Fact # 1: Puppies are not born knowing where YOU expect them to pee.
Fact # 2: Puppies pee A LOT. Approximately 3 times the number you have in mind right now.
Fact # 3: Puppies take to texture, so by 2 months (by 1 month actually, watch the amazing Meera Thosar help raise Myra the Rotties puppies) they technically already have a concept of “this is the toilet”.
Fact # 3: Humans are not trustworthy, neither are puppies. (Get a puppy proof enclosure.)
FIRST THINGS FIRST. Before we brought Gaya home – we had decisions to take and preparations to make. YOU have to decide where you want your dog to toilet. She was going to pee like 15 times a day (25 turns out but I was optimistic then), we were on the 3rd floor of the building that didn’t have a lift, and we were going to work on leaving her alone for short periods of time from the start…so basically there was no way we were going to be taking her to the right spot outdoors every time she needed to pee.
We needed a Plan B. Newspaper training. Newspaper, part because I couldn’t afford potty pads (which are tempting with their absorbent qualities) and part because I’d seen it often enough that puppies often decide that bathroom mats, carpets and linen are all just colourful versions of the potty pad.
Short term: Teach her to go on a newspaper laid out in the corner of the bathroom until trained (and old enough to have bladder control) to go outdoors entirely. We also wanted for her to tell us she needed to go when we were at home, so we had the choice of taking her downstairs or opening the bathroom door for her.
Long term (by her first heat): Outdoors only.
I knew it was going to be messy, but for her first night home, I even got some mud in the bathroom. Bad idea, but it’s exactly where she went after holding 5 hours her first day indoors. (We did take her outdoors in between to try but it was too overwhelming for her)
Remember to have realistic expectations. Your puppy physically has only that much bladder control – – – the bladder is a muscle that takes time to develop. Gaya was almost a year before she could COMFORTABLY hold till taken outdoors morning and evening. Which brings me to the next point – – – DON’T leave your dog uncomfortable. If I ever forgot to leave a newspaper out (which I did do a couple of times 🙁 ), Gaya would hold…but she would literally be hopping around like a 5 year old, mouthing and nasty and just…dying to pee. While working on their bladder control is important, don’t push it…just give your dog the freedom to bloody pee – whether it means you arrange for them to be taken outdoors, or you teach them a designated spot in the house that you are okay with.
With that, here’s my advice to you on how to toilet train your dog in 10 days:
Step 1: Set up an enclosure. Do NOT let your puppy have a free run of the house. At one end, I had an old bed sheet laid out for her to sleep, a little bit of exposed floor if she found that more comfortable, and a food and water bowl next to it. Flood it with newspaper, ensuring you have plenty of appropriate chews (check out our puppy safe coffeewood chews), which also acting like paper weights to keep the paper from flying and becoming an object of interest. In most cases, the dog will pick the place furthest away from their food to pee, and so it was with Gaya.
In Gaya’s case…since she was living in a small sandy enclosure on the streets with her siblings, I could guess two things – 1) she knows to pee on sand. 2) she was probably going to be okay peeing around where she sleeps. Here she is finally peeing after holding for hours the day she came home. It was a terrible idea and a big mess, but I’m glad if it helped her on her first day.
Step 2: Do not freak out if the dog is tearing newspaper. Observe CLOSELY to see if he is eating the newspaper…but calm yourself, and avoid loud, flailing reactions. That will only make the newspaper more exciting for the pup. If he is tearing it – let him. Calmly replace as necessary and that game will get boring in no time.
If he ingesting it, you have more of a task at hand. Calmly exchange the newspaper for a treat and redirect his attention. Stuffed Kongs usually do the trick, more active puppies love our food dispenser too. But yes – you will need to be vigilant and careful and make sure to give your dog something more exciting to do.
Step 3: Observe your dog and keep as detailed a schedule as possible for a few days…maybe a week. Praise and reward lavishly every time they pee on the newspaper. A puppy can be expected to pee:
- As soon as wakes up in the morning
- As soon as wakes up after naps
- After every meal or water break
- During play
- After play
- Every time you turn your back for 2 seconds
- Anytime it feels like
So be prepared. And honestly, it’s different for every dog. Some may need to toilet immediately after eating. Some others may need 15-20 minutes of letting their food digest. So keeping record is really the most reliable way for you to understand your own dog.
Treasure chest of information – – – now you can plan better.
Step 4: By day 5, your dog will understand that newspaper = bathroom. It’s been 5 days of lots of sleeping…naughtiness limited to the enclosure, short walks outdoors, and short introductions to the living room on leash (where also I had lotss of newspaper waiting just in case…and sure enough, she did search them out a couple of times). If you aren’t sure she has taken to the newspaper (at which point I have to ask – why did the dog have a choice??), then wait this period out a bit longer.
I also now know what time Gaya wakes up, and can wake up 5 minutes before her to run her downstairs. If the vet has advised you to not take the dog outdoors till the last of their shots are done (which wasn’t the case for us since Gaya was already living outdoors since born) – – – you could wake up and run them to exactly the spot you want them to pee, on the newspaper in the balcony or bathroom for example.
Step 5: When you’re sure you’ve got step 4 under your belt, move to step 5 – reduce the amount of newspaper. By Day 6, Gaya was waiting to go downstairs in the morning (didn’t expect her to wait though, I was on-point and it goes a long way),and when at home…I was taking her to the newspaper when I knew she would need to go. She was allowed out of the enclosure only for 20 minutes or so after peeing, and she got lots of praise and treats for “newspaper” (our code for pee now). But still…I had half her enclosure covered in newspaper because I did not want to push it and have an accident. Prevention is the best cure.
Step 6: By Day 8, she was doing great with targeting the newspaper, and I further reduced the amount of newspaper used. There were times her front paws were on the newspaper, but her butt stuck out – – – and that needed vigilance and correction. If I saw her squat like that, I would just clap my hands suddenly or knock the wood to distract her…and gently push her in. Sometimes she didn’t need to pee anymore, the moment passed…but sometimes it worked and she went on to pee with perfect precision, gaining much praise, treats and celebration.
We also started letting her out of the enclosure more, but did have newspaper in the living room too.
Here she is – having an “accident” in my mother-in-laws room (where she was strictly not allowed but oops) …she found the source and pooped on it.
Step 6: By Day 10, if there was no newspaper, she would whine and be sniffing and looking at me like What the hell?
Although my SO complained, the first whole month I did have a newspaper in the bedroom (because it was where we decided was her long term safe space) as well as the bathroom. She was peeing 20 times a day and better safe than sorry. In the living room too, because I just did NOT want her to ever feel the need to pee on tile.
Don’t trust your dog till 6 months of absolutely no accidents. Only then can you be confident that your dog is toilet trained – and then comes the period where you have to watch out for marking. Another post for that another time. Now at 1.5 years, she will pee only our walks…on sandy patches off the sidewalk. She HATES having to pee at home and if I’m ever going to be late in the evening and decide to leave a newspaper out…she will resist it with all her might and I’ll come home at 10 to a hopping mad dog. That’s fair, because she is toilet trained.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR DOG HAS AN ACCIDENT?
- Do NOT shout, scream, scold. If you can distract the dog out of peeing, great…else, it’s too late, your fault, let it go and be more cautious next time.
- Clean the spot thoroughly with Simple Solution or better, vinegar diluted in water (or surf ka paani if that’s better for your flooring).
- Go back to the drawing board.