Who has time to read a 50-page manual on toilet training their toddler, I know I don’t! So, I’ve decided to condense everything I learnt when toilet training my toddler Harper, into some easy steps for you and add some tips along the way to help with toilet training your puppy too. So here is my TOILET TRAINING 101: Toilet training your toddler is much like toilet training a puppy.
Puppies and toddlers are similar in so many ways. They learn best using positive reinforcement. They are learning about the world and discovering new things all the time. They just want to touch and feel things and put things in their mouths. Plus, they both need to be toilet trained! If you are specifically after tips for toilet training your puppy, refer to this article I posted 5 years ago when we toilet trained Cooper .
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is just my story and what worked for us. Combined with the knowledge I have from my dog training courses and my psychology major I did at Uni. I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but I have a Bachelor in Science (with a major in psychology and a minor in zoology) and a Bachelor in Commerce (with a major in human resource management). So, a lot of the information I share and methods I use, are based on my education as well as my life experiences.
Before you start, make the toilet part of everyday life. Even before you start toilet training your toddler, start talking about everything to do with going to the toilet! Bring them in when you go, let them listen and show them your poo in the toilet, show them that you wipe your bum, you flush the button, wash your hands, etc. I know it sounds gross, but it really does help them to see that it is normal. Say things like; “before lunch, we go to the toilet” or before bedtime; “we do a wee on the toilet” etc etc.
Once you decide to toilet train, commit to it. Deciding to start the toilet training process is often the hardest part. Make sure your toddler is ready before you start, it will make the whole process that much easier. Accidents suck, it’s not fun. But chopping and changing will just confuse your child. Once we made the decision to do it, we bought Harper some special undies. She chose some Peppa Pig ones. From that first day we decided to start toilet trainer her, she was in undies all the time except for sleep time. For sleep time, we put a nappy on and would say, “nappies are just for sleep time.” And then as soon as she woke, we took it off, put her on the toilet and then put her undies back on.
Take it step by Step. Start with no nappies during the awake time before doing no nappies at sleep time. Toilet training during sleep time can be much harder to do. Don’t do it all at once if your child is not ready. We have only just gotten rid of Harper’s nappies for her day sleeps, 11 months after she was toilet trained. And she is still wearing a nappy for her night sleep. You will know when your child is ready when they will start waking up with dry nappies. Each kid is different. Harper was waking from her day sleep with a dry nappy, so we decided it was time. But she often still wakes in the morning with a wet nappy so we know she is not ready yet.
Here are my three biggest tips to you once you have made the call and committed to toilet training. These can actually be applied to both toddlers and puppies;
- Try your best to not let them make mistakes
- Rewards the good behaviour
- Don’t punish the bad
Try your best to not let them make mistakes
*Avoid, avoid avoid! Initially take your child to the toilet every 30 minutes to avoid accidents*
This may last for a few days or a few weeks, depending on your child. Do this until they eventually learn the feeling of needing to go and being able to tell you themselves. For the first three days of toilet training, we made sure we were at a house, so we couldn’t get caught out somewhere without a toilet. As they start getting the hang of it, you can start pushing it out longer than 30 minute intervals as you want them to start to learn the feeling of needing to go. You need to be persistent and patient with this. Make any time spent on the toilet a positive one, even if they don’t go. With Harper, at the time of her toilet training she became obsessed with kittens, so I would sometimes let her sit on the toilet and look through kitten photos on the internet. We also had a book about a little girl who learnt to go to the toilet and we would also read that on the toilet, which she loved! I found, the more relaxed she was, the more inclined she was to go. Especially when it came to doing a poo.
Reward the good behaviour
*Reward reward reward, encourage encourage encourage!*
I can’t stress it more! Just like puppies, kids like to please, so make them feel good about it and they will keep doing it. All behaviours happen for a reason. So if they have a good enough consequence (a big reward) – they will happen again. Even if she sits on the toilet and does nothing, still say well done! As toilet time always needs to be fun and rewarding. Lots of praise when she goes. Tell her how proud you are. We would tell Harper that Emmy and Doggy (her two favourite toys at the time) were also super proud of her and she loved knowing that! We also did a happy song and dance every time straight after she went, we would get super excited every time! And we would say things like;
“Big girls do wees and poos on the toilet. And Harper is such a good big girl” She loved hearing that!
In terms of what sort of rewards to use, I say use whatever works for your kid. Smarties, jelly beans, a sticker, even using a rewards chart where they get to put their own sticker up each time they go. It’s also a good idea to give a slightly bigger/better reward if they do a poo on the toilet. Some kids really struggle with the idea of pooing on the toilet, so you need to make an even bigger deal about that. And don’t stop the rewards too quickly. Initially reward the good behaviour every time (this is for both toddlers and puppies). But once the behaviour is learnt, don’t just stop the rewards, slowly start reducing, to every second time, every third time, until eventually you stop giving them. If you just stop them straight away, you will most likely experience more accidents again.
Don’t punish the bad
As frustrating as accidents can be, don’t get angry. Punishment doesn’t teach the learner what you want from them. The last thing you want to happen is for your toddler (or puppy) to become scared of going and/or becoming constipated. When your toddler makes an accident just say, “whoops that’s ok. Next time we can go to the toilet” or if you don’t think she finished, you can run her to the toilet and let her finish. I’ve also read somewhere not to change your child straight away, let them be wet and feel yuk in it, in the hope that’s enough for them to avoid the mistake next time. It’s a little gross if you ask me, but worth a try if you’re struggling. As mentioned, Harper had special Peppa pig undies when she started toilet training, so if she weed in them, we would say, “Ah oh, Peppa doesn’t like getting wet, let’s try keep Peppa dry next time.” And I really found that to help. She really wanted to keep Peppa dry. If your toddler cries and refuses to go to the toilet, just be positive and encouraging. Try not to get frustrated and angry.
ALWAYS MAKE IT FUN!
Good luck with it! And as mentioned, I am not a professional in toilet training toddlers, I am just sharing with you what I have learnt and what worked for us. Every child is different and will experience things differently and go through things at different times. So please, if you have any issues or concerns, seek professional help.
Ps. This article was first featured on Mamamia !