Clarendon Street Vets’ Top tips for successful puppy toilet training

September 7, 2023

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Here at the surgery we know only too well that puppy toilet training is a challenging process (as you can imagine, we clear up our fair share of accidents!) That’s why our nursing team have pulled together some tried and tested advice to ensure that your puppy grows into a well-mannered, toilet trained adult. It will take time, patience and consistency so don’t be afraid to ask the team at Clarendon Street Vets for help.

Contact our practice to ask our veterinary nurses for more puppy advice.

Download our puppy tips for the whole family

Four steps to a toilet-trained pup

1. Establish a routine & choose a toilet area

Like small children, puppies do well with a predictable routine. Establishing a routine helps your puppy learn what is expected of them and improves the chance of successful training. The routine should include feeding, toileting and sleep schedules and should be established as soon as possible.

Training is all about giving your puppy the chance to get it right, so that you can reward the kind of behaviour you want to encourage. Rewards will increase the chance of this behaviour being repeated. Set your puppy up for success by giving him or her the chance to toilet in the right place (outside) at the times he or she is most likely to need to go. Take your puppy out to a designated toilet area (see below) first thing in the morning, after meals, before bed and at frequent intervals in between (the bladder of a puppy is much smaller than that of an adult dog, meaning they need to go to the toilet far more frequently.)

Our vet nurses recommend that you should decide on a specific spot outside where you want your puppy to go to the toilet. Using this spot consistently at the times mentioned above will help to reinforce the training, as your puppy learns what is expected of him or her when you take them to this particular location.

You can also use puppy training pads to minimise the impact in indoor accidents (in the crate or near the back door) but these should be in addition to regular opportunities to toilet outside.

2. Verbal cues & rewards

Choosing a verbal cue such as “toilet” or “wees and poos” and using this same command every time you take your puppy out to the toilet, will help them understand what is expected of them. Once they have been to the toilet, you should reward them enthusiastically with a treat, affection and plenty of praise. Behaviours that are reinforced are more likely to happen again so don’t hold back on the fuss and compliments!

3. Patience & consistency

Some puppies learn quicker than others, but toilet training can take several months to get right. It is not unusual to make progress and then regress for a day or two, so don’t despair. Accidents will happen but you should never scold your puppy if you come back to a puddle or worse. They may look ‘guilty’ but this is only because they are picking up on your frustration. Any punishment will not be associated with an accident that may have happened some time previously, and will just make them confused and anxious and potentially hinder your puppy’s progress. Whilst accidents are frequent, keep your puppy in a suitable area where he or she can not do too much damage to your best rugs or carpets.

4. Constant supervision

A lot of work is is needed to keep your puppy safe and successfully toilet trained, but this will pay off in the long run. Puppies need constant supervision in the beginning unless safely contained in a crate or similar (and this must be introduced in a gradual and positive manner) and access to areas of the home where they could hurt themselves needs to be restricted whilst they are very small. Play-pens, crates and stair-gates are all useful ways of keeping your puppy (and your carpets!) safe in the early days. Make sure your garden is securely fenced as a little puppy can squeeze through the smallest gap!

What else should you teach your puppy?

Alongside toilet training, there are a number of other basic commands that you should teach your puppy:

  • “Sit” – useful to keep your puppy calm in new situations.
  • “Come” – really important once they start having time off the lead
  • “Stay” – another command to help keep them safe
  • “Leave it” – to help your puppy avoid harmful objects
  • Walking on a loose lead – this allows for calm, enjoyable walks

Toilet training, once established, makes a huge difference to your life with your new puppy. It allows your puppy to visit new houses, meet friends and relatives, go on longer car rides, into dog-friendly shops and cafes or on dog-friendly holidays – the opportunities are endless!

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any further advise on any aspects of puppy healthcare, nutrition, and training – get in touch.

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