Essential guide to toilet training

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Toilet training your puppy is a big step, and one that any owner can struggle with. We’ve teamed up with the experts at Dogs Trust for advice on how to easily teach your puppy or dog to become house trained.

Getting a puppy is one of the most exciting times in anyone’s life. There’s tons of snuggles, endless pictures, and overwhelming cuteness as you fall in love with your new furry friend.

As your puppy settles into your family there is often a time of adjustment and change. You quickly learn how to help your puppy settle in and teach them what they need to do. Toilet training your puppy can feel like a big task, but our comprehensive guide, put together with the help of Dogs Trust, gives you everything you need to know.

Watch the video below for a guide to house training your dog.

How to toilet train a puppy

There are a few steps to potty training your dog, but you might find you stay longer at one stage than others, or you might go back a few steps if your puppy regresses. This is totally normal, and you shouldn’t worry if your puppy is taking a while to grasp toilet training.

Keep this step-by-step guide to hand for easy house training:

Step 1: Find a suitable area for your puppy to go to the toilet.

This should be somewhere with no distractions and where they feel safe. It should be an area away from where your puppy eats or sleeps.

Step 2: Take them to their designated spot at the right times

Let your pup out to the same spot in your garden after they wake up, eat, drink, play, or whenever they get excited.

Step 3: Recognise the signs

As you are supervising your new furry friend, you’ll notice the signs your puppy shows when they want to pee or poop. Signs include going to the door, squatting on the floor, sniffing the floor, or beginning to turn in circles. If you see these behaviours, immediately and calmly encourage your puppy to go outside.

Step 4: Take them outside and reward them when they get it right

Giving praise and rewards are very important when training your puppy, but with potty training, the timing is incredibly important. If you are with your puppy when they are toileting, stand calmly and quietly so you don’t distract them. Only after they have finished should you reward them with a treat, and give calm, positive praise.

What age should a puppy be potty trained?

All puppies need patient and consistent house training. It’s very normal for a puppy to take a few months to be completely housetrained without the odd accident, so don’t worry if it seems to be taking a while!

It’s important to remember that puppies can only hold their bladder or bowels for a short time. This includes through the night, so you’re going to have to wake up to allow your pooch the opportunity to go to the bathroom. By the time your puppy is 8 months old they should be able to hold it through the night, if their potty training is on track.

Puppies aren’t allowed outside for walks, or to interact with other dogs, until two weeks after their last vaccination. So, it’ll take a while for them to associate walk time with bathroom time. It’s a lot for a little puppy to process! Remember to approach everything with patience as they learn.

Remember, even a dog who has previously been toilet trained may slip up or forget, especially during times of change, such as a house move or a new adoption. Don’t worry, there’s lots you can do to support your puppy, or older dog, and help them to get it right.

Should you use puppy pads for toilet training?

Puppy pads might sound like a good idea, but they’re generally not the best way to go about house training your dog. As well as being expensive they can also encourage your puppy to toilet inside. This means you’ll end up adding another step to your housetraining further down the line when you do want to move outside.

How to deal with accidents when potty training your puppy?

It’s extremely likely your puppy is going to have accidents during toilet training. The most important thing is to avoid telling your dog off or punishing them in any way. This will create negativity between you and your dog, and they’ll become worried about toileting in front of you. After all, peeing and pooping is natural.

If your puppy or dog has an accident in the house, clean the area with an enzymatic cleaner. This breaks down the smells of the accident. Your puppy has a strong sense of smell, and if the area isn’t cleaned thoroughly, they might try and toilet in the same area again.

House training top tips

  • Puppies have very small bladders so will need to relieve themselves often while they develop.
  • At the start, it can feel like you’re taking your puppy out all the time and not making progress, but remember, consistency is key. It’s important to give them plenty of toileting opportunities to help them practise toileting in the right area.
  • Supervision also gives you an opportunity to monitor your puppy’s pee and poop. You can tell if they are dehydrated, frequently going to the toilet, constipated, have an upset stomach, or if anything is abnormal. This is information you can give to the vet if you are worried about your puppy.
  • Remember, patience is key. All dogs are individual, and some might take longer to learn than others, but it’s well worth the time and effort!
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How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?

There is no simple answer to this question! A puppy might take a few weeks to be completely house-trained, or it could take a few months. It’s important to stay positive and patient when helping your new dog through their toilet training.

Every dog is but as a general rule, expect a successful puppy toilet training routine to take around four to six months.

If your dog has previously been consistently good at toileting without accidents but has suddenly begun to pee and poop in the house, don’t worry. Think about if there have been any changes to your dog’s routine, such as a house move, or a family change.

Go back to the basics of regularly giving them an opportunity to outside, give them praise when they pee and poop in the right place, and be patient.

If you can’t think of a reason why your dog might have suddenly begun to have accidents, and they have had a few accidents in a row, speak to your vet about these changes.

Puppy toilet training at night

Your puppy is likely to need to go to the toilet during the night. Their bladders are still developing so they will need to toilet more frequently.

Take them outside last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Dogs generally don’t like to go to the toilet where they sleep, so they might wake up and bark or whine during the night. It’s important to pay attention to this. Remember to be patient and consistent regardless of the time of night. Reward your dog every time they get it right.

Final puppy toilet training tips

Don’t be tempted to withhold water or food from your dog in order to control when they pee and poop. It’s our legal responsibility as owners to meet our dogs’ welfare needs. Withholding food and fresh water could create medical problems and cause distress to your dog.

Staying positive is key. Each dog will react to potty training differently. Some will take longer to learn than others, but if you keep up the hard work your puppy will be housetrained successfully. 

Follow the advice of the Dogs Trust, keep consistent and patient, and your puppy with be confidently housetrained in no time.

About Dogs Trust Dog School

Dogs Trust Dog School is a national network of experienced dog trainers providing educational courses and dog training based on up-to-date scientific research for all owners. They are passionate about dog behaviour, and want to help you train your puppy or dog to fit happily into your family life. Dogs Trust Dog School provides fun and educational training classes for you and your dog.

Dogs Trust Dog School prevents relinquishment by equipping the owners of more than 20,000 dogs with the tools to prevent unwanted behaviours from occurring. They enable owners to understand their pooch and enhance the bond with their dog through reward-based methods.

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