Dogs: House Training Puppies


Every new puppy requires assistance with this process; some pick it up quickly, others take an age to learn, but they do all get there in the end! If you can understand the dog’s psychology then it takes a lot of the frustrations out of housetraining for both you and the puppy. “Being clean” can mean different things to you both. For the owner, the ideal outcome is for the puppy to go to a selected area of the garden to do his business. For the puppy the urgency of the act means that he wants to relief himself here and now, wherever that happens to be, provided it is a quiet spot away from where he feeds and sleeps. The ideal spot from your puppy’s viewpoint is in an upstairs bedroom, or behind the sofa. You need to show him that is not what you intended, and to guide him to a more appropriate spot.

From the start, select a spot in the garden that you would like your puppy to use as his toilet area. Bear in mind that in the early stages of his life, the urgency to go comes on quickly, and he needs to be able to reach the desired location before an accident occurs. You can anticipate the times when the puppy needs to be taken out:

  • Immediately after eating or drinking
  • Immediately after walking
  • When excited after playing

If you can get your puppy to the right spot at these times then much of the problem is overcome. Watch for the tell tale signs:

  • Actively sniffing around
  • Circling round on a spot
  • Tail held erect
If you can spot these signs, pick him up and take him to the designated place. Stay with him, offer an encouraging word and praise him every time he gets it right. It may be that he learns to eliminate in response to a single command. However if the puppy fails to perform don’t keep him outside but take him back in and watch again for the indicative signs; don’t let him sneak off behind the sofa. Try him outside again in 10-15 minutes.

A young puppy cannot go through the night without eliminating – this may last until they are 1 year old, even if he has mastered daytime housetraining. Ensure the puppy has access to a surface area that is easy to clean, and cover with polythene under a sheet of newspaper. A relatively enclosed sleep area will accelerate the learning process.

Do not chastise the puppy after an accident. Dogs have a short attention span and will not associate any punishment with the act of elimination. He will become confused and more secretive about his toileting habits.

Clean up any accidents as soon as practicable. Use a biological detergent that will not damage any carpeted area, diluted in water. This will remove all the dog’s own odours from the area, otherwise there will be a residual scent that will keep attracting him back to the same spot.

Consider why you think the accident occurred – when was he last outside, when did he last eat, any change in diet or household routine. Do they occur when he gets overexcited, has he learnt what is expected of him, and has the area been cleaned and deodorised. If a lot of accidents are occurring, it shows that he hasn’t understood what is expected. There is a particular Bach Flower Remedy that might be useful for this.

Rarely, a medical problem may be responsible for serial incontinence. So if normal housetraining methods are ineffective then it is sensible to consult the vet. In some cases well-trained dogs may still produce a puddle when they become excited greeting visitors etc. This is a natural response, and is termed submissive urination, and is unrelated to normal housetraining. It indicates (mostly in bitches) that the animal knows her position in the household, below all the humans and lacks self-confidence.


This information is provided for information purposes to our registered clients. It is the individual opinion of veterinary surgeons within the practice. It should not be relied upon as an alternative to a clinical examination and diagnosis by a veterinary surgeon. If in any doubt please contact the practice for further advice

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