Get to grips with crate training – the kindest, quickest way to teach your puppy where the toilet is.
Dog dirt is no laughing matter. When you are mopping the kitchen floor every morning for the first few weeks, even months, after your puppy’s arrival, any comedy connotations around dog poo lose their humour!
Some people may advise you that a puppy can’t realistically be expected to be fully house-trained until he is at least six months old. The thought of this is not appealing, so it’s just as well there is a toilet training method that will have your pup house-proud in a couple of weeks! Miraculous? Well, yes – but there’s a slight catch…
‘It’ is crate training – the kindest and quickest method of teaching a puppy the house rules when it comes to calls of nature. However, the downside is that employing this method may turn you into a sleep-deprived zombie for a week or two!
Forget any notions about rusty wire mesh cages filled with sad-eyed puppies. A clean, secure crate will be your puppy’s den, with the door left open so he can enter and leave as he pleases. His crate provides a sanctuary away from the rest of the busy household and the last thing he’ll want to do is soil it. It’s the same instinct that drives tiny puppies to crawl away from the litter nest to go to the toilet – and you can use this instinct to your advantage.
- Daytime toilet training starts from the second you bring your puppy home, as the first thing he’ll want to do after his journey is relieve himself. Tiny pup bladders mean that any excitement, eating, drinking, playing or waking from a nap will usually be followed by a need to wee or poo. Think about how much time during the day your pup spends doing one of these activities and it suddenly becomes clear how many trips to the back garden you will be making! The other benefit of having a crate is that you can shut your puppy in it for up to an hour during the day if you are unable to watch him for some reason
- Every hour or so during the day, or when you see your pup start sniffing the floor and circling, take him outside to his toilet area. If he has actually started to toilet in the house, shout loudly – enough to make him stop sharply but not so loud that he runs for cover – and take him outside to let him finish
Tip: Never punish your dog if you find a mess he made earlier: he is unable to relate punishment to a previous event and will think he is being told off for whatever he is doing at that moment. Be annoyed with yourself that you weren't watching him more closely!
- Whenever your puppy toilets outside, praise and reward him enthusiastically. He needs to think that choosing grass rather than carpet to wee on makes you ecstatically happy – and he’d be exactly right!
- By following this routine during the day, you are giving your puppy as many opportunities as possible to get it right
- The more often he acts as required and is praised, the more he will want to repeat the right behaviour. In a few days or so you will see your pup heading for the back door when he wants to relieve himself. However, you still need to be incredibly vigilant – it may take some time before your pup learns to bark or whine at the door to raise the alarm
- Toilet training your puppy during the day is fairly easy but it is night-time when all your good work can be quickly undone. If your pup sleeps in an open basket he will simply toddle to the farthest corner of the room to do his business
- Allowing him to do this slows down his daytime training – after all, if he can wee in a nice warm house at night, why on earth shouldn’t he during the day? The key to any successful training is consistency and it’s up to you to provide this
- Shutting your puppy in his crate at night means he cannot toilet anywhere in the house. As he won’t want to relieve himself in his sanctuary, you need to take him outside every two hours or so during the night. It sounds simple but it’s extremely tiring to do!
- If your puppy needs to toilet between set times he will probably yell his head off. Don’t kid your sleepy self he can hang on another quarter of an hour – pups have little bladder control and if he needs to go, he needs to go NOW. Giving a puppy no alternative but to soil his own bedding will be traumatic for him
- By gradually lengthening the time between each toilet trip, you may have your puppy house-trained through the night within two weeks
- Deciding to crate train a pup is a real commitment but don’t forget that your inevitable state of exhaustion will only last a short time
- Ask yourself if you are prepared to be sleep-starved for few weeks but have a reliably house-trained puppy at the end of it, or whether you’d rather be mopping up ‘accidents’ for months to come. The choice, as they say, is yours