Toilet training a puppy

There are a lot of things we want to teach them when they are coming into our homes for the first time, but toilet training a puppy is one of the first things we’ll think of.  It’s important to remember that every puppy has a different personality, so what worked straight away for a friend and their pup, may not work as quickly for you.  The key is being consistent, and calm and patient, with whichever  method you pick.  The right method for you will depend on your circumstances to a degree.

The most straightforward method of toilet training a puppy.

  1. As soon as you get your puppy home for the first time, take them straight outside to a (secure) area of your garden, and let them sniff about.
  2. Wait with them outside and then praise and treat them when they go to the toilet.  You can use a word association if you like, e.g. saying while they are doing their business “be clean”
  3. Take them outside and repeat step 2 every hour or so.
  4. Meanwhile if they have any accidents indoors, do not tell them off.  If you catch them in act, simply take them outside instead, and repeat step two.
  5. If you find a little present after the event has happened, you cannot do anything about it, so just clean it up without interacting with your puppy.
  6. Eventually your puppy will learn that “be clean” means go to the toilet, so you can start letting them outside and giving the request “be clean” as soon as they are out there.  They will also learn that they only get praised when they go to the toilet outside, and not if they do it inside.

Whilst this is definitely the most straightforward method, it may not be that easy to follow for everyone, as some lifestyles do not permit toilet training a puppy with this level of continuous work.

An alternative method of toilet training a puppy.

  1. Create a small area for your puppy that includes their bed, their water bowl, and the rest of the area cover in puppy pads (or newspaper), e.g. inside a large crate, pen or a utility room.
  2. When they go to the toilet on their pads praise them, using a word association, and reward the behaviour.
  3. If they are in this area while you are out of the room then they are likely to learn to toilet on the pad, rather than their bed.
  4. Gradually you can reduce the coverage of that area so there is only one puppy pad there.  You can also put another pad in a more open area, e.g. by the back door, for when they are outside of the small area.
  5. Again if you see them choosing to toilet on the pad follow step 2.
  6. If you see them going in a different area, guide them back to their pad.
  7. If you find a present after the event (whether on or off the pad) the moment has passed, so just clean it up and move on.
  8. Eventually when they are only going on the pad, you can start to move the pad to the garden/an outside area, to get them used to going out there.  
  9. When they are only going to the toilet outside, then you can remove the pads completely.

This method is more for people with very busy lives, or who live in flats without direct access to a garden.  This will minimise the amount of cleaning up you will have to do in your house.  Ultimately you are still going to have to train them to go outside, so it’s worth taking a bit of time to stand outside with them and make that positive association when you can too!

If you are working on toilet training a puppy who is a bit older, and really should know by now, then there may be some behaviour elements to it, e.g. separation anxiety, or marking.  Then it might be useful to get some expert dog training help.

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