House Training Puppies

By admin Posted in Problems, Puppy /

House-training is one of the first things we attempt to teach our dogs and it is important that we do so correctly and consistently as soon as we acquire them. Most of us adopt our dogs as very young puppies that need to urinate and defecate more frequently than adult dogs and are also more likely to do so as a result of fear or excitement.

It is important to understand a pup’s limitations in this area and to handle house-training in a positive manner. It is better to engage in a concentrated effort over a few weeks, at the end of which you are likely to have a fully house-trained dog, than to make sporadic attempts at house-training over several months with unreliable results.


The Hands-On Approach

 Dogs do not naturally know to go to a door to indicate that they need to go out. Therefore, teaching a puppy where to go to the toilet takes vigilance and patience. It is important not to allow a new puppy too much freedom in the house. During the first weeks it is not unkind to restrict it to one room in the house. If it is going to be allowed into the rest of the house then it must be watched like you would watch a child at a pool if you don’t want an accident.

Their bladders are small and they need to go more frequently. Most pups will begin to sniff the ground when they are considering urinating or defecating and may also circle a particular spot. You need to be aware of your pup’s movements and pick up on these signals quickly. It is therefore best not to let your pup out of your sight in the house at this critical stage in his learning.

Whenever your pup displays one of the signals, immediately take him outside to a suitable area and wait for him to urinate or defecate. Try to take him to the same place each time, as dogs will often go where their sense of smell indicates that they have been before. As soon as he “performs”, reward him with gentle praise. Allow him to return to the house if he so wishes, so that it is clear that you are pleased with his actions.

There are several times in the course of your pup’s daily life when he is likely to need to relieve himself. These are when he has just woken up from a nap, eaten a meal or finished a play session. Get into the habit of taking him outside on all these occasions. He must learn that the house is the living area and outside is the potty area. If you cannot watch a puppy for some time it is better to confine it to a bathroom or kitchen. You may sometimes have to wait several minutes for results and there may even be the odd occasion when he does not perform at all, but be patient – it is well worth it in the end! You need to know what he has done therefore it is important to go with him each time.

It is obvious that the more time you spend with your pup, the quicker he is going to learn. If a pup is kept outside for most of the day, the opportunities for teaching him are greatly decreased. If you carefully follow the hands-on approach described, the results are usually excellent and may be evident in just two weeks.


When Accidents Happen

As vigilant as you may be, it is unlikely that you will prevent your pup from ever having an “accident” inside the house. There is likely to be a time when he slips out of your sight for a few minutes or urinates from great excitement. If you find that he has soiled inside the house without you being aware of it let it go! Do not recall him to the evidence and scold him or stick his nose in it. Punishing a puppy in this sort of situation is unfair and may result in a breakdown of the trust between you and your dog. The best way to handle the situation is to ignore the mess in front of the pup and to clean it up when he is not present.

Dogs use their sense of smell as a primary method of discovering their world. As any scent residue may induce a pup to use the same spot again, it is important to clean soiled areas thoroughly. Scrubbing with a biological detergent, followed by a rub down with some pure alcohol (surgical spirits) or baking soda should make the area seem clean to even the most discerning of doggy noses. Products containing bleach or ammonia should be avoided as they contain compounds found in urine. If the puppy repeatedly wants to go the same spot, a box placed over it may be helpful.

The warning signs may vary but when the puppy suddenly looks distracted, stops eating or playing, starts sniffing and going round in a circle you need to act quickly. If you catch him as he is just about to squat, say “no” firmly, but calmly, and quickly take him outside and praise him when he relieves himself there. Be careful not to react in a way that causes him to urinate from fright. If you can’t get him out in time do not become angry: this may teach him not to relieve himself in front of you, but will not prevent him from doing so inside the house.

Never punish your pup for urinating from fear or excitement. This will only exacerbate the problem. Rather avoid creating too much excitement when he is inside the house. If the pup has a secure and loving home, he should quickly outgrow this behaviour.

Going through the Night

Until a pup is about 12 – 14 weeks old (many a lot older), he is usually unable to go through the night without urinating or defecating. A good rule of the thumb is to add 1 to his age e.g. 2 months + 1 = 3 hours between trips outside. Arrangements must therefore be made to accommodate his needs. Many people find that their pups will readily go to the loo on newspaper placed on the floor, as this is the method used by most breeders before the pups are adopted. However, if this practice is kept up for too long it can interfere with the housetraining process, by encouraging the dog to relieve himself on “suitable” material inside the house rather than to go outdoors. I believe it is far better to have the pup in a large crate or box near the side of your bed. Because dogs prefer not to soil their sleeping areas, your pup will not readily go inside the box and will therefore scratch at the sides of it or whine when he wants to go to the toilet. You can then take him outside, wait for him to perform, praise him when he does and take him straight back to bed. For the first few nights you may have to do this 2 or 3 times, but it should soon decrease to just once a night. Although you may not enjoy getting up, this is the best way to teach your pup to let you know when he needs to go out. The crate or box should only be discarded once you are sure that your pup has learned to rely on you to let him outside, otherwise he may simply find a place in your bedroom to relieve himself while you are still fast asleep. If it is not practical to use a crate or box because your dog is older and larger, you can create the same effect by using chairs or other furniture to block him into a sleeping area next to your bed. He will still have to wake you if he wants to leave the area.

Always give your pup every opportunity to relieve himself before he goes to bed at night so that he has more chance of sleeping through. It is also very important to get your pup outside as soon as he wakes up in the morning, as he will probably be desperate to relieve himself if he has lasted the whole night.

Urination and Defecation on Command

It is possible to teach dogs to urinate and defecate on command. This can be done simply by introducing an appropriate word into the house-training process. When you take your pup outside repeat some command while you are waiting for him to do his business. As soon as he does, praise him. It does not take long for a dog to learn what he is expected to do. You can then use this command before you go to bed at night or during a stop on a long road-trip.

Points worth noting

  • Whenever possible, leave the door open so that your dog can take the initiative to go outside when he wishes to relieve himself.
  • Many dogs scratch on the door when they want to go out, but often this sound is not heard at the other end of the house. Hanging a row of little bells or something else that will make a noise when your dog touches it at “paw height” on the door often solves this problem. This works particularly well with security gates.
  • Some people avoid the issue of house-training by keeping their dogs in a garage or other bare-floored room to prevent them from soiling inside the house. No good can come of this, as the dog is allowed to urinate and defecate anywhere in this area and learns to live in his own filth. A dog that is never allowed inside the house has no idea that he may not relieve himself there. Besides its ineffectiveness as a house-training method, isolating a dog is cruel and seriously detrimental to his emotional well-being and temperament.
  • Owners are sometimes advised to remove their dogs’ water supply at around 5pm, so that they are less likely to urinate during the night. However, I believe that dogs should always have a fresh supply of water. This is especially important when dogs are fed on a diet of dry pellets, which can only be properly digested when they absorb the water that the dog drinks.
  • If you want your dog to relieve himself before bedtime and he has not yet learned to do so on command, taking him for a stroll and a sniff around the neighbourhood will often bring results.
  • It is very important to be aware of progress being made. Is it better than last week? Yes, good!!! Not sure? Take him out more frequently! No? Repeat the methods more diligently or try a different method.

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