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Puppy Toilet Training – How To

December 1st, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

The topic of housebreaking your new puppy has been repeated many times. Still, many people do not know how to accomplish this. Read on to discover ways to lessen, and eventually stop, the “little presents” your new puppy leaves.

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Bathroom behavior

The way dogs/puppies stand differ between male and female puppies as young as 2 months of age.

Male puppies tend to stand and lean forward during urination, and female puppies squat. Male puppies usually do not begin leg lifting until they are 4 to 6 months old. Females usually continue to use a squatting posture into adulthood.

Puppies start gaining control of their bathroom functions at around several weeks of age. About this time “bathroom visits” will become more regular. However, due to a small bladder puppies will still need to go to the bathroom about 6 times per day. By the time the puppy has reached 8 weeks of age they will have much greater control of when they go. This is also the age that a young puppy will be developing preferences on where they will go. Now is when you should start house training.

The steps in housebreaking puppies

Now that your puppy has learned to control the muscles for using the bathroom, and is starting to find the places they like to go (also what they like to go on) you can begin bathroom training. With supervision, controlled access to food, and frequent appropriate opportunities to go to the bathroom, most puppies can be successfully housebroken with a minimum of “accidents”.

Take the puppy outside to eliminate

The first step in housebreaking a puppy is to take it outside frequently to use the bathroom. You should take the puppy outside right away after it wakes up, after play time, approximately 15 – 45 minutes after it finishes eating a meal, and other times totaling at least 6 – 8 times per day. Once outside, and in a suitable location, allow the puppy to sniff, pace, and explore slightly for the exact spot the puppy likes. The location you choose should have several considerations before taking your puppy there. Young puppies do not have strong immune systems, so avoid places where other dogs and puppies go to the bathroom. You should choose a puppy potty location that you can take him or her to consistently. This will make it easier for the puppy to remember why he is there, mostly from the smell of his previous visits. Many puppies may need 15 to 20 minutes of sniffing and pacing before they are comfortable enough to go to the bathroom. The sniffing and pacing is very important, however, this should not become a playtime or play place. Because of this, keep in mind the “play areas” when choosing a location.

While the puppy is using the toilet, you should repeat a key phrase such as “go potty”, “make poop”, or “do your business”. Your puppy will learn to associate this phrase with an appropriate time and location for going to the bathroom. To avoid confusing the puppy, choose a short, simple phrase not commonly used in conversation. Eventually your puppy can even learn to use the toilet on command! (For advanced training like this and how to get your own “Do It Yourself-Complete Dog Training Program”Click here) This can be very useful in bad weather, when samples are needed, or when traveling.

Reward the puppy

You should reward your puppy immediately after it has finished (within 15 seconds and before it moves away and engages in another behavior), not once the puppy has returned to the house. Rewards can be food treats, praise, or playtime. By offering these, you teach the puppy to associate a reward with going to the bathroom outside on the appropriate surface and in the desired location. For this reason, you must accompany the puppy outside to monitor toilet training. (Puppy toilet training problems can result when an owner is unsure whether a pet actually went to the bathroom outside.)

Properly feed and water the puppy

Feeding and watering routines affect housebreaking. Regular feeding times help control the puppies bathroom times. A full stomach puts pressure on the bladder and colon and increases the likelihood that a puppy will need to use the potty when taken outside within 10 to 30 minutes. Do not let your puppy have access to food all day long. This will make it more difficult for you to know when your puppy needs to go outside. Water should be accessible all the time, especially in warmer weather and climates. The amount of water your dog will need can vary from day to day, or even throughout the same day.

Punish puppies for house-soiling

For punishment to be effective, it must be given consistently and immediately when the misbehavior occurs.

But many times people don’t see their puppies go to the bathroom in an inappropriate location; instead they discover it later. They then drag the puppy over to the waste, shove its nose in it, and scold it. This does not teach the puppy appropriately. And worse, it may create a fear of the owner, a fear of the owner’s finding a mess, an avoidance of using the bathroom in front of the owner, or a fear of that location. Such inappropriate punishment can even lead to defensive aggression.

So what can you do when your puppy makes a mess? Using an aversive noise such as a foot stomp, a shaker can (an aluminum can with pennies inside), or even a loud vocal command can startle the puppy and abort the behavior. The puppy should then be hustled outside to finish in the appropriate location. The distraction needs to be given at the start of behaviors leading up to the puppy going potty such as sniffing and circling, and that is why supervision is crucial. Puppies may only briefly exhibit these behaviors, and some puppies just stop moving before elimination-they do not sniff and circle at all. Supervision allows you to set up your puppy to succeed reinforcing what is appropriate for bathroom use.

Clean soiled areas

Remember how smells from previously going will encourage your puppy to use that spot again? That is why it is important to remove stains and smells from inappropriate bathroom locations. Check with your local pet store or vet’s office for products designed just for this purpose.

I highly recommend “Do It Yourself-Complete Dog Training” for more information and more advanced training techniques.

  1. Andrew Farrow
    October 7th, 2010 at 18:28 | #1

    Thanks for that. Our 8 week black lab is arriving on Sunday and we are very nervous about house training. You make it sound very simple! Here’s hoping.

  2. Barb
    November 12th, 2010 at 14:22 | #2

    It is very simple, just keep in mind you won’t have perfect training overnight so stick with it and you’ll be fine.

  3. Brendan Conroy
    November 23rd, 2010 at 23:28 | #3


    Just wondering if you can help us. We have just got a 10 month old female dog, who sleeps in the kitchen behind a low barrier (across the doorway). She does toilets on command in the evenings before going to bed, but often wets during the night. How can we teach her to tell us shes wants to go outside (we sleep in a room next door and could possibly hear her). We don’t want her wetting on the lounge carpet, and we don’t want her to get in the habit of going out in the middle of the night. She only gets a small amount of water after 8.00pm.

    Your help would be greatly appreciate.

    Brendan Conroy

  4. Barb
    November 29th, 2010 at 04:31 | #4

    Hi Brendan,

    Another post I have covers “Signaling the need to go.” Just click that link to be taken to it.

    Since you don’t want to be going out at night all the time, I suggest you get some training pads to use at night. Place one down at bedtime and pick it up in the morning to help save your carpet. Any pet supply shop should have them. Meanwhile, try to find out if she is going about the same time every night so you can take her outside earlier and earlier to get her in the habit of a more suitable time for you. Fair warning that could take weeks.

    Since you just got her, are you sure she is used to being alone all night? Anxiety could be causing the puddles. Check out “Dealing with a lonely dog”, specifically the section on bedtime.

    One final note, PLEASE do not restrict her from water. It can give her kidney and bladder problems, expensive for you, painful for her. Also, it can make her pee more often due to the concentration of toxins i her urine that would otherwise be diluted to a harmless amount.

    There are several things to help you with your dog, I hope one of them fits your situation and solves the problem.

  5. Brendan Conroy
    December 1st, 2010 at 16:55 | #5

    Thankyou very much for the good advice. The problem was that we had a towel down on the floor by the door, and she was doing wee’s on that. It suddenly occurred to me that they use newspaper at the Pound and she might see that as the place to go. We removed the towel and took a chance and she has been good ever since. We take her out at night before bed and she wee’s on command, and then we do it again in the morning when we hear her wake. This works well (although it starting to get earlier in the morning each time).

    We have anothe rproblem now though. When she first sees me (say when I come out of the bedroom or home from work) and I pat her, she cowes & crouches down and wee’s.
    She is fine with me during the day generally. I think she must have been abused by a male at some stage, because she normally doesn’t do it with my wife (just once). She is either very fearful of me, or trying to do wee’s to please me, (or both). I’ve started approaching her only in a very non threatening way, getting down to her level more and spending heaps of time patting and playing with her, but it looks like this might take a while to get sorted. Any ideas gratefully appreciated.
    Regards Brendan.

  6. Barb
    December 9th, 2010 at 01:59 | #6

    That sounds like you remind her of someone she is afraid of. It also sounds like you are going about the situation in a good manner. It may take a long time for her to get over it, and if she was abused may never fully get over it.

    I have a friend that has taken in several abused animals before. I’ll ask him do a post on it that I can put on the site and then I’ll go back and edit this reply with a link to it so you can find it easier.

  7. Brendan Conroy
    December 12th, 2010 at 03:00 | #7

    Much appreciated Barb.

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