|House training is essential if you want to enjoy many happy years with your dog. It is a form of education that will shape your puppy’s behaviour for life so it’s really worth getting it absolutely right. People say to me that they find house-training difficult, that it take too long, but in reality it is a simple training process. It took me less than a week to house train my puppy, to teach him a command for going to the toilet that he has responded to ever since (he’s seven now), and I am going to share with you my method so you can be just as successful. It may take several weeks as there are many contributory factors such as your attitude, your living arrangements, your relationship with your puppy and your perseverance, but with plenty of patience, time and effort, you can house-train your dog for life.
This method does not entail using a crate, although many people advocate that and I am sure it is a good method. I simply recommend regularly confining your dog in one area of the house, especially when she is unsupervised. This should have a washable floor, such as a tiled bathroom, as there will definitely be a few accidents at the beginning. You must remember that your puppy cannot wander around the house unsupervised at this stage, as she will go to the toilet whenever she feels like it without being trained to do otherwise. Make sure your puppy has a nice comfortable bed in her chosen area and that she is happy to use it. Once she establishes the bed as her regular sleeping area, she is less likely to mess near it. You should also ensure that she is happy in this area – make sure she has fresh water, of course, and play with her and pet her there so she feels happy, safe and secure.
The corner stone to this method of house training is being familiar with your puppy’s normal behaviour and natural routine, so you must spend lots of time with her. The other important factor is to have feed her at the same times each day. Puppies almost always need to go to the toilet after their dinner, so a routine will help you both. Check also that her food and water and the amount you give her are suiting her digestive system. You can’t house train a dog who has digestive problems, so any problems must be resolved. Speak to your vet if you are having difficulties doing this yourself or if you think she has a urinary problems – it could be an infection that needs treatment.
Now, you must think of a command word or phrase that you will use when you see your puppy wants to go to the toilet, or when you want to encourage her to do so. First thing in the morning, within half an hour after her dinner and before she goes to sleep, you must take her to her toilet area (this will either be some newspaper on the floor away from her bed, or a convenient area just outside, not far from the door) and give her your toilet command. If you are patient and keep repeating the command, she will go to the toilet in the designated toilet area. You must immediately praise her and make a fuss of her so she knows she has done well. Remember that when puppies are young, they have poor bladder control and a small capacity for urine and faeces in their system, so you should take her out every two hours so she has the opportunity to go if she wants to. Avoiding undesired behaviour is always the best route in dog training.
When you are with your puppy (and you should spend lots of time with her during these early stages) you should be observing her behaviour when she’s about to go to the toilet – my dog looks restless and walks around, sniffing the ground in circles. Once you learn her pattern, you can call her quickly to her toilet area, or pick her up and place her there. Once your puppy is in the right area, give your toilet command in a friendly encouraging tone. If she wanders off before going, lead her gently back there and give the command repeatedly. If your puppy is really averse to going in that area, look for something that might be distressing her – she could have a very real reason for avoiding that spot.
When your dog does go to the toilet in the designated area, praise abundantly. Each and every time she follows your command, praise her enthusiastically and she will learn that this is the right behaviour. Positive reinforcement is the most important factor in this training method. Your puppy will soon try to get your attention or whine when she wants to go to the toilet. You must be there, ready to let her go to her toilet area quickly otherwise she will have an accident. If you are using newspaper in the house, this can be gradually moved outdoors, so that she understands that that is the new toilet area.
Above all, DO NOT punish or speak sharply to your dog when she makes a mistake. She will not understand why you’re chastising, it will only confuse her and be counter-productive to her training. You should also thoroughly clean up any accidents with a detergent that removes the smell – dogs like to toilet again where they have left their scent and you need to help her avoid this pattern.
In conclusion, spend lots of time with your puppy, learn her pre-toilet habits and pre-empt her need to go. Take her to her toilet area regularly and give the toilet command. Praise her abundantly when she does as she is told. Keep her living area clean, comfortable and fun to be in for both of you. Remember that patience and perseverance are the most important things in any training – house training does take a little time and your dog already has so much to learn at this stage of her life. She need lots of affection, lots of exercise and playtimes and lots of understanding and praise.