Updated: Jan 6
Toilet training is one of the most important skills you will teach your puppy. Your breeder will have started this process already, but it is very important to continue effectively as soon as your puppy arrives home. If you are committed to your training you will ensure puppy is set up for success, not accidents!
When trying to find a spot to go to the toilet, puppies will instinctively seek out a floor surface with a different texture to the flooring on which they sleep and eat food. Usually, they will go for an absorbent-feeling surface, such as grass, soil or a fabric pee pad. When your puppy comes home with you, they will already have formed a preference for what type of surface they like to toilet on, based on what the breeder was offering them. It is helpful to ask your breeder what surfaces the puppy was living and toileting on so you can try to replicate this at home if you have any trouble.
Tips for toilet training:
The key is watching your puppy really closely and taking responsibility for giving them the opportunity to go in the right place. You have to put your puppy in the right spot when they need to go; you can’t expect them to guess what you want from them. This will mean getting up really early for a few weeks – when puppy wakes up, you wake up. It won’t last forever, especially if you get the training right from the start.
Until your puppy is perfectly toilet trained, don’t give them access to the whole house at once. It is important they be kept under close supervision so that you can make sure they’re not getting up to mischief, and you spot the tell-tale signs that they might need the toilet. Restricting access to floors of different surfaces will be a good idea so the puppy doesn’t mistake a specific rug or carpet for a perfect toilet spot.
A puppy is less likely to have an accident close to their bed or food bowl, as they will naturally try to get away from these things when they need to go. Always feed your puppy inside the house so that food is associated with the clean floors you don’t want to be toileted on.
If you are crate training, keep the crate big enough for a bed and a water bowl, but not so large that there is room at the back, away from the bed, for the puppy to toilet in.
Signs that your puppy needs to go:
Circling, with their nose on the ground, sniffing in a 360-degree circle
Pacing, especially near a door or in the far corner of a room
Scratching at the door or pawing at the floor
Watch your puppy carefully and learn their personal tell-tale signs. You want to become an expert at reading your puppy’s body language. If you see your puppy squatting in the wrong spot – run over, grab puppy, jog to the right spot and pop them down. Then when they go in the right spot, give lots and lots of praise.
Take the puppy to their correct toilet location every 30 minutes for the first few days. Also take them after anything exciting has happened, such as a play session or new people arriving. Also take them straight after any meal, any time you have seen the puppy drink water, and after they have woken up from a nap.
Every time the puppy toilets in the right spot, reward them by giving praise, a quick game with a toy, or a food treat. We want puppy to learn that toileting in the right spot is the best! It gets them fun rewards! If they go in the wrong spot, we ignore it and don’t give a reward.
Never punish the puppy for accidents. If they have made a mistake, it is not their fault. It means you failed to notice the signs and get them to their spot quickly enough, or you have not been clear enough yet in helping the puppy learn where they are meant to go. The concept of ‘rubbing a puppy’s nose in it’ does not work, please don’t try this. All it does is confuse your puppy and damage your relationship with them. No puppy goes in the wrong location out of spite or to be disobedient, they do it because they didn’t know there was a correct spot or couldn’t get there!
If an accident occurs: ignore it, collect any poo and put it on the right location for a few minutes to ‘scent’ that spot, and clean the incorrect spot thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner. If the puppy can smell any remnants of droppings they might go here again, remembering that they tried it last time.
Remember – take puppy out to their toilet spot:
- First thing after they wake up
- After eating or drinking
- After walking or playing
- After a visitor arrives
- After an unexpected excitement
- Last thing at night before bed
- Overnight - if the puppy is crying and whining to be let out,
they probably need to go - look for the signs
Every puppy will learn at their own pace – some will be flawless within a week or so, others might take longer, especially if you don’t have a traditional garden set-up and the puppy has to use an indoor toilet location. Be persistent and keep consistent and you will get there in the end!
Some puppies will urinate a little when they get too excited, such as when they greet a new person, try a new exciting game, or when you arrive home after being away. This is a normal behaviour and usually disappears with age as their sphincter muscles get stronger. Never punish this behaviour, just learn from it and have visitors greet the puppy outside instead!
Some puppies will urinate a little when they get scared by something - usually an interaction with a big boisterous dog or a human. If your puppy does this, help them gain confidence by altering your body language to be less threatening. Crouch down to say hi, offer a hand out for the puppy to sniff from a distance, try not to lean over the puppy’s head. As the puppy gets older and develops more confidence, this problem usually resolves.