How to toilet train your puppy
Set the ground rules.
Now that you have brought your puppy home it’s important to give thought to toilet training. Of course you want to play and enjoy your new best friend but it’s best to establish some ground rules right from the start, that way everyone knows what’s expected.
Hopefully the breeder has initiated this by allocating an area of the puppies’ pen for toilet matters, either by laying down newspaper or a special purpose mat. Naturally it has been ‘hit and miss’ so far as very young puppies are initially cleaned by their mothers and learning to go in a specific place takes time. In fact puppies are unable to physically ‘hold on’ as their bladders aren’t fully mature and capable of this until about 20 weeks old. So you must be patient and never be cross or punish a young puppy for an ‘accident’ as it really isn’t deliberate naughtiness.
Repetition and habit.
Starting off a good pattern of behaviour and expectations is definitely a good idea. Some people like to allocate an area with newspaper or a training mat by the back door and praise the puppy when they manage to mess on it. It’s surprising how quickly the puppy can get the hang of this. However it doesn’t stop ‘accidents’ happening elsewhere as puppies need to ‘go’ frequently and can’t always make it to the designated area in time. Make sure to clear up any mess quickly and with a good cleaning product that will remove the smell. Apart from the matter of household cleanliness some dogs will go in the same place again if they can smell it, and you don’t want that habit forming.
Having the newspaper by the back door is good as if you see puppy heading for it you can quickly scoot him/her out of the back door and into the garden. Of course this is the place you really want your puppy to learn to do their toilet. When your puppy does perform outside praise heartily! You might even want to give a treat as a reward. Your puppy will soon want to delight you again and again!
Take them outside regularly.
Another good idea to establish good toilet training is to take puppy outside very regularly. On the hour is an excellent idea as puppies need to ‘go’ frequently. You need to stand outside with them and don’t talk or play until they have done their business. Then praise indeed!
It’s good to take your puppy outside:
First thing in the morning
After food (keep meals at regular times)
When someone visits (excitement often prompts a wee)
And before bedtime
Even during the night (you may have to set your alarm a few times…)
You will soon find that your commitment results in fewer accidents in the house. All this time together isn’t purely practical either as it also builds your relationship, and that is time well invested.
Puppy body Language.
After a few days of watching your puppy you will discover that you are starting to recognise the ‘signs’ of when puppy needs to ‘go’. Typical signs are:
Sniffing the floor
Going around in circles
Appearing anxious and looking at the door
A definite yap at the door if you’re lucky
Getting to know your puppies body language will help no end in anticipating accidents.
Overnight your puppy is probably either limited to a pen, crate or kitchen area with a solid washable floor. Dogs instinctively do not want to foul their bed/den area, so we have nature on our side here. However in the early days it is probable that the puppy can’t hold on for hours so do designate an area with newspaper or special purpose mat for this reason. You will find that as the puppy grows he/she will be able to hold on longer but don’t sleep in too long in the morning!
How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?
It is quite normal for a puppy to take 4 to 6 months to be totally house trained. If things are still not going well after this time it may be worth a trip to your vet to check there aren’t any medical issues complicating things. Or ask your dog trainer for a bit more advice on what worked in their experience.
Without doubt the key to good puppy toilet training is commitment, repetitive reinforcement of the correct place to ‘go’ and positive encouragement when things do go well. Don’t get too cross at the accidents, ignore the mess and place puppy straight outside reinforcing the correct place to ‘go’.
As your puppy gets older.
As your puppy gets older an ‘oh dear, what a shame’ in a sad voice, seemed to make my own dog realise that I was displeased. This could work later when you have built up a relationship and the puppy can recognise your tone of voice and wants to please you. Worth remembering is that all puppies are different, even from the same litter. They learn at different rates and respond to different prompts according to their characters and owners’ expectations.
Top tips for toilet training your puppy.
Repetition - You want your puppy to get into good habits.
Clean up the mess thoroughly - Puppies will instinctively mess where they smell or sense previous mess. Make sure you clean and disinfect any mess thoroughly.
Create a ‘messy area’ - Positively reinforce your puppy to mess in an area that’s easy to clean and ideally by a door. This will make the transition to going outside easier.
Take your puppy outside regularly - Create good habits early on. Take you puppy outside every couple of hours to go to the loo, even if they don’t need it. Dare I say it, this includes throughout the night… Set your alarm for every 2 hours and progressively extend the time as your puppy gets older and can hold their bladder longer. This is a pain to do, but works.
Use a toilet prompting word - When you pup goes to the loo in a good place give them lot’s of praise. You want them to know they’re doing a good job! At this time say a word of your choosing. Your pup will learn this word and understand it’s toilet time when you say it in the future.
Positive reinforcement - Most importantly, never be angry at your puppy. It’s not their fault they mess on the carpet and they don’t understand the protocol yet. Reinforce good behaviour and don’t react with bad behaviour.
So to conclude, even if you think things aren’t progressing, or there are some days when they have gone backwards, do persevere kindly and consistently and it will work out. You will soon be taking your dog on regular walks where they will have every chance to relieve themselves and messing in the house will be the very last thing they want to do.