Top Six Problems Solved Part 1- Inappropriate Toileting


Top Six Problems Solved




Toileting in the house is one of the most common reasons dogs are excluded from the family home or worse still, surrendered to shelters.  For this reason, it is perhaps the most urgent issue to teach when you first bring a puppy home.  Prevention is the most successful method of training so right from day one, you need to be proactive to develop good toileting habits in your dog and prevent bad ones.


What’s a ‘toilet’ to a dog?

Dogs choose a toileting spot based on several factors:

  • Smell – if it smells like a toilet it is a toilet.  This is why prevention especially on soft materials, is so important.  It is virtually impossible for a dog’s nose NOT to be able to smell urine in carpet no matter how well you have cleaned an area.
  • Surface – a puppy or dog arrives at your home with a surface preference.  This may be concrete (if they are use to being kennelled) paper, soft cloths (in a pet shop pen) or grass (if your lucky!). It is difficult for a dog to learn they must not pee on the tiles in the family room but they may pee on the tiles on the back porch.  The toileting surface should be different from any in the home.
  • If the dog has been brought up in a good, sanitary environment he should  prefer to toilet away from food, water and bedding.  However for a dog who was not raised in ideal conditions, this may not be the case.
  • As well as the above, the toilet is anywhere where the puppy has been ‘rewarded’ for peeing by relieving his bladder.  Nature provides this ‘reward’, punishment will not eliminate it.
  • Dogs may also eliminate to scent mark their territory.  This behaviour is most often but not exclusively seen in entire male dogs.  Usually there is a small amount of urine and it is placed up against a surface such as a curtain, chair or bedding or over another dog’s food bowl or bedding.  This is not a housetraining issue and needs to be dealt with separately.


Toileting problems are seen more often in small dogs which may be because:

  • A greater percentage of small dogs than large dogs are allowed in the home therefore a greater percentage have toileting problems.
  • Small dog puppies are often kept indoors on soft bedding and soiling areas creating a surface preference for soft, absorbent materials as opposed to grass.
  • Small dogs being lower to the ground are more likely to dislike cold wet grass.
  • Small dog/puppy accidents are less easily detected so favourite toileting spots may go unnoticed for some time reinforcing the spot as a suitable area by smell and practice.

Setting up for success.

Whether training a young puppy or retraining an older dog, the method for developing good toileting habits are the same.

Step 1. The dog’s free area must be restricted. Unless you are actively playing or supervising your dog or puppy it should be confined in a small area.  This is so that you are better able to supervise your dog, prevent mistakes, time toilet stops and have the opportunity to reward desired behaviour – toileting outside.

 Ideally, the area should be for short periods only, you will be taking the dog out at frequent intervals to toilet.  The dog may be tied to your waist by a lead or contained in a crate.  The crate should contain:

  • A comfortable sleeping area
  • Suitable chew toys

If your dog needs to be confined for longer periods of time (over 2 hours) the area must also include:

  • A clean bowl of water
  • A toileting area (ideally a piece of turf ) if your chosen toileting area is your back yard lawn.  Using a piece of  turf in preference to paper as the toileting area cuts out ‘the middle man’ in your dogs education – making it easier from the start for your puppy to understand that grass is the preferred surface.

Step 2:      – Take your dog or puppy out to the designated area of your garden after every play, sleep, meal or drink – on average every hour.  Say your special word that will eventually tell your dog to eliminate such as ‘hurry up’ and wait .  When your puppy squats praise and reward him with several food treats.  Make a really big fuss – this is great stuff.  Your puppy may wonder why you think a natural function is so amazing but pay him big time and he’ll be happy to oblige you quickly and consistently.

Step 3:      -Repeat!  Your puppy will need a long ‘reward history’ before he makes the connection that toileting outside is a consistently good thing to do. Outside is now providing three rewards – an empty bladder, a food treat and a happy owner.  At the same time, mistakes have been prevented and the carpet is not sending fumes of ‘toilet here’ every time puppy passes by.

Common mistakes:

  • You forgot to go out with your puppy to reward him thereby providing less confirmation to your puppy that ‘toileting outside is good!’
  • You roused on your puppy when he was ‘caught in the act’ –  so now puppy is reluctant to ‘wee’ in front of you at all.   Confused by being punished for a necessary bodily function, puppy now refuses to wee in front of you, preferring to hide and pee  – behind the couch or under the bed creating lots of scented toileting areas for the future.   It’s easy to see how easily a cycle of mistakes can lead to long term, entrenched toileting problem.

The only solution is prevention and reward for correct behaviour.  If your dog eliminates in front of you it is a good thing – he’s halfway there!  Now all you have to do is teach him that peeing in the house leads to a gentle interruption of  “oops outside quickly” while peeing outside leads to an empty bladder, food treats and a happy, praising owner.  A dog who is happy to oblige when outside is a dog’s whose toileting habits are under your control.  You can now toilet your dog before bed, a trip, or a walk.  You know when he has ‘been’ so you are safe to leave him alone for a while creating great peace of mind.


Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, owner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney
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