House training your dog: how to toilet train your dog or puppy
One of the first things you’ll want to focus on when welcoming a new dog to your home is getting them used to going to the toilet in the right place. Toilet training your dog should be fairly straightforward. Your pup will naturally want to toilet away from his normal living area, so your chosen place will usually be your garden or a safe outdoor space near your home.
Your dog’s early development
House training a new puppy is often easier than toilet training an older dog. While the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” isn’t entirely true, it’s certainly easier to train a young pup.
The time between four and 12 weeks old is when dogs learn about all the elements of normal life. This is the best age to introduce any new routine – including toilet training.
You might find it helpful to use puppy pads or newspaper to protect your dog’s living area during the day and night, in case of accidents (more on that later).
When you start to toilet train your dog, lay a soiled pad or damp newspaper down in the area where you want them to toilet, as the smell can help them make the connection.
A toilet break after they wake up
First thing in the morning and last thing at night, take your dog or puppy outside to your chosen toilet spot. Give him a few minutes to explore the area. It’s best to let him explore without a lead, but if it’s not safe to do so – if your chosen spot isn’t enclosed, for example – an extendable lead may help. Remember also that your pup will not sleep for eight hours straight during the night, so it's worth setting an alarm and letting them out during the night.
Try not to engage in play with your puppy at these times – playing games will distract him from the purpose. Stay outside until he’s been to the toilet, and be sure to reward him with praise or a treat when he does.
If he looks confused or wants to come back inside without using the toilet, you can return indoors but repeat the process ten minutes later…and keep trying at 10 minute intervals until he gets the message.
It’s best not to leave your puppy alone during the early stages of toilet training, but if you can’t avoid going out, give him the chance to exercise and go to the toilet before you go – and leave newspaper or puppy pads down to protect the floor in his living area.
Like any new routine, toilet training your dog or puppy takes time and patience, but once he’s got the hang of it you’ll be glad you persisted.
Signs and signals that your puppy needs toileting
- Sniffing the floor
- Restless behaviour
- Going into a room where they’ve previously toileted
- If they've recently had their brekfast or dinner, your pup is likely to need a toilet break
The combination of excitement, distraction and a small bladder mean it’s inevitable that your dog will have accidents at first. After all, he’s still getting used to the unfamiliar surroundings that have become his new home.
Never, ever punish your dog or puppy for having an accident – just clean it up calmly, and return him to the outdoor spot where he should be going to the toilet, so he can begin to make the association.
Why you should never punish accidents
While it’s natural to feel frustration if your dog keeps having accidents, always remember, he’s not willfully misbehaving – just a little slower to adopt a new routine. While it’s rare for continued accidents to be caused by a medical problem, always speak to your local vet if you have any concerns.
“Like any new routine, toilet training your dog or puppy takes time and patience, but once he’s got the hang of it you’ll be glad you persisted.”
Need expert advice on toilet training a puppy or dog?
For expert advice on house training your puppy or dog, get in touch with your local vet. To find your nearest recommended vet or pet clinic, use our Find a Vet page.