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House Training

We hope you’re enjoying our blog posts so far!! Our next installment to the series is about house training your puppy! Marta Young a professional trainer, goes through all the steps to follow as well as some extra tips to house train your puppy or dog!!

So your puppy or older dog doesn’t seem to understand that you want her to only toilet outside. The back door/dog flap is always open, yet she persists in peeing in the kitchen and on your living room rug. How do you teach this dog that this is not acceptable? That they should only go outside? Its simple, but not easy.

First, you need to supervise and observe your dog. Wait, are those not the same? Well, if you’re sitting on the sofa, glancing away from your phone every 5 minutes, possibly not. You need your eyes on that dog! You need to watch her for signs that she needs to go. Sniffing, circling – for older boys who might be marking, eyeing up the curtains or the corner of the sofa and then call (rather than drag) your pup to the nearest exit and to the ‘potty place’ (the area you have specified in your garden for toilet behaviours).

Puppies need to be given the opportunity to go frequently when awake. Smaller, younger dogs may need to be taken out as often as every 25 minutes. A fully mature dog should be able to hold his or her bladder for 4 or possibly up to 6 hours during the day. This varies from one dog to the next, so the time guidelines are just that. Observing and writing down your own puppy’s habits will help you figure out how often she needs to go.

In addition to the time element, puppies usually need to go as soon as they wake from a sleep (including naps), after play and shortly after eating or drinking. Be prepared! Every time puppy wakes, eats or drinks, call her to you happy, run to the door, open in and say “Outside!” and then go out with the puppy to your designated potty place. Give the pup a couple of minutes to sniff around and choose a spot, but don’t engage in a lot of conversation and certainly not play. Play is for after potty. If your pup eliminates, have a little party with 4-6 small food treats and lots of praise. Do this immediately…don’t wait to go back indoors. You need to reward the pup within a couple of seconds in order for her to connect the treats with the toileting. This will let your pup know that she got it right and that this is the preferred place to go. If it pays off in the early stages, your pup will seek out that area to empty herself.

Once pup has eliminated, and you have rewarded, feel free to have a play, but remember to go back to the potty place before returning indoors to see if she needs to go again and to give yourself another opportunity to reinforce the correct location. The more often the dog goes in that spot and is rewarded for it, the quicker she will learn.

Expected schedule for pups (remember, this is in addition to after waking, eating and play)

8 – 12 weeks: every 25- 45 minutes

12 – 16 weeks: every 45 minutes to 1 hour

16 weeks – 6 months: every 1 to 2 1/2 hours

6 months – 1 year: every 3 to 4 hours

1 year + : every 4 to 6 hours

What happens when pup makes a mistake? Well, since she doesn’t know what she is supposed to be doing where yet, nothing much happens to the pup. That is, we bring her out to see if she needs to eliminate further, then we clean up the mistake. Don’t punish the pup for toileting indoors. This does not teach her the correct thing to do and may make her shy about toileting in front of you, which makes training her to do it properly very difficult (if she won’t go when you’re there, how are you going to reinforce it?)

How you clean is going to be super important. You need to avoid bleach and ammonia based cleaners* as the ammonia base may actually lure your dog to the area because the scent is very similar to urine. I would suggest not using these products at all in areas puppy has access too. What you do want is an enzyme based cleaner. The enzymes “eat” the organic material (read pee and poop) so destroying it, leaving no odour behind to lure the pup back to that spot. You can purchase a proprietary enzyme cleaner from the pet store (Opens new page to or carpet cleaning specialists. These can be expensive. You can make your own using biological laundry soap / washing powder, hot water and white vinegar. Make a very strong solution of 2 parts soap, 2 parts water, and 1 part vinegar. If you are using purchased product, follow instructions on the bottle. For the home made one, wipe up any visible urine or feces and cover the area with the bio solution. Leave for at least 30 minutes (cover with a warm, damp towel if you are concerned about someone slipping or puppy getting into the soap). Wipe up any excess then rinse/mop with clean water.

The sooner you clean up the accident, the less likely it is for the stain to set in.

Standard household cleaners (Dettol, Lysol, Flash, Mr. Muscle, Mr. Clean, Febreeze…whatever) or home remedies like baking soda are not going to get the smell up for the puppy, so she will continue to return to that spot to eliminate as to her, it smells like her toilet.

What to do when no one is able to watch the puppy? Contain your pup in a small area like a crate or exercise pen Blog article, bearing in mind that she will need to be taken out on her schedule. If on occasion you are not able to take the pup out on the above schedule, I would suggest giving the pup a slightly larger containment area like a small laundry room, or again, in the exercise pen, and getting a real or artificial grass mat rather than the standard puppy pads. Opens new page to Only have this available when pup is contained and unsupervised. You don’t want her to think she can use it whenever as again, we really, really want the pup to only go outside and be rewarded for that. Having indoor toilet facilities available may confuse the issue of where to go and when. These are handy as a more permanent solution for apartment-dwellers as balcony toilets, since you may not have enough time to get down the stairs and out the door before pup needs to go.

Puppy pads are quite similar to mats, carpets, cushions and mattresses in their feel. This may confuse pup as to where to go. Having temporary access to turf when she cannot be watched will help her develop the ‘substrate preference’ that you prefer. Substrate preference is simply the pup developing and deciding what surface(s) are good to go to the toilet on. If they develop a preference for tiles, carpets or potty pads, you may have difficulty in getting them to go outside on grass or pavement. By having a real or artificial turf mat similar to grass, your pup is learning and developing a preference to go in grass.

Older dogs: Older dogs can be trained in the same way as puppies, but you should get a longer time between trips and after eating and drinking. The trick is not to give them the opportunity to make a mistake by taking them out before they need to go, and reinforcing outdoor elimination with stuff they actually like (like food!) often. If your older dog is suddenly toiletting in the house, again, you’ll need to check for health problems at the vet.

Troubleshooting: You’re doing your best to supervise your pup, but she isn’t getting the hang of it, or is soiling her crate, peeing seconds after having a tiny drink of water, or not holding it through the night by 16 weeks. You need a trip to the vet to rule out urinary tract infection, urinary crystals or other health problems. Once cleared, you might change your pup’s feeding location to the area(s) where she has been eliminating, ensuring you have cleaned the area appropriately first! Simply place her bowl in the areas she has been using as an indoor toilet, or even better, scatter feed or place her filled K9 Connectible in that location. Dogs literally do not want to poop where they eat. Of course, unless you are supervising and taking out regularly as above, she may well just find a different indoor location to use!

If you started out using potty pads and now your dog will not go outside, simply take a lightly soiled pad to the area directly outside the door and/or to your designated potty place (weighted down at the corners against gusts of wind). This first dirty one should help pup transfer the potty pad elimination to the outdoors. Use smaller bits of clean pad (simply fold it) week on week until pup is happily toiletting on the ground.

*NB: certain carpets and area rugs may use an ammonia-based dye. Check with manufacturer and put away these rugs during the potty training phase, or possibly just get rid of them altogether. If your pup continuously returns to an area that has been cleaned, this may be your issue.

Marta Young, Guest Blogger,

Professional Trainer with

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