Teaching a dog to go to the toilet outdoors is typically quite easy, provided he has no health problems. Dogs are instinctively clean and become distressed if they soil their living quarters. This instinct will help you to quickly and kindly toilet-train your puppy in the garden.
Monitor his habits. Until the age of approximately 8 weeks, puppies will be incapable of eliminating on command: they simply will not be able to detect the signs that they need to go. However, you can use this period to establish an understanding of when your dog is most likely to need the toilet.
List the times that your dog is likely to need the toilet. Some dogs need to go as soon as they are awake, others don’t need to go until after their first drink. Some dogs need to go immediately after their first drink, others don’t need to go until 10 minutes after. By logging this information, you’ll be well placed to anticipate your dog’s need to go.
List the physical signs that indicate your dog needs to go. These may include pacing, whining or scratching at the door. Your dog’s toilet habits will vary slightly as he grows, so look out for these signs and be ready to act.
Open the door to your garden or backyard, or take the dog outside, whenever you believe he may need to eliminate. Close other doors so he can’t wander off into the house. If you have a specific place you’d like him to use, guide him to it.
Encourage your dog outside using a friendly and encouraging voice. If you're bringing him out on a leash, lead gently.
Issue your chosen command, for example “Go potty” or “Toilet.” He may not go immediately, but the important thing is that he hears the command loud and clear before eliminating.
Continue issuing the command as your puppy eliminates. This will cause the dog to form an association between the stimulus of hearing the command and the act of eliminating.
Give a food or toy treat once he has stopped eliminating. The treat or toy, whichever your dog values most, is a positive stimulus. By introducing a positive stimulus into his environment, you are showing the dog that eliminating after hearing the command has a positive outcome. He’ll eventually learn to piece the command, the action and the reward together to learn the desired process.
Repeat the process throughout the day. Always be on hand to supervise his eliminations. This way, no good behavior goes unrewarded. Be patient if he doesn’t go. He may think he needs to go and will start pacing or scratching, only to realize he doesn’t need to. But one or two minutes later, the urge may come again. This can be a little frustrating as you have to repeat the training process, but remain upbeat and positive. If you become frustrated, he may detect that frustration and associate his need to eliminate with your bad mood, potentially putting him off going altogether.
- Put down newspaper or absorbent pads near his sleeping area and near the door. This makes it easier to clean up after accidents.
- Never scold or punish a puppy for accidents. This will only make him confused and anxious about his natural need to go.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.