I was walking with Freya in Delamere Forest recently – she was doing her usual nonsense of getting crazily over excited when she saw other dogs coming towards her – when I spotted a beautiful, calm, relaxed golden cockapoo coming towards us. “How old?” I asked. The couple walking the beautiful Freddie smiled knowingly as they knew exactly why I was asking the question – I wanted to know how long before my crazy cockapoo turned into a Freddie. He was six, but they reassured me cockapoos start calming down from two onwards…so only 16 months to go then!
But what does this have to do with puppy toilet training I hear you say. It was the fact that Freddie’s owner asked if Freya was a Raffles cockapoo and if so was it true that they came toilet trained. I said that she was fully trained by the time she was 14 weeks, but as she was my first puppy, I thought this was normal. She laughed loudly, so apparently not!
Puppy Toilet Training Homework
Before I bought Freya home I’d looked at all the options for toilet training a puppy. I was armed with puppy pads with the intention of putting one in her crate alongside the Vetbed. I’d also bought a pheromone-treated Pee Post, as in my ideal dog owning world, Freya was going to toilet in one area of the garden only. Sadly I wasted my money – I’m sure these must work for some, but each time I led her to it, I couldn’t bring myself to force her to stay in a fixed position and in the end I was just so delighted that she actually ‘went’ outside.
Essentially for me puppy toilet training was fairly easy, whether because it began with Freya’s breeder, or because she was just quick to learn. The crate training blog explains how Freya was able to go through the night as soon as she came home, and she has never had an accident during the night since. The only times she had one indoors was basically because I forgot to take her out at regular intervals, or she became over excited when she met people.
Tips from a Novice
- Initially take puppy outside every one to two hours; lavish praise and give a small treat when they perform. Cockapoos are bright and soon learn the rewards that come from their positive toilet behaviour. If you leave newspaper or puppy pads around for too long puppies will soon get used to using these and may become lazy preferring not to go outside.
- Get into a routine. Although every puppy is different, generally they can retain urine in their bladder for as many hours as they are months old, plus an hour. So 12 weeks equates to around four hours. When they are very small you can ‘lift’ them as you would a toddler in the night, but at 11 weeks Freya could last from 10:30 pm to 7:00 am without any discomfort.
- Stay calm. I never scolded Freya if she had an accident as it was down to me to ensure she had adequate access to outdoors.
- Clean up quickly so they don’t keep going in the same place. I totally recommend Dr Beckmann’s Carpet Stain Remover. It removes stains and odours so that puppies don’t automatically go back to where they soiled before.
- As puppy progresses, decide how you want them to let you know when they need to go outside. I trained Freya to gently paw the door and this worked no matter where we were. Again, every time she let me know I rewarded her and it became a regular routine. Now she just sits at any door and I understand she wants to go out. As puppies increase their walks, naturally this becomes less and less frequent.
- When Freya pawed at the door, I always went outside with her and kept her on her puppy lead. This way we went out for this specific purpose; if she didn’t go after a short space of time we went back in. This was to ensure she understood that pawing at the door meant going to the toilet and not going out to play whenever she felt like it. Important to stay in control. I could also reward her immediately, so she understood what was expected of her. I also used the term wee and poo each time so that the word went with the action.
Toilet Training Not Going So Well?
Freya is now eight months old and her ability to wait to relieve herself is amazing. She no longer uses the garden, other than before bed, or if her walking routine is disrupted, as she waits for her pre-breakfast walk and again until her afternoon walk. Her bowel movements are also fairly regular: first thing in the morning (sometimes twice) and then later in the afternoon.
However, friends with cockapoos have not been quite so lucky; their puppies preferred to toilet indoors and even in their crate and they were desperate. Before I picked up Freya I’d received some great advice from a someone who had experienced several puppies over the years in case I needed it. He’d explained that some puppies just don’t get it straight away and the difficulty is breaking the negative pattern. However, it can be done fairly quickly by repetitive training, time and patience. His advice was a two-pronged approach:
- Take them outside every hour to toilet with high praise and treat every time it achieved the result. This relates toileting outside as hugely positive. If they don’t go, take them outside again in 30 minutes time. Sounds hard work – it is, but you will soon understand how long they can go between wees and then adjust accordingly.
- When they soil indoors, say no firmly, gently lift them and put them outside saying the relevant word you use for when they toilet to cement association. You have to do this immediately because, as with toddlers, their memory is short. They won’t go again but will associate what they did indoors with when they do it outdoors.
Next issue is scorch marks on the lawn. Known as ‘lawn burn’. Apparently it’s caused by nitrogen in dog urine, too much for grass to cope with and so dies. This is an issue with both male and female dogs, but the fact that females empty their bladder in one go, rather than leave urine messages in dribbles like males, means that if you have a female the issue can be dire.
At the moment I am trying Dog Rocks in Freya’s water as these have been recommended… watch this space!