A big headache for dog owners is when our precious canine friend relieves itself indoors. Learn how to train & teach your dog to use the toilet to avoid this.
Whether it's the living room couch, the bedroom, or the kitchen floor, the smell is nauseating and can leave you flustered and annoyed at your long-toothed best friend. So what's the best tactic to follow? Should you sacrifice sleep and constantly be thinking about taking your dog out for a stroll in case of another mishap? Or is there a better solution to the problem?
You must train your dog so that they follow your commands. This includes conditioning their behavior through a series of steps to make them proficient at using the toilet, even when you’re not home. The methods you can use are the target, pallet potty, and lure and shape methods.
It’s a simple but difficult process; it takes time. You must first get your dog accustomed to positioning itself correctly on the toilet, which might require the use of a stool or any platform from which to jump onto the toilet seat. Once you've got this behavior dialed down to a nutshell, your dog must learn to relieve itself on command. We’ve detailed what you can expect, what might go wrong, and how effort put into training your dog can lead to fruitful results.
We have thoroughly researched to lay out the most straightforward instructions to follow when teaching and training your dog to use the toilet. Whether it's a full-grown adult dog or a newly adopted puppy, the method is the same. It just requires patience on your part and a firm hand to rewire your dog’s behavior to make them easier to live with.
How Hard Is It to Train & Teach Your Dog to Use The Toilet?
There is a method of conditioning that was discovered accidentally by the Great Russian physiologist Pavlov. Pavlov was researching to discover more about the intricacies of digestion in dogs when certain physiological changes became apparent in response to food over time.
Initially, the dogs salivated only when food was presented before them, but then he noticed (later) that the dogs had started salivating before the food was in their bowl.
Baffled but very curious, Pavlov came to the conclusion that the dogs had become conditioned to predict the outcome of food by the sounds that preceded the arrival of it. In this case, the food trolleys were carrying the food out.
Pavlov, therefore, designed an experiment to test out his theory by ringing a bell before placing food in front of the dogs. Initially, there was zero reaction to the sounds of the bells, but eventually, he noticed that the dogs had begun to salivate to the sound of the bells.
To understand the exact reasons for this classical conditioning as it was later coined, it helps to be aware of some terminology. A neutral stimulus is something that doesn’t yield a response.
In this case, initially, the bells elicited no response from the dogs. An unconditioned stimulus is something which results in an involuntary response. In this case, it was the salivation in response to being presented with food.
Finally, a conditioned stimulus refers to something that can lead to a conditioned response; the conditioning by the bells (stimulus) led to the conditioned response (salivation).
To summarize, the neutral stimulus and the conditioned stimulus become alike, whereas the conditioned and unconditioned responses are already identical, differing only by the stimulus used to evoke them.
It is essential to understand this entirely because it forms the basis of conditioning behaviors using specific stimuli.
How difficult it is to reach your desired outcome to train & teach your dog to use the toilet depends mainly on your ability to thoroughly condition it using specific stimuli, in this case, your command.
Beginning With Defined Tasks
Before your dog can advance to the final stage of using the toilet to relieve itself, it must go through baby steps and develop some skills to do so.
First, your dog must learn to potty on command.
This is pretty easy to accomplish. All you need to do is determine which time your dog needs to pee or poop.
Once you've got the schedule down, you can leash him or take him to the spot where the deed must be done and wait for it to go.
As the dog begins to relieve itself, use a command like 'GO POTTY' and wait for it to finish.
After it's done, you should use another affirming word like 'YES' to reinforce the behavior and reward it with a treat and affection.
Continue using the cue words 'GO POTTY' and 'YES' to signify the act and its completion for a few weeks to condition your dog thoroughly.
The command is the stimulus, which is initially neutral but eventually becomes conditioned, and the reward reinforces the behavior, which is the response.
Once you've got this part down, your dog is about halfway there to use the toilet by itself.
Secondly, you need to train your dog in a similar way to jump onto a platform and relieve itself there.
A child’s toilet seat may be used as the second step because it is not as high as a regular toilet and provides more stability to get the job done.
It is helpful to get your dog to target whichever object you point out and become familiar with the commands you use to do so.
These are the basic skills your dog must learn if you want to properly train & teach your dog to use the toilet.
Let us now break down the exact methods you can employ to get your dog to use the toilet.
The Three Main Methods
The three most efficient methods used to train dogs to use the toilet are the target method, the pallet potty method, and the lure and shape method.
- Step A: Teach to target objects: Train your dog to target objects at your command so that it places its paws on the object you bring to its attention. Start with a flat surface and gradually increase the difficulty by pointing out things that are less stable and therefore difficult to balance on. Reward with treats and positive affirmations.
- Step B: Target closed-lid toilet: Train your dog to jump on a closed-lid toilet and stay there. Reward it for this behavior.
- Step C: Use a child’s toilet seat: Train your dog to jump on the child’s toilet seat and reward this behavior.
- Step D: Remove the child’s toilet seat: Remove the child’s toilet seat once the dog becomes accustomed to it so that it learns to balance on the regular toilet.
- Step E: Command it using your cues: Command your dog to relieve itself by using your chosen command and reward it for its behavior.
Pallet Potty Method:
- Step A - Make a pallet potty: Cut a hole with a large circumference in a pallet. Place a litter tray or sandbox underneath it.
- Step B - Potty on command: Use your chosen command to train your dog to relieve itself in a designated area. Reward and reinforce its behavior.
- Step C - Use the pallet potty: Get your dog to climb the pallet potty and relieve itself into the hole created at your command. Reward its behavior with treats and reinforce it by showing affection.
- Step D - Place the pallet next to the toilet: Get your dog used to using the pallet near the toilet.
- Step E - Raise the pallet: Use bricks or anything stable to raise the pallet to the toilet’s level with a collecting box underneath and command your dog to relieve itself.
- Step F - Put the pallet on the toilet: Get your dog used to relieving itself while the pallet is on the toilet seat.
- Step G - Remove the pallet: Use your commands to get your dog onto the toilet and relieve itself. Reward and reinforce its behavior.
Lure and Shape Method:
- Step A - Teach your dog to potty on command: Take your dog to a designated area and command it to relieve itself. Reward and reinforce.
- Step B - Use an alternative toilet: Place a shallow tub filled with sand or litter or pee pad close to where your dog usually relieves itself, lure it onto the tub, and command it to relieve itself. Reward and reinforce.
- Step C - Move the alternative toilet to the regular toilet location: Place the tub next to the toilet and command your dog to relieve itself in the new area. Reward and reinforce.
- Step D - Put alternative toilet under toilet seat: Place the pee pad under the toilet seat and command your dog to relieve itself. Reward and reinforce.
- Step E - Command your dog to potty: Help your dog balance on the toilet seat and command it to relieve itself. Reward its behavior for this final act, and don't forget to reinforce it using your 'YES' command after completion.
Evaluating each method, there are some similarities, and you can choose whichever is easier to train & teach your dog to use the toilet.
If you want fast results, it helps if your dog is already trained to obey commands such as to relieve itself (in any location) and target objects and stay there.
Once your dog has got these behaviors down, you should be well on your way to teaching it to use the toilet.
As we established before, once a pattern becomes conditioned, you don’t need to provide a stimulus each time; it becomes an unconscious response.
Just like how Pavlov’s dogs started salivating when they heard the noise of the food trolley, given sufficient time and enforcing many repetitions, your dog will learn to use the toilet even without you being there. You will no longer have to worry about returning home to find an unpleasant surprise.
Toilet Training Accidents
When seeking to train & teach your dog to use the toilet and not to make a mess in the house, it's unrealistic not to expect any accidents.
It’s essential to consider how you deal with such accidents sets the tone for the possibility of future recurrences.
The only way to influence your dog’s (or any animal’s) behavior is by using positive reinforcement.
Punishing your pet for making a mistake will only make it harder for them to learn potty training in the future.
Some of the owner’s mistakes are highlighted and should be considered when dealing with toilet training accidents.
Owner’s Mistakes in Dealing With Accidents
You should not rub the dog's nose in the mess they've created because it teaches them that there's something wrong with relieving themselves in general, and they may therefore hide their pee or poop in hard-to-find areas.
It is also important to not shout or scare your pet if they make a mistake because that will only make you feel better but can negatively impact the bond between you and your dog.
You should also be careful not to discipline your dog after the accident because they might not make the association between you letting off some steam and them soiling the carpet.
If your dog pees or poops in front of you, you can use an authoritative voice to make it known that you are not pleased and take them immediately to where they made a mess.
It is also worth considering that you should clean the mess and ignore the behavior. The deed is already done, and if you didn't catch it in the act, it is improbable that the animal will pick up on what's wrong.
Clean it straight away if you notice it so that your dog doesn’t get used to poop lying around in the house and therefore think it’s okay to do it again.
How to Clean Up After Your Dog
Pet stains can be tough to clean up because of the odor they leave behind.
It is wise to invest in a specialty product used to remove stains and odor if you want to maintain hygiene around the house.
Enzyme cleaners are particularly efficient at cleaning dog urine because they work well against the uric crystals found in dog urine.
If you want a clean house devoid of any permeating smells then it is paramount that you train & teach your dog to use the toilet.
Importance of Training Your Dog
When you decide to buy a dog, you also assume the responsibility that you will have to take care of them.
It is unwise to adopt a puppy if you get annoyed at them for doing what dogs do.
Dogs have a much higher potential than many animals to become exceptionally well trained and disciplined, and although the type of breed plays a factor, all dogs can be trained to obey commands and become easier to live with.
Putting in the effort to train your dog improves the bond between owner and pet, and dogs are quick learners if they're treated with love and care.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright