To successfully toilet train our puppies we need to be patient and consistent. Our puppies need to go to the toilet every time they eat, drink, play or wake up for a nap and about every hour between that. The smaller the dog, the smaller the bladder!
Your puppy will show you signs that they need to relieve themselves. They will sniff, circle, pace or whine before they have an accident.
When it’s time to take puppy out, put a lead on them so they know it’s toilet time and not play time, puppies also get very distracted when off lead and often forget that they need to toilet, meaning they will come inside and have an accident. Take them to the same spot every time so they get into a routine (they are more likely to go if they have been there before because of the smell.) If they successfully toilet outside give them a command word (like wee wees or go toilet) and reward them with treats, it should be like a party!
If you’re out there for 5 minutes and puppy will not go, bring them back inside and keep them on-lead, watch them for any signs that they need to go to the toilet and then take them outside to try again. You shouldn’t let your puppy run around the house unless you know that they have been to the toilet outside.
If you need a space inside the house for your puppy to toilet for any reason (such as working long hours) you can buy real or fake grass mats to put inside for toileting. Stay away from pee pads as they teach puppies to pee inside on mats, rugs and carpet. Grass mats don’t do this as it’s a completely different texture, although it’s still best that puppy toilets outside.
If you catch your puppy having an accident you can quickly pick them up and take them outside to finish, praising them if they continue outside. If you punish your puppy for toileting inside, in their head you are simply telling them off for toileting in general. Next time they will go under the bed or behind the couch and have an accident.
If you don’t catch your puppy doing it but you find an accident inside the home, just clean it up and keep better watch next time. When you’re cleaning up an accident you need to clean it with a pet urine remover product that will get rid of the odour out of the surface, preventing our puppies from going back and toileting there again.
Crates can be a very useful tool for toilet training, it’s important to remember that they’re not a negative thing and not a timeout. A crate is a puppy's safe den where they can rest and as a bonus, they teach our puppies how to hold their bladders. They are also a useful tool to have you dog accustomed to if they are to visit the groomer, vet or dog shows/sports one day.
A crate should be big enough for your puppy to turn around, lie down and stand-up in. If it’s much bigger than that the puppy will toilet on one side and sleep on the other. Puppies don’t like to toilet in their sleeping area, this is why we need to keep it small and gradually make it bigger as our puppy grows. You should buy a crate that is an appropriate size for your puppy when they reach their full size, just make sure you buy a crate that comes with a divider.
When we first introduce a crate to our puppies, we can’t throw them inside and shut the door, expecting them to love it. We need to make the crate as fun and as positive as possible. This means playing crate games (google has plenty of ideas for this) and feeding them treats and their meals in their crate.
During the day we can keep the crate door open for our puppy to wander in and out, at night is when we close the door. It is nicer for your puppy if you cover the crate with a blanket, creating a dark, cozy space for them. The first few nights are the hardest as puppy will probably cry. Before you put them in their crate for the night it is important that you toilet them a couple of times before bed. This way you will know that your puppy isn’t crying because they need to go to the toilet.
I like to have my puppy's crate next to my bed for the first couple of weeks, that way they can smell me, and I can hear them if they cry during the night to go to the toilet. Try not to let your puppy out if they’re crying (if they don’t need to go to the toilet) as this will teach them that every time they cry you come and let them out.