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  • Writer's pictureThe Cambridge Dog Lodge

Happy New Year so lets potty train! The Puppy Diaries

Happy New Year! Wishing you all a very happy new year that brings you joy, peace and rest.

And what better to start the year of blogs, than with a toilet training blog! Yeah!

So where do we start…

We have had Ren a month now. She is well and truly part of the family. For a nearly 14-week-old puppy, you would really think she had been with us a very long time. We have been doing lots of training with her and the main thing so far has been toilet, or potty training as I like to call it. Putting this practice in place properly and firmly from the beginning, sets them up for a life time. Don't get me wrong accidents will happen, even throughout their lives, but trained well at the start sets the dog up, and you, very well for life.

I have potty trained quite a few dogs in my time, both my dogs and other people’s dogs (or at least I’ve taken part in training). I don’t ever remember doing it in the freezing cold. Well, that’s not quite true. Barney came to us at the end of January so I must have trained her in the winter. I think she pretty much trained herself though (very lazy human I know) as she could take herself out the pet door. Though I do remember going outside in the middle of the night once thinking she needed the toilet. When really, she was a star gazer and that’s exactly what she liked doing!

Back to Ren and winter toilet training. Standing outside, late at night, with a huge fleecy jumper on, pj bottoms and a blanket wrapped round my shoulders was fun! Especially when Ren decided being outside was fun play time for me and her. I wont lie, Ren has been relatively easy to toilet train. We had our days where there was a couple of days where there was accidents, but mostly she went outside. I did have to stand outside for much longer than Id hoped in the many degrees below freezing weather, but it worked.

So here is how we have done it/not done it..

We crate trained Ren from the moment she came through the door (I will talk properly about crate training another day). Its her space and because its her space dogs are naturally inclined to keep their space clean. This it teaches them to hold it. Now Im not talking for hours on end, that would be cruel. I am talking about if you have to nip out during the day and at night-time. During the day we would let her straight out into the garden as soon as we came home, knowing she would want a wee. And at night-time we would make sure she had been out before going to bed, then if she cried during the night we would nip down, quietly let her out into the garden, once she had been to the toilet, we would praise her and put her back to bed.

They are of course puppies, they are babies. So they drink more, eat more, play more, but have a teeny bladder. If you expect your puppy to learn to hold it and never have an accident even for the first few months, then you are setting your puppy up to fail. Ren is doing really well. We recognise her behaviour when she wants a wee and she makes a right racket when she wants a poop, but it doesn't mean she wont still have an accident if I'm not taking notice of her or she isn’t distracted.

If you find your dog has had an accident but you didn’t see them do it, there really is no point punishing them, just clear it properly, and move on. Because if you punish them after the incident your dog thinks they are being punished for what ever they are doing at that moment ie sleeping, sniffing, trying to play with you. Do your best to just keep an eye on them most of the time. If you catch them suspiciously sniffing (we caught on very quick what signs Ren did when she needed to the toilet – lots of sniffing for a wee, and a straight line zoomy for a poop! – and we would get her outside. Once outside, we would praise her.

If you want to use puppy pads or newspaper, by all means use them. But speaking from experience it’s not the best idea. One reason being as well as teaching them to go to the toilet outside, you are also teaching them to go inside the house. I know you are thinking no I am not, but yes, you are. I know it’s on a matt/newspaper but it is still inside. I know lots of dogs who are much older, and their owners still have to put pads down because that is how they were trained. I know the whole idea is that eventually you will move that mat closer to the door and outside, and in some respects it does work. But as soon as you put something on the floor that resembles a puppy pad or newspaper you can guarantee your dog will be like ‘ah, a toilet!’ You are best just getting them outside and bypassing the pads. Teach what you want them to know and learn from the outset.

Another reason is when you have your puppy poop and wee on a pad, then drag the pad up the stairs, the wee and poop dripping behind her, you will never use pads again. And yes I did experience it.

If you teach your dog to poop and wee in a particular place in the garden, or only when you are on a walk, what do you think that is going to create? A habit. A habit that they only poop and wee in that spot (or on grass/concrete) and only when on a walk. So, what happens when you take them elsewhere, OR if you are ill and can’t take them outside? What do you do?

Keep the area small the dog has access to, especially if they don’t have 24/7 supervision. It reduces where they can toilet if inside and if they do suddenly want the toilet, they realise, its not as far for them to go. Ren has the whole of the living room and the kitchen because there is usually someone keeping an eye on her. But her bed is right next to the kitchen door and not far from the back door, so as soon as she is let out of her bed, she can very quickly go outside.

I also wrote down when she had been out and tried to keep to 20-30 minutes before she went out again. As you can see from the special notes we took. But it works.

We didn’t have to do that for very long.

What did find was trying to give her a treat as a reward served only to distract her from going to the toilet and she would either stop completely or walk over to me as she was weeing and pooping! So we have stayed with saying ‘yeah! Good girl!’ which she responds very well to.

An extra note, having access to water at night-time if you don't crate train might not always be the best idea. I know if was to drink water through the night, I would need the toilet more!

Remember to that all these techniques can be used on an older dog so if you have a an older rescue rather than a young puppy, all of the above is a really good guide. They do work.

So here is to a happy and healthy 2023 everyone!

next time on puppy diaries : first walk and trip to the beach!

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