Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Puppies have so much to learn about living in a human world, and the most important gift we can give them is lots of patience and understanding whilst they navigate their new reality.

Toilet Training your Puppy

When puppies are born, their mother will lick them to encourage elimination, then clean it away to ensure there is no scent of urine or faeces in their “den”. As puppies get older, they learn to go to the toilet outside of their den area. This means that toilet training puppies is usually not too difficult because toileting outside of their living area is a natural instinct.

However, it is important to keep in mind that puppies have tiny bladders and are unable to hold on for very long before needing to eliminate. This is even more so for smaller breed puppies who have even smaller bladders than larger breeds. This means that in reality, it can take some puppies many months before they stop having accidents, up to 9 months in some cases, so it is important to be patient and not get angry at your puppy when they have accidents.

The overall goal of toilet training is to train your puppy to go to the toilet outside in the garden. If you live in an apartment that has no outside access, you may wish to teach your puppy to eliminate on a fake grass potty set up in a quiet corner.

When toilet training your puppy, remember that they will need to be taken to their potty area frequently. As a general rule, after eating, drinking water, or playing, and additionally every 30 minutes throughout the day. Take them to the area where you would like them to eliminate, then say “Wee” or Go Toilet” or whatever vocal command you wish to use. Every time they eliminate in this spot, praise them happily by saying “Good Boy/Girl” and give them a treat.

If you need to leave your puppy at home alone, do not allow them to roam the house freely when you are not there so that you can reinforce toilet training. If you are crate training your puppy, you can leave them in their crate if you will be gone for less than an hour, or ideally just fence off a small area of a room such as the kitchen or bathroom with baby gates and leave them there with a bed, some toys, a bowl of water, and an indoor toilet or puppy pad.

Remember that your puppy is still learning and accidents may happen, but if you use a room that does not have carpet, such as the kitchen or bathroom, the accidents will be much easier to clean up.

At night, your puppy will be able to hold on a bit longer than during the day as while they are calm and sleeping, their bladder accumulation slows down. It is generally accepted that a puppy can hold their bladder at night for about as many hours as they are months old, so a three month-old puppy should be able to hold on for around three hours. Set your alarm throughout the night so that you can wake up to take your puppy to the toilet as frequently as necessary. This will be a case of trial and error and you may need to adjust the frequency depending on whether they have any accidents in between toilet breaks.

As they get older, you will be able to take them out less frequently, and by the age of 8 months old, they should be able to sleep through the night without any accidents. If your dog does have an accident, never shout at them, rub their nose in it, smack them or punish them in any way. This will only make toilet training harder. Never punish your puppy for having accidents. They are not being naughty or spiteful, and they need your support and patience to get them back on the right track.

©Rebeca Mas 2021

For more information on Toilet Training and other Common Puppy Problems, read Sniff Play Bark - Your Essential Guide to a Happier Dog.

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