Puppy Toilet Training: Top Tips and Advice

dog toilet training

The information in this article was reviewed and approved by registered veterinary nurse, Beth Walker

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker

Toilet training your puppy is one of the first things you will do upon bringing home a new furry family member. Understandably, many new pet owners are keen for their pup to learn the right places to do their business as quickly as possible. But as with teaching any new behaviour, the best way to toilet train a puppy is with lots of patience and positive reinforcement over time.

This blog post will look at some of the most effective puppy toilet training techniques so you can get off to the right start with your new furry friend.

How Long Does it Take to Toilet Train a Puppy?

On average, it usually takes between four and six months to fully toilet train a puppy. However, it varies, and dogs don’t have full bladder capacity until they are around a year old.

While some pups may learn quickly in a matter of weeks, others could take up to a year, so it’s important to remain patient.

Designate a Specific Toilet Area

Puppy toilet training is all about teaching your dog where it is appropriate to go, and by default, where it is inappropriate. You will need to get your puppy into a routine of going outside on a regular basis to reinforce the understanding that this is where they should go to the toilet.

The area that your dog uses as a toilet should be separate from their playing area, just as their mother would have encouraged them to go away from their sleeping area.

Encouraging them to go in the same place each time will help them to associate the area with toileting, so that they are more likely to do their business when you take them outside.

Dogs usually prefer to go to the toilet on natural surfaces like grass or bark chippings rather than paving or concrete.

How to Tell if Your Puppy Needs to Wee

The most obvious signs that your pup needs to go to the toilet include:

  • Circling
  • Sniffing
  • Looking around
  • Squatting
  • General fidgeting

If you spot these signs, quickly and calmly scoop your puppy up and place them in their designated toilet area outside. Wait until they have relieved themselves, even if it takes a long time – they may get distracted by the outdoors and not go right away!

Puppies need to go to the toilet very frequently, as often as once every hour. So be prepared to keep a watchful eye over your pup at all times.

When to Take Your Puppy Outside

The frequency that puppies need to go to the toilet will mean a lot of trips to the garden! You should take your puppy outside each time they have finished eating or drinking, as well as once every hour, and of course, if they are showing signs that they need to go.

Excitement can also cause puppies to go to the toilet more spontaneously. It’s therefore a good idea to encourage puppies to go to the toilet before and after playtime and other exciting activities.

Stick to Consistent Mealtimes

A consistent eating schedule is crucial for puppy toilet training. Dogs have efficient digestive systems so a regular mealtime routine will lead to regular toileting patterns. This is very useful as it takes the guesswork out of knowing when they may need to go to the toilet.

Avoid Overfeeding

Just like irregular feeding, overfeeding can also have an adverse effect on your dog’s digestive routine. Keeping portion sizes appropriate to your puppy’s age and breed and as consistent as possible will help your dog to develop a regular toileting pattern. Speak to your vet if you’re not sure how much you should be feeding your pup.

Salty foods should also be steered clear of, as they will encourage your dog to drink more, which will then make them urinate more.

Choose Cue Words for Puppy Toilet Training

Choose a phrase such as “outside”, “get busy” or “empty”, and say it whenever your dog goes to the toilet. Your dog will come to connect this with going to the toilet, and you will eventually be able to use it as a command when you want them to go.

Be positive and calm when saying this word – not soft, overly firm, aggressive or pleading.

Use Positive Reinforcement

The single most important thing to remember when going through the process of puppy toilet training, is to always, always reward success – every single time!

Whenever your puppy goes to the toilet in the right place, give them lots of fuss and praise, and maybe a treat. The timing is very important – you need to reward your puppy immediately so that they know what it is they have done right.

The more times you reward your puppy for correct toileting, the faster they will learn.

Be Prepared for Accidents

Training can take some time to master and there will be inevitable accidents as your dog learns. The important thing to remember is to never punish your dog. Punishments like scolding can confuse and scare your puppy, establishing negative connotations with toileting, and do not help them to learn. It can also make them fearful of going to the toilet in front of you. Not only does this make it difficult to train your puppy as they will be reluctant to go to the toilet outside while you’re watching, but they are also more likely to find somewhere secret to go to the toilet inside the house.

The best thing to do when your puppy has an accident is to calmly and firmly take them to the correct place, and give them lots of praise if they finish what they started there.

Be sure to clean up the mess calmly without making a big deal out of it. You’ll also want to use an enzyme-based cleaner. This is because dogs have much more sensitive noses than us, and typical household cleaners will not mask the smell well enough, so to your puppy, the floor may still smell like a toilet.

If you catch them just about to go in the wrong area, interrupt them in a way that doesn’t punish them, for example by calling their name, then quickly take them outside. Again, give them plenty of praise immediately if they then go in the right place.

Why is My Dog Not Weeing on Walks?

Even after your puppy is successfully toilet trained, you may still find that they will not go during walks. Because dogs are taught to go to the toilet in appropriate places at home, many will hold themselves and wait until they are back there.

To break this habit, take your dog out on walks before they first go to the toilet in the morning so that they will find it harder to contain themselves until you return home. Encourage them to go to the toilet en route, and praise them when they do.

Toilet Training a Puppy at Night

Most puppies won’t be able to wait until morning to go to the toilet as they only have very small bladders. Reduce the window that they need to hold on for by taking them out last thing at night and first thing in the morning.

For the first few months though, you may need to take your pup outside during the night. If they do wake you, take them calmly outside and give gentle praise. It’s important not to excite them or they may not go back to sleep.

You should also prepare for accidents in the night. For easy clean-ups you can use puppy pads but this shouldn’t replace taking them out. Regularly using puppy pads indoors can confuse pups about which surfaces they should or shouldn’t be going to the toilet on, so be mindful of this during puppy toilet training.

Puppy Toilet Training Regression

Don’t worry, it’s normal for puppies to regress during toilet training. Their young brains are still developing and so they might forget what you’ve taught them. Continuing to remind them of the right places to go with consistent, immediate praise will help them remember.

However, puppy toilet training regression can also be a result of medical issues or stress. For example, your pup might be suffering with separation anxiety, or a urinary tract infection. If you’re concerned, always speak to your vet.

Puppy toilet training regression can also be caused by the owner not adequately cleaning up after the last accident. While it may look and smell clean to us humans, dogs have an exceptional sense of smell, and without an enzyme-based cleaner, your carpet may well still smell like a good place to go to the toilet for your pup.

Wrapping Up

Puppy toilet training is a fundamental learning phase, and it can be tricky to get right! Don’t be disappointed if your pup takes a little time to get the hang of it, and always remember to praise them when they go in the right place. With a little patience, understanding and plenty of positive reinforcement, your puppy will soon be successfully toilet trained.