Dog Training

How to toilet train a puppy or dog. Our no-stress guide.

How to toilet train a puppy or dog. Our no-stress guide.

New dog owners often feel a little apprehensive about toilet training, but we’ve got lots of practical advice on how to housetrain a puppy or an older dog.

Think about where you want your dog to go to the toilet

Before you start training your furry friend, it’s important you decide where their designated toileting area is going to be. This will obviously be affected by lots of different factors, such as whether you live in a house or an apartment and whether you have a garden. It’s also worth bearing in mind that lots of dogs have strong preferences in terms of what kind of surface they prefer to go to the toilet on. These include paper, cement, gravel, puppy pads, grass and carpet (hmm!). This is usually just down to what your puppy or dog is used to, and, over time, they can be retrained if necessary. It’s important you’re aware of any preferences when you start out though so do ask your rescue centre or breeder about this.

Establish a routine

If you’ve read Dog training tips to make life easier, you’ll already know that the bedrock of any training regime is consistency. Toilet training is no exception to this and, while your dog is building up their bladder control, it pays to get into a routine that gives them lots of opportunities to go to the toilet appropriately. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to take your dog to their toileting area:

  • When they wake up, whether that’s first thing in the morning or after any daytime naps
  • After eating and drinking
  • After a period of activity, such as a play session
  • Before they go to bed, last thing at night.

Learn to spot the signs your dog needs to ‘go’

As well as taking your furry friend out regularly, it pays to be vigilant to the signs they might need to go to the toilet. Every dog is different but here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Fidgeting
  • Sniffing the ground
  • Circling
  • Squatting
  • Going to the door
  • General restlessness
  • Barking or whining

The steps to success

So you and your furry friend are ready for training, what are the key things to keep in mind?

Eagle-eyed supervision is what’s needed

When you first start toilet-training your dog, you should aim to keep a close eye on them to avoid them toileting inside. If there are times when you can’t watch them, then safe and pleasant containment is the answer.

Schedule regular toilet breaks

It stands to reason that offering your dog regular chances to go to the toilet means there is less likely to be accidents.

Take your dog to the same place for toilet breaks

Dogs thrive on consistency so, at first, you should take them to exactly the same spot to go to the toilet.

Reward success

When your furry friend goes to the toilet in the right place, you’ll want to reward that behaviour with lots of positive reinforcement. This means dishing out lots of praise (without startling them) and tasty treats as a reward. The PEDIGREE™ Tasty Mini range is low in fat and contains Omega 3, Vitamin E and calcium. There are three delicious flavours: Beef & Cheese, Beef & Poultry and Chicken & Duck.

Never scold or punish

It’s important you avoid telling your dog off or punishing them in any way as, not only will this not have any positive effect, but it could even make your dog frightened of going to the toilet or of you.

Interrupting when necessary

When you first start housetraining your dog, you might see them starting to go to the toilet in the wrong place a few times. When this happens, you need to quickly and calmly get your dog to their toileting area, without scolding them.

How to deal with accidents

We all take a while to get the hang of new things and accidents are an inevitable part of toilet training (but should be minimal if you are following the steps above). As already mentioned, it’s important you never scold or punish your furry friend, instead staying calm and cleaning up without any fuss. This clean-up is best done with an enzymatic cleaner or a dilution of 1:9 biological washing powder and warm water. Household disinfectants aren’t recommended as these often contain ammonia which can encourage your furry friend to go to the toilet in the same area again.

When should I begin toilet training a puppy?

You can start toilet training your puppy as soon as you get them home. However, keep in mind that puppies have very small bladders and can’t be expected to ‘hold it’ for long periods of time or throughout the night.

Should I wake a puppy to pee?

Puppies’ bladders aren’t big enough to last all night long. Some owners stay up late to take them for a wee and then set an early alarm. Others take their puppy for a night wee. If you do the latter, make sure your puppy doesn’t think 4 am is playtime! (If they already do, check out Help, my dog won’t sleep!)

How long does it take toilet train a puppy?

If done correctly toilet training can be mastered within a month or two, although every dog is a unique individual who will ‘get it’ at their own pace. However, as long as you remain patient and consistent you can rest assured that it will happen

Is it harder to toilet train an adult dog?

If you adopt an older dog, they’ll probably be housetrained. However, a new home can make your dog ‘forget’ their toilet training. If that’s the case, follow the advice you would for a puppy. The process may take a little longer (young brains being quicker to learn) but is very achievable. Teach an old dog new tricks has more tips.

Looking for more training advice? Check out How to get your dog to come when they’re called and How to teach your dog to sit.