How to toilet train your puppy

Updated 20 June 2024
Read time: 11 mins
article author
Written by Charlotte Niblett
article author
Reviewed by Elle Padgham

Training your puppy to take their pees and poops outside can be quite straightforward, but it’s certainly not without its challenges!

So you should still be prepared to whip out the cleaning supplies more than once in your pup’s first few weeks at home. But with the right approach to training, and lots of darting for the back door, you’ll have a toilet-trained pup in no time.

Don’t know where to start? Read on to swat up on all our dos and don’ts regarding puppy toilet training here. 

When should you start toilet training your puppy?

Toilet training should start straight away! No matter the age of your new pup, the earlier you start training your pup where to pee and poo, the easier the transition will be.

When your pup first comes home, they’ll still be experiencing nerves and stress, so a few accidents should be expected and forgiven. But with the right tools and lots of patience, they’ll start to catch on that the puppy pad, or outside, is the best place to go. 


What do you need to toilet train your puppy?

Since puppy toilet training should be started right off the bat, you should prepare yourself with all the necessary tools for effective and successful training. These tools might include;

  • Puppy pads. These are a toilet training staple, but not always necessary! People have mixed opinions about toilet training pads. Some believe that it holds back training, as you're urging your pup to pee and poop indoors. However, puppy pads can be a great starting point for toilet training, especially when your pup first comes home and training during the night. Once you’ve trained your pup to go on the pads, it can help them recognise that that’s the best place to go. Pads can then be moved outside to help move on to the next step of training.

  • Treats. Positive reinforcement is always the way to go with any type of puppy training. So when your pup has done something right, like peeing or pooping on the pad or outside, give them a treat! Small, cut-up portions of raw or cooked veggies make great, high-reward treats for young puppies, but as they get older, you can transition them onto specially formulated dog treats. Treating your pup everytime they pee means a lot of treats indeed. To find out how many treats you should be feeding your puppy, check out our treat feeding guide.

  • Cue words. Get your pup familiar with certain cue words so they know exactly what to do and where to go when they need the loo. We all know the classics; ‘wee wees’ and ‘poo poos’, but you can go with whatever suits! Be sure to use a positive inflection in your voice, so your pup can continue to feel safe and happy.

  • Cleaning products. Let’s face it, accidents are going to happen. So it’s best to be armed with good cleaning products and accessories to help quickly clean up after your pup. It’s always best to clean up any accidents as quickly as possible to avoid the spread of bacteria and any foul odours. Plus, it’s best to scrub any smelly surfaces clean as your pup may clock it as an area where poops and pees are allowed. Don’t forget to always ensure that any cleaning products you use are puppy and dog safe!

  • Poop bags and wipes. When puppies first come home, it’s normal to find that their poops are a little loose, and not as solid as they would have been back at the breeders or shelter. This is likely due to the stress of the move. This should subside as they settle, but it's best to have poo bags and puppy-safe wipes on hand to quickly clean up their mess. If their loose, liquidy poops continue, or you see any blood or abnormalities, be sure to contact a vet asap just to double-check everything’s okay.

  • Training bells. If you really want to show off with your pup’s toilet training, bells have been found to be an effective way for your pup to let you know they need the loo. Just attach bells to the door of your garden or outdoor space, or place one at the foot of the door, and give it a ring every time they go out. Eventually, you may find they ring it themselves when they feel like they need a toilet break. Give it a try!

  • Is it difficult to toilet train your puppy?

    Toilet training your pup is probably one of the more straightforward things you can teach your pup, and one of the most important. However, it can throw some curveballs at you.

    If your pup was raised with a reputable breeder, or in a shelter, they’re more likely to be accustomed to peeing and pooping on puppy pads or outside, making the training a much smoother experience. However, if they come from a background where it was never part of their routine, it may come with more accidents.

    That said, puppies and dogs naturally don’t like peeing or pooping where they live, sleep or eat, so even if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll find that pups will gravitate towards a certain area to do their business. This might make using puppy pads as a part of your toilet training a little simpler. 


    How long does puppy toilet training take?

    The time it takes to officially toilet train your pup depends on many factors. This can include background, breed and size. However, it’s been found that puppies are usually fully house trained by the time they’re 4-6 months old.

    By the time you bring your puppy home (which is usually anywhere between 8-12 weeks’ old), they’ll have a very small bladder, and won’t be able to hold their pee for very long. The amount of time pup’s can hold onto their pee is often aligned with their age. For example, pup’s that are up to a month old, can usually hold onto their pee for one hour. This may make toilet training slightly touch-and-go in the beginning, but should get better over time. 

    Toilet training your puppy: step by step

    How you approach your puppy toilet training is completely up to you as a dog parent, and may be dictated by your pup, their circumstances or your living situation. That said, the following steps are a great foundation for toilet training success.

    Step 1: Spot the signs. Even the best dog parents don’t develop a puppy sixth sense, so we can’t predict exactly when your pup’s going to decide to do their business. That said, there are a few signs you can look out for that indicate they’re shortly about to make a deposit.

    You can look out for:

    • Excessive sniffing
    • Circling the area
    • Lots of fidgeting
    • Squatting or stooping

    The best indicator is if it's right after your pup has eaten or drank. If that’s the case, be sure to keep an eye out!

    Step 2: Take your pup to the designated pee and poop area. If you think a pee or poop is in the near future, take your pup to the designated area. This may be a pile of puppy pads, or a safe spot you’ve set up in your outdoor area. 

    Step 3: Don’t forget your cue words! Whilst they’re demonstrating the aforementioned signs that they need to go, don’t forget your chosen cue words to let your pup know exactly what’s going down.

    Step 4: Rewards and positive reinforcement. Once your pup’s successfully peed or pooped in the right area, let them know how well they’ve done! Offer lots of fuss, love and of course, a little tasty treat wouldn’t hurt.

    For younger puppies, cut-up raw or cooked veggies like sweet potato (only serve this cooked), bell pepper or broccoli make great treats. For puppies 12-weeks’ and up, our Meaty Treats Taster Pack is perfect for training, and allows you to sample all of our mouth-watering flavours - all of which are packed with nutritious ingredients that taste great and do great. Or, try our Peanut Butter Probiotic Nutty treats for a lip-smackingly tasty vegan alternative, ideal for pups with meaty allergies and intolerances.

    Step 5: Let’s take this outside. If you’ve been starting your toilet training on puppy pads inside the house, after a couple of successful goes, you can start to introduce them to the garden or outdoor area . You could perhaps try taking their pads outside, including some used ones, so they recognise that this is their designated toilet area. After a while, you can gradually remove the use of training pads.

    Toilet training during the night

    As well as training might be going during the day, it could be a whole different story during the night. Whilst you’re most likely also tackling a whining puppy, their small bladder will mean regular toilet breaks throughout the night - especially if they’re under 12-weeks’ old. 

    If you have easy access to your outdoor area, you can take your puppy to their designated pee and poop place on one of the hourly breaks. If not, this is when puppy pads can come in very handy. As puppies get older, they’re able to hold their bladder for longer so toilet breaks will eventually get further apart until they can hold it throughout the night.

    Amidst the midnight whining, the peeing and the pooping, you may be wondering whether you’re ever going to see a good night’s sleep again. Well we’re here to tell you, it’s right around the corner, especially with the right training. For all the expert advice, read our article about how you can help your puppy stop whining at night. 


    How to avoid little accidents

    Little accidents, even when training, are just a part of being a new puppy parent. With them being so young and in a brand new environment, you can’t blame them for a little oopsie every now and again!

    But by using the identifiers of a puppy about to go, you’re sometimes able to catch them before it’s too late. If you think a pee or a poop is coming where it shouldn’t, try:

  • Calling their name
  • Taking them straight to their toilet area
  • Distractions using toys, treats and play

  • Should you tell off your puppy for little accidents?

    You should never punish or reprimand your puppy for accidentally peeing or pooping inside the house. With them being so young, sometimes a little accident can’t be helped! Plus, puppies won’t be able to make the connection between your negative approach and going to the loo, so all you’re doing is creating a hostile environment and sadly, a nervous pup.

    Instead, just clean up the mess as quickly as possible, keep your puppy distracted and just try and catch it quicker next time!

    Why does your puppy keep peeing in the house despite training?

    If you’ve been toilet training your pup for a while now but little accidents are still frequent, there could be another reason behind it.

    Your pup may still be peeing and pooping in the house because;

    • Over excitement. Due to weaker bladders, puppies have been known to involuntarily pee when they get too excited.

    • Nerves. The same can be said when puppies are overly stressed or nervous.

    • Medical issues. Some medical issues can also cause weak bladders and involuntarily peeing or pooping. If your pup is showing abnormal behaviour along with consistently loose stools and incontinence, contact your vet to get them checked over.

    Toilet training is one of the most vital things you can teach your pup, and something you can start as soon as they come home. That said, it’s important to be armed with all the right tools, know-how and a whole lot of patience to ensure smooth and successful training with the best result! Don’t forget to have poo bags at the ready for a quick clean-up - why not try our Planet-Friendly Poo Bags?

    For all the expert puppy advice you’d need, check out the rest of our Puppy Hub here at Pooch & Mutt. 


    1. American Kennel Club:

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