(If you have an adult dog that needs toilet training, follow the same steps and apply the same two Golden Rules.)
How do I toilet-train (house-train) my puppy?
Have four things ready:
1. A pocket full of tiny, tiny treats. (You don’t want to overfeed your puppy.)
2. Some chew toys.
3. A dog door. No hurry for this yet, but you will want it ready when your puppy finally gets the message and chooses to go outside of its own accord.
4. Ideally, you want to be able to let your puppy roam throughout the day as you watch it. That way, you can more quickly train your puppy to go outside to toilet. But supervising a puppy all day is out of the question for most people, so you will need to prepare a containing room for it. A laundry or bathroom is good, or any room that can cope with urine on the floor. And preferably, a baby gate blocking the doorway instead of a closed door. That way, you can hear it whine when it wants to go out.
By having that containing room you won’t have “accidents” appearing around the house. They would not only be messy and undesirable, it will make it harder for you to train your puppy.
At one end of the containing room have its bed, chew toys and food & water bowls; at the other end have newspaper for when your puppy wants to toilet.
Try to limit the time your puppy spends in this room. It will feel isolated and probably howl. That means, supervise it as often as you can. And anyway, the more you practise the steps below, the sooner your dog will get the message and go outside when it’s necessary.
The four steps:
(A) When you have time to supervise your puppy, let it roam around the house, but watch it closely. As soon as it looks like it might want to toilet (you will soon get to know the signs) pick it up and take it outside. (Or encourage it follow you outside, or take it out by the collar).
If it has already begun to toilet, clap to distract it and say, “No!” and then take it outside to finish the job. (Your dog might not be able to comply because it doesn’t yet have the muscles, but clap and say, “No!” anyway.)
(B) When you don’t have time to supervise your puppy, but you’re in the house with it, leave it in its area, but take it outside when:
– it hasn’t gone for a while.
– every 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the frequency of its eliminations.
– 20 minutes after eating.
– 5 to 10 minutes after drinking.
– as soon as it wakes.
– as soon as it finishes playing.
– as soon as you wake, or get home, or finish your dinner.
– just before you go to bed.
– before you go out.
Of course, your dog won’t always be able to comply when you take it outside. So just take it back inside if you can’t wait. You could leave it outside, but then you’ll miss an opportunity to catch it getting ready to toilet.
Remember: the more often you have your puppy poo or pee outside (and praise it for doing so) the more quickly it will learn to go outside by itself. That’s why it’s important to be diligent and consistent.
2. Taking it outside to toilet.
Take it outside to its favourite spot. It will come to associate that place with its toiletry habits, and understand what to do.
Your puppy might wander around. Stay with it until it toilets. (You don’t need to move it back to its favourite spot.)
3. As it squats say the words ‘toilet’ or ‘go now’, and ‘good dog’, a few times.
Eventually, when you say the word ‘toilet’ your puppy knows what is wanted. (Keep up this habit throughout its life. When I walked my dog and we were near a bin, I would say the word ‘toilet’ and often my dog would comply. That meant that after picking up her poo, I didn’t have far to walk to place the poo bag in the bin.)
4. As soon as your puppy has finished, pat it and cheerfully praise it lavishly. Give it a tiny treat. (If the treat distracts your puppy from the job, stop giving it treats.)
Then bring your puppy inside.
When your puppy enjoys the experience it has an incentive to do the right thing in future.
If it’s an older puppy, you might also want to play with it afterwards, or take it for a walk. It will come to think, “If I poo in the garden I’ll get played with, or I’ll be taken for a walk.”
It’s a lot of work, and there will be setbacks, but if you follow these steps you will succeed. If you have doubts about your progress, consult a veterinarian in case there is a medical problem.