A) Understand the problem
Puppies and young dogs urinate and, shall we call it "poop", much more often than adult dogs.
The younger the pup, the more often the "accident rate". They can need to "go" almost as much as about once an hour when very young and being active! Also, an important point to remember: They cannot hold themselves - when they've gotta go they've gotta go!!!!
THIS is the main problem with getting them outside in time!
(However, this difficult period quickly passes.)
All puppies are born with an innate instinct to do these things away from the "nest", that is they will seek from the earliest age to move a little away from where they lie with their mother. The more mobile they are (as they grow) the further away they are able to crawl, but home with their new owner, conflicts arise because behind Dads favourite armchair, hidden under the writing table or the middle of the mat in the hall, is NOT what we owners think is far enough away from the "nest"!
So this is where we have the conflict!
And if you react angry, perhaps shouting, (I’ve heard of people rubbing the pup’s nose in what it has done how terribly cruel - and it won't in any way get the pup to understand), you will achieve nothing as far as improving the situation.
The pup will be even more secretive and seek to find places where you’ll not notice, but you will also get a nervous puppy who is a little frightened of you and will run away just as you want it to dash outside.
A pup cannot understand what it has done wrong, only that he appears to have an owner given to inexplicable outbursts of rage, which frightens him! To the pup it was only doing his very best with something that is perfectly natural - and very necessary.
Its a bad chain of events.
Many people even say that they can see when the puppy has "a bad conscience" about what it has done. When the puppy seems scared and down cast. This is absolutely not true. The puppy is merely afraid of your sudden and inexplicable flare-ups over something it cannot understand and after all, it only really wants to please you at all times.
If the puppy is unclean, it is because you haven’t yet taught where is the proper place to go and so you’d better get started! Here's what I do:
B) Recognise the "symptoms"
A puppy or young dog needs to go outside and relieve itself immediately after a sleep, a game romping about, a meal or a drink of water or milk - or if you think a long time has gone without it going outside.
Apart from this, when it needs to "go",
it will walk around as if it’s seeking something, nose down and "following a trail on the floor" it may be looking for where it "messed" last time (a reason why cleaning up WELL with good disinfectents after accidents is important, as the smell of an old accident sets off the desire to use the spot again) - or it's looking for a new and better place to go!
The entire family should learn to observe this "walking around as if following a trail" signal so that instant action can be taken!
But how do you get the puppy outside in time? Because this has to be done real fast or whoops, too late! Pups cannot hold themselves for very long, once they get the feeling that they need to "go".
Rule number one: Puppies must preferably NOT be carried outside!
Do not make the mistake of lifting it up and carrying it out even though this is by far the quickest and easiest solution. The puppy will not learn the way to get outside by being carried each time. This is a common mistake and will delay the pup learning correctly. It is important that it's little brain learns the way outside or to the door. (Leading to later on where it will figure out how to ask you when it needs to go.)
Heres how you train:
1) Step one:
From day one, teach the pup its name. This won’t take 5 minutes if you permanently carry on you all day for months, a bag of treats in your pocket. These treats need not be anything unhealthy like chocolate (which is actually poisonous for dogs!) or anything fancy or smelly - or the expensive treats one can buy. (You don't want to go round smelling of dog treats either!)
I use a rival brand of dog food, which I reserved especially for treats. The brand I use is made of soft, damp rings which I can break up to raisin sized pieces this is enough! No need for the pup to have a whole meal when being good and doing what you ask!
To teach the name, call the pup occasionally (in cooing, loving high pitched tones that it cant resist!) and give a treat and praise showing your pleasure (and love) at it coming to you when you called, and let it wander off again.
Beware of calling TOO OFTEN.
It is best if any children in the family are told not to shout and call from east and west in their enthusiasm or the pup will just shut the sounds out and not come to anyone! In the start, let the caller be mainly the person who is to become the "number one" person in the pup’s life. Also: refrain for calling if you can see that the pup is engrossed in something interesting for a moment. Remember it does have about a million new smells, sounds, sights and experiences to take in all at once from the moment you "kidnap" it from its mother and brothers and sisters! It can only concentrate on one thing at a time.
2) Step two:
I assume now that you have got the puppy coming to you more or less every time you call and it gets a treat each time too. These treats in a bag in your pocket can with great advantage be used for several years! You will have a totally responsive and obedient dog as a result that comes immediately even if you only whisper its name - or rustle the bag!
When you think the pup needs to go outside and relieve itself, call it as usual but keep moving, holding the treat just out of reach you can guide it through doors and along passages etc and outside to the place where you want it to "go". Once outside, then you can give the treat.
(Note: it is easier to rush outside in all kinds of weather if you have a coat or umbrella hanging ready just by the door!) Once outside where you want the pup to "go", you now say the command you will always use for what you want it to do. It could be anything you decide on but the whole family must know what it is.
Barbara Woodhouse the famous Great Dane owner who obedience trained hundreds of dogs, always used to say "hurry up!" as she felt it was more refined and discreet if someone else was listening! It doesn’t matter what your command is, just remember to always use the same phrase. I also wave my hand to indicate that they should go forward to seek a good spot. It is always good with some clear body language to back up your commands with.
(NB It is also an advantage to have a dog who will "go" on command, as many will hold themselves if they are out at a strange place, like a dog show, on holiday or somewhere they are unfamiliar with. It also speeds things up when you are standing waiting, bored stiff or freezing in the cold!)
But back to the training: It is very important in the start that you accompany the pup outside.
It’s not enough to stand behind the door in the warm or peering at it through a window!
If you do not go with the puppy, your command will be wasted and the puppy will probably cheat, especially in wet or cold weather and it will just stand at the door and whimper and scratch to get back inside, unhappy at being separated from you and absolutely not thinking about what you want it to do! This is the little trick that many people miss on:
You must accompany your puppy outside and supervise, urge it and then praise it! Make the visit a cosy, intimate and fun moment together. Let it back inside as soon as it is finished.
There’s no way round it, you must go outside together with the pup and constantly urge it on by repeating the command. You are also there to immediately praise it when it has done what you said, and you can clear up after it and see the state of its stomach too. Pups can get diarrhoea either from eating something unsuitable, a virus from another dog, or from the food you are giving, if it is not right for it. It is good to be able to monitor its health in this way. And being on the spot, you are then able to immediately praise and reward the pup with a treat and the pup is happy to come back inside the house with you afterwards. Use plastic bags to pick up the mess and knot them and you can throw the bag safely in your outside rubbish bin and enjoy a clean garden.
You should really make it fun and rewarding to dash outside with you and "go"! It is important that the puppy learns that it does not come in again until you have seen results! You might need a lot of patience and be prepared to wait "forever" the first few times but it will soon understand and it’s a rare pup who can’t just produce a little drop just to please its owner, who may have sometimes have been mistaken and it didn’t really need to go outside after all - which I have done!
After a short while you have a pup who not only runs obediently to you when you call, but who will run willingly together with you outside when it needs to "go" and who understands the whole procedure. You can also just throw the treat outside and it will scamper after. This way, you will have no more accidents on the way to getting outside - except where you failed to notice the signs! The pup will have learnt the whole routine and be more than willing to co-operate.
3) The last stage.
Very soon, this arrangement between you and the pup, both working together on rushing outside will lead to that the puppy, as soon as it feels the urge to go, will start the routine by itself and run to the door. It has now connected the body sensation of the "call of nature" with rushing to a door and hurrying outside to a particular spot in the garden.
Now it is up to you and the rest of the family to be extra observant of the puppy asking at the door. If you are too slow, then it will sometimes be too late! They still cannot hold themselves for very long. This stage is very critical and difficult. You must at all times notice when the pup is asking and run to do as it asks.
Very often, a puppy will go to the door, see that it is closed and turn away immediately to find somewhere else to mess. The whole thing takes only a few seconds and you need eyes in the back of your head during this short phase in it's life.
Any accidents at this stage are not only a little set-back, but are mainly due to your not noticing in time when it asks. The more successes with it asking and you helping it outside, the more deeply the sequence is "engraved " in the pups brain.
And when the pup asks by itself, you no longer need to run outside with it and supervise, it can manage by itself! Only unless you are monitoring its health and like to clear up after it, (a good thing, if you are a caring owner) are you needed as an escort!
All you have to do now is always open the door when asked and you have a clean and happy puppy!
Note: If the puppy stops at the door seeing that it is say, raining or snowing outside, you can throw a tit-bit outside to make it run out, say the command and close the door. You can hopefully see through a window that it has done what you wanted. If your young dog feels the cold, you could put a coat on it before sending it outside in extreme weather conditions. You may also have to go back to stepping outside together with it, if it only stands shivering by the door!
This is NOT easy but it pays to be vigilant and work hard at this, ( IT IS HARD WORK!) as it’s just for a very short period in the pup’s life. The few accidents that will invariably happen occasionally will now be due to other things like "bad stomach", not going outside fast enough etc it will never be the dog’s fault it is YOUR responsibility to get it out at the right time and IN TIME!
As the dog gets older, it becomes experienced and practised at holding itself for longer and longer periods of time. Just have plenty of patience in the start you’ll both get there together in the end!
Now, the next and last stage in the pup’s development will be that not only can the pup ask you to open a door so it can go outside but it can also with its expressive body language tell you a whole multitude of other things! Not only that, now you can actually ask your dog if it needs to go outside. (You've hopefully been doing this all along?) You may often be in doubt. Does it or doesn’t need to go outside?
If you ask your dog if he wants to go outside, using the taught command words, your dog will be able to understand the question and even show you an answer yes or no!
Mine, when I ask them, will either hurry to the door if yes, or jump up into a chair or move away from the door, as if to say "who me? No way!!!"
In this way one can communicate together, each using his own way of "speaking".
And remember: Your puppy is as clean as you allow it to be, it's all down to YOU to show it where to go and not the puppy's fault if it doesn't understand you!
PS Many pups and young dogs have difficulty going to the toilet when out on a walk or some strange place. They hold themselves until they come home again! Especially male dogs always save a few drops so they are permanently ready to "mark" where they live. Knowing this, always let the dog go around in the garden after every walk and all its life - so it doesn't step straight into the house and have an "accident" there. This will go over with maturity and experience. As I say, male dogs who "mark out" their territory during a walk, may also come home still with some urine in their bladder, so it is also smart to stroll with them around the garden with them before letting them come inside again. Tell them what you want them to do as well!
By the way, if you adopt a dog from an internate or dog pound or take over an older dog from someone else - start by treating it like it's a puppy, in order to ensure it becomes clean in your home.
Many dogs in dog homes and pounds, learn to do things on the spot as they live in tiny runs with no walks or anyone to open a door for them. They can be messing your house up when you get them home.
But if you treat them like puppys with the rules above, they can learn and will quickly be clean.
TIP: Dogs are creatures of habit, just as we are, so it a dog has begun to mess indoors, it will often seek to continue the habit. Stop this by blocking off the chosen spot. Either put a chair over the spot, keep the door to that room closed, use a child's safety gate to put the room out of bounds or use your imagination! It is important now to not only prevent the dog from repeating the "accident" (thereby breaking the bad habit) but at the same time, using the advice above, to show it where you do want it to "go" in the future, replacing the bad habit with the correct one. NEVER be angry, (you might have to be a good actor/actress at times!) but SHOW the dog what you want, so it understands. Always praise and reward all good/correct behaviour.