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Toilet Training Your New Puppy - Tips from Agria's Behaviour and Training Advisor

One of the things that worries new puppy owners the most is toilet training. The good news is that puppies come pre-programmed to be toilet trained. If you watch any litter of pups, even as young as four weeks old, you will see that mum has already taught them to leave the bed or sleeping area when they need to toilet.

So how do you make sure you get it right when you bring your puppy home? Simple – just follow the rules mum has already taught and build on them.

Puppies should already know not to dirty their sleeping area, and so secret of good toilet training is to limit the area the puppy has to sleep in. If they have access to a whole room at night, it is very easy to sneak off into a corner and use that as a toilet area and still keep the bed clean.

Crate training your pup will simplify toilet training at night.* Your pup will not want to soil the crate and so will do his best to hang on and go outside the bed as mum taught him. If you don’t like the idea of a crate, you can set up a puppy pen but don’t make it so big that he can sleep at one end and use the other end as the bathroom!

You must however always be aware that a young pup cannot hang on for very long – and nor should you expect him to. You have to play your part – and a big part it is! So here goes your rules:

  • Do not feed his last feed too late in the evening – this way the amount of poo will be limited
  • Take him out as late as possible for his last toilet visit – 11.30pm or later
  • Get up in the middle of the night – perhaps 3am and take him out again (yes I do mean that but this will not last long!)
  • Get up early in the morning (6am ish) and take him out straight away.
  • No matter what the time of the day or night, go with your puppy, do not just open the door! You need to be able to reward every toilet success immediately with a treat.

Your sleep is a bit interrupted  for a couple of weeks, but you do lessen the chance of your puppy making a mistake. The fewer mistakes the pup makes, and the more successes you can reward, the more successful his toilet training will be – and the quicker you will have a restful night!

During the day, keep your puppy close to you so you can watch him – you can use a crate, a puppy pen, or even a houseline tied to your belt! Or just watch him like a hawk!

If you choose to use a crate, keep crate time to a minimum. They can be invaluable training aids but they are not an alternative to you spending time with your puppy or a way for you to routinely leave him alone.

It is usually easy to tell when the pup needs to toilet. They tend to turn in circles, sniffing, plus you will also get used to the special tell-tale signs in your own pup. There are also obvious times when your puppy is going to need to go out. These are just after he wakes up, after he has been playing, and after he eats or drinks.

It is up to you to understand when your puppy needs to go to the toilet and reward him for getting it right, rather than up to him to ask you to go out – especially in the first few months. Do not expect too much! This is something new owners often do not appreciate and so they make things harder for their puppies and themselves.

At these times, take your puppy outside – and be prepared to wait. Puppies are very easily distracted by sights, smells, movements  and anything else, no matter how desperate they are, other things can be more interesting – and they only remember that they needed to go when they get back in!

You should decide on a special toilet command word, when your puppy finally settles down to business, give him whatever you have decided your special toilet command word is, and when he has finished, always reward him with a treat. He needs to know that you are totally delighted with him.

If you catch your puppy getting ready to go in the house, pick him up, take him outside, and let him carry on in peace – then reward him.

NEVER punish your pup for any mistakes. These hiccups are not your pups fault he doesn’t understand what is you expect of him quite yet. Give your pup plenty of praise when he gets it right and ignore him when he slips up. Make life as simple as possible for your pup – he is only a baby and needs to feel that his new life as a family dog is fun – not fraught with potential failure. Toilet training is the first serious thing you teach your pup and the more he trusts you and succeeds in this, the more you are building your relationship for the future.

About the Author

Carolyn is an accredited behaviourist and trainer with over 20 years experience working with dogs and other companion animals. She has written books, over 500 published articles and trains owners and professionals alike both nationally and internationally. Carolyn is also an experienced broadcaster and presenter, has appeared in five TV series’ and countless radio shows. Her passion is for helping owners build a strong and positive relationship with their dogs and fully develop the potential of the bond between them.

More articles from Carolyn Menteith

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