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June 2023

The Dos and Don'ts for Toilet Training Your Dog or Puppy

Behaviour & Training

How To Toilet Train Your Puppy Or Dog

The sooner you pooch gets familiar with the routine, the quicker they'll learn! Regularity, consistency and praise are the keys to success.

Our standard toilet training and house-training tips are tailored to new puppies, but you can still use the same techniques for an older dog – it just takes some extra patience and persistence to reduce any pre-existing habits, or if you are introducing them to a new home or area to go to the toilet. The one thing to remember when you begin toilet training – and when accidents start to occur - is that young puppies have a small bladder. So, it’s important someone is available to supervise your new puppy as much as possible to speed up the learning curve. It’s a journey for both of you, and it’s worth every single bit of effort.

Toilet Training Tip 1: One-hour intervals for puppies

A small puppy bladder means your newest family member can’t hold on for very long. This can be an hour or less; and this is normal. Your new puppy will likely need to go to the toilet after sleeping, eating or playing. Make sure you try and get your puppy to their toilet area shortly after any of these actions – and even carry them there if they’re just about to go.

Toilet Training Tip 2: The signs of toilet time

Blink, and you might miss it. Puppies do display signals and actions that he/she needs to go, and it’s not random, you might just be looking away at the wrong second. If your puppy seems to be circling about, sniffing the ground or looking to disappear somewhere quiet, they need to go. Sounds simple, but it does require an extra level of awareness of what your puppy is doing over the entire day. We understand this isn’t always possible with your busy routines, so just do the best you can. Likewise, if your adult dog hasn’t been properly toilet trained, or is being trained to go in a new area or home, again watch for the signs such as sniffing the ground or walls.

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Toilet Training Tip 3: A place to go

Find a specific place outside in the garden (a toilet area) where you want them to go, and place them on that spot. Point, and once they start to pee or poop, you can give them a cue word and reward them with verbal praise. Puppies and dogs will begin to form an association between the place, the action and cue word – eventually. Even if it seems like the association is taking forever, keep at it, they will begin to understand.

“Always up the praise a little more than usual with your puppy or dog when it goes to the toilet in the desired area on its own merit. Remember rewarding behaviour makes it more likely to occur again with more frequency and intensity, so we really want to up the ante once they start making the right decision themselves,” says dog trainer and Pooches At Play host, Lara Shannon.

Toilet Training Tip 4: Find your cue (command)

As mentioned above, it’s super important to find a consistent cue word or phrase to voice to your puppy or dog when he/she is doing their business. Make sure you always use the same term and leave no room for confusion. Try “go toilet”, “go wee-wee”, or a similar command. Consistency is key so use the same word every time.

Toilet Training Tip 5: Distraction-free

Once you’ve got your furry friend to the designated toilet area, try not to play with them or give them any attention while they're doing their thing. Training should always start with minimal distractions. If you start playing with them or exploring the yard while you’re waiting, the association with the correct toilet area could be lost. Puppies can learn quite quickly if you keep your communication clear and consistent. But yes, some puppies can be a bit more challenging, so make sure you do your best to lead by example.

Toilet Training Tip 6: No anger over an accident

Punishment and anger don’t work when it comes to toilet training. No one likes being told off. While you might be frustrated, don’t let your puppy or dog know that. If they get punished for having an accident, they might begin to feel nervous or hide the fact they are going to the toilet. And, if you’re outside waiting for them to do their business and getting agitated, they’ll avoid going in front of you. Hang in there, and let the process happen in a positive manner.

“Owners often make the mistake of assuming a dog should know what is expected of them without providing enough clear and consistent training, leaving them confused and anxious about what they are being punished for. This creates more problems, so patience and understanding are the key, and going back to basics in Step 1 if they are struggling,” says Lara.

Hot Tip

Avoid cleaning products with ammonia in them , as this will attract your pet back to the wrong toilet area. We stock specific enzymatic odour sprays for this – check them out!

Quick House-training Tips

If your dog or puppy is an indoor-only pet, here are some additional tips for house training. Most of the principles are the same, but this time, you’re teaching your pooch to use a product or indoor area for toilet time.

  1. Find the designated and encourage your dog or puppy, in the same way as above, to use this area only.

  2. When they've done their business, praise them with a friendly voice, pat them thoroughly or even give a small treat within a few seconds at the spot.

  3. Like the above instructions, if they have an accident don't tell them off, just ensure you, as they'll sniff out any scent left behind and go there again. Try to avoid making a fuss or cleaning up when they are watching to avoid drawing attention to it.

  4. If you catch them mid-crouch, pick them up quickly and carry them to where they should go. Again, praise when they have finished.

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