How to toilet train your puppy

puppy toilet training

There are three things we can guarantee when you welcome a puppy into your home: happiness, a few chewed shoes, and some puppy puddles.

Just like a toddler, puppies need to be toilet trained. And the good thing is, they tend to learn a lot quicker than their human counterparts.

We’ve pulled together a how-to guide to help toilet train your puppy and keep your floors (and favourite rug!) dry.

puppy toilet training

When should you start toilet training your puppy?

The key to toilet training success is starting early and being consistent. You should start toilet training as soon as your new puppy arrives at their forever home. Set a designated spot for them to relieve themselves – this could be a backyard, outside on the footpath if you live in an apartment or even a puppy pad – whatever works best for you and your new addition.

It’s helpful to add in a cue, for example, saying ‘toilet’, to teach your dog to go on command. You should repeat this cue before and during their toilet break, so that when they hear it, they know to use the toilet.  

There’s one thing to remember – no matter how diligent you are, there will absolutely be accidents, especially in the first few days and weeks as they adapt to a new home and new people. So, be patient, your pup will learn the ropes soon enough!

Look for the signs

Puppies will communicate an impending need to go to the toilet in various ways, and you can’t say they don’t give you fair warning. They may turn in circles, sniff the ground, scratch at the door or whine to get your attention. When you notice any of these signals, immediately take your pup to their designated spot without fuss – even if you have to interrupt them mid-poo or pee. Once they’ve finished their business, reward them for this positive behaviour.

Practice makes perfect

Routine is key. Make sure to take your puppy outside every day when you wake up, before you leave for the day, before you go to sleep, after mealtimes and after playtimes – at a minimum. Unlike adult dogs, puppies can’t hold on for long once they get the urge to go, so it’s important to take this into account when creating a toilet schedule. You’ll need to be extra vigilant during the early days and take them to relieve themselves every 1-2 hours. Even if they don’t go, it still encourages good toileting behaviour and helps to avoid any accidents.

You may also want to set an alarm a few times during the night to take your pup out to go to the toilet or encourage them to go to their designated indoor area – just until you’re confident that they can hold on until morning.

It’s important to note that whilst handy, puppy pads may not be the best option for all dogs, as the texture is so different to grass and may conflict with their toilet training, so a grass mat for indoors may be a better idea. If you can’t be home with your new puppy, you may want to consider a dog walker whilst toilet training, as they will be able to continue reinforcing good behaviour.

Reward and encourage your puppy

Pups – and people, for that matter – learn best when they’re not stressed, and they respond a lot better to praise rather than punishment. So, be sure to make a big fuss when your pup goes to the toilet in the right spot. This positive reinforcement goes a long way to helping them develop a positive association with that particular spot. If your puppy has an accident, don’t punish them or get angry, and don’t rub their noses in it, as your puppy may get scared to go to the toilet in front of you and potentially encourage them to hide their toilet antics.

If there is an accident, clean up the mess without making a fuss. We recommend using an enzyme-based odour-neutralising cleaner, as the smell of the urine may cause your dog to have repeat incidents in that same spot.  

puppy toilet training

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