Toilet training

Dogs can be toilet trained at any age. Whether you’re adopting a puppy or an adult dog – if you don’t teach your dog good toilet habits, they can’t be expected to know you don’t want them doing their business inside the house. 

The majority of SeBPRA dogs have never been in a home environment before they are adopted or fostered, so they will need to be toilet trained. Some dogs will take longer to train than others and you may have setbacks along the way where your dog may suddenly start going in the house again after seeming to be fully toilet trained. This guide is here to provide useful tips to help you toilet train your dog –  the same principles apply regardless of whether you have a young pup or an adult dog.

Create good habits

Toilet training is all about making sure your dog is in the right place when they’ve got to go. It should be a positive experience and the best way to do this is by creating a schedule of toilet breaks. 

This involves taking your dog/puppy to the garden and staying with them to give them the opportunity to go to the toilet. Don’t distract them when you take them outside, just allow them to explore and do their business. Once they’ve gone, give them some quiet praise. 

The ‘schedule’ of toilet breaks is based around events throughout the day where your dog’s bladder is likely to be full. So, this includes taking them to the garden:

  • When they wake up
  • After eating
  • After drinking
  • When you come back home
  • Before, during and after a period of activity – for example playtime, a walk, car journey, visitor to the home
  • If your dog is awake – during intermittent breaks throughout the day. This can coincide with a break from work for you or even during TV adverts. If you have a puppy these breaks should be more frequent for example every twenty to thirty minutes if they’re not asleep
  • Before bedtime

If they have an accident in the house it is not your dogs fault, it is because they’re not yet toilet trained and you didn’t take them outside when they needed to go. Don’t get frustrated. Keep positive and persist with the basics. Remember accidents will happen along the way, and every dog and puppy will take a different amount of time to toilet train.


Puppies have far smaller bladders and far less bladder control than adult dogs so will need to go to the toilet far more often. Whilst the majority of adult dogs will be able to sleep through the night without needing to empty their bladders, young puppies will need to go to the toilet perhaps once or twice through the night so keep this in mind and be ready to carry your pup to the garden when they wake and tell you they need to go. 

Should I tell my dog off for doing their business in the house?

No! Telling your dog ‘No’ or telling them off for going in the house will not stop this behaviour and is not helpful in training them. Telling off in general affects the relationship with your dog, makes you appear scary to them and breaks trust. In regards to toilet training specifically, it won’t stop them going to the toilet in the house, it will just stop them going to the toilet in front of you. 

My dog was toilet trained but has started going in the house again – help!

Make a schedule of whenever they’re going, include walks and feeding and you will notice patterns emerge. You need to train yourself to know when your dog will need to go. Go back to the basics and take them out into the garden to give them the opportunity to go, with praise when they do. 

Any sudden changes in toilet habits are also worth noting, as it could indicate a possible UTI which is worth talking to your vets about. 

Things to avoid

  • Restricting your dogs access to water – some think restricting your dogs access to water during certain times will help assist in toilet training. WRONG! Your dog must have access to clean, fresh drinking water all the time. Taking this away can not only impact negatively on your dog’s health but may also cause them to binge drink water excessively when it is made available to them and increase the chance of a toilet accident in the house.  
  • Telling a dog off for going in the house. 
  • Leaving the door open – this isn’t teaching a dog to go outside to the toilet.
  • Using newspapers or puppy training pads – they make it easier to clear up but it can cause confusion for dogs as they’re taught to ‘go’ on the pad in the house and then they have to transition to learn to go outside.
  • Treats for when a dog goes in the garden – while we advocate rewards and avoid reprimanding every time, giving a treat is rewarding your dog for what they did but not where they did it. A clever dog may use this to their advantage and do lots of smaller wees for a reward and not actually fully empty their bladder.
  • Don’t rely on your dog to tell you when they need to go out. Once toilet trained most dogs will indicate when they need to go but that also depends on you being there to notice them telling you and letting them out. If you have a schedule in mind of when they’ll need to empty their bladder and take them out accordingly, you’re likely to avoid any accidents.  

For more information, see Sally Bradbury’s blog – Toilet Training

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