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By Scott Lackenby | Dated May 18, 2015
Congratulations on your newest addition! There are so many things to remember when caring for your new puppy, but toilet training is very important in your puppy being a welcome part of the family.
When should I start toilet training my puppy?
Toilet training should start as soon as your puppy gets home. It takes lots of time and patience and every puppy is different. They learn at their own pace and have not yet developed strong bowel and bladder control. So they cannot help having accidents, especially when they are excited. With a puppy, this can be often! Puppies are often not toilet trained until they are 6 months old, so don’t expect too much too soon.
What is the best way to toilet train my puppy?
Puppy toilet training can be a time consuming and often messy experience! But patience, persistence and consistency i.e. developing a routine with your puppy from the very beginning is the key to making it easier. Here are some simple steps to follow:
Step One: Designated toilet spot – Choose an area for your puppy to use as its toilet area and stick to this place. If you live in an apartment, then use a balcony or laundry / bathroom. If you live in a house then the garden is the best place. Some people choose to use newspaper or “wee pads” to help in toilet training. They are placed in a designated inside toilet area. Over time, they are placed in the area that you would like your puppy to use long term, such as the garden. Then gradually removed.
Step 2: Routine – Establish a routine of taking them to the regular toilet spot. Do this frequently (about every 2 hours) as they cannot hold on for a long time and they also get used to the routine. For example, do this first thing each morning, as they often need to go at this time. Puppies should also be taken to the toilet after a nap, or had a meal. This routine should be stuck to consistently and done in all types of weather. As your puppy grows, you can phase out so many toilet visits, but if there are any accidents just start increasing them again.
Step 3: Praise & Reward – Wait for your puppy to relieve itself in the correct spots and then praise and offer a treat! This is called Reward-Based Positive Reinforcement Training. When they associate the designated toilet spot with praise and a reward they are more likely to use it. The reward must occur immediately after the event (within a few seconds), as the puppy will only make an association between going to the toilet in the right spot and the reward if it is given straight away. The reward can be in the form of praise, such as saying ‘Good Dog’, offering a food treat or offering their favourite toy.
How do I know when my puppy needs to go?
It is helpful to watch for signs that your puppy needs to go to the toilet, so you can quickly take them to the spot before an accident! You can usually tell when a puppy needs to go because they look around for a suitable place, sniffing around and around to the point of circling. That’s your cue to whisk your puppy to the toilet area! They are then rewarded for their good behaviour. The more often you can supervise them, the faster your puppy will learn.
How should I react when my puppy has an accident?
You have to be patient and allow for some mistakes, as toilet training requires persistence and can take time. Reward Based Positive Reinforcement Training also involves ignoring ‘unwanted’ toilet accidents – i.e. if the dog goes to the toilet in the wrong place it is best not to react. Don’t get angry as they won’t understand what they’ve done wrong. Old-fashioned punishments such as ‘rubbing their nose in it’ will not teach the dog anything and can actually delay their learning.
It is best to clean up the mess by using paper towel and along with your puppy, take the mess to the designated toilet area. Let your puppy sniff the paper towel while you are in the toilet area. This helps them associate being in the toilet area with urine, faeces and getting a reward. Then tell them they’ve been good. Clean the incorrect toilet area thoroughly with a non-ammonia based cleaning product) to take away the odour and you will reduce the chance of your puppy using the same place again.
How do I continue toilet training when I am not at home?
Realistically, many of us cannot be with our puppies all day every day to take them to their toilet area. One method of continuing training during the day is to “puppy proof” a room such as the laundry / bathroom. In this room, set your puppy up with a separate food, drink and sleep area and separate the food and toilet areas as much as possible. Pet owners commonly use newspaper or “wee pads” in this toilet area.