How to toilet train puppy

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Toilet training can be a messy business – quite literally. So we asked three owners to share the tips and tricks that worked best for their puppies.

1. ‘A toilet-training aid worked wonders’

Felicity Hannah’s children were very small when they first got Woody, their Cockapoo, so it was important to train him as soon as possible.

‘For ages, nothing worked,’ Felicity says. ‘He kept going on the floor. In fact, he preferred to use our rugs and cushions and, once or twice, he thought that the children’s coats were dropped especially for him to relieve himself on.’

Eventually, Felicity saw an online advert for a toilet-training aid called a Poochie Bell. ‘It’s a rope with a bell, which hangs on the door and rings every time you let your puppy out to use the toilet,’ she explains. ‘It was like a switch had flipped. He grasped it within two days.’

Now, three-year-old Woody rings it himself with his nose or bats it with his paw whenever he needs to do his business. In fact, it works so well that Woody has actually worked out a clever trick. ‘He’ll sometimes just ring the bell if he wants attention, as he knows I’ll come running,’ Felicity laughs, ‘but at least there are no more puddles on the floor!’

2. ‘Dedicate some time and reward your puppy consistently’

Carolyn Moore fostered a Collie-cross puppy named Leonard for eight weeks, and wanted to puppy train him before he moved on to his forever family.

‘I decided to try out a new method,’ she says, ‘Every 30 minutes, Leonard and I would head out into the garden and I’d call: “Wee-wee time! Wee-wee time!” while clicking my fingers. ‘I’m sure the neighbours thought I’d lost the plot,’ she says with a smile. ‘But he was soon doing his business on demand and afterwards, I would reward him with a tiny piece of sausage.’

Carolyn gradually decreased the frequency to once per hour, and soon Leonard began pre-empting ‘wee-wee time’ by scratching on the door when he needed to go out. That was until the scratching became more regular, and Leonard was dragging Carolyn off every 20 minutes.

‘I knew he couldn’t possibly need to go that frequently,’ she says, ‘nonetheless he’d find a bush and have a wee. Then, one cold day, he didn’t bother going to the bushes. Instead he just crouched down on the patio and when he trotted proudly over to me to claim his reward I saw… nothing! Leonard was so clever, he’d learned how to go through the motions and fake it for a treat.’

Despite Leonard’s cheeky antics, Carolyn found the toilet-training process relatively straightforward. ‘I had time off work and that meant I could really dedicate a few days to toilet training, which made all the difference,’ she says.

3. ‘I used a lead indoors’

When Jayne Toyne toilet-trained Banjo, her Chihuahua, he seemed to be making progress with the use of a clicker and lots of positive encouragement – but he still liked to keep Jayne on her toes with some mischievous tricks.

‘I took him to work with me over a weekend and he was barely out of my sight for a few minutes,’ she says. ‘The following Monday, I had a call from a colleague asking if I would be moving my dog’s “present” from under the boardroom table.’

On another occasion Banjo pooed on the sofa. ‘He then decided to hide the evidence – by eating it,’ says Jayne. ‘Unfortunately he vomited it back up, leaving an even bigger mess for me to clean.’

Jayne’s breakthrough came when she attached Banjo to her with a lead while they were indoors. It prevented him from finding a quiet corner in the home, and she learned to read the signs when he needed to go. ‘This sped up his training enormously,’ she explains. ‘Once I had him attached to me, we had toileting cracked within two or three weeks.’

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