We also hold the opinion that poo doesn’t belong on your carpet.
For the sake of your sanity and relationship with your puppy, please enjoy our full guide on how to toilet train a puppy.
The wonderful advice and tips our experts have gathered includes:
- Signs your dog needs to go to the toilet
- How to train a dog to pee and poo outside
- How to toilet train a puppy at night
- Answers to FAQs
…And much more.
Without further ado, let’s wave wet (pee) socks goodbye.
Chapter 1: Before You Get Started
We know the feeling far too well…bet you didn’t expect feeling this lost when you thought about toilet training your puppy. But let us give you some good news – toilet training is actually a very easy process.
All you need is a little patience and to hold your tolerance for the smell of poo for a little while longer.
When can I start toilet training my puppy?
As soon as you bring them home. No matter what age they are, puppies can (and probably should) start learning about proper toilet etiquette.
Read our guide on when to start training your puppy anything to learn what you should teach at each stage.
What do I need?
You won’t need much to toilet train your puppy. All you will need is:
- (A lot) of your pup’s favourite small treats
- A crate
- Puppy playpen
- Scotch tape (or whatever other creative way you can mark a designated sleeping area for your puppy.
Decide on ‘the toilet’
Before you bring your puppy home, decide on their toilet area. Ideally, a small, enclosed outdoor area with grass or a soft surface is ace.
Keep in mind that night-toilet visits will become a part of your daily routine, so pick one that doesn’t require too much hassle when you go on 3am toilet adventures.
If, however, you live somewhere where your puppy is able to go to the toilet inside the house (such as high-rise flats, etc.), then puppy pads and litter trays are brilliant.
Check out our guide on the best puppy training pads if you’re looking to use these.
If the toilet is to be outside at all costs, we recommend not using puppy pads. They’ll teach your puppy that going to the toilet inside the house is fine, which means you’ll have to repeat your hard work twice when moving the pads outside. Better not go there.
PRO TIP: Make the introduction to the toilet the first thing on the itinerary. It’s likely they’ll need to go for a wee after their journey home, so place them on the ground – and wait. When they’re finished – congratulate them with a treat and a cuddle.
Well done, this is the first step in your preparations for your puppy’s toilet training.
How long does it take to toilet train a puppy?
It depends. Breeds, types, and personalities all play a part.
Some puppies can be quite sharp, and can pick it up in around four weeks while others can take a little (let’s be honest, or a lot) longer. Don’t get discouraged if this happens! Often, the puppies that struggle to learn end up surprising us by being the most reliable.
Crates and Playpens
Crate training your puppy makes everything else a lot easier – but they need to be used properly. As they may be criticized for looking like small prisons (we can’t deny the resemblance), a puppy who is properly introduced to them will look at them as an oasis of safety and comfort.
PRO TIP: Make sure you don’t turn the crate into an actual small prison. It’s not a replacement for your attention, and not meant to be used to shut your puppy away for long periods of time!
Remember that your puppy is now part of your family; you wouldn’t do the same to your weird uncle…we hope.
We didn’t forget about playpens – they altogether follow the same requirements. They have the advantage of being adjustable to the size of your puppy as they grow… just make sure you don’t actually forget to make the adjustments.
You don’t want them too big so they turn into the toilet, or too small so your puppy fits inside as tight as an English sausage.
This shift doesn’t take long for most dogs, but we know that there are always exceptions – it’s fine, we know this makes them more special. Don’t feel like you should rush the process; by embracing its natural course, you’ll build on the bond with your puppy as you learn about them more.
Read our guide on crate training your puppy to learn how to use a puppy crate properly.
Where does my puppy sleep?
Decide where your puppy will sleep for the night.
A crate or playpen beside your bed is our best suggestion because they’ll use you for guidance on what they’re meant to do – sleeping, that is. In the case of curious puppies, you’ll be able to hear if they’re about to go on a cheeky night-time adventure that, unless you intervene, will most likely result in chaos.
Most importantly, keeping each other company from the beginning is a brilliant way of strengthening your bond as family by promoting a sense of safety and comfort.
Odds are your bond will be stronger than family. No rows about who gets to choose the next show on the telly to binge on.
Does my puppy always have to sleep by my bed?
Not if you don’t want to. If you want your puppy to sleep somewhere else eventually, you can slowly move their crate or play pen as your puppy gets the hang of toilet training.
But we don’t recommend doing this right away. We suspect you’d also want to feel safe the first times you’re sleeping at a stranger’s home.
Stay away from: Locking them away and letting them cry it out. When’s that really helped anyway? We don’t want to sound dramatic, but it can potentially lead to separation anxieties and a lack of trust in owners as the dog matures.
But it should be all right, you can trust our guide to avoid that.
If you choose not to use a crate or a playpen, your puppy can sleep with you – even on your bed. There are some strong advocates for this being the best way to create a strong bond (it tends to work with humans too. Consensually, of course.).
This also means you’ll need to make sure they do not fall off the bed or use the bottom of it as the loo. Remember to stay alert in case they need the toilet in the middle of the night to avoid waking up to a smelly surprise.
Chapter 2: Steps of toilet training a puppy Day and Night
Puppy toilet training in the day: 5 Easy Steps
1. Take you puppy to their designated toilet
During the day, the focus is on vigilance. Keep a good eye on your puppy so toilet needs are met every time they give you the slightest look.
There are key times a puppy will need to go to the toilet:
- After a meal or a drink
- When waking up
- After playing
2. Be patient, you may need to wait a while
We recommend going on a short stroll to the toilet roughly every 30 minutes throughout the day to prevent accidents, and take the opportunity to reward good behaviour. Toilet training requires patience and your puppy may come easily distracted.
There’s no need to tell you that there will be, in fact, (many) mistakes along the way.
3. Reward toileting
“Gone to the loo? That’s a treat for you”.
If you remember anything, make this Golden Rule be it.
In all your toilet training, to reward your puppy with a tasty treat every single time they go to the toilet in the right place.
Reward systems work remarkably well for toilet training your puppy. Giving a treat and showing enthusiasm (a flamboyant performance is acceptable) works just fine to let them know they’ve been successful in knowing where the toilet is, and how to use it.
PRO TIP: Keep a small bag of treats by the door for middle of the night toilet trips and always be a loyal companion to your puppy on toilet visits – not just opening the door and letting them out.
Unlike you, dogs can claim biscuits as their entire diet. Dog biscuits, that is.
4. Give them plenty of opportunity to go to the toilet
Sniffing the floor, circling, whining, or looking agitated are the signs you’re looking for.
As soon as you catch a glimpse of them, pick them up to the toilet (so they don’t get caught short on the way) and yes, you guessed it, reward them when they get it right.
At this rate, you probably deserve a treat for guessing right.
PRO TIP: If you’re busy and have a life outside of looking at your puppy all day, you could set up a playpen or a crate next to you so they can’t sneak off to whatever their idea of the toilet is.
In a week, unless you have a toy breed (sorry, they really can’t help their small bladders), you can stretch your toilet breaks further apart. But play it by ear. Only they know how much more time they need to learn, really
We’re sure you already know everything about stepping on wee with your socks, or catching a questionable smell coming from the corner of the living room. But why stress? It’s all part of the journey that will certainly end on a good note.
For reference, the day where they finally wee outside, is the good note.
5. Never punish your puppy for any accidents
It’s actually quite sad, but puppies have no clue what they did wrong; they just know you’re unhappy with them.
Perhaps look at it as a worse version of human ghosting. Doesn’t feel so good.
Never punish mistakes!
Never punish mistakes! Instead clean it up, work out why it happened and try better for next time. Come to think of it It’s kind of like sliding it under the carpet… except you’re not literally doing that. Please clean it up.
Puppy toilet training at night: 5 Easy Steps
Night time toilet training is all about preparing for a full night’s sleep. Ironically, it’s unlikely you’ll have any of those for the first weeks. Before we show you some tips on how to set the tone for bedtime, here’s what you may expect:
1. Night trips to the loo
Like us as toddlers (or during an exceptional night out at the pub) puppies only have small digestive systems and no bladder control. With your main aim being to avoid accidents, we can see how this might seem like a bit of a problem at night time.
But it’s nothing that a few weeks of patience and funny sleep patterns can’t solve.
Yes, this means getting up in the middle of the night for toilet breaks.
We’ll talk more about how you can know your pup needs the toilet in detail below, but it can usually be recognized by restlessness and being awake; which you’ll probably notice easily if you’ve set them to sleep next to you.
PRO TIP: Puppies need to go to the toilet as soon as they wake up 9 out of 10 times. Take it as a genuine sign of needing to go to the loo when you can hear them waking up!
Toy breeds (the ones with impressively small bodies – and bladders) would probably need two trips. Larger breeds should be alright with one per night.
VIP PRO TIP: Remember the Golden Rule. Rewarding good behaviour is key to succeed in toilet training your puppy quicker.
It’s important to remember you’re now a team. You know what they say in the films, no one gets left behind. This means that through hail, rain and wind, you’ll be there to reward your pup with a treat and a warm cuddle for their job well done.
2. Be patient and wait
In these trips, the best thing you can do is be patient and wait. You know, just like you do when you’re waiting in just about any queue in London. The outside world can be quite overwhelming, so it’s important to give them their space. Think of it like leaving one urinal empty between you and someone else.
3. Avoid too much interaction
We know it’s a lot to ask to resist those playful puppy eyes. But you must. When going on a toilet trip, try your hardest to carry them to the toilet area and back without much interaction (but remember to reward them after a good go at a wee or a poo).
PRO TIP: Try not to get involved in a game – otherwise, you will be woken up when they’re bored. In other words, encourage them to learn that night times are for sleeping by being extra dull.
4. Wake up and let go
Going to the toilet should be the first thing you do…for your puppy. After they’re done, you’re free to go yourself.
5. Night-time toilet training top tips:
Here are some tips on how to build up to bedtime:
An early supper means an early poo. Make 6 or 7pm dinner time. Otherwise, they’ll probably need to use the toilet before the morning! However, don’t reduce access to water. It’s unlikely they’ll take long drinks before bed anyway.
Playtime: Having playtime for about an hour before bed gives them a chance to have a good final poo of the day. Plus, puppies are likely to sleep longer if they’re knackered, so less chances for mischievous midnight adventures.
Unwinding: Make sure to take 30 minutes to let your puppy wind down before bed so putting them quietly into their sleeping area becomes a much easier task.
To help them start sleeping through the night, this is where crates come quite handy. Restricting the space of their sleeping area is a way to teach your puppy the art of ‘holding it in’. As puppies understand that the toilet and sleeping area are two different things, they’ll find it easier to master until they are taken to the loo.
Chapter 4: Moving on to adult life – Peeing like a big dog
Puppy toilet training gets real once you start going on walks. Everything looks like the perfect place for a poo.
Toileting on walks
It might not seem so obvious to puppies that they are, indeed, allowed to go to the toilet when they are out.
Make sure to reward them after a good go at the toilet to show them they’re on the right track.
Don’t let them fool you – if they don’t go, don’t assume that they don’t need to go! It’s possible they haven’t wrapped their heads around using the outdoors as their toilet yet. You can prevent an accident from happening back home by taking them straight to their toilet area if they’ve not gone while they are out.
Yes, everyone can see you. We know picking up a warm bag of poo isn’t the most pleasant – but stepping on one is even less. Remember to always clear up after your puppy when you are out and about!
Don’t worry if your puppy takes a while to learn about the wonders of outdoor toileting. Nobody likes to pee under pressure. we’re sure you can relate.
Success will come slowly, but it will come.
Let us paint you a picture of what you can look forward to:
- Having to go on walks less often; meaning better schedules where you can better balance work, life, and poos.
- Sleeping through the night. All 8 hours. Unless you wake up from nightmares about slipping on wee.
- An increasingly reliable puppy, ready to grow into a polite adult dog with full knowledge of toilet etiquette.
The rumours are true – the more effort you put in; the quicker smelly accidents can be forgotten about.
You can do it!
Chapter 5: common puppy toilet training mistakes
Giving your puppy too much freedom in the house
Puppies have tiny bladders that fill rather quickly. If they’re given too much freedom to go explore the house without you, they’ll probably go wherever looks appropriate.
Having you close by gives you the chance to act quickly and take them to the toilet (and reward them!) as soon as you see some sniffing happening.
Doing a bad job at cleaning
It’s no joke when people say dogs can smell fear. They can smell pretty much anything to be fair, their noses are between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than ours.
Pee contains ammonia – whose scent becomes stronger the longer it’s left unattended. A botch cleaning job (at an incorrect toilet location) means the smell will linger past your conscience, but will become attractive for the puppy to go wee on it again.
To avoid your floor collapsing from the accumulation of highly acidic wee accidents, make sure you scrub the floor down well.
Your floor won’t actually collapse by the way.
How to clean up puppy pee using commercial products
Blot as much of the wee up as possible using paper towels. The more it soaks into the fabric, the harder it is to get rid of the ammonia smell.
For a more natural cleaner:
- Blot away as much pee as you can with paper towels (the sooner, the better).
- Use a solution of equal parts of water to parts of white vinegar, and spray liberally on the fabric.
- Once the area has started to dry, cover completely in bicarbonate of soda and let it dry.
- After it’s completely dry, vacuum up the powder.
Disclaimer: Always check which chemicals are appropriate to be used on your furniture – otherwise you might be a bit miffed.
Getting a puppy from a dodgy breeder
Puppies from good, reputable breeders (preferably home-based) are almost pre-programmed for toilet training. Their mothers do a great job at getting them started.
Puppies from pet shops or Internet ads are (sadly) often bred in undesirable conditions and had a terrible start to their early learning: making house training much more difficult.
Chapter 6: Puppy toilet training FAQs
What do I do if my puppy goes to the toilet in the house?
Never punish mistakes.
Truth is, most accidents happen when we forget to pay attention or expect way too much of a puppy who’s not been around for very long at all.
If you catch them in the act, quietly take them outside to the toilet to finish and then reward them. Otherwise, swallow your frustration, ignore it and clean it up.
That’s a good human.
Pro tip: Say no to normal cleaners, and yes to enzyme-based ones instead (available in your vet or pet shop). Normal cleaners may smell clean to us, but to a puppy’s sensitive nose, it will still smell like a toilet.
Why does punishment not work?
Right and wrong don’t exist in a puppy’s mind – just rewards and danger. Their mission is also to please you (another reason why we don’t deserve dogs) so when you add it up, their logic ends up like this:
Things that make you happy are safe, and things that make you angry are dangerous.
Punishment, then, can easily domino into feeling worry and anxiety about toileting in front of you anywhere (or sneak off when you are not looking), as they may associate it with danger. Ultimately impact the relationship you have. Remember Miss Trunchbull in Matilda? We don’t need to say more.
Final result? Lesson not learnt.
Let’s think like Miss Honey instead.
Early lessons should all be positive. Take advantage of the nature of dogs as exemplary students – they want to get it right. As guides, it’s our duty to show them exactly what we want.
PRO TIP: Make sure you clean up the toilet area daily. If it’s dirty, your puppy is less likely to want to go. It’s the same logic as when you find yourself using the toilet at Leeds Festival.
Positive lessons are always good opportunities to reward successes, and help them in their process for going to the loo on walks.
Like in the previous question, rewarding with treats, and ignoring it when it goes wrong is a very clear way of signalling where the toilet is, without the fear of incurring your displeasure.
Do different breeds take different lengths of time to toilet train?
Here’s a simple explanation: The smaller the dog, the smaller the bladder, the less control, the more toilet trips to make, the longer they take to toilet train.
But it’s still possible to succeed. It just takes a little more patience, which you’re already brilliant at.
Personality types are also important to consider in the puppy toilet training process. Just like every English person has their own charm, so do dogs. Comparing people to dogs isn’t an insult here, by the way. We don’t see it anyway.
Stay consistent, keep rewarding and take deep breaths.