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Pups become house-trained by developing a habit. It usually takes about 2-4 weeks of constant vigilance. You need to know a few basic facts about elimination behaviour:

Pups are most likely to poo or wee after sleep, a meal or exercise. When they are about to poo, they will sniff the ground and may walk in circles; there may be little warning before they wee. They will try very hard not to wee or poo in their own beds unless they are confined for too long. Once they have started using one place, they are likely to keep using it because of the smell. Pups develop a preference for weeing and pooing on certain surfaces, which is why they will often seek out a particular carpet.

As soon as you get home on your first day, take your pup to the designated place in your garden and wait there patiently until he wees. This way his first experience is correct. From then on take your pup outside, to the place you have chosen, as soon as he wakes up in the morning, after a sleep, after a meal, whenever he begins to walk around sniffing the ground, and at least every hour throughout the day. If he wees or poos praise him or give him a food reward. Go with the puppy and reward him immediately rather than standing at the door and calling him back to reward him – he needs to know that he’s being rewarded for the act rather than for coming inside!

Don’t use newspaper, ‘pee pads’ or anything that encourages your puppy to poo or pee in the house – the rule he must learn is ‘don’t use the inside of the house as a toilet – ever’ and anything that encourages breaking this rule will be confusing and may extend the toilet-training period. Teach your puppy to go to the door if he wants to go outside. As soon as he walks anywhere near the door, open it and go out with him, give him a treat and (if he doesn’t want to poo) go back in again. This way he learns that walking to the door will result in it being opened.

If you catch your pup in the act inside the house say ‘no’ firmly, pick him up and take him to the place you have chosen for him to use. If you are too late, clean up the mess without comment. Use soap and water and then an enzymatic cleaner to get rid of the smell. Never use ammonia-based cleaners – they smell like urine to dogs (however, one creative owner effectively used an ammonia-based cleaner to encourage his puppy to go in a particular spot).

It will be easier if you keep the pup in one room with the doors closed and have a carry box or cage for him to sleep in. A freight cage – a plastic shell with a wire front door – is an invaluable tool to toilet training. Your pup will hold on as long as possible rather than poo in his bed and a couple of nights should be enough to train him to sleep through. Take him out last thing at night and first thing in the morning and you will have control over his elimination behaviour at least once each morning. If you hate the idea of keeping your puppy in a cage, think of it as a cot, which is after all nothing more than a cage to keep your baby safe. It doesn’t seem so inhumane when you think of it that way!

If you work on a computer at home, a puppy pen enclosing you both is very useful – that way the puppy can sit on your foot (as they love to do) but can’t wander off if you are distracted and not watching him closely.

Children are no help whatsoever in toilet training. On the contrary, with their limited attention span and inability to remember to close doors, they are more of a disadvantage to toilet training: whatever they promise, they soon forget to watch the pup and will leave doors open so that the pup can sneak out and poo on your best rug. Don’t leave toilet training to the kids!

If the pup makes a mess inside, don’t punish your pup – it won’t understand and may turn into a ‘sneaky pooer’ (a highly scientific term that should be selfexplanatory). Often puppies will ‘act guilty’ when they have made a mess – people frequently tell me that their pup “knows he has been naughty”. All the pup “knows” is that if there is dog poo on the rug when you come in, you are going to go berserk. He cannot make the connection to understand that he has caused you to get angry, nor can he work out that if he changed his behaviour you would not get angry.

Never rub his nose in it – the pup will have no idea whatsoever why you are doing this and will not learn from the experience.

If you are very careful and never let your pup make a mistake (perhaps not a realistic expectation) he should be house-trained in about two weeks.