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7 tips for toilet training your puppy

The Do’s and Don’t's of teaching your puppy where to go potty

Written by Dr. Steph Wenban

April 25, 2019

With a new puppy comes new responsibilities. And some of them ain’t pretty.

Waking up to puddles of pee and poop scattered all throughout your house is no fun for anyone. But by taking a proactive and positive approach, you’ll have your puppy on the fast-track to toileting success in no time.

To help get you there, I've tapped the expertise of Clinical Veterinary Behaviourist and Paws pal Dr. Charlie Edmonds. His tips on how to toilet train your puppy will have you saving big in the carpet cleaner and kitchen roll department.

1. Build a routine

At 8 weeks old, your puppy won’t have much bladder control. To ensure they do most of their business outdoors rather than in, take them out to wee and poo every hour, reducing the frequency of this as time goes on.

In addition to your hourly trips to the loo, you should also be taking your puppy out:

  • Before and after every meal

  • Before or after any pepped-up play sessions

  • Every 3 hours in the night

I know. This is a lot. But giving your pawed pal every possible chance to relieve themselves outside will result in more opportunities for praise and positive reinforcement - the key ingredient to progress!

2. Do away with punishment

Punishing your puppy by rubbing their nose in any messy mishaps might achieve the results you want, but it can also break down the bond you share with your best friend. When any form of punishment - be it shouting, smacking or scolding - is used to train a puppy, the puppy learns to become motivated by fear.

For some pups, this can manifest into undesirable or aggressive behaviour later in life. For others, it can encourage them to seek out secret spots around the house where they think they’ll be able to go to the toilet without getting in trouble.

A word from Paws pal Dr. Charlie Edmonds:

Whenever your puppy has an accident inside, always remain calm. Getting worked up or punishing them will only cause your puppy to stress. In the long-term, it may even delay their learning.

3. Positive reinforcement all the way

Instead of punishing your pup, celebrate their every success! Showering them with praise will help shift their motivation towards wanting to do good, rather than being scared of doing bad.

A word from Paws pal Dr. Charlie Edmonds:

Create as many opportunities for positive reinforcement as possible by taking your puppy out to wee at least every hour. The easier you make it for them to succeed, the easier the toilet training process will be on everyone.

4. Use cue words

When taking your pup out to wee, encourage them along by repeating a cue word or phrase. Just make sure that whatever cue word you choose isn’t a word you’ll be using in any other situations, as this will cause your puppy to become confused. Need some inspiration? Feel free to borrow either one of Dr. Charlie’s favourites: “Get busy!” or “Tinkles.”

5. Manage your expectations

Every puppy will reach toileting success in their own time. For some pups, they’ll have it down pat by 3 months. For others, it may take twice as long. The main thing is that you don’t let your puppy’s slow progress become a source of stress. They’ll get there when they’re ready.

6. Know when to ask for help

If you reach the 6-month mark and your puppy is struggling in the toileting department, it may be time to check in with your vet to make sure nothing physical is causing the delay. If things don’t improve from there, the step would be to draft in some help from a behaviourist.

7. Go easy on the puppy pads

With puppy pads, you run the risk of teaching your puppy that there is only one place where they are allowed to wee: on the pad. While this may be the behaviour you want in the short-term, it can pose problems when the time comes to wean your pup off their pads. Without their designated potty area, your puppy may get confused and distressed.

Obviously, for some living situations (like high-rise apartments), puppy pads are a must. If you fall into the category, make sure you phase your puppy’s pads out very slowly by gradually positioning them closer to the front door before eventually moving them outside.

The takeaway

Toilet training is draining work. But it’s also an unavoidable part of your puppy’s development. Yes, it may seem like a never-ending uphill battle right now. But with teeth-gritting perseverance and patience (big emphasis on the patience!) your efforts will soon pay off. And when they do, all those puppy pads and 2am trips to the loo will feel like a distant memory.

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