Toilet training your pup involves anticipating when your pup will need to go to the toilet, taking the pup to the desired toileting area of the yard, and reinforcing this desired behaviour by rewarding your pup for successfully eliminating in this area (praise, and or a tasty food treat given straight after the act).

A 6-8 week old pup has little bowel or bladder control, but this will develop quickly over the next couple of months. Ideally, toilet training starts as soon as you bring your new pup home. Before you take him into your house, take him to the toilet area of your yard. If he passes urine or faeces, reward him immediately. If nothing has been produced in around 5 minutes, take the pup inside but return to the area 10 minutes later. Continue this until the pup eliminates. Reward the pup, and wait an hour before taking him out again.

It won’t take long to work out your pup’s usual toileting patterns and to be able to reduce the frequency of visits outside. You should try to always take your pup out to the toilet after he has eaten, drunk, woken up, or played for a while. Your pup may also display some signs of needing to go, such as circling or sniffing. If you are unable to observe your pup closely for a while, confining the pup to a small room, or better still, a play pen containing a bowl of water and his bedding can help. Dogs naturally avoid soiling their ‘den’ and so will be more likely to whine and move around when they need to go, giving you more chance to notice and take them outside before they soil indoors. Pups are also very textural, so if they do toilet inside, it will often be on a surface that remind them of grass, i.e. carpet, rugs, bedding.

A pup is not able to hold on throughout the whole night, they need to go to the toilet at least every 5-6 hours. Therefore, ensure you take your pup out to the toilet before going to bed yourself, and plan to get up during the night to do the same. Ideally, the pup is near your bed (a play pen or crate is great for this) so he has a chance of waking you when he needs to go. If you are a heavy sleeper, you may need to set an alarm during the night. It’s a good idea to protect your carpets in case of accidents. Many people like to leave the pup in the laundry or outside overnight. This deprives the pup of companionship, and usually means there is no chance of him being able to wake you to go outside if he needs to. Any overnight accidents are counterproductive as we have forced the pup to mess inside the house by not taking them out when they need to go.

When (not if!) accidents happen, it is important not to punish the pup. They associate punishment with going to the toilet, not with the fact they have done so inside, and will become frightened of eliminating in front of you – this often causes them to hide where they go to the toilet, e.g. behind a door or couch. Clean up the mess well, ideally with an enzymatic-based cleaner (e.g. biozet laundry detergent) that break down any smells left behind. Don’t use ammonia-based cleaning agents as these smell like urine to your pet, and may encourage further elimination in this area.

So remember:

  1. Take your pup out frequently when it’s awake, and reinforce successes with rewards. When they wake up and when anything dogs in (food or water) something will come out
  2. Allow your pup to walk to the door to establish a pattern of going to the door when he needs to go out
  3. Don’t punish accidents, clean up well, and try to be more observant.

Following this advice, most pups will be house trained in a few weeks.