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Our household has recently welcomed a new puppy. My current dog is now 9 years old, and has long since settled into middle age. Whilst he has his moments, he is pretty well behaved. The new kid on the block is another story, and I forgot how much time and thought goes into those first weeks and months of training. It may seem such a very basic part of bringing up a puppy, but toilet training can be a challenge.

In essence, the best route to successful toilet training is simple, and follows the modern techniques of dog behaviour. We reward the behaviour we want, clearly and consistently, and your puppy will learn that toileting in the correct place (outside!) gets lots of love, reward and attention.

Remember that your puppy is like a very young baby, they are not able to hold onto either their pee or poo for very long. They need to toilet frequently and don’t fully develop continence with regards to their bladder until as late as 6 months of age. To begin with, this means it can be very hard to ‘spot’ that your puppy needs the toilet, and once it does - there is precious little time to get them outside to the place you want them to go.

So the best way forward to begin with, involves a good coat, an umbrella and most definitely a torch for early mornings and late evenings. Spend as much time out in the area you want your puppy to toilet in as possible, pay attention to your puppy at all times - when they bob down to urinate, or squat to poo - speak a gentle and encouraging command word followed by praise, fuss and a tasty treat. By repeating a word or phrase, such as ‘do your business’ whilst the puppy goes to the toilet, they will begin to associate this phrase with the action. It must only be said when they actual go to the toilet. This can be very useful for the future, it allows you to tell your dog they need to take this time to go! It may seem like this takes forever at first, but it is worth the wait. You must be with your puppy and watching them to praise at the correct time, so just sticking them in the garden on their own won’t be as effective.

Hopefully the old habit of punishing a dog when they have an accident inside is now long known to be both cruel and pointless. If your puppy has an accident, don’t punish them, they won’t understand and are likely to get confused. Clean up the mess and take your puppy outside, they may not have finished.

As a rule, puppies are more likely to need the toilet when they have woken up, and after they have eaten. So use these as guides for good times to get them out and sniffing to go. The use of a crate for short periods can be handy too, as puppies don’t want to mess up what they see as their bedroom. Take them out as soon as they exit the crate or get out of their bed, you may want to pick them up and carry them out to begin with, as this will be much quicker than them walking and prevent accidents on the way. As time goes on, you will learn your puppies’ routine, get better at spotting the signs they need to go, and which times suit them. Good luck, and enjoy your puppy.