How Do You Toilet Train A Dog?

Most new dog owners assume that toilet training their beloved pet will be an easy, stress-free experience.

However, the length of time that is required to toilet-train your dog (or puppy) is actually dependent on how well you are able to build your routine around your dog’s needs.

How Do You Toilet Train A Dog

These needs can often be unpredictable whilst your dog is still young and so patience and understanding is required to ensure that your dog does not become anxious in the process and develop bad habits that arise from spikes in your dog’s stress levels. 

If your dog is still young, it may be useful to record a list detailing the following: the time that your puppy sleeps, the time that your puppy urinates and the time that your puppy defecates.

Although this can be hard to anticipate, you should begin to notice a pattern as your puppy grows and develops.

The use of keywords like “doo doo” or “pee pee” can also be helpful in forming associations between your dog and the time that they should go and urinate/defecate.

This will help you to prompt your dog throughout life when instilled at an early stage.

Dogs, especially puppies, usually need to urinate as soon as they wake up and so it is important to set a regular morning routine where you allow your dog to urinate outside as soon as you wake up.

Delays or unpredictable morning routines will only encourage your dog to panic and get them into the habit of urinating or defecating inside the house.

Your dog’s meals stimulate their digestive system causing them to urinate approximately fifteen minutes after eating (although, of course, this may vary).

Puppies, in particular, have exceptionally poor bladder control, and will need to urinate at least once every two hours.

They can also urinate when stimulated or excited and so frequent trips outside will be necessary in the early stages of your dog’s life. The most proficient way of training your dog (at any stage of life) is through rewards-based training.

You should always accompany your canine outside whilst they are urinating or defecating so that you are available to use cue words of encouragement.

Fortunately and unfortunately, dogs are creatures of habit and so they will be able to associate the garden as the ‘defecation/urination zone’ pretty quickly if these techniques are used routinely.

There are numerous errors in the toilet training process that can prove to be wholly detrimental. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid.


This error is seemingly obvious but is so often overlooked by dog owners. It doesn’t matter how established in your routine you and your pet are if they are overfed.

Your dog will inevitably need to defecate/urinate more frequently and this can interrupt and inadvertently damage your hard-won routine.

Feeding Your Dog An Unhealthy Diet

Again, this should be an obvious faux-pas but it is amazing just how many dog owners will feed their dog a variety of unhealthy foods (or scraps from the table) that agitate the dog’s digestive system and cause them to defecate more frequently.

Not only is an unhealthy diet detrimental to your dog’s long-term health, but it also disrupts their toilet routine as their stomach is less able to handle foods that contain an unhealthy level of salt or fat content leading to agitation and disrupted defecation.  

Irregular Feeding Times

Irregular feeding times will inevitably lead to irregular defecation/urination times. This is especially worth considering if you work long hours and require someone else to look after your pet.

You need to ensure that any ‘dog-sitters’ are also aware of the necessity of accuracy with regards to your dog’s feeding time as this may otherwise cause unnecessary stress for your canine.

Punishing Your Puppy/Dog For Defecating/Urinating Indoors

Punishing your dog for defecating/urinating indoors will only increase their stress levels and may even lead to your dog being unable to defecate/urinate in front of you, even if outside.

This is because your dog will associate the act with your hostility and therefore feel too fearful to relieve itself.

Shouting at or punishing your dog in any instance is not the way to correct difficult behavior, however frustrated you may be, and will only prolong the anxiety experienced by your pet, leading to further episodes.  

Leaving The Back Door Open

Whilst this may be acceptable for older dogs, a puppy will learn to associate the garden with playtime as opposed to defecation/urination.

This will also establish your puppy in an unhelpful routine during the winter months as they will be unable to access the garden due to the cold weather and will therefore inevitably defecate/urinate indoors causing you to have to start the entire training process all over again.

Mistakenly Using ‘Good Girl/Boy’

Although positive reinforcement is encouraged with a lot of dog training techniques, try to avoid the use of these ways during toilet training.

Otherwise, your dog may associate these words with the act itself, causing them to defecate/urinate at inappropriate times. Instead, try to stick to the key, cue words like ‘poo poo’ and ‘pee pee’.

These can still be said in a light, encouraging tone whilst making the necessary differentiation.

These errors are important to avoid during the process of toilet training your dog and place focus on the garden as the toilet-area. However, it is also important to train your dog how to defecate/urinate whilst on a walk.

Many owners initially feel disheartened by the fact that their dog will not defecate/urinate whilst out walking but this is actually commonplace when your dog has been trained to only associate the garden with the act.

To break this habit, you will need to ensure that you are up early in the morning (whenever you are able to) in order to walk your dog prior to it’s morning pee.

You should keep walking your dog until it has no alternative but to urinate out of desperation and in turn, this will immediately dissociate the idea that your dog is only able to pee in the garden and words of encouragement (avoiding the above) will further reinforce the idea that the outside world is a safe space for urination/defecation.

To conclude, toilet training your dog will only be an arduous process if you are lacking in patience and/or time. Your dog requires attention to observe their habit effectively and employ a sturdy routine for toileting.

If you are able to train your dog in its earlier stages of life, this will be notably beneficial but it is also never too late to ‘teach an old dog new tricks’. Be cautious about over-feeding your dog and mindful about the salt content of the food that they eat (salt will increase urination almost instantly).

It is also important to be mindful of your body language and tonality; your beloved pooch will respond accordingly, ensuring that both of your stress levels are kept to a healthy minimum.

Ultimately, dog’s are creatures prone to being receptive to human emotion and the more patience that you can deploy, the happier and healthier your dog will be. 

Daniel Johnson