House-training a puppy can be very frustrating. It is worthwhile to start house-training as soon as you get your puppy, before they start to develop their own preferences.

Take your puppy outside 6-8 times per day to go to the toilet. Often a puppy can be trained to use a certain substrate (e.g. dirt or grass) by taking your puppy to the same area each time. You should take your puppy outside after it wakes up, after play sessions, and 15-30 minutes after meals. Remember that it may take some puppies 15-20 minutes of moving around and sniffing before they decide to go to the toilet. If you take them to the same place each time, the previous smells may encourage them to go to the toilet.

Use a phrase or keyword while your puppy goes to the toilet. Repeat the phrase and praise the puppy while they are toileting – this keyword will help your puppy learn when and where they should be going to the toilet. Having this command is also very useful when encouraging your dog to toilet e.g. prior to traveling.

Once your puppy starts to go to the toilet, reward them immediately. This can be given in the form of praise during and after toileting, or as a treat or play immediately after it has toileted. Rewards must be given immediately or the puppy may get mixed signals over what it is being praised for.

Supervise the puppy inside as well as outside. You will come to recognise the signs that your puppy is about to toilet. You can then take the puppy outside before it goes in the wrong place.

When not supervising your puppy, confine them to a crate/cage. The puppy needs to have enough room to be able to get away from any messes it may accidentally make. This will prevent your puppy from toileting in other areas of the house. Remember that puppies have small bladder and bowel capacities, and need to be taken out to the toilet at least every 4 hours. Crate-training is also a useful tool when adapting your puppy to being left by itself. This can help prevent other behavioural problems such as separation anxiety.

Don’t punish your puppy after the inappropriate behaviour has occurred. Your puppy will not associate what it has done previously with the punishment it receives later. Rubbing your puppy’s nose in the mess does not help with house-training. If you do catch your puppy during the act or just prior, you can startle them by stamping your foot or yelling “outside!” The puppy is likely to stop what it is doing so that you can then take them outside. It is then very important to praise your puppy when they toilet in the right place.

Thoroughly clean the areas where your puppy has inappropriately toileted. It is important to remove the smells or your puppy may return to that area again.

Remember:

Stay with your puppy when taking them outside. If you are unsure whether your puppy has actually gone to the toilet you could be taking them back inside too early. Your puppy needs to focus on toileting – so no playing until after it has gone to the toilet.