Not being house-trained is actually a common reason why dogs are relinquished to shelters! So toilet-training your puppy will not only save your floors it could also save his life!
All of the following information can also be used to house-train an older dog. I refer to a puppy as “he” but everything stated is applicable whether your puppy is male or female.
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First of all, I’d like to talk about punishment. No matter how many old-wives tales you’ve heard about hitting your puppy with a rolled up newspaper or rubbing their noses in their pee or poo, please don’t do it! They are exactly what I just said, “old wives tales”! The only thing that you will teach your puppy by doing either of these things, is that you are someone to fear. They will not relate the punishment to their “accident”, they will relate it to you! Rubbing a pup’s nose in wee or poo is not only cruel it could also cause a bacterial infection! Your poor puppy might even start trying to hide where they pee or poo for fear of you seeing them do it! The only person to be mad at, if your puppy has an accident, is yourself for not being diligent enough! Your puppy doesn’t “know he’s done wrong” and he doesn’t “look guilty”, he just knows that, for some reason, you are angry. If you catch your puppy making an error, or find that he has already made one, then just pick him up and take him outside to the designated area. No reprimands for making a mistake, (the mistake was yours), just praise and rewards for doing it in the right place! No scolding your puppy! The number of people I hear saying that they told their puppy “a firm no” or “bad boy”… Your puppy does not understand what “no” means or why you are being angry (“firm”) with him. Withholding your usual praise and reward is enough punishment!
If your puppy does have an accident then make sure to clean the area well but please don’t use any cleaning products that contain ammonia, bleach or vinegar. Dogs are more likely to relieve themselves in areas where they have previously done so and a dog’s urine smells of ammonia, so you would inadvertently be encouraging him to go in the same place next time! You can buy special enzymatic cleaners from the pet store or alternatively use a biological washing liquid. You can also then spray with a pine or citrus scent. Rubbing a moth ball over the area is said to mask any odour but please do not do this anywhere the puppy is likely to sleep as mothballs are toxic.
You can actually compare house-training a puppy to potty-training a small child. You teach them what you would like them to do and you reward them, with lots of praise, for getting it right! It’s strange how some people think that shoving their puppy’s nose in pee or poo is acceptable – would they still think it acceptable if someone were doing this to a young child?…
So, just how do you toilet-train your puppy?
The key is preventing accidents from happening! Until your puppy is house-trained it’s best to not allow him free access to the whole house. You need to supervise your puppy at all times. Make good use of crates, exercise pens, baby gates and closed doors. Puppies will naturally seek to eliminate away from their resting area so, ideally, their crate should be large enough for them to comfortably lie down in but not so large that they can sleep at one end and then move to the other in order to pee or poo. Puppies also like to pee/poop on porous surfaces so the nearest rug is very appealing!
I’m not a big fan of paper training a puppy as this means that you have to teach them to go on the paper and then teach them to go outside. If, for some reason, you choose this method then I would advise gradually making the paper smaller and slowly relocating it to outside.
Some people may not have easy access to the outside world and may choose to designate an area on a terrace or somewhere in the house as their puppy’s toilet area. If this is the case, I would recommend using a large litter tray and perhaps lining it with turf (so that when your puppy is outside he is already accustomed to relieving himself on grass). Please make sure to clean the area regularly. You will, however, still need to follow the same steps as in house-training.
Choose an area outside that you would like to be where your puppy relieves himself. You are going to take him out to this location MANY times during the day! A young puppy’s muscles are not physically developed enough for him to hold his pee/poo, so when he needs to relieve himself, he is going to do just that! A good general rule of thumb is that a puppy should be able to wait for one hour per month in age plus one. If the puppy is two months old that would be three hours, three months old would be four hours etc. However, an active puppy will need to go more often. In fact you will need to take your puppy outside between ten and fifteen times a day! Every time your puppy wakes up from a rest you need to take him straight outside! If your puppy has just been playing, then take him straight outside! If your puppy has just eaten, then take him straight outside! Puppies have VERY small bladders so basically you are going to be taking him outside a lot! You should also learn to anticipate when your puppy is about to relieve himself. He will sniff the ground, he might circle, squat or even start heading towards the door. Pick him up or put his lead on and TAKE HIM OUTSIDE! Please do not restrict your puppy’s water intake – you could end up with a dehydrated puppy!
Once you have taken your puppy to the designated area please do not leave him – you need to stay with him! I like to say a “cue”, perhaps “go pee”, “go potty”, “do your business”, “wee-wee” or whatever words you prefer. Putting a “cue” on the behaviour will mean that in future, once your puppy has learned the cue, you will be able to ask him to “go pee” and he will do it! As soon as he has done so, you are going to praise and reward him. Be enthusiastic with your praise, as though he has done something absolutely amazing, and give him a small tasty treat. Rewarding your puppy when you return inside is not going to reinforce him peeing outside. You need to reward him straight away so that he relates the reward to what he has just done! You also need to reward him EVERY time not just sometimes! I would then follow this with a fun play session, which serves two purposes: It acts as yet further reinforcement for what he has just done and it also means he is less likely to wee again as soon as you go inside. Puppies quite often do a “double wee” so waiting for at least five minutes is normally a good idea! How often have you heard someone say “but I only just took him out”? Taking your puppy/dog to the door and letting him outside is NOT going to toilet-train him! You need to go outside with him to the area you have chosen. If your puppy hasn’t done anything then please do not initiate a play session. Keep him outside for about five minutes and if he still doesn’t do anything then go back inside. You will now need to supervise very closely as you don’t want any accidents and I’d advise going back outside after a few minutes and trying again, rewarding with lots of praise, a tasty treat and a fun play session as soon as he is successful!
What about during the night? A puppy’s bodily functions (just like a person’s) slow down when they are sleeping so they should be able to wait for longer but I would still advise getting up at least once during the night and, if necessary, waking your puppy to take them outside. No accidents in the house mean you will house-train them far quicker and before you know it you’ll have a perfectly toilet-trained puppy.
So to sum up: Supervise and prevent accidents from happening. When accidents do happen (which they probably will) never punish or scold your puppy. Take outside at least 10 times a day (but I’d recommend more!). Reward them for getting it right! Be patient – you are not going to toilet-train your puppy overnight – it could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on how consistent you are!
Trainer for, Jambo – The Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog. First “EVER” Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a Crowned Trick Master Champion. for more details click the link HERE.