Toilet training a puppy in a flat can indeed be challenging. There’s simply nowhere to go. All of the puppy books and websites talk about a conventional toilet training situation with a nice enclosed garden too…what are you supposed to do then? 

Well, here at Zigzag we aim to help all dog owners, not just ones who have the chance to live in houses with gardens to be used as doggy toilets. In this article, we’re here to help you toilet train a puppy in a flat, and provide you with some life-saving tips along the way. 

We’ll cover:

  • How to toilet train a puppy in a flat 
  • Extra tips on toilet training a puppy in a flat 
  • Things to avoid when you’re toilet training a puppy in a flat 
  • Our best buys to help with puppy toilet training in a flat

We’ve got plenty more info on toilet training a puppy in a flat inside the Zigzag puppy training app. You’ll want to download a free trial to get into the groove of it.

How to toilet train a puppy in a flat?

Toilet training a puppy in a flat, is actually, surprisingly similar to how toilet training with a garden works. It’s really all about designating a toilet area for your puppy, getting them into a routine and piling on the praise and rewards when they do the right thing. Now – there can be a few challenges along the way, but we’re here to help with that further down.

Designate a toilet area for your puppy

Your puppy needs a place to wee, don’t they? This might be in several places depending on your flat set up. It might be:

  • Your roof terrace
  • Your balcony
  • Your bathroom
  • The corner of your lounge

Wherever it is, the area needs to be easily cleanable. Think about putting down a waterproof membrane if you have carpets/wood or have the toilet area on tiled floors. You’ll thank us later. 

Choose a puppy toilet

Some people like to use puppy pads or newspaper, some people prefer fake grass, and others are happy for their puppy to pee onto the concrete and rinse it off. You can also look at building a dirt box or putting some turf inside a tray to use as a puppy toilet.

It’s a good idea to check with the breeder if your puppy has been using a particular surface for the toilet – they’ll feel more comfortable going to the toilet at yours if they have the same surface to go on.

yorkshire terrier sat in dog bed
Photo by Crystal Huff on Unsplash

Get your puppy into a routine

Puppies thrive on routines. Giving them predictability over what in their life comes next and what’s expected of them makes them feel safe and secure. It also helps toilet training go faster! Mealtimes, nap times, toilet times and play times will all help to add structure to you and your puppy’s day. Routines can really help us out when we’re feeling the pressure of raising a young puppy.

Take your puppy to the toilet often and reward them

It sounds obvious, but your puppy will need to be literally shown where the toilet is at first. Make it part of the house tour. They’ll also need to be taken there every time they’ve been: 

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Playing
  • Training 

When they’re young puppies, they’ll need to be taken around once an hour too. Might sound like it’s too much for some, but this also means they’ll have fewer accidents and more chances to be rewarded for going in the right spot…which means they’ll learn where the toilet is faster. It’s a vicious circle in the most positive way.

If you have a toilet on your balcony or terrace, you might want to read up on bell training your puppy too. Our article here will show you the ropes.

Useful tips for toilet training your puppy in apartments

Choose an area away from their bed for your puppy’s toilet area

Puppies don’t poop where they sleep…just like anyone else for that matter. lf you have a puppy toilet in your puppy’s playpen, make sure it’s away from their bed.

Roll up your rugs

Puppies often like to pee on things that feel soft on their feet, so rugs and carpets bear the brunt of accidents… and of course, they’re the worst to clean! If you can roll up rugs until you’re past the initial toilet training days, it will save you some bad moods.

fluffy dog sat on pink sofa
Photo by Max Harlynking on Unsplash

Have a pee party when they get it right

A ‘pee party’ will do the trick for getting your puppy to go to the toilet in the right area. Shower them with praise, kisses and cuddles every time they do do a doo-doo where they’re supposed to.

Things to avoid when toilet training your puppy in a home without a garden

Never punish your puppy for accidents

If your puppy makes mistakes, it’s usually us that’s at fault. Yep, it’s the truth. It means we weren’t quick enough at taking them out or didn’t spot the signs early enough. Be careful about telling them off though – terrible idea. It can ruin the bond between you and make them worried about going to the toilet in front of you in the future. It also sets the toilet training back, so let’s avoid it at all costs. 

Be consistent

Consistency is key. Keep the toilet area in the same place and always take your puppy to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity for praise. They might take a while to go, but trust us, they do need to. Just bear with them there until they’ve managed to squeeze out something.

Use proper enzyme-based cleaner for accidents, not bleach!

We’ve listed our favourites in the next paragraph, but you can also use bio washing powder, white vinegar or bicarbonate of soda if you’d rather use natural products. What you really want is to use a product that will break down the proteins in your puppy’s urine. This stuff is what gives it the attractive smell that puppies will keep coming back to…it’s useful when it is in your puppy’s toilet area, not when it’s on your new carpets!

Puppy rolling around on grass with toilet paper
Photo by Daniël Maas on Unsplash

Handy puppy supplies for toilet training

When you think about how to toilet train a puppy in a flat, there are a whole range of products available to help you:

Fake Grass Indoor Toilets: Most of the fake grass indoor toilets are quite similar and usually feature a fake grass top, then a drawer that collects the pee underneath.

Puppy Pads: Puppy pads work for some people, and not for others, Some puppies like to chew them up! For washable ones, we rate the Simple Solution washable mats, whereas for disposables check out Pogis training pads. We talked about them in our 5 best puppy training pads article too if you want to take a look. 

Enzyme Cleaners: Enzyme cleaners are a must for any toilet-related accidents. Our favourites are Simple Solution, Wee Away and Urine Off.  

Protective Mats: To protect floors when toilet training your puppy in a flat it’s worth investing in a mat that their toilet can sit on or line their playpen

Treats: Don’t forget to treat! In the end, it’s what does the trick. These Thrive liver treats always go down well with puppies, and are in a handy tube so you can have a few stashed around to be ready at all times. 

We hope you’re feeling a lot more confident about how to toilet train a puppy in a flat. If you have any more questions, any of our puppy training experts will be able to help you with the Zigzag puppy app. Except cleaning up messes. That they won’t do.

If you’re eager to learn more, check out our getting a new puppy checklist, training tips and prep for even more advice.