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How to House Train / Toilet Train a Puppy

These notes are equally relevant if you need to house train your dog.

Without doubt, the best way to house or toilet train your puppy is management - Let the puppies out often! Your puppy will need to go to the toilet - when they've woken up - when they've had a wee play session (oops, sorry about the pun!) - when they've had a wee training session - before or after they've eaten - and that's all true, even if all these different things have happened all together in the space of half an hour. They have very small bladders and little control, so anything which changes what they're doing may make them need to go again. Here's some hints and tips on house training.....
  • Watch for the signals - your puppy will have a pre-amble to toileting - perhaps they'll just sniff the floor, or they may do that whilst sniffing round in a circle. When you see they need to go, get their attention and get them to follow you outside.
  • If they have a mistake, say nothing, don't re-act at all - let them finish and then take them outside, or put them into a different room whilst someone cleans up. If you shout at your puppy or tell them off, it just makes them not want to toilet in front of you.
  • Clean up with a cleaner specially designed to remove pet odours. Many household cleaners just don't get rid of the smell, and worse, they contain ammonia which attracts the dog to pee there - ofcourse, it smells nice and clean to us - but your puppies sense of smell is 1000's of times better than ours.
  • A crate can really help too. Make it a nice comfy area, and put in a couple of toys and a water bowl. Let your puppy go in there on his own and don't shut the door on him until he seems happy there - that might well take a few days. Then when he's happy, you can shut the door and you'll know that he's not getting up to trouble when you're not able to watch him every second. A crate is not a toilet zone - your puppy will want to be naturally clean and won't want to toilet in his wee den.
  • Using paper or puppy training pads may be an essential for you, but really all they do is teach the dog that it's ok to go indoors and then you have to un-train that.
  • So, getting up in the middle of the night to let them out can really help to ensure that even over night, then don't have a mistake in the house.
  • If your puppy is too distracted in your garden to concentrate on what he should really be doing, then it can help to cordon off a small area - perhaps 1m square - depending on the size of your puppy. Take him there and wait with him until he toilets. Then praise him and give him a treat.
  • Make sure you don't praise too early - you need to be sure he's finished!

For more detailed help, please see our Puppy House Training Guide below.

More questions answered:

What age should a puppy be house trained? It should probably take about 2-4 weeks to house train your puppy. Smaller dogs with smaller bladders can take longer. What we're talking about here though is the desire for your puppy to toilet outside - not how long they can last. Frequent visits outside to ensure that that's where all toileting happens is still key to maintaining good behaviour.

If you think your puppy or dog is peeing just too much, or house training is taking too long, please do contact your vet. Urinary infections are really quite common. Usually this means the puppy needs to 'go' more often. It looks like house training failure, but it's really just about having too much urine to get rid of / too much pressure on the bladder.

Can dogs get urine infections? Yes indeed. As noted above. It is far more common than you might think, so again, please do speak to your vet who can do a simple test and either a) get rid of your concerns or b)treat the infection. This can make significant improvement in your house training problems. Apart from anything else - if your puppy or dog gets an infection and toilets in the house, then they are getting into a situation where they are realising that it's ok to do the toilet inside.

About - Puppy Separation Anxiety - or dog separation anxiety. If your dog or puppy is anxious or stressed, then they will most likely feel the need to toilet more often. It a biological thing! Obviously the root to fixing this is to help them to not be anxious or scared about being left. Things that can help:

puppy socialisation
how to stop your puppy whining
understanding separation anxiety

How do I house train my older dog?

If you've taken on a rescue dog and they are toileting in the house then really there are 2 stages to house training. The first is setting up a regime in your household to ensure that they get out often, and then to praise them outside. The second then is trying to figure out what's gone wrong - are they scared in the garden - too excited - scared of toileting out on a walk? There are lost's of possibilities. These are discussed and solutions outlined in the book below

Above all, don't clean up with normal household cleaners. The ammonia in them simply makes things worse. Use an enzymatic product such as Fizzion.

Here's our booklet on How to How to House Train a Puppy - and How to sort out house training issues in puppies and older dogs.

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