Toilet Training

As with humans, full control of the bladder takes time to develop and lots of accidents can be expected initially. We are effectively building habits in where we would like our puppies to go. Previous toileting habits and the consequence of eliminating in front of humans will all affect the success of toilet training.

Below is my advice on how to get this right as quickly as possible. Do bear in mind though, that puppies may take up to around 17 weeks of age to get this right. 

Manage your Environment 

While you cannot supervise your puppy, you will need to leave them in a confined area such as a pen, crate or small room/gated area to prevent accidents from occurring. Do see the Leaving Alone section for more help with this. Puppies should only be allowed to free roam unsupervised (particularly on carpets) if their bladders are empty. This allows you to set your puppy up to succeed. 

Teach Them How to Get it Right

When first bringing your puppy home, they will need to go to the toilet around 8-10 times per day. I therefore advise taking your puppy outside every hour or so in the beginning. This can help them build a good history of learning to go outside to the toilet rather than waiting for an accident indoors. As they get older, you can begin to extend this time little by little. Aside from this, look for warning signs. Any sniffing, circling or frantic pacing may be a warning that your puppy needs to go to the toilet. Interrupt them and encourage them to follow you outside. Puppies will also need to be taken out after naps, after meals or big drinks, after high levels of excitement and before you leave them.

I advise walking your puppy to their toilet area (unless in a flat or upside down house and then carrying them may prevent accidents along the way) so that they can learn the route to their toilet spot. Go with your puppy so that you can praise them for getting it right, prevent them from losing focus on the task, cue the behaviour, and prevent them from thinking that all the fun is indoors. Once your puppy is getting it right, you can start incrementally stopping further away from the toilet area so that your puppy  learns to run to the correct location, eventually leaving you indoors and your puppy learning the route independently.

Be sure to not bring your puppy back in straight away if they enjoy being in the garden as some puppies will learn to hold their toilet for more outdoor time. Have a game or some time wondering after toileting before bringing them back in. 

It is possible to train your puppy to toilet in specific locations. If you want the dog to toilet in the corner of the garden for instance it makes sense to change the surface under their feet. It’s much harder for the puppy to learn that one corner of the garden is where you want the pup to go if the  entire garden is grass. When taking your puppy out for a toilet, take them to this area and wander around it until they go. Reward this and then have a game or spend some time wondering the rest of the garden before bringing them back in. 

Don’t Tell your Puppy off for Toileting Inside

While this is often advised, your puppy will just learn that it is not safe to go in front of you leading to accidents in quiet places and resistance when you take them outside. If your puppy has made a mistake, simply clean up the mess, continue as you were and ask yourself how that mistake could have been prevented. 

Common Problems

Avoid using products that contain ammonia to clean up accidents. Ammonia can smell like wee to dogs and so using this to clean up accidents can encourage your puppy to use that area again. Ensure you clean up accidents with either pre-made sprays or diluted bio washing powder.

Overfeeding and an unsuitable diet can cause diarrhoea or loose bowels leading to a chance of more accidents. If puppies eat too late in the evening, it can lead to overnight defecation. Consistency wise you want it to be firm, without causing puppy to strain for a long time before producing it. We don’t want ‘Mr Whippy’ style poo as this indicates our puppy isn’t digesting the food we’re feeding properly. A good quality, easily digestible food shouldn’t produce a lot of poo. So if you find you’re picking up more regularly than you are feeding, it might be worth exploring an alternative diet.  See our nutrition section for help if you are experiencing problems here. 

Leaving the back door open during summer may seem ideal but also lead you to wonder why your puppy is still going to the toilet indoors. You wouldn’t expect a toddler to find his own way to the toilet if you leave the door open while toilet training and so leaving the back door open in the hope the puppy will let himself out usually ends up with many accidents,  no learning and us becoming very frustrated. We need to be teaching them where to go and unfortunately this isn’t as simple as leaving the back door open.

Your puppy wanders out into the garden happily enough, but then comes back inside to pee in front of you on the carpet. Be prepared to wait them out if they’re playing rather than going to the toilet. Or otherwise if you go back in, watch them with an eagle eye so that if they start showing signs that they’re about to go, be ready to head back outside.  In the early stages, you may feel like you spend all day in and out of the garden. This does get easier, I promise 🙂 

Night times

If your puppy is struggling of a night time, you generally have two options

1. Set your alarm for just before your puppies usual ‘i need the toilet’ time. Calmly let them outside to the toilet, bring them back in, wait for them to resettle in their bed and then go back to bed yourself. This prevents your puppy learning to bark for attention, prevents waking other people and also allows you to then gradually extend the alarm to later times night by night until your puppy is sleeping through until morning.

2. Give your puppy a toileting option for night times such as a toilet area inside a pen or gated room. While this means you will need to clean up in the morning, as your puppy grows older they should begin to hold their toilet until morning.

Do not Rely on Puppy Training Mats, Pads & Newspaper 

These simply tell your puppy it is ok to toilet indoors. While these are ok to leave them within their confinement areas encase of accidents, I would advise not praising them for using them while you are there.

If you need to give your dog an indoor toileting option eg you live in a flat or puppy is confined for longer hours than their bladder can cope with (although we advise against this if it can be helped), I would advise using a substrate that we want our dogs to use in future eg astro turf samples, pebbles or turf in litter boxes or trays, almost like cat litter tray set up. Sometimes we find puppy’s who have been used to toileting on puppy pads will opt for door mats and rugs when they cannot find a pad.