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House Training Your Puppy

Toilet training can take puppies until they are six months old, and can be longer if there are any problems or confusions with their training.

Going to the toilet is one of the most natural things in the world, but you will need to spend some time helping your puppy understand when and where you want them to toilet. It’s one of the first things you should teach your puppy, and it’s worth picking up some hints and tips before you bring your pet home. That way you’ll be ready to get started as soon as you both get home!

If you are getting a puppy from a breeder, good breeders will have already started with basic toilet training as puppies naturally start to move away from their nest to toilet once they are over three weeks old.

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It’s important to think about your puppies toilet needs ahead of time – some questions include:

  • Who will be around to train them?
  • Are you going to use a cue word, and if so, what will it be?
  • Will you use puppy pads? If so, do you have plenty in stock?
  • Where outside do you want your puppy to toilet? Hard areas are often easier to clean, but if you want your dog to toilet on the grass on walks you'll need to let them know that's ok!
  • How are you going to plan your puppies bathroom breaks into your schedule? Don't forget, a young puppy won't be able to hold it overnight.


Having a plan in advance and knowing where you want to end up is important. Don’t expect to reach your goals overnight though! Toilet training can take puppies until they are six months old, and can be longer if there are any problems or confusions with their training.

You should aim to take your puppy out every hour initially and gradually build up to every two to three hours, and at other times when they are likely to go.

Puppies always need to toilet 10-15 minutes after eating or napping, will likely toilet after excitement, and also need to go out first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

You can also keep an eye out for your puppy’s natural cues – sniffing the floor or walking in circles are often signs your pup might be planning on going, so getting them outside if you see these signs is a good idea.

Carry your puppy outside to toilet at first. Although lead training is important, if you always attached the lead to your puppy before toilet time, they may learn that they should only toilet when on the lead which can cause difficulties later on.

Let your puppy concentrate on doing their business as and resist the temptation to play as this can be distracting. Play can also encourage toileting however, so if your pup is being stubborn about going a little fun might encourage some action!

If you can’t get your puppy outside every 2-3 hours, and at the other critical times, you may want to use puppy pads.

The main problem that occurs with puppy pads is that they train your puppy to toilet in a certain place – inside the house! This can make the transition between toileting on the pads and toileting outside quite confusing for a puppy. Where this is concerned, patience and routine are key!

Hopefully you should be familiar with your puppy’s toileting habits from their puppy pad use. When you think it’s time for them to go, get them outside in the area you want them to toilet. You can even move the pad outside to help encourage outdoor toileting. Remember to be patient – the outdoors can be scary and pets feel vulnerable while toileting, so toileting in a new place is a big change. Eventually, nature will take over, even if they were waiting to use the pad inside. They may be nervous about doing this, so make sure to shower them with praise and treats when they go, so they know that’s what you wanted. 

There may be an interim phase, where you take them outside when you can, and they use the pads when they are available. As you wean off the pads, make sure you are giving plenty of outdoor toilet access and that you have thoroughly cleaned up any residual toilet smell from the area the pads were. 

If your puppy refuses to toilet outside but heads for the pads as soon as you get in, put them on their lead when you re-enter the house. If they head for the pads, go straight back outside! You will need to very closely supervise them during this time to prevent accidents from occurring. 

The main point when weaning off puppy pads, and with toilet training in general, is to keep everything positive. Clean accidents thoroughly and think about what you could have done differently to stop it from happening, and when pup does do something right enjoy showering them with positive messages.

Toilet training is a matter of trial and error at first, and you should expect more than a few accidents!

Clean up the mess using a non-ammonia based cleaner, trying to eliminate the smell if you can. If the odour hangs around, it might encourage your pet to go there again.

It’s really important not to punish your pet for toileting in the wrong place. Unless they understand what you want, the message can be very confusing, and can easily translate into ‘going to the toilet is bad’.

As your pup won’t be able to stop themselves toileting, if they think you’ll be cross they will try and hide away to do it or only do it when you are not watching, and that can start being a big problem!

Instead it’s up to you to get better at keeping your eyes peeled and getting your puppy out more often. Once they learn they get praise for toileting in the right place, they will soon ‘hang on’ to toilet outside and get all that positive reinforcement.

Read more about positive reinforcement

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