Top tips for toilet training your puppy

The key to successfully toilet training a puppy lies in the motivation of the trainer – you!

You are the key to successfully training your puppy to eliminate in the spot that you would like them to go. If you don’t set them up for success by teaching them that it is far more beneficial to go on the spot that you would like them to, and only punish them for their mistakes, then you are on the road to setting them up to fail.

Anywhere up to 6 months of age, puppies’ bladders are not fully developed and they have a high metabolism at this stage in their lives, which means that they have weak bladder control. After 6 months of age this should start to improve and your puppy should be able to hold it in overnight without needing to go, which will make the toilet training a lot easier. Until then, here are some fundamental guidelines that will help you successfully toilet train your puppy.

Be aware and take action

Be aware of the signs and key times when your puppy will need to go, and then take action. The most common times when your puppy will need to go are:

  • When they first wake up from a nap
  • When you arrive home after being out
  • After they’ve eaten or had a big drink
  • After any playtime that you have engaged in with them

Common signals to look out for when you are at home with your puppy:

  • Sniffing the ground and moving in a circular motion
  • Moving around and looking agitated
  • Crying
  • If, during training, you all of a sudden lose your puppy’s focus and she becomes restless

Monitoring your puppy

  • Keep your puppy in sight when in the house with you so that you can look out for the ‘I need to go to the toilet’ signs and take them out to the spot.
  • If your puppy stays inside during the day leave the newspaper or training pads in one area rather than in spots all over the house as this causes a little inconsistency and confusion for the puppy.
  • It is best to confine your puppy when you are out to a small area such as the laundry, puppy play pen or crate equipped with a bed, safe toys, food and water, and training pads.

Use a verbal cue

Get a word on cue. My verbal cue to let my dogs know that it is toilet time is ‘go potty’. When my dogs hear this cue, they know exactly what it means. Not only can a verbal cue be useful when sending your puppy out to do their business at bedtime, it can be useful for road trips.

Hot dogs are my go to high value treats

Implement a reward system

Work out what motivates your puppy to listen to you and train for you. I use a high value reward system such as small pieces of raw hot dogs when training a cue or behavior that is important to me. So if toilet training is on the top of your training priority list use rewards that your puppy loves in order to pair the reward with going to the toilet outside, on the training pad, or wherever it is that you want them to go.

Successful toilet training during the early stages is all about being consistent with taking your puppy to the spot that you want them to eliminate on and rewarding them every time they go on that spot. A lot of patience and guidance is required on your part. When you are at the desired spot and they’re about to go to the toilet, you say the cue that you are going to use and when they have just about finished give them that high value treat.

Once they’re reliably going to the desired spot with an 80% success rate you can start to reduce the amount of treats that you give to them, making your schedule of reinforcement variable and unpredictable. This is so they can’t predict when they’ll be rewarded with treats, but will still work for you in the hope that they may be rewarded.

Use the right cleaning products

Make sure that you clean the spot where your puppy has made a mistake in the house thoroughly in order to remove any trace of urine. Not cleaning up the area properly may encourage your puppy to continue eliminating in that particular spot because it smells like a doggy toilet.

Cleaning tips to follow:

I use these products exclusively as I found nothing else works as well:

Simple Solutions Stain & Odor Remover (for carpeted areas)






Simple Solutions Hardfloors Stain + Odor Remover




In summary

Look out for the signs, keep an eye on your puppy in the house, and limit their access in the house when you are out. The more you take them to the spot at the key times (after meals, when you arrive home, when your puppy wakes up, etc.) the quicker they will understand that this is where you would like them to go, as they are not interrupted each time. Instead, they’re rewarded with a yummy treat and lots of verbal praise every time they go there.


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