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Puppy Toilet Training - November 2022

Some animal species, dogs included, have an instinctive desire to toilet away from where they spend most of their time. Puppies will begin to leave the sleeping area to urinate, without being taught, at the age of about three weeks. They are, as it were, pre-programmed to be housetrained.

Puppy peeing on grass

Learning to be clean

All that needs to happen for a puppy to become toilet trained is for breeders to encourage this behaviour by providing clean conditions and a separate area with an appropriate surface to toilet on, and for new owners to keep up the good work, as well as showing them where their new toilet is, once they go to their new homes. 

However, things do not always go smoothly, and this can result in some puppies taking a long time to learn to be clean inside.  Every time there is a slip-up, some of the delight of owning a new puppy is diminished.  Finding out what is going wrong and learning how to help teach your puppy to be clean fast is beneficial to all and will set a clean habit that will last a lifetime.

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Who’s responsible?

Toilet training a puppy is not difficult but it does require the puppy to be constantly supervised until they have learned what to do.  For best results, someone needs to be ‘on duty’ actively supervising and thinking about the puppy during this time so it is best to discuss amongst family members who is going to be responsible at any given moment.  If a family rota is drawn up, everyone needs to be fully invested as even a few accidents in the house can set back the training process.

What to do

Easy to be clean

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House training a puppy is relatively easy as long as you have time to concentrate and put in an intensive effort for at least 2-3 weeks, depending on your consistency and success, followed by a lesser effort for a few months

 First you need to clean soiled areas like you’ve never cleaned before, using a product from the vets to remove the smells that only your puppy can smell.

 Take your puppy outside (go outside with them, don’t just put them out and leave them to worry):

  • 01 /
    Shortly after each feed
  • 02 /
    After playing
  • 03 /
    After exercise
  • 04 /
    After any excitement (e.g. visitors arriving)
  • 05 /
    Immediately upon waking
  • 06 /
    First thing in the morning
  • 07 /
    Last thing at night
  • 08 /
    At least once every hour

Allowing your puppy to wander around and sniff at the ground will help to speed up the process. Do not pressure or interrupt them to go by staring or telling them to hurry up.  Instead, just be patient and wait.  It is really important to stay out with your puppy. Take a coat and umbrella in case it is cold or it is raining so that you are not in a hurry to go back in.  Puppies with thin coats may be reluctant to go outside too in inclement weather, so coax them outside, putting a small warm coat on them if you need to.

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Young puppies are easily unsettled when outside so having the patience to stay with your puppy until they have relaxed and have toileted is essential. If you leave them to it, they will probably run to the back door and spend the rest of the time trying to get back in with you. Once you let them in, the stress of the separation, together with the increased excitement and exercise, will cause them to want to go and you will be left with a mess inside and an uneducated puppy. There is no need to stay outside for hours though. Wait for a few minutes only and, if nothing happens, take them inside and try again a little later.

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When inside, watch your puppy constantly and always be aware of what they are doing. Take them out when they look as though they might need to go and begins to sniff and circle.

If you notice your puppy walking uncomfortably with a far-away look in their eye, sniffing the floor and circling or getting ready to squat, encourage them to run outside with you immediately.  Do not pick them up as they need to learn a vital link in the housetraining process, which is: ‘When I need to go, I need to get to the back door and into the garden.’

If, at any point, you catch them in the act of going in the house, use your voice or clap your hands to interrupt them. What you say is immaterial, but you need to be exciting enough to capture their attention and stop them mid-flow, but not so loud that they run for cover. As soon as you have their attention, run away from them, towards the back door, calling them happily and enthusiastically to encourage them to follow (have shoes near the door ready so you can leave at once). Go outside to your chosen spot and wait until for a few minutes until they have relaxed in case they need to finish. Take them back into the house and put them in another room while you clean up any mess.

House training

Learning Good Habits

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At times during the day when you cannot concentrate on your puppy, it is best to keep them confined to a smaller area where accidents are not too important. If you are using a puppy playpen, cover the floor with one large sheet of polythene with newspaper or puppy pads on top so that accidents can be cleared up easily. If accidents do occur, try to take your puppy out more frequently.

By following these simple procedures, your puppy will quickly learn that the place to go to the toilet is outside and will get into good habits. The more frequently you take them out at the appropriate time and the fewer times they go indoors, the quicker they will learn. Regular habits take time to develop, though, and their bodies take time to mature, so be prepared for the occasional accident.

For more on house training, please go to The Puppy Club 'Good Puppy Pages'

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