to go potty on command, to target objects, eventually moving to a litter box or container that can substitute for the toilet during training. Your dog will need to learn to be comfortable jumping up on the toilet; this may involve teaching your dog to use a stool to jump up on the toilet, or providing a platform or child's seat for more stability at first. Eventually you will string these behaviors together to teach your dog to position himself over the toilet, after jumping on the seat and balancing, and then to relieve himself. Some enterprising owners have even taught their dogs to flush the toilet and put the seat down!
There are a few techniques for teaching your dog to use a toilet. You may want to use a stool to help him jump up on the seat, and many owners use a child's toilet seat to give their dog a wider perch during training. Many methods also involve using a container, like a litter box or plastic bin, to train their dogs to go potty in, and then transferring this behavior to the toilet. You can make a narrow platform to go around the container, with a piece of plywood or pallet the bin or litter box can be inserted into during the training process to provide more stability. Before training your dog to use the toilet, you should teach him to go potty on command so that he can apply this behavior to his position over the toilet. Lots of treats and a clicker are required to mark and reinforce behavior and allow you to string together behaviors to create successful toilet use.
The Target Method
Teach 'go potty' and targeting behavior
Teach your dog to target objects and put all four of his paws on the object. Start with a pillow or large book, then move to a stool. Use a clicker and treats to capture and reinforce the behavior. Also teach your dog to go potty on command outside.
Target closed toilet
Put the toilet lid down and target jumping on the toilet, reinforce this with the clicker and treats.
Add child's potty seat
Raise the toilet lid and put a child's potty seat on the toilet and get your dog to target jumping on the potty seat with toilet bowl.
Remove child's seat
When your dog is comfortable balancing with the child's potty seat, remove the seat and teach your dog to target jumping on the regular toilet seat.
Command 'go potty'
While your dog is balanced on the toilet seat over the bowl, give the “go potty” command. When your dog successfully relieves himself in the toilet bowl, throw a clicker and treat party. Shower praise and treats on your clever dog.
The Pallet Potty Method
Create a pallet potty
Cut a hole in a pallet or 1 inch thick piece of plywood, allowing a few inches around the hole for your dog to balance on. Inset a plastic tub or litter box into the hole to create a pallet potty.
Potty on command
Teach your dog to go to the bathroom on command by using the command “go potty” and a specific area in your yard. Use lots of treats and praise to establish.
Teach your dog to use pallet potty
Take the pallet potty to your dog's bathroom area and start teaching your dog to stand on the pallet potty then to go to the bathroom on the pallet potty. Treat and praise.
Move the pallet potty inside, into the bathroom next to the toilet, and start commanding your dog to “potty” while on the pallet potty inside.
Start raising the pallet potty, this is why a sturdy pallet, or thick piece of plywood should be used, so your dog feels secure as the potty is raised. Put bricks or other solid objects under the pallet to raise it a few inches at a time, continue commanding your dog to use the pallet potty to relieve himself. Make sure it is steady and your dog is never in danger of having it collapse.
Put potty on toilet
Place the pallet-potty on the toilet and use. Then remove the bin from the frame and place the bin under the toilet. Encourage your dog up onto the toilet seat, you can add a child's toilet seat as well to provide more footing or your dog. Clean the bin out after every use.
When your dog is reliably using the bin in the toilet, remove the bin and allow your dog to jump up on the toilet and deposit his business directly in the toilet. At each stage use lots of treats and praise and provide the “go potty” command.
The Lure and Shape Method
Teach potty on command
Teach your dog to go potty on command and use it outside in your yard and on walks. Use lots of treats as a reward for compliance.
Add a substitute toilet
Place a shallow tub or pee pad outside where your dog usually relieves himself. Lure your dog over the tub or puppy pad, and when positioned, ask your dog to relieve himself on the pad or tub. Provide lots of positive reinforcement when your dog gets this behavior. Wash out tub with dish soap afterwards, or start each session with a clean pee pad.
Move substitute to toilet area
Place the bin or pee pad next to the toilet and start commanding your dog to relieve himself there. Provide treats for success.
Put substitute in toilet bowl
Put the pee pad in a bin and under the toilet seat or put the bin under the toilet seat. If you just put the pee pad under the seat your dog may inadvertently step on it and fall in the toilet. Give your dog a stool to allow him to jump up on the toilet and add a child's potty seat if desired to provide more security for your dog. Lure him up to the toilet seat with a treat, allowing him to use a step if needed.
Command to go potty
Assist your dog at first to balance on the seat and give him the command to “go potty”. When he successfully deposits his business, throw a treat party. Eventually remove the bin and puppy pad from the toilet, and the child's potty seat, and reward your dog from jumping up on the toilet seat and going potty on command.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 03/16/2018, edited: 01/08/2021