Okay, so you’ve brought home your new puppy and everyone in the household is excited. You pet and play with him, feed him some treats and practice saying his name. In all the excitement the puppy pees on the floor and everyone laughs. Before bedtime, you take him out into the garden and wait for him to do his toilet in the proper place, he wanders around, sniffs at the flowers and runs back inside when an owl hoots. You put him to bed and hope for the best. In the morning, you wander into the kitchen, switch on the coffee machine, turn to get the mugs from the cupboard, tread straight into a puddle of urine and wish you’d remembered to put on your slippers. After cleaning up the mess with a cloth and some bleach, you take him out into the garden and wait. He squats as if to pee and you are about to praise him when a bee flies past and he is distracted. Thinking he doesn’t need to go you bring him back indoors, pour your coffee and you are just sitting down to enjoy the aroma of your latest Nicaraguan blend when you smell, instead, the distinctive aroma of poo wafting in your direction. To add to your displeasure, the puppy has trodden in the mess and run up the hallway blissfully unaware of his action. Naively you think, it’s first day nerves, he’ll be better by tomorrow. But by the end of the week you are searching the internet desperately trying to find out how to house train a puppy fast!
Get to Know When He Needs to Go
Your puppy can’t speak to you in English, but he’ll tell you when he needs to go to the toilet by his behavior. He may be happily playing with a toy when suddenly he begins to fidget or he may stop to lick or sniff his groin area. I had one puppy that would stop what he was doing and stare intensely at one patch on the ground just in front of him as if he was trying to decipher this feeling he was having.
After a little while your puppy may then start to sniff around the room and begin to circle. At this point your puppy is only a few seconds away from squatting so you will need to act quickly and guide him to your chosen toilet area (we’ll speak more about this later on). As your puppy gets older and begins to know that he should do his toilet outside or in a specific place in the house, he may go as close to that place as possible and begin to whine or scratch on the door.
One of my older dogs, Barney a very gentle Alsatian/Husky mixture, slept under the stairs at night, but every morning at 6.30 on the dot would come into my bedroom, jump up onto the bed and touch my nose with his nose. It would always wake me and signal for me to go downstairs to let him out.
You want your dog to let you know when he wants to go outside to toilet, but you also want to avoid those scratch marks on the door, him barking, or being awoken by stinky breath and a wet nose. A good way of doing this is to purchase a bell that hangs from the door handle in reach of your puppy. Each time you open the door, you jangle the bell and after a while the puppy will associate the sound with the door opening and will start to ring the bell when he want to go out. At first you will have some false alarms as he plays with the sound, but that’s okay, he’s getting used to using the bell to get your attention and ultimately that is what you want.
If it Looks Like a Toilet and Smells Like a Toilet, Your Puppy Will Go to the Toilet
Puppies will pee or poo in an area that has been used for the same purpose before and you will often find puppies peeing on a child’s soiled nappy or on a patch of the floor where he has previously had an accident. You can use this superior sense of smell and connection to encourage your puppy to toilet in the same place each time. Maybe allocate a spot in the garden or on a training pad on the balcony. I’ve even seen smaller dogs trained to a litter tray in the bathroom, just like a cat. You can encourage this by cleaning up after an accident with paper and taking the soiled paper to the area you want him to ‘go’, next time he begins to sniff, he will be attracted to that area.
It is important to be mindful of this sensory connection as there are some household cleaning products that smell like urine, and this will encourage your puppy to pee in this spot even more. So, avoid cleaners containing ammonia or bleach. Instead, you should use an enzyme-based cleaner which will neutralize the odor and prevent your puppy being attracted back to the same spot. You will find enzyme-based cleaners in most pet stores or supermarkets, but if you want something a bit more natural you can use white vinegar or eucalyptus oil.
Establish a Potty Routine
Routine, consistency, encouragement and reward are the keys to success in any training you give your puppy. So decide the rules, set your goals and stick to them. You can establish your routine from the first day, but don’t expect too much too soon from your puppy if he is under 12 weeks old. Experts recommend 12-16 weeks is the optimal time to house train your puppy as he is then old enough to control his bladder and bowel movements at will. If your puppy is older than 16 weeks, he will have developed his toilet behaviors and it will take longer to break him of any bad habits.
- Choose his toilet place. It may be outside in the garden, in a litter box, on training pads
in the bathroom or on the balcony. Always take him to the same place to toilet. Remember, he will use his sense of smell to trigger a reaction to the area.
- Keep your puppy on a regular feeding schedule. Up until 12 weeks of age you’ll feed him 4 times a day; between 3-6 months, 3 times a day; and from 6-12 months, twice a day. Any uneaten food should be taken away between meals to prevent him snacking.
- Take him to his toilet place after every meal. You may need to wait for him at first, puppies are easily distracted. Don’t get impatient. Don’t shout him to hurry. Just give him encouragement and praise when he does his business. It is worthwhile putting him on the lead to take him to his toilet, especially if you want him to go outside and its raining or cold–the last thing you want is him running back inside and puddling in the doorway.
- In addition to after mealtimes, your puppy should always be taken to his toilet first thing in the morning and last thing at night and each time after he wakes from a nap and before you need to leave him alone for any while. In fact until he is house trained, you should aim at taking him every 30 minutes throughout the day. This frequency will reduce the chance of accidents and help to hardwire the behavior into his brain.
Clean Up the Mess
Being a dog owner, you need to take responsibility for the messes your dog does. Whether he goes to the toilet in your garden or the dog park, always clean up the mess afterwards. Not only will it prevent unsavory smells, but will reduce the risk of disease too. Dog faeces are one of the most common carriers of whip worms and hookworms and contains millions of coliform bacteria which can cause intestinal and kidney problems in humans.
If you want to know how to house train your puppy:
- Watch out for the signs that he wants to go potty.
- Clean up any accidents with an enzyme-based cleaner to eliminate the ‘urine’ smell.
- Establish a routine and stick to it.
- Allocate a toilet space for your puppy and take him there each time he needs to go.
- Reward his successes and don’t scold his accidents–you don’t want him hiding his mess where you can’t find it.
- Be patient.
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