Toilet training for dogs

Toilet training for dogs

Follow our fuss-free toilet training for dogs guide!

If you’re toilet training a dog for the first time, Dr Michael Ferreira of Three Rivers Veterinary Clinic has some helpful information to put you at ease…

‘Good breeders or shelters will generally start imprinting “toilet time” behaviour on puppies as soon as they can walk and see. Dogs generally prefer not to “go” in their den, so toilet training behaviour should come quite naturally to them,’ says Dr Ferreira. ‘If you have a new puppy that hasn’t been toilet trained yet, you can start training as soon as you bring the puppy home. Simply take them outside first thing in the morning, and reward and praise them when they go to the toilet as planned. Try to make the experience as positive as possible by making sure your puppy feels safe and comfortable.’

If you’re thinking, ‘I’ve adopted a dog that’s more than a few months old, now what?’, don’t worry! ‘Contrary to the old saying, you actually can teach an old(er) dog new tricks,’ says Dr Ferreira. ‘You’ll just need to spend a bit
more time and use extra patience when toilet training your older dog.’

Step by step

  1. Feed your dog at the same time every day and take the bowl away to avoid snacking between meals.
  2. Give your dog plenty of toilet time opportunities. We suggest:

    – first thing in the morning
    – every 30-60 minutes throughout the day
    – right after nap time
    – right after meal time
    – before bed
    – before leaving them on their own

  3. When taking your dog outside at the same regular intervals each day, take them to the same spot. Once they’ve left their scent in that area, they’ll know that’s their ‘toilet spot’.
  4. While toilet training, avoid leaving your dog alone outside. Keep an eye on them to make sure they’re going, or wait around to make sure they don’t need to go just yet.
  5. Reward each successful toilet time with a small treat, a game, or a walk.

Dos and don’ts

DO Check your energy. If you’re nervous or impatient, or trying to rush your dog, they’ll pick up on it and become stressed. Keep calm and take the training one step at a time.


DO Watch your dog closely to avoid accidents. If they need to go, they’ll give off signals like scratching at the door or whining.

Tip: Avoid shouting at or punishing your dog for going indoors; it only makes them fear you. Only startle your dog if you catch them in the act of going indoors – if you don’t correct the bad behaviour as it’s happening, your dog won’t make the connection to avoid that behaviour.

DO Startle, DON’T scare. If you catch your dog going indoors, clap your hands loudly to startle them out of what they’re doing. Calmly take them outside so they can finish going, then reward them with affection and a game or walk.

DO Scrub, scrub, scrub when your dog has an accident. Accidents are bound to happen, but they can be avoided in future by deep-cleaning the accident zone. Eliminate your dog’s scent from the area so they’ll be less likely to recognise it as a potential toilet spot.

Feature: Candice Curtis and photos:

Joni van der Merwe

About Joni van der Merwe

Digital editor I’m getting married in 2018 and I think it’s the perfect time to focus on my relationship with not only my fiance but my friends, family and colleagues too. I want to nurture and cherish the people I love by being more understanding and present in their lives.


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