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Puppy Toilet Training

While some breeds are easier to toilet train than others, all should be trained where to toilet by 6 months of age, although you may also get great results in just 2 – 4 weeks.

To achieve quick and easy toilet training you will need to be extra diligent in the first few weeks of bringing your new puppy home. The extra time you spend toilet training will pay off 100 fold when you have a perfectly toilet trained puppy who can be trusted not to toilet in the house by 12 - 16 weeks of age.

Talk to your breeder to find out how they have begun the toilet training process prior to bringing your puppy home. Early learning can shape your pups toileting habits. The surface that they learn to toilet on from 4 – 5 weeks of age will remain in their memory. Breeders that provide

access to grass once pups come out of the whelping box will help them to learn to toilet on grass rather than on carpet, tiles or floorboards - making your job easier once you get pup home. If however pups have been allowed to toilet on bedding or carpet – your job will be much harder.

Before you bring puppy home

Before you bring puppy home, print out several copies of the toilet training record (below) and place it somewhere prominent as this will be your guide to successful toilet training. Buy an enzymatic washing powder or a urine odour eliminator product from a pet store. These are the only products you should use to clean up accidents as they remove all traces of urine and faeces to prevent the pup returning to that spot. Decide where you want pup to toilet so that you can direct the puppy to this spot. A mix of 50/50 white vinegar and water has also been known to assist in cleaning up accidents. Thoroughly clean the area, don’t just spray.

Step 1

Put some treats in your pocket and either carry your pup onto the lawn (if pup is a small breed or the distance is greater than they can manage at present) or encourage them to come to you with a happy voice. You may need to put their lead on initially to help guide them. In order to successfully toilet train, your pup will need to learn to walk on their own to the toileting spot. So for small breeds slowly increase the distance they must walk to the lawn so they learn how to do it themselves.

Step 2

Once on the lawn - wait for pup to go to the toilet – be patient as this may take a while – as soon as puppy is finished going to the toilet – praise lavishly and give them several treats one at a time. Make toileting the best trick ever and puppy will be sure to repeat it. Once pup is toileting fairly quickly on the lawn, add a verbal cue eg ‘toilet’, ‘go potty’ etc

Step 3

Record the time, what puppy did and where they went on your toilet training record.

Step 4

Now repeat the above procedure every hour. Repeat also after puppy wakes up or before pup goes to bed for the night. In between toilet times – supervise constantly. Keep pup in your sight at all times. Don’t let accidents happen on your watch.

Step 5

During the night – have puppy close to you in their bed or crated in your room. Close your door or use a baby gate to keep pup in the room. The millisecond your pup wakes, steps out of bed or cries – rush them straight out to the toilet – as pup will have a full bladder/bowels after a prolonged rest and will not hold it for longer than 30 seconds. This is a matter of urgency to prevent an accident. So get up quickly and get pup outdoors.

Toileting Accidents

Accidents are always our fault and never the puppies. An accident means you were not diligent enough at getting puppy outdoors or you haven’t carefully mapped out puppies toileting habits. By recording all toileting on the record sheet, you can quickly see when puppy is likely to need to go out to toilet and what puppy needs to do at what times. If you find urine or faeces in the house and puppy has left the scene, simply get out your enzymatic cleaner and clean it up and record the accident on the record sheet. If you catch pup in the act – calmly scoop them outside to their toilet place as soon as possible. Be careful about giving your pup a fright at these times. Essentially if they have all ready started going, it is too late! However, it doesn’t hurt to visit the outside spot immediately after the inside accident, to encourage toileting association with the preferred area.

Never ever punish your puppy for a toilet accident. Scolding puppies can make them scared to toilet in front of you and that is definitely not what we want – you will be jeopardising your whole toileting program. We want puppy to happily toilet in front of us and get rewarded for doing so. Accidents will happen, just clean them up and get puppy outdoors sooner next time.

To reduce accidents – restrict access to the floor types that your pups seems to be making mistakes on. If it is your bathroom tiles, close the door or put up a baby gate. If is it on rugs, remove all rugs or cover the rugs with a material that puppy does not associate with toileting eg towel or sheet. When your puppy has had zero accidents for 14 days you can slowly begin to allow access to these previously restricted areas or surfaces. Continue to closely supervise these new surfaces for a further 14 days.

*For pups that have successfully been toileting and are starting to have accidents again - undertake a vet check to rule out a medical issue such as infection. Also check for any changes in their life and routine. Sometimes a big change can affect their behaviour. Go back a few steps and start training again. 

It is no secret that dogs that are allowed inside the home with you have far more training opportunities than those that are relegated to be a back yard dog. More training can mean less behavioural problems. The dog allowed indoors learns to be calmer in the house, have a greater relationship with you, is more relaxed and better socialised than outdoor dogs. Therefore, it makes sense to invest time in toilet training so that your dog can live with you in the home.

Check the Pet Professional Guild Australia website at for a trainer near you.

Developed by Louise Ginman BSc PCT-A Cert IV Companion Animal Services, author of A Guide for Conducting Dog-to-Dog introductions, 2013 and Director of Positive Dogs. © 2017

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