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Toilet training for puppies and adult dogs new to your home.

First in a series of toilet training blogs. First....the basics...

Whilst I am going to refer to a puppy here, I always treat a dog that’s new to my home as a puppy.  Firstly I don’t know their routine or signals, and they don’t know the environment, but secondly I don’t make any assumptions about anything they may or may not know.  They are in a new environment and I want to set them up to succeed. Start with toilet training basics (and basics across the board, treat them as a blank canvas and teach them everything from scratch.)


They need to go frequently! Or rather, you need to give them the opportunity to go.  Don’t just wait for the signs, take them outside at key times

  • After waking

  • After eating

  • After sleeping

  • After playing

  • After anything stressful.


The signs they need to go:

  • Suddenly getting up and walking around

  • Fidgeting

  • Sniffing around

  • Starting to circle

  • They often go towards the door (depending on age)


Things to consider:

  • Your garden initially may be a bit scary, try creating a smaller area with their “things” in it, windbreaks are great for creating the idea of a smaller area, and shelter them from the wind too.

  • Think about it from their perspective, look at what may influence them from their height!

  • If you have used pads, or mopped up an accident, rub the scent into the designated toilet area in the garden.

  • With young puppies, keep the area nearer the back door.

  • Puppies aren’t a fan of the rain or cold (any breed), you could create a shelter using a table.

  • Things like puppy pads can encourage toileting indoors (and encourage toileting on carpets, clothing, blankets), and they can make us a bit lazy as we take them toileting on the pad for granted.  By ditching the pads you will be far more proactive.  You may use them at night-times, but personally I set an alarm through the night to take them out.  I then extend the time slowly. 


Toilet training blueprint

1.         Take them to the toileting area and encourage them to sniff in that area

2.        When they start to go to the toilet, add a cue for each movement, “go wee’s” and “no 2’s” (or similar). (It comes in handy later in life)

3.        When they go, quietly praise them.  Personally I don’t use treats for toileting as I think it distracts them.  I use verbal praise. 

4.        After they have been, wait patiently to let them sniff for a few minutes afterwards, sometimes they need to go again, but sniffing where they have been is part of the toileting ritual. Rushing straight in after can be punishing for some dogs.  (And then they learn toileting outside is a bad thing).

5.        If you spot them about to go in a place that’s not suitable, interrupt them gently and call them towards the area you want.  Try not to shout, you don’t want to create any issues which may make them reluctant to toilet in front of you.

6.        As they get older their bladder strength will increase.  Like human babies, but be patient.  It is not fair to expect them to hold it for hours if they’ve not learned how.  Think about how long it takes to toilet train a human child.  Also remember like humans, there may be regressions in this.  Health and diet will also influence this.  Hormones, urine infections, stress can all influence their toileting so do speak to a vet if their toileting goes backwards.

7.        You may find keeping a diary of sorts will help you identify what times your dog does go and what they did before.  I had a collie who would toilet immediately after eating, sometimes, he’d need to go half way through a meal.  Whilst he was growing he often caught me out with the mid meal toilet break.  As I noticed the pattern I was able to change this.

8.        Try not to clean up in front of them, especially in the earlier days, this may encourage some to eat it, but our expression when we clean up can be punishing for the sensitive ones. 

What about on walks?

A lot of dogs don’t toilet on walks, this is often because:

1.  They may be uneasy about the environment and stopping to toilet makes them feel vulnerable

2.  They are far too distracted and ‘forget.’

3. They haven't learnt this is where they can go!

Its important to build confidence from scratch on walks, and if they do toilet, remember to calmly praise them.

1.        The lead changes the set up, so do practice walking around in the garden on lead.  I’d probably wait until they are toileting confidently in the garden first.

2.        Create lots of brief pauses on walks to give them the opportunity to go. 

3.        Once they understand the cue you introduced early on, you can start using this.  But, don’t use it just yet on walks, you want them comfortable enough to go first.

4.        Try to find an area which encourages sniffing, grass or soil, concrete isn’t particularly motivating for them.

5.        When they go, don’t get the bag out (whilst they are learning) until they have been.  Some dogs are really sensitive to the rustling….some may get distracted thinking you have a treat, others may not like the sound.  Let them finish first and then calmly clean it up.

6.        Try to discourage other dogs sticking their snout up their you know where, this can put some dogs off.  They often like to go and do it quietly away from other animals, especially if they are younger or more anxious.


What do you do when they toilet where you don’t want them to?

Well, you don’t tell them off that’s for sure.  Firstly, its done, you missed it.  That’s on you. But try to think about what may have led to that.  Were you distracted? Were they alone too long? Did you forget to take them out? Did you leave them alone and they got stressed? 

Remember dogs are dogs, they don’t have the emotional range for spite or revenge.  Its sad to see people think that. One of the best things about dogs is they don’t have the complexity of mind to be spiteful.

  • If they have an accident, calmly remove them from the area.

  • Use a urine neutralizer such as: to break down the enzymes in the urine and prevent the smell from lingering.  They will often be drawn to places with a familiar scent (which is why I say to rub the smell into areas where you do want them to go).

  • Look at why it may have happened and adjust your behaviour to try to prevent it happening again.  If its related to separation, I’d strongly recommend seeking behavioural support sooner rather than later before it becomes a bigger issue.  You can book a session here:

  • If their urine is particularly strong and smelly, they may have an infection.  Similarly if there’s a sudden change in their toileting behaviours, or if they start drinking a lot, I’d grab a sample and make an appointment with your vet to discuss this.  Keep a diary of their toileting habits to make the vets job easier.


I hope this helps.  I have written a follow up blog for when you've done all this, and yet its still going wrong:

I hope these help.

Copyright 2024.


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