How to toilet train a new puppy

How to toilet train a new puppy is a question veterinarians are frequently asked. For many new pet owners, those first few weeks after taking a puppy into your home can be frustrating and if you don’t do it right, your puppy’s peeing habits will damage your bond with him.

Toilet training your new puppy the correct way can make the world of difference to your life and his. If you do it correctly from day one, you shouldn’t have those annoying ‘accidents’ that make you angry with your dog.

“We’re always happy to have client arrive with their new puppies, and one of the questions we always ask is, “How’s toilet training going?” Answers are often mixed, and so I’d like to set out a fairly foolproof way of going about toilet-training your puppy,” says veterinarian Dr Jean Russell.

Puppies don’t mind where they go to the toilet, as long as it’s not too near their sleeping quarters, and as long as they don’t get into trouble for it.  Some puppies are very averse to splashing their legs with urine, so they prefer an absorbent surface – this is as likely to be carpet as newspaper!

Our job is to convince them that going outside is a marvellous idea, and that it’s actually worthwhile hanging on and even asking to go outside.  We do this successfully by rewarding them instantly and handsomely when they do so. We need to give them as many chances as possible to win at this game, and that means taking them outside more often that you would believe necessary.

How to toilet train the right way

Choose a toilet area.  Outdoors.  Don’t use newspapers or puppy pads indoors, as this creates confusion – sometimes it’s fine to piddle indoors but sometimes not?  Not fair on your pup.

Take your puppy to the toilet area on a lead every hour, and every time they wake up, and after every meal or play session.  At night time, probably every three hours is fine; that means waking up once in the night to take them outside.

Stand boringly and silently in the loo zone without interacting at all with the puppy.  Taking them out on a lead means that it’s not a sniffing or play excursion.  Stay there for five minutes or until your puppy performs and if they do, then the mood immediately becomes one of delighted celebration.  Delicious (but small) treats from your pocket, cuddles, release them for a mad gallop around the garden, give them an immediate click if you use a clicker. Little cubes of cheese or thin slices of Vienna sausage are ideal rewards.

If they don’t perform, repeat the process in half an hour.

How to toilet train correctly takes commitment but it’s absolutely worth doing it right from day one. Be totally consistent.  Try to plan so that there is somebody with the puppy all the time at first. Everybody must follow the same plan.


• Turf your puppy out into the garden alone.  If they pee and nobody rewards them, they learn nothing at all.

• Allow your puppy access to the whole house initially. This creates too many opportunities for a secret pee behind the sofa.  They should be within sight at all times.

• Punish accidents.  Once your puppy has performed, he forgets about it immediately. Scolding just scares him and may make him decide that the best place to perform is out of your sight, just in case. If you happen to catch a piddler in the act, scoop them up happily and let them finish outside, then tell them that they are terrific and reward them.

• Get lazy.  Whatever habits you instil in your little beast now, those are the habits you’ll live with for the next 10 or 15 years.


• Be alert to any signs (like restlessness, circling, sniffing) that your puppy is actually asking to go outside.  This is wonderful progress and deserves great rewards!

• Clean up any accidents in the house very thoroughly to eliminate scents that may encourage your puppy to return to the same place.

• Encourage your puppy to go to the edge of the path or slightly into the undergrowth.  This may help avoid that unattractive “plop in the middle of the path” habit when they are older.

• Phase out food rewards gradually but keep them keen by praising appropriate elimination and occasionally producing a jackpot food reward.

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