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How to house train a puppy

Melanie Whitehouse / 05 March 2019

Routine, training and reward are key to teaching your puppy where to do its business.

Beagle puppy

One of the first things you'll need to teach a new puppy is where to go to the toilet. This is key to a happy relationship, for you and for the dog.

Some pups will pick up toilet training very quickly – even within a week - but others might take a lot longer. However quickly they learn there will be accidents, so prepare your home by laying down puppy pads and newspapers and never, ever scold or punish your dog, as this can embed behaviour that is far harder to unpick.

The daily routine

Get up early, take your puppy outside and encourage them to go to the loo. Put them on the lead when they're very small or new to the household, as this will help focus them. Always go with them – your presence, both to encourage and reward, is key to their success.

Repeat words like ‘hurry up’ or 'do your wee/poo' when they're actually doing their business, so they begin to associate these words with the action required.

Your puppy has a small bladder and should go out at least every hour or two during the day, although that will change as they get older.

Puppies pee spontaneously when they get excited, so take them out frequently if they've been active or playing with other dogs.

As soon as they've eaten or woken up from a sleep, take your pup outside. Eating stimulates a dog's digestive system - puppies usually urinate within 15 minutes of eating, and poo within half an hour.

The key to successful toilet training is lots of praise and a high-value reward, like a healthy snack, small piece of cheese or tasty biscuit. This will emphasise that you're really pleased with them for going to the loo outside and reinforce the idea, so they’ll be want to do it again for more praise and treats.

Be aware of the signs - your pup will look 'busy', circling and sniffing the floor when he or she wants to go to the toilet, so take them out immediately.

House training older dogs

This shouldn't be a problem, although some dogs (particularly those who've been in rescue for a while, used as a breeding bitch or have a lot of hound in them) can take longer.

Do as with a puppy and take them outside every hour or so, then and when they go to the loo, reward them and make a fuss of them.

If they continue to go to the loo indoors, don't scold or punish them but take them outside more often, until they get the message. That may include taking them out at night, too.

Make sure they're on the right sort of food, eating the right amount and at regular times. Your vet can guide you here, and with any help needed for toilet training.

Take them out for at least two walks a day, and praise and reward them when they go to the loo on the walk.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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