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Toilet Training Puppies

We introduce a large plastic litter tray to the big puppy enclosure in our open front shed, once the puppies reach four weeks and began their "big puppy" journey. Until this point, their Mum will clean up after her little ones perfectly. Often our Mums continue to be quite vigilant for some time after too. The litter tray we cut ourselves and is about 1500 mm x 1500 mm x 15 mm, in thickish plastic (the bottom of a large tub). We use the same wood shavings we use in the stables as we always have some on hand. The basic puppy playground is 4500 x 3500 mm.


The puppies usually think it is a great place to play and eventually accidentally toilet in there. I don't make it too scrupulously clean, as I want it to smell like the "toilet place", so I just pick the poops out with a glove to start with.


From weeks four to six, I only change the wood shavings and pressure clean the shed floor once a week. A quick wood shaving sweep is all that is required in between. There is rarely a poop out of the tray.


Week seven seems to mark the time when Mums definitely want no more to do with clean-up duty. They do remarkably well to continue for so long. The puppies seem to master the art of mostly pooping in the tray by then, but still do the odd wee on the concrete. The tray needs completely cleaning out and wood shavings replaced twice that week.


All of a sudden in week eight the wood shavings need to be replaced every second day, as they become wet and smelly. The amount of wee and poo increases incredibly and before the end of that week the tray needs changing each day.


Little puppies really don't have much of an idea about when they need to go to the toilet and it's unreasonable to expect them to be housetrained quickly. While they may be toileting well here, they won't necessarily have a seamless transition to another location. The best thing to do to start with is give your puppy lots of chances to go outside to toilet. Puppies up to twelve weeks old probably need to go about once an hour while they are awake. Their control over their bladder and  bowels will improve gradually with time.


There are some predictable times when puppies will want to relieve themselves: as soon as they wake up; five or ten minutes after a play session and about fifteen minutes after eating. Some puppies like to go and make some "room" before they eat.


It's usually pretty easy to tell when a puppy wants to toilet. They will abruptly stop what they are doing (eg. playing with a toy, eating etc) and start walking around sniffing ....... looking for the perfect place. If a puppy goes anywhere near a door ...... take them outside.


So, what can you do to help with night time toileting? Some suggestions are: don't give food for three hours before bedtime; unless it's very hot, take away water one hour before bedtime; be sure to take your puppy outside to toilet before bedtime and set the alarm for four hours after bedtime to take the puppy out to toilet. Your puppy will probably be well over twelve weeks old before they can hold their bladder/bowels for more than five hours.


It takes different amounts of time for different puppies to be toilet trained. Some are good by five months and others take twelve months. They will all have accidents and it is very important not to scold them for this.


The logic is that if you punish your puppy for toileting in the house they will actually think you are punishing them for toileting in front of you. They will then become afraid to toilet in front of you outside, instead, holding on and finding a safe, hidden spot to go inside.

If you are sleeping your puppy inside it's probably best to come up with an enclosure that stops them from wondering around toileting in areas you don't want them to while you are asleep. Probably the best setup I've seen is a puppy play pen connected to a crate, with a litter tray at the end furthest from the crate/bedroom. Newspaper, paper towel or litter pellets (never kitty litter) should suffice in the tray for one puppy. It's not a good idea to close puppies in crates until they have developed some bladder/bowel control (can reliably hold on for more than five hours), so they don't make a mess in the crate between toilet stops. It's important to keep their "bedroom" clean.


Remember to praise your puppy for toileting outside. Have a word you use in a high pitched voice "toilet" or "potty" and tell them they are a goooooood boy or girl.


On that note, I can say I am pleased to have outside dogs. They do sleep in kennels though, so kennel training is of benefit :) .

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