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Dog training: how to toilet train a puppy

Cute springer black and white puppy

Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time but it can also be a very steep learning curve – especially when it comes to toilet training.

Petplan shares how to toilet train your pup and overcome these initial challenges…

Create a toilet spot outside

One of the most important steps is to designate a toilet spot in your garden or an area outside your home.

Make sure you take them to this exact spot every time they need to relieve themselves and reward them for every successful action. This will teach them that this is the right place ‘to go’.

When do you take them to their toilet spot?

Puppies have poor bladder control and need to toilet frequently. You should take them outside to their designated toilet spot on waking, after every meal, after play or exercise, after any excitement such as visitors and every hour dependent upon age.

Learn the signals that your puppy needs the toilet

There are a couple of signs to watch out for, such as your pup looking around the room or sniffing and circling certain areas.

In this event, simply pick up your puppy and gently – but quickly – transport them to their toilet spot so they can relieve themselves there.

Once in the toilet spot make sure you use buzz words like ‘toilet time’ in a calm tone so they associate the buzz word with the desired action.

Reward your puppy

Once they have been to the toilet, it is vital that you praise them and offer treats as a reward. This way, going to the toilet in the designated area becomes synonymous with praise, ultimately helping to toilet train successfully.

What if you don’t make it to the safe place in time?

As puppies are yet to gain full control over their bladder and bowel you sometimes may not make it to your toilet spot.

If this happens, ensure you don’t scold your puppy – this doesn’t teach them not to relieve themselves in the wrong place, but it can teach them not to relieve themselves in your presence. This can lead to them hiding when going to the toilet which could mean some nasty surprises behind the sofa!

If your puppy doesn’t toilet in the designated spot, still take them to the correct place immediately after to maintain consistency.

Cleaning up after your puppy

Be sure to use pet-friendly cleaning products to help clear up any mess thoroughly – especially if your dog goes to the toilet in the wrong place – as the lingering smell of toilet odours can encourage your puppy to go there again.

The vast majority of household detergents and cleaning products are safe for use around dogs but ensure you read the label closely and follow the instructions.

The benefits of crate training

A dog crate can be a brilliant aid for toilet training puppies as it takes advantage of their den instinct. When introduced properly, a crate will be a safe, secure place and most dogs will not want to soil in their sleeping quarters.

Choosing the right crate and steps to success

The crate should be big enough for your puppy to comfortably sit, and stand at full height, turn around, stretch out and lay in a natural position. Depending upon the breed, you may need to replace the crate with a larger size as your puppy outgrows it.

Step 1: Add comfortable bedding within the crate and place in a draught free area which is out of direct sunlight.

Start by fixing the door open ensuring it cannot swing shut potentially scaring your pup. Place treats or toys within the crate allowing your puppy to explore at their own leisure.

Once they are happy taking treats in the crate, throw the treats inside until the puppy is happy to walk all the way inside the crate to retrieve them. Be patient – this can take 10 minutes or several days.

Step 2: Start increasing the amount of time your puppy spends in the crate by feeding them in it. If they happily enter, close the door and open it as soon as they have finished eating.

Gradually increase the amount of time they stay in the crate after they have finished their food. If they are reluctant to enter, feed them near the crate, eventually placing the bowl inside as they grow more confident. If your puppy shows any sign of distress – such as whining, panting or barking – you may have increased the time in the crate too quickly and will need to take the regime back a few steps.

Step 3: Start leaving your pup within the crate for longer periods of time – starting with 5 minutes, alternating between you being within the room and being out of sight. Repeat several times during the day whilst gradually increasing the time intervals. Giving them toys or treats to play with during this time will help to distract and calm them.

Step 4: Once your pup is happy to be left for half an hour, you can start to leave them for short periods of time.

When to use the crate

The crate should only be used for short periods of time when direct supervision is not possible or during the night. However, ensure you let your pup out regularly if using during the night.

Whenever you spot the signs that your puppy needs to toilet, or when you let your pup out of the crate, take them to their toilet spot immediately using the same buzzword and reward regime.

If you do need to leave them alone for a reasonably long period of time, confine your puppy to an easy-to-clean area such as the kitchen and understand that they will have to go to the toilet while you’re away. You can then resume the crate training when you return home.

When they are fully house-trained (the time it takes varies from dog to dog), they can be given access to more parts of the house whilst you are away.

What are your top toilet training tips? Let us know below…

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5 Responses to Dog training: how to toilet train a puppy

  1. Diane says:

    I agree with the above except for the reward. I would say the chosen word as the pup is finishing their business with just voice praise i.e. “wee wee good girl”. If treats or over excited praise are used each time some pups quickly learn a toilet exercise gets them a treat and can encourage the action indoors too!

  2. Petplan says:

    Hi Diane,

    Thanks for sharing your tips with us! We post a new blog post each week so hopefully you will find these useful and share more tips with us and other pet lovers.

    Many thanks,
    Jade – the Petplan Team

  3. Emily says:

    Thanks for sharing this article! It is really necessary to clean the area thoroughly to ensure they will not use that “spot” as if that is their toilet. I typically use a small amount of bleach when cleaning and that gets rid of the smell.

    • Petplan says:

      Thank you for sharing your tips Emily.

      We are pleased you enjoyed reading the post. Please do keep an eye on our blog as we post a new blog each week.

      Thanks,
      Jade – the Petplan Team

  4. Nicole Roberts says:

    Can’t remember for the the life of me who it was but a friend said put a small bit of vinegar on the bit where the puppy has accidentally gone to the toilet & dab it. It wil eventually remove the smell, will smell a little for a while x

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