It’s a frustrating and all-too-common problem. You’ve just taken your puppy out into the garden, he’s done his business and it seems like everything has gone well.
Then, just after you, bring him back in, you find a damp patch on your carpet or sofa. The bad news is that it’s not a problem you can fix overnight. The good news is that it’s perfectly normal and is something you can train your puppy out of, provided you take the right approach.
Firstly, puppies are a lot like babies. They don’t have a great deal of control over their bodily functions, so it falls to you to do a lot of the thinking and acting for them – at least, to begin with. It’s worth sticking to a fairly rigid routine to get your puppy into the habit of toileting on demand.
Take him every three hours during the night (much like a baby, your pup needs extra wake-ups), every hour in the day as well as first thing in the morning and last thing at night. You should also take him after every meal, since eating stimulates the digestive system, and after every time he has been particularly excited – again, something fairly frequent for puppies. It can be tedious, but sticking to the routine will ensure faster results than if you approach it halfheartedly: you’re aiming for consistency in order to embed the right habits in your puppy’s mind.
Secondly, watch for signs that he needs to go, even if you are taking him outside regularly. These might include circling and going to the door – he will begin to associate his trips outside with toileting. When you greet your puppy, bear in mind that he may urinate through excitement at seeing you! If this is the case, make sure your welcome is a little lower-key until you’ve taken him outside.
Good rules of thumb
- As soon as they wake up
- Within 15-30 minutes of eating
- When they get excited
- Before they go to bed
- Every hour during the day
- Every 3 hours during the night
Above all, don’t punish your puppy for any mistakes he makes. Reward good behaviour and aim to build positive associations for your puppy instead of telling him off. If accidents do happen, just take him to the place you wanted him to go straight away, so he gets the idea. Puppies can become distracted very easily and the garden can be an exciting place, so focus on the task in hand rather than leaving him to it. It can help to use particular keywords to reinforce his toileting behaviour, and clicker training can also work well. If you use generic praise, such as “good dog”, he may come to associate this with the expectation for him to urinate – which is not something you want to encourage.