Toilet training your puppy: Setting them up for success

You’ve just brought your new puppy home, and we know that one of the first things you want to teach them will be toilet training! We have a few tips to make toilet training as easy and quick as possible.

Before you start, it’s important to know that puppies can only hold their bladder for short periods of time. Generally, puppies can hold it for one hour per month of age.

Here are common time limits for puppies of different ages

  • 8-10 weeks: 1 hour or less, and always take them out after eating and after waking up.
  • 10-12 weeks: Bladder capacity is increasing, but 2 hours is still the longest that most puppies can hold it at this stage.
  • 3-6 months: This stage is the one hour per month rule. Three-month-old puppies can wait for three hours, four-month-old puppies for four hours, and so on.
  • After 6 months: An older puppy, like most adult dogs, typically has the ability to hold it for up to six hours.

Now that you know how long your puppy can hold it, it’s important to set them up for success. Do you want to use puppy pads, an indoor grass patch such as Fresh Patch* or will you just take them out to the backyard frequently?

When deciding, there are a few things to consider. Such as: are you able to take them out as frequently as required for no accidents (this can be up to once per hour?) Can they access the outdoor area on their own?

If the answer is no to either of those questions, you may want to consider using a puppy pad or a grass patch for the time being. As they grow you can gradually move the pad closer and closer to the spot you’d like them to toilet, eventually removing the pads altogether.

Regardless of the answer to the question above, you do want to make sure they can get to their toilet location quickly and easily. This means leaving them in a smaller area of the house while they learn. Ideally somewhere with hard floors just in case! Set up a large playpen, or use baby gates to confine them to a slightly smaller portion of the house. As they get bigger and more mobile and start to learn where their toilet space is, you can increase the size of your area, or remove it altogether.

Additionally, crates can be helpful in the toilet training stage. As puppies don’t like to toilet where they sleep, they will hold it as much as possible. Put your puppy in their crate for their quiet time, naps, and overnight sleeping and once they have woken up, take them straight outdoors to the toilet. This can prevent accidents inside and help form positive associations faster. Keep in mind the maximum time your puppy can hold it according to their age and do not exceed this.

When your dog does go to the toilet in the right spot, throw a party! This means lots of verbal praise, pats and plenty of high-value treats. Maybe even a quick play session with their favourite toy. It needs to be incredibly rewarding for them. This way they will repeat the behaviour to get another praise party.

NEVER punish your puppy for going in the wrong spot. Scolding your puppy can cause them to start toileting in secret because they don’t understand why you are so angry with them. So if they do toilet inside, simply ignore them and clean it up. They will very quickly learn that only toileting in the designated spot gets them any praise.

Note: An enzymatic cleaner can remove the scent to prevent them from re-toileting in the same place.

Never rub your puppies nose in it. They do not understand the context and won’t connect the punishment to the accident. Instead, they will simply learn to fear you. It’s not instinctive for dogs to relieve themselves outside; it is only natural for them to avoid toileting where they sleep. Everywhere else is fair game! So we need to set clear criteria and reward them highly when they get it right.

Now you know the best way to get started on your toilet training!

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