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Puppy toilet training can be difficult for some, and easy for others. But it’s something new puppy owners are often nervous about!
It’s also one of the most important training starts for your puppy! When considering canine toilet training techniques, your first instinct might be to pick up a stack of puppy pads and dot them around the house, hoping your dog miraculously learns how answer the call of nature outside.
But, there’s easier ways to do it without wasting all that money on disposable sheets. You can toilet train your dog with just a patch of garden, a few treats, a dash of patience, and plenty of hugs and attention.
Let’s get started!
Beyond Puppy Pads: What Are the Alternatives?
Let’s be honest. There are a lot of things wrong with puppy pads, such as the following:
- The expense. It’s estimated that a year’s worth of disposable puppy pads can cost over $400! Even if your puppy toilet training process is brief, you could still be spending three figures on something you don’t really need.
- They’re wasteful. Although reusable pads are available, the reality is that most people will go for the more convenient option. Used puppy pads, just like nappies, end up in a landfill, contributing further damage to the environment.
- Pads slow the process of toilet training. This is because dogs get used to going in the house but you should be avoiding this altogether. Take them outside from the very first day instead!
But without puppy pads, how will you transition your dog into a compliant and courteous urinator?
There are two main alternatives:
- Using a fake/real grass patch if you’re puppy training in an apartment
- Or going straight outside.
Note: Many people use a fake/real grass patch in the initial stages but some just transition straight to the garden.
What You Will Need
- Grass Patch – Purchase 1 or two approximately 1-2 meters square.
- Ammonia-free Cleaning Supplies – This is because ammonia in urine attracts a dog to the area. Eliminate ammonia using an enzymatic cleaner. Vinegar works if you’re in a pinch!
- A baby gate or sectioning device – This is to keep your puppy in a limited area making it easier for you to keep an eye on them. Otherwise, you may find little surprises where you least expect!
- Treats – To be used as one of your pup’s rewards. Toys are also useful to recognise good behaviour. In a pinch you can use cheese or a little piece of sausage.
- A crate – to support the training process.
- A notepad and pen – To make a note of the last ‘visit’ to the bathroom
- Your phone – To set toilet training alarms. I promise, it’s worthwhile!
This isn’t a physical item, but I’d also recommend deciding where your puppy will pee and poop. This should be an area that’s light on traffic, visible for your dog (remember that they’re only little!), and easy for you to clean. Perhaps a corner of your garden out of the way. In the early phase of this process particularly, it’s important to have consistency.
Step-by-Step Guide to Puppy Toilet Training
1. Welcome Your New Puppy With Preparation
The best part! The time has come for you to collect your new family member and make them welcome in your home. Ensure that you have set up, cleaned, and prepared everything your new puppy needs in advance, because when you get home, there’ll be too much excitement and hullabaloo to do anything but enjoy this wonderful time together!
When you get home for the first time, let your puppy explore the outside first. Get acquainted, sit down and have a cuddle, just make sure they feel comfortable because you’re both going to be spending a lot of time out there for the next week!
2. Introduce The Outside
Introduce your new puppy to the chosen area outside that they will be doing their business. Make sure you have the grass patch out there as well. Take them to it, let your puppy sniff around and walk in a circle.
- If they go to the toilet, give them a treat and plenty of praise and affection. Then note the time and set an alarm for 30 minutes.
- If they don’t go to the toilet, wait and let them wander around until they do! Then, make a note of the time and set the alarm for 30 minutes.
This will help them begin making the necessary connections to toilet train successfully.
3. Keep a Watchful Eye
When you go back inside, it’s crunch time. You’re on the pursuit of any behaviour that indicates your dog needs to visit the al fresco bathroom. You will quickly learn your pup’s pre-pee routine, but common behaviours to look for include circling, whining, sniffing, barking, or signs of distress. A dog’s need to relieve his- or herself can come on quickly – don’t forget that your puppy is brand new to everything!
If you notice any of these possible signs, take your dog straight outside or straight to their grass patch, and wait for them to go. As before, reward their good work with a cuddle, vocal praise, a toy, or a small treat. Every opportunity for your pup to understand that they must only go to the toilet outside should be taken!
4. Creating a Puppy Area
Sectioning off an area of your home makes it easy for you to keep a check on your puppy. Of course, you won’t leave them alone behind a fence all day, but it’s a good idea for them to have a little time for solitude. A new home can be overwhelming!
This is also where you can introduce crate training. Dogs, like wolves, have a natural canine instinct to find a den. A crate can replicate this. Rather than being a structure that puppies fear, the crate will usually become a space they embrace as somewhere to get a peaceful reprieve.
Crate training is useful in supporting the idea that your puppy must go outside to use the toilet. This is because canines do not relieve themselves in the area they sleep. Your dog will identify the crate as a sleep and relaxation space, not somewhere they can pee and poop.
If you need help with starting crate training, check out our crate training step by step guide HERE.
5. Set Your Alarm
No matter what you’re doing, make sure that you’re taking your puppy out or to their grass patch every 30 minutes and wait out there until they have been to the bathroom. Then write it down!
As well as keeping an eye on your puppy to look for behavioural cues, you should also begin creating a routine with your puppy. When they’re little, they will have scant control over when they use the toilet, so the important thing is to demonstrate to your pup that they have plenty of opportunities to go, so there’s no urgent need to pee all over the floor!
6. Increasing Time
Most puppies pick up the concept fairly quickly, and by the end of day 2 you should have a puppy that understands where they should go (that doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen but there should be less of them.)
Keep it simple by setting the timer for 5-10 minutes more each day so that you build up to a full hour.
Once you get to an hour you can then start to increase the time by 15-20 minutes.
By the time your puppy is 12 weeks they should be lasting around 1-2 hours during playtime (although every puppy is different) and 6-8 hours at night.
7. (Optional) Transitioning With Your Grass Patch
If you’re puppy training in an apartment, you can follow exactly the same process so that your pup knows its grass patch is the toilet.
When your pup is able to wait an hour, you need to start taking it outside with your grass patch and repeating the same process. That way they understand that they hold it until they go outside.
Then, keep up this process until your pup uses the grass patch less and less frequently. You may have to make the push to get rid of the patch when your puppy can go around 2 hours at a time.
Then just set alarms and prompt them for an easy transition!
Top Tips For Puppy Toilet Training
Clean Up Accidents Quickly
It’s not the most glamorous project, but prompt cleaning is so important to the toilet training process.
Don’t use a product containing ammonia to clean up. This is because ammonia is present in urine, and dogs – with their legendary olfactory systems – will notice the smell and pee over it to mark their territory. Back to square one!
We’d recommend using an enzymatic cleaner; the dog mess cleanup sprays from the pet store contain these compounds. You can also try straight-up white vinegar. It does a great job at a fraction of the price!
Stick To The Regular Appointments
Going to the toilet first thing in the morning, shortly after eating, and before bedtime are all habits your puppy will take with them to adulthood. So make sure you keep these in your routine so that you can avoid any accidents!
Be Patient And Be Consistent
It may not be something you really want to hear! But it’s true. Each dog – just like every human – will move at their own pace. Offer support and affection when they get it right, but don’t punish accidents. It’s not helpful to the overall activity and can actually hold your pup back by making them nervous about going to the toilet. Keep positive and patient – it’ll be worthwhile!
Puppy toilet training doesn’t have to be a big stress in your life. It’s all about getting the timings right and putting the extra effort into going outside!