House training a puppy can seem a daunting task! That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide on how to do it. There are lots of different techniques and tools and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the conflicting information you might hear. We’ll lead you through the world of puppy pads, pens and crates and provide a step-by-step guide that’ll have your puppy clean and dry in no time. Step one is to read the Postman Pooch Toilet Training Secret. Understanding this will help you understand what works and why.
Take a moment to consider this GOOD NEWS. Your puppy arrives partly toilet trained by the best trainer possible, his mum! Mums with litters are hardwired to keep their dens clean so as not to attract scent predators. Puppies are A+ students and pick up on this. You just need to build on this foundation! However, your living space is strange and much BIGGER than your new puppy is used to! So he needs your patience and understanding to help him do what he naturally wants to do – keep his living area clean!
Getting started – preparing your home for a puppy
Crates and Pens – introduction, pros and cons
Crate training plays to puppy’s instinct to seek a safe den-which he will want to keep clean. The crate must be just big enough for a puppy to sit, stand and turn around in. Any bigger and there is a risk he will foul in a corner away from his bed. It should be set up with a bed, comforter, teething toys like a Kong and a blanket over the top. Introduce the crate by leaving the door open and throwing a treat in to encourage your puppy to investigate. You could also hide treats in the crate. Whenever he goes in use a command word such as ‘crate’ and follow this with praise. All of these actions help the puppy learn that this is a safe and pleasant place to be.
At meal times, use the ‘crate’ command then put the food inside. While the puppy is eating, close the door and open it when he is finished. Gradually increase the time the door remains closed. So that he doesn’t associate the crate with being alone, don’t use it when you are away from the house until you have built up to a 30 minute period. The crate is not a prison so don’t force puppy in or use it as a punishment.
A pen provides a space for a puppy to play safely away from dangers such as cables. It also helps him not to do things that will get him into trouble such as chewing furniture.
Crates and Pens can be used together or separately to help you toilet train your puppy.
Crates play to puppy’s strengths – remember, he naturally wants to keep his den clean.
Crates help puppy get the 16 hours a day sleep he needs!
Pens keep puppy safe from power cables and out of trouble!
Both give you the freedom to deal with your needs.
Both help puppy to develop bladder control.
A crate, pen and puppy pads combined as recommended below can be used when you are out or at night.
If you use a crate by itself you will have to get up every 4 hours at night to toilet your pup until he’s old enough to be dry overnight (mine was dry at 14 weeks).
Pens take up quite a bit of space in your home!
Puppy Pads – introduction, pros and cons
Puppy pads are plastic backed pads infused with a smell that encourages a puppy to relieve himself. The usual practice is to confine the puppy to one room and cover the floor with pads and gradually reduce the area the pads cover until you are using only one or two. The next stage is to place a pad by the door you will use to take a puppy to the toilet. Finally, the pad can be placed outside where you want a puppy to the toilet, or a soiled pad can be rubbed into the desired outside area. Toilet training following the Essential Guidelines below will still need to be carried out.
Avoid you having to get up to toilet puppy in the night as you provide an indoor loo.
Makes clean-up easier.
Good when access to outside space is difficult when a puppy has to be left for short periods or isn’t fully covered by vaccination and can’t go outside (but see the advice below on how to use them effectively).
Teaches puppy toileting inside is OK. Puppies are A+ learners, is this what you want your puppy to learn?
Delays the behaviour you want from a puppy by adding an extra step to the training.
This can backfire! Puppy pads are soft and absorbent, just like rugs, carpets and soft furnishings! Puppies might (and often do) learn that this kind of surface is OK to toilet on!
How often do puppies need to toilet?
After sleeping and playing. About fifteen minutes after eating. Whilst awake… the more active the more often but at least once an hour
Knowing when a puppy needs to toilet
Watch for puppy circling and sniffing the floor, looking anxious or sniffing in suitable corners.
Assigning a toilet area
Decide exactly where you want a puppy to the toilet. Puppies are creatures of habit, so taking a puppy out to the same place every time is key to success. If access to outside space is a problem, you live in a flat or vaccinations are not complete then see this section.
Puppies should have three meals a day until they are six months old as their small tummies can’t take in all the calories they need in two meals. When your puppy eats, his brain triggers his intestine to empty to make space for the new food. So make his last meal about two hours before bedtime so he can toilet beforehand and not need to go in the night. Puppies are creatures of habit, so feeding your puppy on a schedule helps him toilet on a schedule, making toilet training quicker and easier.
Essential Puppy toilet training guidelines
Be prepared to set aside 2-4 days to build a routine around your puppy’s needs.
Constant vigilance is required to spot the signs that puppy needs to go to stay with her at all times while she is awake! If using a crate and pen, keep the pen door closed and the crate door open. Make sure you have read the crate and pen section and keep water in the pen at all times. Using a crate and pen makes the whole business MUCH easier on you and puppy! If not using a crate and pen, keep a puppy in one small room or on a hands-free lead (a lead attached to a waist belt, usually with a pouch that can be used for treats).
When puppy shows signs of needing the toilet or is due for her next loo break, take her straight to the assigned toilet area.
Once she goes, praise and reward with a treat. Keep treats handy so you can reward immediately. The more chances you give a puppy to do the right thing and be rewarded, the quicker she will get it!
When finished, give the puppy some freedom as a further reward. You could play outside for a bit because if puppy thinks going to the toilet ends time outside she may delay going!
However, if she doesn’t go in 10 minutes take her inside and monitor her closely again. If you have a crate, gently put her back in and close the door. Puppies will not foul a crate that is the right size and which has been introduced correctly. This is one of many reasons why crates are so useful. Try again in 5 minutes. Repeat until she goes outside.
What to do if a puppy has an accident
Don’t punish your pup. This can backfire and result in puppy not wanting to toilet outside in front of you, trying to sneak off in the house to hide it or even eating the evidence, yuk!
Always use a specialist cleaner or diluted biological detergent. This is essential or your puppy will still be able to smell it and be drawn back to the same spot.
Toilet training for apartment living, unvaccinated puppies, at night or when you’re out of the house
Here’s what we advise if you live in a flat, your puppy is not fully vaccinated or you need to leave him for SHORT periods:
But the correct size crate and place it inside a pen.
Introduce the crate correctly.
When you have to leave a puppy (3 hours maximum) place a puppy pad in the pen. Close the pen door but leave the crate door open.
REMOVE THE PAD WHEN YOU ARE AT HOME. This helps a puppy to learn that it’s only OK to go to the toilet inside when you’re out. The confined space will help him to learn bladder control and a cosy den encourages him to sleep when you are not around
When you are at home, follow Essential Puppy Toilet Training guidelines (above) and take your puppy out to the toilet.
Teaching puppy to toilet when on a walk
Puppies are creatures of habit, if you teach them to the toilet in your garden, they often wait until they get back there before going. Break the habit by taking a puppy on a walk before his morning wee and don’t bring him home until he has relieved himself! Reward him if he is successful. If not, let him use the toilet in the garden and try again.
Retraining an adult dog
If you have rescued or rehomed an adult dog, he won’t know where you want him to the toilet. Take him outside on a regular basis. When he does as you’ve asked, offer him lots of calm praise.
Common Problems/Why hasn’t toilet training worked?
Feeding too long before bedtime, not feeding at regular or suitable times or changing diet suddenly.
Punishing puppy for his indoor accidents.
Not using the correct cleaning products.
Leaving a door open for the puppy to come and go as it pleases.
Your puppy has been left on its own too long – more than three hours.
Leaving the puppy alone outside so you are not there to mark the occasion with a reward.
Expecting puppy to be dry at night too soon – this varies for different breeds but my pup, a Jack Russell/Bichon cross, was dry at 14 weeks.