House Training your dog

How to toilet train a puppy


The key to successful toilet training is to keep things positive and be consistent. There are three main methods of house training: crate training, paper training, and teaching your dog to go outside. In this guide we will cover paper training and teaching your pup to go outdoors, crate training is a subject too large to cover here. If your puppy is too young to be vaccinated and you do not have a private garden then you will need to paper train until your dog has had their vaccinations. Similarly if you live in a flat you may need to paper train at first.


Positive reinforcement not punishmentHouse training your puppy


Your puppy wants to please you, make it easy for him to get things right by sticking to a regular and realistic schedule and rewarding him for his successes. Telling your puppy off for a mess on the floor after it has happened is counter-productive and will only teach him not to trust you. Dogs live entirely in the now, your puppy can not associate your current anger with an accident that happened half an hour ago. Shouting, hitting or rubbing your dogs nose in it is unkind punishment that will teach him nothing. Supervision, rewards and praise will help to guide your dog quickly to the right behaviour.


Praise and correction


When you are praising your puppy for an elimination in the right place, or correcting one in the wrong place, timing is everything. The praise or correction must happen at the exact time the puppy is eliminating. If you leave it longer than three seconds after your puppy has finished then you have left it too long. Praise for a successful toilet outside or on the pad should be profuse, and followed up with a treat. If you catch your dog in the act of eliminating where he shouldn’t the correction should be a quick ‘no’ or ‘ah ah’ pick your puppy up and run outside with him (or to the pad) pop him down and wait for him to finish. When he does its time for lots of praise and a treat. Be careful not to be angry with your puppy if you catch him messing in the house, you may inadvertently teach your dog to be afraid of going to the toilet in front of you at all.




The first step is to make sure you have a suitable area for your pup to spend his time when he is not being directly supervised. This is usually the kitchen or another room with an easy to clean floor. If you are paper training this is the room where you will be using the puppy pads. Make sure the whole room is puppy proof and secured. Baby gates are usually cheaper than ‘dog’ or ‘puppy’ gates and do exactly the same job.


Your new 8 or 10 week old puppy is very small, and has limited control over his eliminations. In the beginning he can hold on for about an hour and a half before he will need to go to the toilet. If he is excited, has just woken up, or just eaten or drunk then he will need to go much sooner. As he gets older he will be able to hold on for longer and you can change your routine accordingly. It is important to feed your puppy on a regular schedule, his digestive system will fall into a routine and you will be able to confidently predict when he will need to go outside. While food should not be left out all day, fresh water should always be available.


Cleaning products formulated to remove pet urine smells can be very useful. Dogs return to the same areas over and over to urinate, and they easily locate these areas by smell. If your dog can smell that he has urinated somewhere before he will be happy to do it again in the same spot, and you can quickly develop problem areas in your house where your pup ‘always’ seems to want to go. Cleaning up after accidents with an ammonia free odor neutralizing cleaner will help. If you are having persistent problems and you think urine residue might be a cause you can get uv lights that make urine and stains glow yellow helping you to target them with your trusty cleaner.


Once you have a secure room with fresh water available and a feeding schedule, you will need to stock up on puppy pads if you are paper training (they cost more money but are better than newspaper, if you need to be cost conscious newspaper will do the job but you will need to be more diligent in your cleaning routine), if you are outside training you may want to invest in a cheap clip on kitchen timer, and in all cases you will need plenty of supplies of patience and good humor.



Paper Training.


Now you have your new puppy home and in his secure room, place a couple of puppy pads on the floor where you would like for him to do his eliminations, this should ideally be away from his bed, food and water areas. Now the fun starts. You need to pop your pup on the pads every morning upon waking, and every night before bed. He needs to go on the pads after eating and drinking or playing vigorously. As you start to get to know your puppy you will begin to recognize the signs that he needs to go – they might be lots of sniffing, circling around and around, becoming agitated, or zooming off to one of his favorite places to go. As soon as you see the signs – pick him up and rush him over to his pads. When he eliminates give him tons of praise, and a treat if you have one, something really tasty. He will start to get the idea that this is the right place to go, and better yet he gets a treat for doing it there. You might find that your pup picks a different area of the room to be his favorite toilet spot – if that is the case and it is not too inconvenient try moving the puppy pads there. Remember to clean that spot thoroughly to get rid of all urine smells, even if you move the pads, you want him to concentrate on going on the pads, not the floor around the pads.


If you spot your puppy going to the toilet on his pads under his own steam then congratulations! Make the most of it by praising him to the sky for his great choice, hopefully he will continue to repeat it. If you see him going anywhere else give a quick ‘No’ and scoop your pup up, don’t worry he will stop peeing when you do that, and run him over to his pads. Wait for him to finish there and then give him lots of praise.


If you are using puppy pads you will not need to do as much cleaning as if you are using news paper. Urine seeps through the newspaper onto the floor and will need to be cleaned regularly with an odor neutralizing agent that does not contain any ammonia. Puppy pads are more absorbent and have a plastic lined base to help keep urine off the floor. Some of them are impregnated with a smell that encourages the pup to urinate there. However if you work or are going to be out of the house for long periods you may want to consider putting newspaper (pads would be very expensive) all over the floor of your pup’s safe area when you are not able to supervise. If you are doing this you may find your pup prefers a particular area of the room to go to the toilet – then try reducing the paper to just this spot.


As time goes by and your pup becomes confident at using the puppy pads or newspaper for elimination you can start to move the pads closer to the door.


Teaching your dog to go outside


As with paper training your puppy needs a safe secure room where your puppy can spend time when you are not able to directly supervise. The key to training your dog to eliminate outside is consistency – make yourself a schedule to take your dog out at regular intervals that fits in with your life and your puppy’s needs, and stick to it. A suggested schedule is included below. When your puppy is very small they can only hold on for about an hour and a half – so toilet trips outside will need to reflect this, they will also need to be taken out about 15 minutes after eating or drinking, immediately upon waking, and after vigorous play.


You should put the lead on your pup and accompany them outside for each toilet trip, even if you have a secure garden. It is tempting to just open the door and put them out – but your pup needs to know it is going outside to ‘do its business’ not to play or have a good sniff about. Select an area that will be the ‘toilet’ area, quietly and with no fuss take your puppy there and just stand there. You need to be as uninteresting as possible – your puppy needs to concentrate on going to the toilet – this is not playtime! Allow your pup to sniff around this designated area and choose its spot to go. It may take some time, especially in the beginning, but eventually your puppy will eliminate. When your puppy is in the process of eliminating you can add in encouraging toilet commands, choose whatever you feel comfortable using – but make sure the whole family is consistent and it is not a word you would ordinarily use with your pup ‘good toilet’ or ‘good potty’ are popular choices. When your puppy has finished immediately praise and offer a reward – its OK to be a bit over the top – they have just done a great thing – something you would like them to want to do again – so make your puppy feel a bit special for being so good. If you have been standing out in the cold and rain for 20 minutes and you are sure your puppy is not going to go this time, just head quietly indoors and try again in half an hour or an hour’s time.


As your puppy gets older it will be able to hold on for longer periods of time and you can adjust your schedule to fit. If you are the kind of person that feels oppressed by schedules you can keep your puppy’s needs in mind by clipping a kitchen timer to your pocket or belt and after each time your puppy has been to the toilet set your timer to go off after one and a half hours, however you really should be feeding your puppy at the same times every day. Not all people like routine – but dogs love it! You can increase your puppy’s sense of security and speed up the house breaking process by being consistent and following a schedule that fits in with your life.

Puppy House Training - Suggested Toilet Training Schedule


This suggested schedule is for a 10 week old puppy still eating four meals a day and only able to hold its eliminations for an hour and a half. Every puppy and owner’s needs are different – if you are not available to take your pup out every hour and a half then combine outside trips with paper training for the periods when you are unable to take pup outside. You may also want to put paper down at night. Used paper or pads can also be placed outside at the designated toilet spot to encourage your pup to go there. Your schedule will need to change as your puppy grows up and can go for longer between toilet breaks, but by this time you will be familiar with your puppy’s inner timings and be able to make appropriate changes as you go along.


7.30 – Wake up – out to the toilet straight away


8.00 – First meal of the day & out to the toilet 15 / 20 mins after eating


9.45 – Out to the toilet


11.15 – Out to the toilet


12.00 – Lunch & out to the toilet 15 / 20 mins after eating


13.45 – Out to the toilet


15.15 – Out to the toilet


16.00 – Third meal of the day & out to the toilet 15 / 20 mins after eating


17.45 – Out to the toilet


19.15 – Out to the toilet


20.00 – Final meal of the day & out to the toilet 15 / 20 mins after eating


20.15 – Out to the toilet


21.45 – Out to the toilet – final toilet break of the day before being put to bed for the night

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