How do I house-train my puppy?


House-training a puppy: behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith offers some tips on how to create a good night-time toilet routine for your dog...

(Q) I have two male Whippets: one is two years old and the other is just about a year old. The younger dog keeps toileting in the house at night.

He's fine during the day and always asks to go out to toilet. At night we put down puppy pads but sometimes he doesn't use them. We reward and praise him every time he goes outdoors to toilet, but nothing has improved the situation.

David Briars, Sussex.

(A) Behaviourist Claire Arrowsmith says: Your younger dog is at an age where night-time routines can still be tricky for some dogs. First of all, ask your vet to check him over, since there may be a reason why he has trouble holding on when he has a full bladder and can't ask to go out. If he gets the all-clear then it's likely that there's been a failure in his basic toilet training at night-time. At this stage a good routine is usually the way to resolve most night-time accidents.

You need to make sure that your dog is emptying properly before bedtime. Putting the dog out into the garden doesn't necessarily mean that he is toileting properly. Young dogs often get distracted playing or sniffing, or just rush because they want to get back into the warmth. He may simply follow your older dog back in before he's ready. Go out with your dog so you can be sure that he's going as expected. In addition to this, try taking him on an extra walk in the evening to get things moving, and to tire him out and encourage sleep. Put him out later in the evening if possible and try getting up earlier to let him into the garden. Many dogs toilet around dawn so you may be able to prevent accidents and change his habits by setting your alarm to take him out earlier. If this works then you can gradually push the time forward so that he learns to hold on until your regular waking time. Although this is tiring, it's more sensible than relying on training pads since these won't teach him to hold on or to go in the right place.

Review the times you feed your dog and consider feeding earlier and limiting his access to water later in the evening. It may also be worthwhile looking at his diet and making sure that he's being fed a high-quality food that's easy to digest and, therefore, produces less waste. You might want to limit your dog's ability to move away from his bed area by using a dog crate or pen overnight. You would have to introduce these carefully though.

Could there be any other reason why your dog is waking in the night? After being disturbed many dogs will toilet before settling back down again. By applying a range of techniques, your dog's accidents are likely to become less frequent. Be consistent and stick to your new routine.

How to house-train a puppy

  • Patience and consistency are a must when house-training your new pup; don't expect instant results. Remember to take him out to toilet after eating, drinking, playing, and napping.
  • Create a toileting area for your puppy (you can even mark out a specific section of lawn) and take him there regularly, about every two hours.
  • Although your puppy may not be interested to start with, stay with him and wait for him to toilet.
  • Your patience will eventually pay off and he'll go to the toilet.
  • Once he's toileted, reward him immediately with a treat and give him lots of praise.