Toilet training in puppies involves consistency, patience and predictability. Each pup is an individual and some may take longer than others. Once the bladder and colon is full, the muscles are not developed enough to physically prevent elimination. However, you should see progress between 4-6 months of age. For those who feel their pups have achieved toilet training you may see a regression around 6-8 months of age which is perfectly normal. It is not uncommon for pups to take up to 9-12 months to be fully house trained.  

When you first bring a pup home head straight to the toilet area rather than take them in to your house – start as you mean to go on. When he/she does go to the toilet, very gently use words like ‘toilet’ or ‘weewee’, smile and gently tell them ‘Good Boy/Girl’. You can give them a food reward if you wish but a verbal praise will be enough. 

A good routine can help with elimination, for example when they wake up, after food, after play, before going to bed and when visitors arrive. Having a routine can help to predict when toileting is due and to identify any problematic areas for example when the kids arrive home from school. When you take the pup outside, stand in the area where you want your pup to go and ignore him/her. If you have a big garden, taking him/her out on a lead can be helpful to prevent the pup from going in the wrong place. Play and attention should always be given after elimination.   

To begin with, you may have to take your pup outside every half an hour but a diary can help to pinpoint the times in which the pup needs to go and to prevent accidents.  

Puppies will normally seek a location that is absorbent for example a door mat, rug or bath mat. Accidents will happen but don’t get cross with them. Going to the toilet is the most natural behaviour in life, using punishment may result in the puppy sneaking off to eliminate. If they have an accident take them outside in case they need to go again and clean up by using a mixture of warm water and non bio washing powder or UrineOff. 

Keep an eye out for any signs like sniffing the ground, circling, restlessness, barking, pacing,  being unsettled, becoming bitey, going towards the door, suddenly stopping what he/she is doing. This list isn’t true to all individuals but the more you watch them the more likely you will pick up on the unique signs.  

If you live in a flat you can litter train but you will need to be prepared for lots of trips outside too. 

Using the crate can be useful if supervision cannot be given. Provided correct crate training has been carried out the crate will be a comforting place. The crate needs to be the correct size where a pup can lay-down, stand up, turn around and stretch out but if the crate is too big the pup may sleep one end and use the other end as a toilet. Once house training is complete, larger crates are much better for dogs.  

If a pup is given sufficient time to toilet and doesn’t go, keep him/her on lead, go back inside for a few minutes (do some training etc) and then take him/her back out to try again. 

If your pup is able to go for walks and won’t go to the toilet whilst out this is often due to a lack of confidence. Keep him/her on lead and go straight to the designated toilet area when you arrive home. Avoid going inside if possible. 

Inappropriate elimination could be linked to separation anxiety, marking, excitement, infections, submissive urination which are linked to anxiety, emotional arousal, health and fear. If you believe your pup or dog has one of the above please seek professional advice.  

In summary:

  1. Prevent accidents 
  2. Predict when the pup needs to toilet
  3. Reward elimination in the appropriate areas
  4. Don’t punish the pup for accidents
  5. Clean soiled areas with appropriate cleaning solutions
  6. Be proactive rather than reactive.