Puppy toilet training: what you need to know

Housetraining is all about the 3Rs: Routine, Relief and Reward. This can be a tricky time for you and your dog, but with a little understanding it needn’t cause problems.

Weeing and pooing are normal, natural and necessary. Never punish your dog for answering the call of nature – they can’t help themselves. Their body tells them to go to the toilet, so they do. Your job is to teach them the appropriate place to do it.

Know when your puppy is likely to go

There are certain times when your dog is likely to relieve themselves:

  • after sleeping
  • after eating
  • after playing

How to toilet train your puppy

  • Routinely take your puppy out into the garden after each of these activities and wait with them until they go to the toilet. As they do, introduce a word or two which mean ‘go to the toilet’. The instant they finish, give them a tasty titbit
  • If they’re too distracted sniffing plants and chasing birds, put your dog on a lead when you take them out. Then, you can let them off lead to play as a reward for relieving themselves
  • Make sure you stay with your puppy when they go out to the toilet. This is the only way to know that they’ve actually been, and to reward them at the right time
  • At other times, watch for signs they may need the toilet, such as sniffing at the door, circling or staring at you. If you’re having difficulty spotting the signs let your dog out every hour or so and work from there.

Reward but never punish

If your puppy does get caught short in the house, you should never scold them or rub their nose in it. They’ll think you’re telling them off for the act of going to the toilet, not for where they’ve done it. Next time your dog will be likely to hide behind the sofa or in a bedroom and do it there. Simply clean up and keep an eye on when they might need the loo.

Don’t change the routine at night

Many owners put newspaper or puppy pads down for their puppy at night, but this can cause a lot of confusion. You spend the day trying to teach your dog they mustn’t relieve themselves indoors but then allow him to do just that throughout the night. This can really slow learning down.

Instead of this get up and let your puppy out through the night. You only need to do this a couple of times for the first few nights. For example, for the first few nights bed them down at 11pm, get up and let them out at 2am, 4am and then get up at 7am.

After that, work out the best time to take them out and reduce the night trips to just one. This may seem more inconvenient, but it helps your dog learn much faster and saves you waking up to wee and poo covered newspapers every morning.

If you can’t let your dog out at night, follow the same training method as above, but be aware that full housetraining will take longer to achieve. Avoid putting puppy pads down throughout the day for the same reason.

Using a cage to aid toilet training

You can use a dog cage as an extremely effective housetraining tool. Dogs are clean animals and are unlikely to mess in their own beds unless they have to.

A cage can be an ideal tool to help you predict when your dog will need to go out. Take your dog outside immediately when you release them from the cage and it’s almost guaranteed they will need to go to the toilet. You should start by just leaving them in the cage for a short time – under one hour. As your dog learns, this short period can be extended.

A cage can also be used during the night, but don’t forget to get up and take your puppy out. If they’re left with no choice but to mess in their own bed, you won’t be able to use the cage in the future as they may now think being in the cage is a cue to go to the toilet.

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