House training, or house breaking your puppy, can be a breeze or a nightmare, it’s up to you. You have to really commit your time to making this work and being around for the puppy in those first few weeks. If you give the time and set the routines you should make very rapid progress with house training.
Define Your Puppy’s Space
First thing is to establish the areas in the house the puppy has access to. Certainly don’t allow him free access to all the rooms in the house, at least until you’re making good progress with house training, and then with close supervision. Indoor kennels, or crates, are the real key to house training. Puppies love the security of their own personal space and will not soil near their bed or food bowls if they can possible avoid it.
Puppy should certainly spend his nights in the crate and daytime periods when he is sleeping. Give him his food in the crate to encourage him to accept it as a good place to be, as well as a comfortable bed and toys. The added benefit is that he is kept safe from any older dogs in the home or cats who may resent his presence. Children should be taught to respect his space and allow him to be quiet, particularly if he has chosen to go in of his own accord. Remember that young puppies sleep a lot and easily tire with exercise.
Your puppy will want to relieve himself when he wakes up and after meals. Always take him straight outside after naps and meals, and encourage him with your voice to perform. Choose a word the whole household will use so training is consistent. Watch him carefully, but don’t interact with him; it’s not playtime and distractions will just prolong the learning period. Alternatively, look at using clicker training; there is plenty of advice around.
The command word will remain useful through his adult life; you can use it as a question and his reaction will tell you whether or not he does need to go outside. Never leave them alone whilst they are learning, they need to be rewarded immediately – they aren’t going to guess why they have been put outside, they need to learn that in the first place.
House training will be speeded up if you learn to pick up on the signs that the puppy needs to relieve himself. He will start sniffing the floor, then circling and lifting his tail. The bigger the dog the easier it is to spot the signs, small breeds can be more difficult and really are slightly harder work, but it is well worth putting in the effort in the early days or the training can drag on for months before he is totally reliable.
Another problem with small breeds is that they can be very reluctant to go outside in cold or wet weather. It is worth buying a cosy fleece so that isn’t such a problem. They will still get wet feet – which some breeds hate – but will be protected from wind and rain.
Don’t ever, ever get cross with a puppy who’s had an accident. Remember, it’s not his fault – it’s yours for not anticipating his needs. If you see him starting to relieve himself inside, use a firm “No!” – don’t frighten him, just get his attention, then pick him up and get him outside to finish off, when you will heap praise on him. Or, if you are training him to pads then lift him on to one.
Or poo eating. If you punish your puppy for defecating inside, whether by action or voice, some will react by hiding the evidence – i.e. eating the poo. Obviously you don’t want this to occur, it is a hard habit to break and one that is often imitated by other dogs in the household.
Puppies are fed three times a day because they have small tummies; likewise, their bowels and bladders are small and need to be emptied regularly. Add to this that bowel and bladder control is a skill that has to be learned, and you will understand why patience is the key to succcessful training.
Reward Based Training
Your puppy’s weak spot, which you must exploit, is that he is constantly seeking your approval. All training should be based on rewards as that is the best incentive for him. By rewards, I mean praise, cuddles and play. Treats are fine, but praise is probably going to mean more to him. The more you reward him, the more rewards he will seek.
It’s a virtuous circle; dogs can be made to obey through fear, but dogs who are rewarded for their behaviour will seek more rewards by pleasing you, rather than fearful dogs whose priority will be not to annoy you.
Aids to Training
- Training pads are an excellent idea; they are scented to attract puppies to use them and lock in the moisture so paws and floor stays dry. Young
- Pheromone sprays are scented to attract a puppy to urinate in a particular area, whether to enhance the attraction of a puppy trainer pad or an area in the garden you have chosen for him.
- Pee Post permanent marker in the garden to attract your puppy/dog to a specific area for toileting.
- Odour Remover cleans and neutralises the area where there have been accidents. Unlike standard disinfectants which have chemicals which mimic the smell of urine and attracts the puppy to use the area again, odour neutralisers completely removes the smell and chemicals.
- Poop Freeze spray solidifies the little accident so it can be removed with the least damage to the floor. A frozen stool is much less unpleasant to handle, too.
How Long Will House Training Take?
If you commit yourself to making the effort then within a week you will have a puppy who understands what is required of him, even if he doesn’t always succeed.
It will be some months before he is close to reliable, and even then some dogs are naturally cleaner than others. With effort on your part it shouldn’t be too difficult to soon make those accidents fairly rare, as long as you remain conscious of his needs, giving him plenty of opportunities to go outside.
A useful trick is to leave a candle or nightlight burning overnight, well away from the puppy in a safe place. Depending on the size of the room the puppy is in, it will go a long way towards neutralising any unpleasant odours.
There will be lots of setbacks along the way, but with your help your puppy will make fairly steady progress. There will be accidents, but don’t punish the puppy; if there is an accident but you don’t see it happen then don’t reproach the puppy, just clean it up. He won’t understand, he will simply fail to make the connection between the little heap on the floor and you being annoyed. These early days are when you should be learning to understand each other so it is vital to avoid creating any confusion.
See it from his angle; you have just come into the room, he’s thrilled to see you, and instead of you responding likewise you start telling him off. He has no idea why, he’s completely forgotten about the little heap you have just trodden in, and has no idea it’s anything to do with him. Just watch where you step and tell the rest of the family to do the same.
It is much harder to housetrain a winter puppy; neither you nor he wants to leave a warm kitchen and stand around in a cold drizzle. These are not the conditions for success, and at this time of year it makes very good sense to use puppy trainer pads. They are scented with pheromones to attract the puppy and the urine is locked in in the same way as a disposable nappy.
It is essential to dispose of faeces safely; toxocara canis is a common dog parasite which uses the human as a host and eggs are spread through faeces dog faeces. One solution is to open a drain cover (if you have one) in the garden that carries foul drainage and flush it through with a bucket of water. An easier solution is to acquire a dog loo. These are sunk into a prepared piece of ground with good drainage and the faeces are added, together with a bioactivator to break them down.