Whether you (or they) like it or not, the one thing that all puppies must learn is where you'd like them to go to the toilet. That is unless you enjoy cleaning up wee, or worse. Knowing how to toilet train a puppy when you've never done it before might seem daunting, but this guide will ease you in with 8 simple tips.
Why toilet train a puppy?
There are three main reasons why you should toilet train your puppy. The most obvious answer to this question lies in the fact that it's rather unpleasant walking through your puppy's wees or poops. Especially if it's first thing in the morning and you're wearing socks - I would know, I've done it. The second is that your puppy will find it equally unpleasant soiling their own bedding. Then the final slightly less obvious answer lies in that toilet training is one of the first major milestones you'll achieve with your puppy. How you go about this process sets the scene for what kind of pet parent you're going to be, as well as giving your puppy the confidence and independence it needs to tackle the world. It will help form your bond, how you interact, and how easily they'll pick up future tricks.
When should I start toilet training my puppy?
When to begin to toilet train a puppy depends on a couple of factors, such as at what age you bring your puppy home, hence there is no 'one size fits all' age. The best time to begin is as soon as your puppy arrives at their forever home. This is typically around the age of 8 weeks old. Prior to 8 weeks old, puppies don't have full awareness of what a full bladder feels like, so aren't able to control when or where they pee.
Depending on your puppy's age, they may or may not be able to go outside yet. So please do take this into account when choosing their potty zone. If you are unsure, check out our tips on when puppies can go outside.
Read on to begin your toilet training journey...
8 tips to toilet train a puppy:
1) Research your puppy's breed traits and behaviours
First things first, not all dogs are the same. Different breeds express different behaviours, which will impact your toilet training plan. For example, smaller toy breeds have a smaller bladder, meaning they need to 'go toilet' more frequently.
Some breeds are also renowned for picking up skills more easily, whilst others may require a little more patience from you. Stanley Coren, a psychologist, has carried out several studies into our fur babies intelligence. Sharing from one of his studies in 2019 that "Data were obtained from 1,888 dogs, and the results were unambiguous. There was a clear trend indicating that larger dogs were able to accurately remember over a longer period of time than were their smaller counterparts." So for any any small dog owners remember, patience is a virtue!
2) Ensure your puppy is comfortable in its surroundings
Before you can go into training, you'll want to ensure your puppy feels comfortable in their new home and with their new family. An overly nervous or excitable puppy will be very difficult to train, as their mind simply won't be in the game.
If there are certain areas of your home that are especially out of bounds (think white carpets), we'd also recommend not showing your puppy around them right from the off. This will lay out the foundations, and keep things nice and clear.
3) Understand your puppy's signals
As your relationship with your puppy develops you'll start to notice them expressing certain signals that indicate they need to go to the toilet. These could include:
- whining or barking
- pawing at the door
- sniffing the ground
- acting restlessly
- walking in circles
If you notice any of these signs, act immediately by taking them to their designated potty area.
4) Start a routine and keep it consistent
Now that you've established the basics, it's time to set out your routine. Consistency is key here and we'd recommend crate training your puppy to help here. Firstly decide how frequently you'll take your puppy outside, or to its designated potty area. Young puppies around the age of 8 weeks will need to be given the opportunity every twenty minutes or so. To avoid accidents, stick to this like clockwork, we'd advise setting a repeat alarm on your phone.
As well as this, set a regular time for their daily meals to help consolidate the routine. After every meal of their favourite puppy food take them to their potty zone straight away, or if you've spotted them having a large drink of water or if they're coming out of their crate
5) Designate a specific potty zone
As mentioned earlier, your puppy's age, as well as your living situation will determine where the best spot is.
If your puppy is lucky enough to have its own private garden, that no dogs without vaccinations can access, then you can start taking them outside straight away. Pick a grassy spot as close to your house as possible, so they don't have to travel too far. You'll want to choose a spot that's easy for you to clean up after too. Our pups have a fantastic sense of smell, so they'll pick up their scent and associate this area as their toilet in no time.
If your puppy doesn't have such easy access to a private grassy spot and hasn't had all its vaccinations, there are a couple of options. Firstly, indoor grass patches. These are great for helping pups learn to only pee on grass, as well as providing a natural alternative to puppy training pads. You can even now have these delivered to you with subscription services. The other options are training pads, paper towels or newspapers - the former being the easiest to clean up after.
Even if your puppy is allowed outside, we'd recommend having some training pads, or newspaper out as a backup plan. Just in case your pup is cut short. Always leave it in the same place, so they know where to go as soon as they have the urge.
6) Introduce a command
Along with having your designated potty zone, you can also introduce a designated potty phrase. The phrase is really up to you, just ensure it's clear and kept the same. We used the phrase 'busy girl'. Repeat this phrase whenever you take your puppy to their designated potty zone, so they understand what you want them to do. Only use it when they are urinating in the correct spot to avoid any confusion.
7) Use training treats as a reward
Our penultimate piece of advice is around positive reinforcement. You want this to be a positive and happy experience for your puppy, so make sure to praise their success, whether that's verbally or with a tasty treat.
Our Softies Training Treats, available in Chicken & Duck or Plant Powered, are the perfect reward for toilet training. Baked to a soft bite that can be easily broken up into smaller pieces and chewed by little mouths. Like all our recipes they're designed to be easy on sensitive stomachs, with the tummy-soothing slippery elm. Plus they're served in compostable bags and made in the UK.
Puppies don't respond well to being told off, so remember to never shout at them. It won't help them learn their lesson, they'll simply feel scared.
8) Clean up any accidents pronto!
If your puppy does have an accident inside the house, make sure to clean it up quickly using an enzymatic or bio cleaner that's free from ammonia. Ammonia is the principal chemical responsible for the smell of wee, which is also found in most household cleaners. If used the puppy will recognize the smell and can attract them to pee in the same spot in the future.