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How to toilet or house train your dog

All dogs can be taught to toilet outdoors, and you might think it would come naturally, but this is not something they will all do automatically. Dogs need us to show them that this is the right thing to do, and to encourage them into forming good habits through rewarding them when they do toilet outside the house.

Toilet train a puppy

Puppies might naturally take a few months to be completely housetrained without the odd accident - their bowels, bladders and the muscles that control them are still growing after all - so don’t worry if it seems to be taking a while because it’s well worth it in the end!

Toilet train an adult dog

Adult dogs that have had no previous house training may take longer to change their habits, especially if they’ve previously been allowed to toilet freely wherever they have been in the past, but again don’t worry as it can be done! 

  1. It’s important to give dogs plenty of opportunity to toilet outside while they’re learning to control their bowel and bladder. Whatever the weather or time of day – or night - try to pop them outside to see if they’ll go to the toilet at times when they might be likely to need to relieve themselves, for example:

    • after a sleep
    • after eating or drinking
    • after play or exercise
    • whenever they become very excited, for example when visitors arrive

    Dog waiting at a door  

    It’s up to you if you’re going to allow them to toilet in your garden if you have one, but whether you’re popping them out into the garden or the street, having them on-lead means you can keep them safe and be right there to reward them as soon as they go to the toilet.

  2. Observe your dog to see if you can start to spot the signs that they need to relieve themselves, for example they might start to sniff the ground, turn around in a circle and then start to squat. If you see these signs, calmly interrupt your dog and pop them outside to see if they’ll go to the toilet. Try not to be too exciting so your dog doesn’t become too distracted, simply be patient and wait. If they go then reward them but if not just quietly return indoors – but don’t be in too much of a rush, give them time as it’s likely that they did need to go when you spotted their particular signs, and although you’ve necessarily interrupted them the feeling of needing to go is likely to return fairly quickly.

    Once they’ve learned that toileting outside is a good thing to do, they might begin to ask to be taken outside by whining and moving towards the door, so again be sure you respond appropriately to their communication by taking them out and rewarding them for toileting.

  3. Even though going to the toilet is rewarding in itself, because of the relief it gives, it’s important that you give your dog a reward too as soon as they have toileted, so they know that you are really pleased with this behaviour. Be sure to tell them how good they’ve been and give them a tasty treat as well as an added bonus.


  4. Teaching your dog to go to the toilet when you ask them can be very useful as you can encourage them to go when and where is most convenient for you. Every time you notice your dog about to begin toileting quietly say the word or phrase you’re going to use, for example “be quick” or “wee-wee”. Be careful to say this just as they begin to go so that, over time and repetition, they can learn to associate your words with what they are doing.

    When they’ve finished reward them as usual straight away. If you’re consistent and do this every time they’re toileting in front of you, after a good while practising take them to a usual toileting spot, at a usual toileting time, then simply say your phrase and see if they respond by toileting. If they don’t simply, continue for a little while longer before trying again.

  5. This is likely to happen while they’re learning, so just be prepared.

    If you spot them toileting resist the temptation to react and let them finish – this might well take some self-training on your part, but being cross and telling them off might well make them anxious about you and their relationship with you, and if they need to toilet again they might simply hide away to do it somewhere you can’t see them, so you might not necessarily be able to clean it up properly which might potentially damage your flooring.

    Clean up with a biological cleaning preparation so that the smell is completely broken down and removed from the area.