Once you bring your new puppy home, you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time to training them, including training them to go outside to use the toilet. In time, this should become part of your daily routine and your dog will do it without thinking about it.
The key is consistency, commitment and positive reinforcement. Puppies are still developing, both physically and mentally, so it can take some time before they fully understand what they’re supposed to do.
Likewise, they’ll struggle to control their need to toilet, so accidents will be common in the early stages of training.
What to do when your dog shows signs of needing the toilet:
- Take them to the correct place and stay with them until they have been to the toilet. Some people let their dogs into the garden and assume they’ve gone, only to find they get back inside and toilet on the floor. You need to be there to give immediate praise when it happens, so your dog knows exactly what he’s done right.
- When they begin to go, use a command word that they can associate with the correct behaviour (but ideally one that you wouldn’t use in a different context) e.g. ‘be quick’ rather than ‘good boy’.
- Once they’ve finished, reward them immediately with lots of praise, albeit vocal or in the form of a treat or play.
- Aim to stay outside for a minute or two afterwards so that your dog doesn’t learn that going to the toilet means an end to being outside. This might mean they hold on for as long as possible before going, which you want to avoid. A walk around the garden or neighbourhood is a nice reward.
- If they toilet in the wrong place, don’t scold or punish them as it will only teach them to be scared of you and wary of toileting in front of you. Instead, take them to the correct place and give them the opportunity to toilet there. If they do, remember to give them lots of encouragement and praise.
- Remember, there will be setbacks and some puppies will need longer than others to learn the correct way.
Aim to take your dog outside first thing in the morning, after meals, after exercise, after a nap, and last thing at night. Keep feeding times the same to avoid accidents and avoid leaving your dog in the garden for long periods (as you are not there to reward them), or in the house (forcing them to toilet inside).
It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect your puppy to go the whole night without needing the toilet, so a trip outside is probably going to be needed. You can still use puppy pads on the floor or in the bottom of a crate in case of small accidents.
For more information or advice on effective toilet training, speak to your vet. If you are worried that no amount of training is working and your dog still insists on toileting inside, it could be due to anxiety or even a physical or health issue, so a trip to the vet is vital.
Written by: Hannah Dyball