Essential Puppy Training and Toilet Training

Every puppy needs to be taught good manners and have constructive lessons in basic control. This includes responding to its name, how to greet and behave politely around people and dogs, coming back when called, walking nicely on the lead, sit, down and stay on command, and allowing itself to be groomed and examined by you and your vet. As a dog owner you also need to learn what laws affect you and your dog.

Dog training classes

Most owners can benefit from attending good training classes, and training in the company of other dogs is very useful because of the realistic distractions this involves. Ideally, you should start your classes as soon as your puppy’s vaccinations are complete, but classes can be invaluable for older dogs too!

It is a misconception that training a dog takes away its personality, on the contrary a trained dog is a content and happy one.

Finding the best dog training club

Before enrolling with a dog training club it can be beneficial to attend a session without your dog and decide whether this is the right environment for you and your puppy.

Things you may wish to consider include:

  • Do you like what you see – are the trainers friendly, are people happy and enjoying training their dogs?
  • Are the dogs happily focused on their human family?
  • Are the instructors giving lots of encouragement and information to all attendees?
  • Are the instructors maintaining a controlled, safe environment for everyone?
  • Are instructors treating everyone fairly and meeting the needs of the whole group?

Really important training tips:

  • Start as you mean to go on. If you are always consistent you will avoid confusing your puppy.
  • Puppies have a very short attention span so train for short spells on a regular basis.
  • Keep it short and keep it simple, but most of all, keep it fun!
  • Puppies respond better to cheerful voice tones, rather than to threatening orders.
  • Gentle play builds trust and a strong bond between you and your puppy as well as making training fun.
  • Patience is the KEY ingredient in dog training. If you try to rush things you will only get frustrated and confuse your puppy.
  • Keep it interesting: cultivate a range of different rewards incorporating play, fuss, praise, treats and toys. This will stop both of you from getting bored.

Puppy Toilet Training

Toilet training should be quite a simple process, as long as you take the time and trouble to get into a good routine.

Initially, you will have to build your routine around your puppy’s needs, and these are reliably predictable when they are very young.

Puppies need to urinate immediately after waking up, so you need to be there to take your puppy straight into the garden without any delay.

Eating its meal stimulates its digestive system, and puppies normally urinate within fifteen minutes of eating, and defecate within half an hour of eating (although this might vary slightly with each individual).

Puppies have very poor bladder control, and need to urinate at least every hour or two. They can urinate spontaneously when they get excited, so take your puppy out frequently if it has been active, playing or exploring.

You may find it useful to keep a record of when your puppy eats sleeps, urinates and defecates. A simple diary list will do.

Repeat cue words like ‘wee wees’ and ‘poo poos’ or ‘be busy’ and ‘be clean’ while the puppy is actually urinating or defecating. Use different words for each action so that you will be able to prompt the puppy later on.

Always go with your puppy into the garden so you are there to reward and attach the cue words to the successful actions!

Fortunately, puppies are creatures of habit, so as long as you introduce the garden to your puppy as its toilet area early on, you should be able to avoid most of the common pitfalls.

Toilet training errors

Unfortunately there are many reasons why ‘toilet training’ might not go as smoothly as it could, so make sure you do not make any of the following mistakes...

  • Over-feeding.
  • Feeding an unsuitable diet or giving a variety of foods.
  • Not feeding at regular times.
  • Feeding at the wrong times (which could cause overnight defecation).
  • Punishing the puppy for its indoor accidents (which can make it scared of toileting in front of you – even outside).
  • Feeding salty foods (e.g. stock from cubes) which makes them drink more.
  • Using ammonia based cleaning compounds (which smell similar to urine).
  • Expecting the puppy to tell you when it needs to go out; this is unrealistic, so it is better to take them out at regular intervals.
  • Leaving the back door open for the puppy to come and go as it pleases (a puppy will think that the garden is an adventure playground, rather than a toilet area. Also, what is a puppy meant to do when the weather gets cold, and it is faced with a closed back door?).
  • Leaving the puppy on its own too long, so that it is forced to go indoors (which sets a bad precedent, or even a habit of going indoors).
  • Mistakenly associating the words ‘good girl’ or ‘good boy’ when they toilet, as opposed to the specific cue words. 
  • Guess what could happen the next time you praise your dog?
  • Access to rugs or carpet (which are nice and absorbent – just like grass).
  • Laziness on your part, resulting in more wees indoors than outdoors.
  • Leaving the puppy alone in the garden, so you are not there to reward it for going outdoors… how is it meant to learn that it is more popular and advantageous going outdoors, if you are not there to show your approval?
  • Submissive or excited urination on greeting (if this occurs, take your puppy outside before you greet it and tone down your greeting so it is less exciting or overwhelming).
  • It is unfair to expect your puppy to go right through the night when it is very young.
  • Sleeping the puppy in a crate or puppy pen can help with house training but you should let it out in the garden to relieve itself during the night.

Teaching your puppy to toilet out on a walk

Many owners appear disappointed that their young puppy will not toilet when out on a walk, yet relieves itself the second it gets back home. This is because the puppy has been taught to toilet only at home (hopefully in its garden), and being creatures of habit, they often wait until they have returned home before evacuating their bladder and/ or bowels.

To break this habit, you will have to get up very early one morning (when you have plenty of time), and get your puppy out on a walk before it has had its morning wee. You should not bring it home until it has been forced to go out of desperation.

If however, you are unsuccessful, and your puppy has not toileted, then take it immediately into the garden on your return, or you risk it relieving itself indoors.

Puppy socialisation

Firstly, it is vital that you are patient with your puppy – do not expect too much too quickly as all young animals need time to learn what we expect of them.

  • Socialise your puppy

Puppies need to meet and have pleasant encounters with a wide variety of adults, children and other animals.  Begin when they are very young, taking care not to overwhelm them.  Do a little every day, especially during the early weeks.  Attending a well-run puppy training class will help your puppy sociable with other dogs.  However, please remember that your puppy could be unprotected from some canine diseases if it has not been fully vaccinated – speak to your vet for more information.

  • Educate and teach good manners

Puppies need to know where their boundaries lie just as children do.  Teach them gently but firmly what is acceptable and what is not.

  • Use positive, effective training

Reward based training can begin as soon as your puppy has settled into the household.  Use positive methods for all education, from house-training to coming back when called.

  • Help your puppy find its place in the hierarchy

Puppies need to learn their place in the human pack.  Strong-willed puppies need to learn that they cannot have their own way all the time and what you want must come first.

  • Teach your puppy to be left alone

Pack animals like to be with others and our pet dogs need to be taught to tolerate being alone.  Begin with short sessions when your puppy is young and build up to longer absences gradually.

  • Cope with chewing

Puppies chew while teething and during adolescence.  Provide plenty of suitable chews and change them often.  Teach your puppy what to chew and what to leave alone.  Try not to leave your puppy in a place where it can damage your things or itself.  Prevention is better than cure.

  • Be prepared for adolescence

Adolescence can be a difficult time during which your puppy’s behaviour may deteriorate considerably.  Try not to worry – it soon passes!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask