House training a puppy

You may have heard of house training, or toilet training, and if you’re wondering what these are, don’t worry – they’re the same thing. Let’s call it house training to keep things simple – and it means teaching your puppy where it can and can’t go to the toilet.

Whilst there are different approaches, house training should be reward based as this provides a stronger association, and a positive association, rather than the threat of punishment or anything nasty like that.

The basics:

Remember, the overall aim here is to teach your puppy that going to the toilet in the places that you want it to (and only in those places) is a great idea!

Firstly learn to recognise the signs your puppy needs to toilet. This could be circling, sniffing a lot in one place. This is surprisingly easy to miss if you’re not looking for it and it may just seem that your puppy has become restless or fidgety. If you’re really lucky, the puppy may go to the door, but this is probably quite rare if you haven’t taught it that behaviour yet. If you do not yet recognise these signs, don’t panic, but you will need to make regular trips to the back garden for a while!

It’s a great idea to use a food reward to aid toilet training, however allow the puppy to finish toileting before rewarding. This means that as soon as possible after puppy has finished his ‘business’ you give it a food treat as a reward. As you’ll hopefully know by now,  a puppy will naturally repeat behaviour that is rewarded, but for this to work you need to be consistent and give your reward as quickly as possible, so it’s associated to the correct action.

Extra ideas:

It is also extremely useful to “train toileting to a word” – this means giving  a word as an instruction, and linking it to the desired behaviour. Just like you will have done for ‘sit’ or ‘down’ for example, you can associate a word to either urination (weeing), defecation (pooing). This is achieved by saying the word as the puppy is toileting and rewarding when finished. Personally I use “quick-quick” for urination!

This ongoing association within “action-word-reward” eventually means that simply using the word prompts the puppy to perform the desired behaviour. Just remember you may want to use whatever word you choose in public so keep it clean, and friendly. This pays huge dividends as it can put an end to simply waiting for your puppy to do its business before you bring it indoors, and give you a way to encourage your dog to ‘go’ before a car trip or during a walk, for example. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Be aware with young puppies can appear to have learned house training, before they’ve really “understood” or mastered it. They may be providing the behaviour that pleases you, so you’ll feel that you’re seeing results, but unless the rules have been fully learned, and they have reached an age and maturity to be fully house-trained, they may still not be quite ready. Don’t get complacent too soon – this can be a longer process than some realise, and it needs some persistence.

Our group puppy courses can talk you and guide you through all the basics and give great guidance on house training.

A few things to avoid:

It’s important to think about how you should view, and how you should react to accidents. In house accidents should not be blamed on the puppy. They are too young to understand any kind of negative reaction, so just ignore the accident and clean it up. I can’t state enough how highly I DO NOT recommend ‘rubbing their nose in it’, or any kind of ‘punitive treatment’.

Firstly, if the accident has happened while you were out they won’t know what the punishment is for. Secondly, your puppy didn’t do this to upset you, and it’s simply cruel to react in such a way. On the other hand, if you catch the puppy in the act then punishing them can turn your puppy into a “secret toileter” – which is a HUGE nightmare!

When it comes to cleaning, I would advise using a biological washing powder in water as this removes the smell as well as reducing the likelihood of repeat toileting. Whilst you won’t notice it, bleach and ammonia based products actually have a similar smells to urine, so do not use these products as the scent will actually encourage your dog to treat the area as toileting area.

Crate training can really aid toilet training (see our crate training article for more info on that) however if you are training without a crate then the key bit of advice to take away is to make regular trips outside, try and learn the signs that your puppy wants to go out, give lots of rewards when things go right, and you should be able to avoid the need for any kind of indoor newspaper or toileting area – and if you can avoid those you’ll be doing yourself, and your puppy a huge favour.

Good luck and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact Puppy Perfect