This is one of the biggest challenges facing new owners, some puppies will catch on quickly while others, especially older dogs coming inside for the first time can take much longer to house train and the process can be very confusing and frustrating, especially for first time owners, but also the pets themselves!
Remember, ACCIDENTS ARE UNAVOIDABLE at first, puppies, especially those under 12 weeks have not learned proper bladder control yet and will not be able to hold it for long periods of time. As a general rule of thumb puppies can usually hold it for about the number of hours that they are months old i.e. a 4 month old puppy should be able to hold it for about 4 hours.. However there are no hard and fast rules and while some puppies can be fully house trained by 4 – 6 months others may take up to 12 months. The most important thing is to be patient and consistent and follow some simple guidelines laid out below:
It is vital to handle the situation properly – improper discipline will only frighten and confuse the puppy and damage the relationship you are trying to build with them.
One of the most important things to remember is that puppies can not link long term cause and effect i.e. it is pointless to punish them for something that happened hours or even minutes ago, they are not going to realise or understand what it is they are getting in trouble for. Remember if your puppy does go in the house you failed to adequately supervise him, you didn’t take him outside frequently enough or you ignored or were unaware of the signals that he needed to go outside.
Crate training can be very useful as they generally will not want to soil in the area they sleep but the crate should never be used as a punishment, it should be a safe place that the puppy feels comfortable in, their own space that they want to keep clean. However don’t crate the puppy if they are soiling in it.
- Rub their nose in the it
- Physically hurt the puppy – if you catch him/her in the act make a loud noise e.g. clap twice or firm loud “NO” or “STOP” to startle him and stop him, then immediately show him where you want him to go by running outside with him, waiting for him to go and them giving him lots of praise when he does go.
- Lock the puppy in a dark room as a punishment
- Use ammonia based cleaners – urine has ammonia in it, cleaning with ammonia could attract the puppy back to the same spot to urinate again. Use enzymatic based cleaners.
- Let the puppy see you cleaning the mess – may think it’s ok
LOADS of positive reinforcement when puppy gets it right – verbal praise, petting, training treats => associate going outside with a good response.
To avoid accidents keep a close eye on your puppy at all times to pick up on any signs of needing to go e.g. sniffing, scratching at door, whining, looking uncomfortable. Not all puppies learn to let their owners know that they need to go out by barking or scratching at the door, some will just pace for a bit and then go inside so it’s important to watch your puppy carefully.
If you can’t watch your puppy they should be confined to a crate or small room with a door or baby gate. Gradually increase the freedom to larger areas e.g. kitchen or multiple rooms over weeks to months as he learns to go outside.
Keep the puppy on a consistent feeding schedule and remove food between meals.
Take the puppy outside on a consistent schedule, initially puppies should be taken out every hour, as well as after meals, plays and naps. All puppies should be taken out first thing in the morning, last thing at night and before being confined or left alone for any length of time.
Accompany the puppy outside, they may not go immediately, may need to walk or play for a while first, again the most important thing is lots of praise when they do go but this may not be every time. If they enjoy being outside don’t bring them immediately back in once they have gone.
N.B. To clean up thoroughly after an accident otherwise the puppy will return to the same spot if they can still smell it. Use enzymatic chemical cleaners and odour eliminators but keep away from the stop afterwards to prevent licking or eating it!
Also remember that just because your puppy is house trained in your own home he may still have accidents when visiting new places, this is because puppies generalise their learning to new environments i.e. just because they seem to know something in one place does NOT mean that they’ll automatically know it everywhere. So it’s important to keep a close eye on them and bring them out often when visiting new places.
Also, if something in his environment changes the puppy may have a lapse in house training e.g. if you bring home a large potted plant the puppy may see this as the perfect place to raise his leg and mark!
If you are really struggling to house train your pet then seek the help of a behaviourist/trainer, these professionals are experts in these areas and may pick up on and be able to correct things that owners may not realise are relevant.
HOWEVER do not forget that accidents in the house, especially in older or previously house trained pets can be an indicator of a physical or medical problem and warrant further investigation.
Possible causes include:
- Urinary tract infection
- Gastrointestinal upset
- True incontinence (if puppy/kitten has been unable to hold urine from birth and seems to leak urine all the time)
- Bladder stones
- Kidney dysfunction (usually older cats and dogs but possible at any age)
- Stress or behavioural disorders (more common in cats)
- Lots of other hormonal disorders e.g. diabetes
The first step in investigating for a cause and diagnosing any of the above disorders is a visit to the vet to discuss what’s been going on. Simple blood and urine tests can often get to the bottom of many of these so if you have any concerns please do not hesitate to contact us.