Puppy behaviour and training advice Puppy toilet training

Toilet training your puppy can be incredibly stressful, but it does not need to be. Like with any training, you need to focus on positive reinforcement, be patient and consistent. This, along with the knowledge of how to do it right and necessary toilet training equipment will set you up for success in no time.

Puppy behaviour and training advice Puppy toilet training

Puppy (and Dog) Toilet Training

Puppy Toilet Training



Puppies are cute and fun but they are also hard work. There are many things that you need to do to raise a balanced and confident adult dog that is a pleasure to be around. Basic obedience training, socializing and of course toilet training. So, to help you get ahead, I have created this toilet training Blog that includes all the tricks and tips for successful toilet training… And the things to avoid.

When you bring your new puppy home, toilet training might not be the first thing on your mind. Very often the usual daily routines go out the window and you spend every waking moment with your new family member. As lovely as it is to focus all your attention on your new pup, it is important to settle back into your normal everyday life as soon as possible. And one of the most important things is to make sure that toilet training starts as soon as you bring the puppy through the door. This will ensure that your puppy knows what you expect from them from day one.

When puppies are born their mother will keep the den area clean. There is never urine or faeces in their ‘nest’. This is believed to be done to keep the puppies healthy and to protect them from parasites. As the puppies grow older, they start copying their mother by going to the toilet outside of the den. Therefore, toilet training your puppy is simply following the example of their own mum.

Toilet training your puppy can be incredibly stressful, but it does not need to be. Like with any training, you need to focus on positive reinforcement, be patient and consistent. This, along with the knowledge of how to do it right and necessary toilet training equipment will set you up for success in no time.

Preparing Your Home for Toilet Training

First thing to remember is that your home is a completely new environment for your puppy, and the first few days can be stressful for them. Everything around them is new and they do not have their mother or siblings around anymore. Your pup needs to get used to you as much as to the new environment, house, garden, and neighborhood included. And it is not just the sights, but also the smells and noises. So be understanding and patient with your puppy. All though you should start toilet training your puppy as soon as you bring them home, remember that it takes time and patience, and every puppy is different.

There are a few things you can do even before bringing the puppy home to ensure your toilet training gets the best possible start. And the most important thing of them is preparing your home for toilet training.

Toilet training is all about managing the learning experience for your dog. You want your dog to learn it the right way from day one. This does not mean that accidents will not happen, but it reduces them significantly and speeds up the learning process.

There are lots of useful products for preventing accidents, managing a puppy’s access to the wrong places for toileting and to encourage the right behaviour.

Let us start with preventing accidents and setting your dog up for success.

As dogs learn through experience, the more opportunities your puppy gets to toilet in the wrong places the more often it will happen. It is as simple as that. So, preventing your puppy from learning it in the wrong way is particularly important. This means managing the puppy’s access to the wrong places for toileting Puppy Gates and Pens

If you bring your puppy home without managing where the puppy is allowed in the house, your chance of accidents is exceedingly high. Puppies must go to the toilet every few hours, so this gives your puppy plenty of opportunities to run around the house and toilet all over the place. And the more often they do it, the harder the training. Puppy pens and gates are important management tools for the times when no one is keeping an eye on the puppy. They prevent your puppy from learning to do it wrong.

What we need to understand about toilet training, and dogs in general, is that they learn through experience. Therefore, every toilet break is a learning experience for your puppy. This means that even when we use puppy pens and gates to prevent accidents all over the house, we also need to think about what the environment is like for your puppy’s learning in those areas.

Do you have carpet, mats, or rugs on the floor in those areas where your puppy is allowed?

If so, there is a high chance your puppy learns to go on them. Remove them if possible until the training is done.

Are there soft surfaces, like a dog bed or couches for your dog to lie on?

Be aware that your puppy might learn to go on them too. I would recommend using an area without these items and an old towel/blanket as your dog’s bed at least for the first few weeks. This is to prevent your dog from learning to toilet on anything you do not want them to use later.

Preventing accidents

Preventing accidents is an important aspect of successful toilet training. It is good to remember that puppies need to go to toilet every few hours. Keeping an eye on your puppy is important when preventing accidents. You should always use puppy pens and gates when you cannot supervise your puppy.

There are signs your dog will show when they need to go. While some puppies may be quite direct in alerting you when they must go to the toilet, others may be very subtle. Generally, the older the puppy, the easier it is to recognize these signs. Young puppies may not be able to clearly indicate when they have to go.

Here are some signs your puppy might show:

-   sniffing around

-   fidgeting

-   beginning to circle before squatting

-   abrupt changes in activity, behaviour, or play

-   circling

-   whining

-   going to the door; scratching or pawing at the door

-   returning to a previously soiled area in the house

-   sniffing or licking the groin/rear

Sniffing is one of the first signs your puppy shows when they need to toilet. When your puppy starts spinning around and sniffing in a particular area, they most likely need to go. This may happen in an area your puppy has previously soiled in. That is why it’s important to use proper cleaning products.

Avoid Ammonia-Based Products. The smell of ammonia can encourage your puppy to toilet on that spot again.

Use Enzyme-Based Products. The best cleaning products to clean accidents are enzyme-based. These products contain enzymes which destroy the odour-causing bacteria and eliminate the smell.

Prevent Access to Hot Spots. If your puppy keeps eliminating in the same spot, it is best preventing access to that area. This is to stop your puppy from learning a habit of toileting there while they are still learning proper toilet manners.

Another one of the very first signs that your dog needs to go toilet involves a change in behaviour. Your puppy may suddenly stop in his tracks. He might have been playing with a ball and then suddenly moved away and walked to a specific area of the house to toilet.

Many puppies will also appear a bit restless when they need to go to the toilet. If the restlessness is not caused by something happening around them, then your puppy could be telling you that he needs to go.

Whining could also be one indicator that a puppy needs to be let out. While whining may mean several things, your puppy most likely has to toilet if it is coupled with any of the signs mentioned above.

If your puppy goes to the door and starts barking, standing, or even scratching at the door, it is a good idea to check whether they need to go by letting them out.

There are also certain situations and times you should try taking your puppy out. Puppies usually need to go soon after eating/ drinking, waking up and after play time with you or other dog and every 45 minutes – 1 hour in between.

Keeping an eye out for these signs and situations is important so that we can ensure successful toilet training and do it as quickly as possible. After you have learnt to recognise these early signs of possible need to toilet, it is up to you to teach what it is that you want your puppy to do.

First you need to choose an area where you would like your puppy to toilet.

Choosing an area you will use every time for your puppy’s toilet training is very important because it helps them to get a routine. Dogs are creatures of habit and like daily routines. There are many options for this. You might want to use a puppy pad or puppy toilet on your apartment balcony or in a bathroom. Or you might want your puppy to learn to go outside.

The moment your pup indicates a need to toilet, pick the pup up and take them to this area. This helps to teach them that they need to go to this spot or area when they feel the need to go to the toilet.

Picking the pup up and taking them to the toilet area straight away is crucial, so they associate the area with the feeling they are getting. Picking up the puppy stops them from continuing to toilet until you place them on the right spot.

If your puppy has an accident DO NOT:

  Rub the puppy’s nose/face in it. This is an old-school method that teaches your dog that you do not approve of them toileting in general. So next time they will toilet when you are not around or hide their poo/pee!

  Shout or scare the puppy. This might make you feel better, but it will not help with toilet training because your puppy does not understand your shouting. Once again, they might associate it with toileting in general. And it is most likely harmful to the bond between you and your pup.

  Discipline them after it has happened. Dogs live in the moment. If you punish your dog after something has already happened, it is too late. They will not make the association between you being angry and the mess on the floor, instead they might associate it with you coming home. This will also teach your dog that you are unpredictable, and they might learn to fear you.

  Do not Have Unrealistic Expectations. Young puppies under 3 months of age do not have sufficient bowel and bladder control.


If your puppy has an accident DO:

  Let them know they are doing something wrong. If you see your puppy peeing or pooping in the wrong place, take them to the designated toilet spot straight away.

  Ignore the mess. Once again there is no point in telling your puppy off after the accident has already happened. Just clean it up and make sure to pay better attention to your puppy next time.


Operant Conditioning and Classical Conditioning or Learning by Associations and Experiences

There are two main ways dogs learn. They learn by the immediate consequences of their actions which is called operant conditioning and by association which is better known as classical conditioning:

Operant Conditioning

Dogs do things that benefit them and stop doing things that do not. They are also very eager to please us and seek for our attention. If your puppy gets excited praise, attention, playtime or treats from you every time they toilet in the right spot, it becomes beneficial for them to repeat the behaviour. They learn that it is a nice thing to toilet on that particular spot and will repeat it.

Classical Conditioning

Dogs learn quickly how to predict what will occur in their world. Dogs are learning from their environment in this way all the time, whether we intend them to or not. If toileting gets them a treat, they will learn to do it to get the treat. If they are always taken to the same spot to toilet, they will learn to associate that spot with their toilet needs.

If you keep an eye on the signs your puppy show’s before they need to go and right away lift your puppy on the right spot, they will connect those signs with the toilet spot. They will learn that when they are experiencing those signs they should be on that spot. This is learning through association.

Puppies can also learn to associate a certain word with their toilet if you start saying the word every time, they are relieving themselves. But the word must be said while they are doing it (Not before or after!)

When it comes to toilet training, a puppy will associate a toilet area with the following:

        Smell of urine, faeces, or ammonia.

        Location (outside, inside).

        The feeling of the surface beneath their paws (grass, tile, soft surfaces etc.).

        Physiological things such as after food, when they wake up, and after a play.

        Commands. A dog can be trained to go to the toilet.

Understanding Associations

Dog training is all about associations. A puppy learns by associating things with different results. Whether it is about training basic commands or socialisation with other dogs and people, dogs learn to connect certain situations with certain behaviours and outcomes. This also means associating certain feelings with certain situations, good and bad. This is important when we think about our dog’s experience and how they feel about it. Especially for a puppy, all their early experiences should be positive ones!

When you think about it, your puppy’s toilet training has started before you bring the puppy home. To fully understand your dog’s toilet training experience, we need to think about the first 8 weeks of their lives.

What were the experiences the puppy got at the breeder’s home?

If the puppies were kept inside the whole time, then they would have learnt to toilet inside only. If they were kept outside, they would have learnt to toilet outside.

If the puppies were inside, what kind of toilet training was provided?

Did they have puppy pads, dog toilet or did the breeder use soft towels for their toilet needs?

Whatever the early experiences were it does not mean that your toilet training has been set already. But it does help to understand what your puppy has learnt to do so far. Especially with rescue dogs, this is an important thing to consider. Rescue dogs can lack toilet training due their life in the kennel environment.

Positive Reinforcement Rewarding your puppy

Positive reinforcement is the most successful dog training method. It is a successful and effective way of toilet training.

What is positive dog training?

Positive dog training means using only positive training methods when shaping a dog’s behaviour, positive reinforcement to be exact.

What is positive reinforcement?

We use positive reinforcement in the human world too. Did you receive a bonus at work? You were just positively reinforced. The positive reinforcement is an additional stimulus, very often known as a reward. It occurs after the behaviour that increases the likelihood of the behaviour to occur in the future. There are many different types of positive reinforcers that can be used to shape a dog’s behaviour. For example, food, toys, stroking, attention, praise, walk etc.

The type of reinforcer used depends upon the individual and the situation. You need to know what it is that your dog values. Even when you are training the same dog, you might have to modify your training and the reinforcers you are using based on the progress of the training.

When toilet training a puppy using rewards, you can use anything your puppy likes. A reward could be in the form of praise, a cuddle or pat, a tummy rubs or even a play. You can also give your dog a delicious treat or a favourite toy to play with.

Remember to reward your puppy every single time they toilet in the right way in the right place.

If you do not have any treats handy, use excited praising and attention. The more you reward the more likely that behaviour will happen again.

When your dog has learnt to toilet in the right place you can start rewarding and praising them less. Do not stop it all of a sudden so that you dog doesn’t think it’s not beneficial for them anymore.

Start reducing the rewards gradually.

Training techniques for toilet training.

How to toilet train your puppy outside

1.     Set regular feeding times for your puppy and keep an eye on when they drink water.

2.     Take your puppy outside every few hours. Also take them outside immediately after eating, drinking, waking up and playing.

3.     Place them in the designated toilet spot.

4.     Do not play with your puppy or give them any attention whilst you are outside. This is a trip to toilet, not a play session. Give your dog a few minutes in peace to do their business.

5.     Straight after they have peed or pooped praise them and  give them a treat.

How to toilet train a puppy inside

1.     Set regular feeding times for your puppy and keep an eye on when they drink.

2.     Take your puppy to their indoor dog toilet every few hours. Also take them there immediately after eating, drinking, waking up and playing.

3.     Place them on the dog toilet.

4.     Do not play with your puppy or give them any attention. Your puppy needs to learn that only one thing happens when they are on the doggy toilet.

5.     Straight after they have peed or pooped praise them and perhaps give them a treat.

6.     Once they have been praised allow them to get off the indoor dog potty.

7.     If you see your puppy sniffing the indoor dog potty, praise them as this will encourage them to use it. Make sure they do not play with it or sleep on it as this is not what it is for.

How to Paper/Puppy Pad Train a Puppy

1.     Use a puppy pen or gate to create an area where the puppy can be confined when unsupervised.

2.     Line the entire area with training pads or old newspapers. At first the puppy will toilet all over the place, but this way it will always be on a pad. Remove soiled pads frequently.

3.     Reduce the number of pads or papers by taking away one pad every few days, leaving a small area without a pad. Because the puppy is learning a habit of toileting on the pads, he should gravitate to the area where the pads are still covering the floor.

4.     Puppies do not like to toilet too near where they eat or sleep, so start removing the pads that are closest to the pup’s bed and bowls.

5.     Over the next few weeks, gradually reduce the pads by removing each pad until there is one single pad left. Make sure that the remaining pad is the furthest from pup’s bed and bowl. If you want your puppy to use an inside toilet, start moving the last pad towards it. Finally, you can start placing the pad on it. When the puppy is confident about using that pad, remove it and keep an eye on your puppy to see whether he is using the dog toilet from then on.

6.     If you want your puppy to start going outside, take a partially soiled pad to your outside toilet area and place it on the ground. This will teach the puppy to toilet outside while still having the comforting feel of the pad underneath his paws. Once the puppy is confident about going outside, stop using indoor pads completely.


Take Your Puppy Out Every Two Hours

It is a good idea to take your puppy out frequently. Set a timer for every second hour. When the timer goes off, take your puppy to the designated toilet area. It does not matter whether it’s outside or indoors.

1.     Once there, be patient as your puppy may not go instantly. Give it time, but do not cuddle, give attention, or play while waiting otherwise your puppy may confuse toilet time with time with you.

2.     If your puppy does not go, do not be alarmed. After a few minutes, simply take them back inside and try again a little later.

3.     If your puppy does go, reward them straight away. Use encouraging praises and make a fuss that they have gone to the toilet in the right spot, give your pup a treat for a good job. But let the puppy finish toileting first so that you do not confuse them to stop.

4.     It is also a good idea to stay outside for a bit after your dog is done. If your dog likes to stay outside and you only take them there to toilet, they might stop toileting in the hope of staying outside longer. So, have a little play outside once your puppy has successfully gone to the toilet. This ensures your puppy associates outside with their toilet needs and a place they can play, rather than one or the other.

What to do when leaving your puppy alone

Toilet training should be continued even when you are not home. This obviously means that you will not be able to keep an eye on your puppy. Young puppies should not be allowed to roam the house freely when alone because you are not there to reinforce toilet training.

If you will be gone for only an hour or so, your puppy can remain in their crate (if you choose to crate train your puppy ). This gives your puppy a chance to learn how to hold their bladder.

If you are going to be gone for longer than an hour it is not a good idea to leave your puppy in a small crate. You need to confine your dog to a small area of your home such as a bathroom or kitchen. You can use puppy gates or bigger play pens for this. It would be best if this area had solid, hard flooring as your puppy is still learning correct toilet behaviour.

Make sure you leave your puppy with the following things:

        Clean puppy pads (that can be secured in a puppy pad holder) and/or your Pet Loo.

        A blanket or dog bed.

        A bowl of water that is not easy to tip over.

        Some safe puppy toys designed for chewing, such as rubber Kongs.

How to toilet train your puppy at night

First, you need to decide where you want your dog to sleep. If you want your dog to sleep in certain room or in the bedroom with you, this is where your puppy should begin sleeping. If you start off by letting the puppy sleep in the same room with you, it will become difficult to move them to another location later. So, think about what it is that you want your dog to do as an adult dog and start that way right away!

If you have chosen to crate train your puppy then a crate is the ideal place for them to sleep in.

Benefits of crate training are:

        It is small enough to discourage them from soiling in it.

        Puppies can easily be enclosed to encourage them to sleep and prevent them from wandering of and going to toilet on the floor.

        The floor of a crate is non-porous, and you can easily cover it in case of accidents.

If you do not want to use a crate you will have to find another way of enclosing them in a safe area, where you can still hear them.

When you first bring your puppy home you should set alarms to wake up and take them outside or to use their indoor doggy toilet during the night. Once again this is only a toilet trip, do not make a fuss about it or give the puppy any attention. Otherwise, your puppy might learn to wake you up when they want attention!

Take your puppy to toilet twice a night until you are confident that they can hold on until the morning. Most puppies will learn what is going on quickly and they’ll wake you up with whining when they need to go!

Adding A Cue

It will make your life easier if your puppy learns to toilet on command. It will not be needed every time, but there will be moments when you’ll need your puppy to go to the toilet quickly. For example, before bedtime or on a long car ride. Whenever you see your puppy relieving themselves, start saying a word you want them to learn and associate with their toilet needs. I use a word “toilet” myself. Say it during the fact. That way, whenever your dog hears the word ‘toilet’ they associate it with the need to relieve themselves.

1.     Praise your dog after they are done,use a treat reward to really motivate your dog to toilet.

2.     When you have been saying the word while your puppy is doing their business for a good few months, start anticipating their need to toilet and use the word right before they start relieving themselves. This way the word becomes a cue for going to the toilet.

3.     You can check how well your dog is learning the word by taking your dog to their toilet area and saying the word before they start peeing or pooping. If your dog chooses to toilet after the word, you will know they’ve made the connection with the command.

Accidents Will Happen

One of the most important things you need to remember when it comes to toilet training is that accidents will happen. It is a fact. It is important not to get angry about it. It is highly unlikely your dog has done it on purpose and getting angry will only make things worse.

Puppies do not have full control over their bladder. That is what toilet training is all about, teaching them how to hold and where they should toilet. It is all part of the process. So, accidents can happen without the dog even being able to prevent or control them.

Never shout, become angry, say ‘no’, or punish your dog for going in the wrong spot. It does not teach your dog where to go. But it does teach them to be scared about going in front of you. And this makes training much harder. Do not make a fuss or an issue over the mess either, simply clean it up.

If you notice your dog is about to go in the wrong place, interrupt them in a calm and cheerful way, and take them to the correct spot. Remember to praise them when they go.

If you are really struggling with toilet training your puppy, please seek professional help from an experienced dog trainer or vet. Occasionally there may be a medical reason why your puppy has issues with toilet training. Your vet is the perfect professional to help you with any medical needs and advise you how to treat it.