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Welcoming a furry bundle of joy into your home is an exciting experience, but it comes with its share of challenges, especially when it comes to toilet training. Puppies, like toddlers, need guidance and patience to learn where and when it's appropriate to do their business. With a bit of consistency, positive reinforcement, and understanding, you and your pup can navigate this stage successfully. Every puppy is different, the length of time it takes to train varies from pup to pup.
Understanding your Puppies Needs
It is crucial to understand your puppy’s bathroom habits. Young pups have tiny bladders and may need to relieve themselves every 1-2 hours. They often need to go:
- After waking from a nap
- After eating or drinking
- After a play session (for some you will need to do it during a play session)
- Before bedtime
Toilet training is about teaching the puppy the correct place to toilet and has nothing to do with teaching the puppy it is wrong. What you view as the correct place, and what the puppy views as the correct place can be two completely different things.
Establishing a Routine
Consistency is key in toilet training. Create a schedule that aligns with your puppy’s needs and stick to it religiously. Take your puppy outside to the designated toilet spot frequently, every hour and always after eating, waking up, or playing. For puppies that are struggling with toilet training, you might need to reduce this time to every 15 or 30 minutes. Reward your pup immediately after they've done their business with praise, treats, or a favourite toy. Positive reinforcement helps them associate toileting in the right spot with something enjoyable.
Designating a Toilet Area
Decide on a specific outdoor area where you want your puppy to do their business. Use consistent cues like a particular phrase (“busy”) to associate with the act. This helps your puppy understand what's expected when they hear that phrase. Puppies prefer to toilet on absorbent surfaces which is why your favourite doormat might be a favoured spot. A puppy toileting inside is not being naughty, it is acting normally and doesn’t yet understand. Surfaces like grass and gravel will be preferred to cement or paving initially. Avoid using puppy pads as this will teach your puppy to toilet inside. Whilst a lot of puppies understand quickly to toilet outside, some puppies will struggle to transition when puppy pads have been used.
To avoid your puppy being distracted from the task of toileting keep them on the lead or use a confined space in the first few weeks. Once the puppy has toileted, they can be let off the lead for some play and investigation.
Managing Accidents with Patience
Accidents are part of the learning process. When accidents happen (and they will!), avoid scolding or punishment, this can confuse and distress your puppy. If this happens, they can learn it is dangerous to toilet in front of you and hinder the process. Instead, calmly clean up the mess using an enzyme-based cleaner to eliminate odours. Patience is key; toilet training takes time, and each pup learns at their own pace. Here are a few reasons why toilet training might not be going as smoothly as you hoped:
- Too many distractions outside catching the puppy’s attention.
- Too much pressure from the owner (too much talking, watching)
- Incorrect association: perhaps the puppy thinks outside is just for playing and inside is actually the place to toilet
Monitoring and Adjusting
Watch for signs that your pup needs to go and be vigilant to recognise these indication behaviours so you can act promptly. This will mean supervising the puppy as much as possible in the first few weeks of arriving. If accidents persist, re-evaluate your routine. Adjust the schedule or frequency of outdoor trips to better match your puppy's needs. If accidents are frequent, it’s a sign that something isn’t working. These are some of the common signs that a puppy needs to toilet. It can take some time for them to settle into their new home before seeing signs sometimes:
- Sudden restlessness
- Going to the door
Every successful bathroom break is a milestone worth celebrating! Shower your pup with praise, treats, or a special playtime after they’ve used the right spot. Positive reinforcement strengthens the association between toileting in the correct area and positive experiences.
Some puppies take well to training bells. These help to teach your puppy to communicate with you that they need to go to the toilet. They are designed to hang on the handle of the exit door for the dog to touch when they need to go. They are fairly easy to train, first teaching the puppy to touch the bells before hanging them in the correct place.
If Toilet Training is a Difficult Task
If you have really had ongoing issues despite trying everything there may be an underlying issue such as a behaviour problem or urine infection. You may consider speaking to your veterinarian in the first instance for a urine screen.
Toilet training puppies requires patience and consistency. With a well-structured routine, positive reinforcement, and understanding, you'll guide your pup toward becoming a well-trained and happy companion. Remember, accidents are part of the process—stay patient, stay consistent, and enjoy the journey of nurturing your puppy's growth and development.
DOWNLOAD A FREE TRACKING SHEET
Help track your toilet training with this handy FREE tracking sheet.
CLICK HERE for a pink version.
CLICK HERE for a blue version.