How Do I Toilet Train My Puppy?

  • By: Mick Whitefield
  • Time to read: 11 min.

House training your puppy should begin at about 12-16 weeks old. At this age, your dog should have reasonable control of their bowel and bladder movements. If you adopt a puppy that is older than 12 weeks and he’s not trained, then potty training may take you a little longer. This training is a major step in any puppys training as it lays the foundations for so many other training steps that can be required later, thus it is very important to get it right.

How Do I Toilet Train My Puppy? The easiest method is The Paper Method and then there is the Timing Method or The Crate Method. Toilet training your puppy for the house is actually very easy, but it does require constant effort on your part at the early stages. From about 12 weeks old keep your puppy confined to a small area of the house, such as 1 or 2 rooms, not the whole house. You can then apply any one or a variety of the chosen methods.

Here we describe all the methods in more detail.

How to Toilet Train your Puppy using The Paper Method

Part A
This will require constant watch from you.

1/ Place some paper towels or newspaper on the floor in the general area where your puppy is spending the day.

2/ The moment your puppy squats for a wee or a poop, pick them up – DO NOT SCOLD them, be gentle, congratulate them and put them on one of the paper sheets to finish their business.

Puppy Potty Training Finger
Don’t Scold Your Puppy if they go in the wrong place, just pick them up and put them where you want them to go to toilet

You will have to repeat this act every time they want to go to toilet, and you will have to do this for several hours a day in most cases for several days.

(Some people maintain that you must leave the paper down. At Top Lap Dogs we disagree with this, for cleanliness replace the paper. The Pup does not need the scent of previous wee, it only needs to recognise the surface to pee on.)

Paper By The Door Rotated
Paper by the exit door

The target is to get your puppy pooping by the exit door, if you can, place the paper by the door. Otherwise once your puppy is accustomed to going to the paper to wee or poop you can start to move the paper toward the door that you want them to use as an exit,

The exit door should be the one that will lead to their permanent toilet area (such as the back yard).

3/ If you have already got the paper at the exit door move to part B if not, then when you change the paper gradually move it toward the exit on each occasion you change it.

The next part can be a little tricky but once again with persistence from you your puppy will soon be going outside.

Part B
It will not be natural for your dog to ask to go outside, your pup will simply go to where it’s used to finding the paper and if it’s not there will most likely squat next to the door, to go to toilet.

This is where you really must be paying attention, as with the first segments of paper you were laying down you will have to be quick in picking your puppy up and putting them outside.

Puppy At The Door
Puppy waiting at the exit door

I would suggest that you have paper outside, ready in the area that you want them to use as a toilet, put a block on the paper to stop it blowing away. Despite the shock of being put outside, when they recognise the paper – because you put them on it, they will go to toilet. It does not matter if they do not go on the paper.

For the first few toilet trips outside I would suggest that you remain with them, so that they can feel safe and be accustomed to being outside.

When they have finished going to the toilet you can then show them the door by picking them up and putting them by the door to come back inside, try congratulating them or at least making this whole act exciting as it will encourage them to carry out the whole process of going to the toilet AND returning to the door with a positive happy attitude.

Important Steps for getting Puppy Outside

The act of putting a puppy by the door is an important one as it teaches them that the way back into the home is through the door. (This will be a strange world to them).

For the first few trips outside stay with the puppy, they will be reassured by your presence and it will help to avoid separation anxiety later.

Avoiding Separation Anxiety For Puppy

Once your pup starts to make their own way back to the door to get back in then you can leave them to go to the toilet and step inside while they do their business.
Keep an eye on your puppy through the window and the moment they come to the door open it and congratulate them for coming back.

Photo 1510524397145 0D2Ab89974D6
Don’t let your dog get anxious

This simple little act will help them find confidence in themselves and you for being there when they try to find you. Many people miss this part and then wonder why their dog has separation anxiety when it has been left on its own. You can avoid all those associated problems by doing this now.

How to Toilet Train your Puppy using The Timing Method

This method takes regularity on your part, so make sure that you are consistent in keeping to a fixed schedule every day whilst training.

If you rise at approximately the same time every day, then as soon as you have risen take your puppy to its designated toilet area to allow it to defecate. You will have to wait with it while it gets comfortable enough to go to the toilet.

Dog Pooping
Wait for your puppy to finish their toilet business

When your puppy has been to the toilet, congratulate it for going. This is going to give positive reinforcement which will encourage them to wait until you take them outside again. When they have finished going to the toilet you can then show them the door by picking them up and putting them by the door to come back inside.

Repeat The Timing Method

You should then take your puppy to the toilet area once every 30 to 60 mins, if this time frame happens to be when your pup is sleeping DON’T wake it, but wait until it has awoken and then head immediately for the toilet area and repeat the morning process.

Try to take your pup to the same toilet area each time, even if they take themselves to a different area in the yard to defecate.

Be certain to take them out just before you go to sleep at night. With consistency they will learn to wait until morning before defecating but if they have been during the night whilst you have been sleeping, don’t tell them off.

Pick up your pup AND their defecation and put both outside in your dedicated area. This will help them to associate that they need to wait to defecate in the correct place.

As your puppy gets older and does not create a mess indoors you can stretch the timeframe so that you are taking it outside every couple of hours, but the time extension needs to be very gradual say just 15 to 30 minutes each week. You will have to judge this timeframe for yourself, each dog will learn at a different rate a bit like children, they all learn at differing paces.

Mistakes During Toilet Training

This last rule also applies during the day. If your dog defecates indoors before you have taken them outside at the given time, then simply pick them and the defecation up and put them outside, if it is just a wee then soak the wee up into a paper towel and put that outside with them. Do Not Scold Them.

Don’t just shut them outside to go to the toilet. You must remain with them until they have finished and you have given them congratulations.

When they have finished going to the toilet you can then show them the door by picking them up and putting them by the door to come back inside.

Confirmation of Good Toiletry

When you have got this pattern running without your pup making mistakes indoors then you can start to let them defecate outside on their own.

Put them outside, step away, and if they do not follow then step indoors and wait for them to come to the door, while you watch them from the window.

When they come to the door, open it and congratulate or fuss them. This will do 2 things :-

It will give them confirmation that their behaviour is correct

It will give them self-confidence that they are not being abandoned and thus you should be on the way to avoiding separation anxiety. This is a particularly important exercise and will save you many problems later.

Moving away from the door

If your puppy has finished its toiletry and goes wandering off around the yard, do not worry. This is good for self-confidence, however, do not leave it too long. Open the door and make encouraging sounds for the pup and in most cases the puppy will come to the door.

This makes for good practice with the recall that you can teach later. If your pup ignores you then you still make the encouraging sounds but go and pick it up and take it indoors.

How to Toilet Train your Puppy using The Crate Method

The Crate Method can be very good if used correctly. It automatically gives your puppy an enclosed area which can also act as a safe haven, particularly if you have other animals such as older or dominant dogs, but as with the above methods you must keep a close eye on their behaviour.

The key here is not allowing your pup to defecate inside the cage area.

As such your choice here is to use the timing method as above, removing your pup from the crate every 30 to 60 mins and then taking them to your allotted toilet area. If you are lazy and allow your pup to defecate in the cage it will create bad habits and can lead to defecating inside the house when it is let out of the cage. This practice will also allow smells to linger around the house.

I am not going to repeat the timing method here but ask you to read the information contained above in The Timing Method, the only difference is that your pup is, for the most part required to stay in the cage.

When you remove them from the crate The Timing Method must still be used.

Dog In A Crate
Chews and Toys are already in the cage

I do want to say here though that if you are going to crate your puppy then you must ensure that the crate is large enough for your pup to have enough room as it grows. Puppies can grow very quickly and depending on the breed the crate may not be a good idea, particularly for large dogs.

If you are going to use a crate do not forget that your pup will need a constant supply of fresh water that it can reach while it is in the crate, as well as toys or chews etc. Dogs can get very bored when housed in crates for long periods and this can lead to some dogs becoming destructive through boredom when released from their crates.

I suggest that you do an internet search on how to crate your dog as whilst they are useful tools, I do not recommend that they be kept in crates during the day for long periods. Here at Top Lap Dogs we only use crates for night-time housing.

If Your Puppy Defecates in the Crate

If your dog eliminates inside the crate and you cannot get the timing right, then stop using it altogether. Eliminating inside the crate on a regular basis can have several behavioural implications that can be difficult to deal with later.

How Long Does it Take to Toilet Train My Puppy?

The length of time for toilet training your puppy depends on YOU, but you should see some results within a few days. Much of this depends on you and your tenacity to stick to the programme, your puppy and its breeding. Some breeds are simply quicker at learning.

Expect some mistakes even a few months in. It may be that you didn’t see that they were sat by the door waiting to go out, or you went out and left them for too long.

Teaching Older Dogs Toilet Training

These steps can also be used with older dogs, it can just take a little longer sometimes depending upon their previous training or lack of it and any previous owner involvement.

I will give you an example – when we rescued Bailey (a Shih Tzu) he was about 9 months old and had simply been left in a kitchen where he both ate his food and defecated on the floor.

Bailey Pic
Bailey had no proper toilet training when we rescued him

It took us about 2 to 3 weeks using both The Paper Method and The Timing Method together (Yes you can use both, it works particularly well for older dogs) with a Night Time Crate to correct his howling behaviour.

Despite the fact that he also had Separation Anxiety these joint methods with the regularity and positive enforcement gave him the confidence to learn how to behave like a normal dog.

Conclusion – The Importance of Potty Training your Pup

The act of training your puppy in the right way at this early stage does several things and will help you enormously as they grow.

Your Puppy learns and takes comfort that there is a structure to life. As they realise that doing what has been asked, gives them the reward of your attention when they do something positive, this will make them eager to learn all the other commands as they grow.

Realising that listening and doing your bidding is rewarding for them will give them positivity and trust in doing as you ask. This will make general training so much quicker for both of you.

Having the correct toilet training in place is so important because it will save you much work both physically and mentally and create a long term structure that will help you with all the other training that will be required later.

Some Things You May Need

If you need some guidance on some of the things you may need for your new puppy then check out What Do I Need For My New Puppy

  1. Pingback: What Age Should a Dog be Potty Trained? – Top Lap Dogs

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