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House training your puppy

Drill, Drill and Drill Some More!

Toilet training your puppy should be quite a simple process, as long as you take the time and trouble to get into a good routine and are consistent. If it feels infuriatingly repetitive, then you are probably doing it right!

Initially you are going to have to take your puppy out every single hour, and also at the following times:

  • Immediately after waking up

  • To urinate within fifteen minutes of eating, and defecate within half an hour of eating (although this might vary slightly with each individual, you will learn)

  • When they have had a play

  • When anyone comes in to greet the puppy

  • When the puppy wakes up

  • After anything exciting

  • After anything boring

  • Last thing at night

The Toilet Drill

Take the puppy out as dispassionately as possible, take him on a lead or carry him but without cuddles. Place him on the ground a wait a few minutes, appearing to ignore him but secretly watching out of the corner of your eye. If anything happens praise profusely, reward with treats, go ahead and have a mini Mardi Gras! This will show puppy he did good, and is more likely to do it again. Begin adding a verbal cue – “be quick” “do your business” or any other random choice!



At Night

Puppies generally don’t have enough bladder control to last the night, so it is possible you will have accidents at this time. You can speed up training by coming down once in the night, preventing accidents that actually slow down learning. Ensure this does not become 3am playtime though!

A note on Puppy Pads...

As you will realise, there are many different approaches to lots of things in dog training. One thing I will never understand though, this the point of “Puppy Pads”. All they do is teach a puppy it is go in the house, and then they must unlearn this when we want them to go outside. In my experience, most people who ask me for help with issue later in a pup’s life have used them, so this reinforces their pointlessness to me each time. Do yourself a favour, get rid of them totally, today, and spend a short while working hard on this routine – you’ll be pleased you did!

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Toileting on a walk

It’s a common frustration that your little darling will not toilet when out on a walk, yet relieves itself the second it gets back home. This is because the puppy has been taught to toilet only at home (hopefully in its garden), and being creatures of habit, they often wait until they have returned home before evacuating their bladder and/ or bowels.

To break this habit, you will have to get up very early one morning (when you have plenty of time), and get your puppy out on a walk before it has had its morning wee. You should not bring it home until it has been forced to go out of desperation. If however, you are unsuccessful, and your puppy has not toileted, then take it immediately into the garden on your return, or you risk it relieving itself indoors.

Common errors
  • Over-feeding - an unsuitable diet or giving a variety of foods.

  • Not feeding at regular times

  • Punishing the puppy for its indoor accidents (which can make it scared of toileting in front of you - even outside).

  • Using ammonia based cleaning compounds (which smell similar to urine).

  • Expecting the puppy to tell you when it needs to go out; this is unrealistic, so it is better to take them out at regular intervals.

  • Leaving the back door open for the puppy to come and go as it pleases (a puppy will think that the garden is an adventure playground, rather than a toilet area. Also, what is a puppy meant to do when the weather gets cold, and it is faced with a closed back door?).

  • Leaving the puppy on its own too long, so that it is forced to go indoors (which sets a bad precedent, or even a habit of going indoors).

  • Mistakenly associating the words 'good girl' or 'good boy' when they toilet, as opposed to the specific cue words. Guess what could happen the next time you praise your dog?

  • Access to rugs or carpet (which are nice and absorbent - just like grass).

  • Laziness on your part, resulting in more wees indoors than outdoors.

  • Leaving the puppy alone in the garden, so you are not there to reward it for going outdoors.

  • Submissive or excited urination on greeting (if this occurs, take your puppy outside before you greet it and tone down your greeting so it is less exciting or overwhelming).



  • Try keeping a separate lead and slip on garden shoes near the back door

  • Take puppy to the same place each time

  • Clean any accidents really, really well, as puppies will go where they’ve been before. Clean with a shop bought cleaner or I have had good experience with biological washing powder with enzymes. You can put a pad or what you used to clean up an accident in the spot you want the puppy to go to encourage this.

  • Make the spot you want them to go realistic – lots of puppies only want to go on grass – get a piece of turf from Homebase, or perhaps Astroturf a patch.

  • Ensure you praise when the puppy is actually finished. Otherwise, can you guess what might happen when you said “good dog!” indoors!?

  • Some dogs are picky about surfaces they like to go on – would you like to get your feet wet!? Try getting a patch of Astroturf or a carpet square and put it on your patio or balcony.

  • Crate training is an excellent way to accelerate house training. Puppies will seldom naturally want to soil where they sleep, so instinctively will wait as long as possible

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