Essential Tips on Toilet Training for Dogs

Let's be honest: how many of us wished for our puppies to learn to use a toilet when we first adopted them? What if instead of having to trudge out into the elements to give your dog a potty break, our young dog would just go when needed. Turns out, it is possible (kind of), through the magic of toilet training for dogs.

Potty training puppies is one of the worst most inconvenient parts of adopting a puppy for the first time and bringing him home. Every first-time dog owner needs to go through this process. Fortunately, with time and patience, and using proven tricks for toilet training for dogs your pooch can become independent with his bathroom business.

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Think that dogs can't go into the toilet – an actual, human toilet? I hate to shatter your perception, but it's possible and many dog owners have successfully accomplished this. Take a look at how this dog mastered the “toilet technique” (almost better than humans):

There are right and wrong ways to go about the process. In order to avoid teaching your puppy bad habits and thus creating yourself even more work, stick to some general and simple rules of puppy toilet training that have been tested and proven by many dog trainers. Three of the most important ones we'll discuss below.

3 Essential Tips on Toilet Training for Dogs

Foundation of toilet training dogsPuppies are a lot smarter than people seem to give them credit for. Well, maybe not a lot, but they definitely can learn a few important tricks even at a very young age, and learn them fast.

If you've done a little bit of reading on canine behavior, you already know that dogs are creatures of habit. So the first most important thing to remember when it comes to toilet training for dogs is consistency.

This type of conditioning (which, by the way, works for humans as well) is how you can teach a young dog to do pretty much anything that canines are capable of.

The second most important ingredient is positive reinforcement. A wise man once told me “you’ll get a lot more bees with honey than you will with vinegar.” That statement holds true in many facets of life, and it certainly does when attempting to toilet train puppies. Only through reinforcing dog's good behavior can you condition them to do whatever you wish them to do.

In short, the way the process of dog toilet training works with these two techniques is like this:

  • Your dog remembers the word;
  • Your dog learns the “equipment”;
  • Your dog uses the “equipment”;
  • Your dog exchanges the “equipment” for toilet.

Seems pretty easy, right? And it is. The reason why most dog owners struggle with toilet training for dogs is because they usually a) aren't sticking exactly to this sequence, b) they aren't patient enough, or c) they are not consistent with this training. So let's talk details.

1. “Foundation” of toilet training dogs

How to toilet train dogsHere is where you begin with your potty training: you’ll need to establish a WORD for your dog to associate with when he's going potty. Let's say this word is “potty,” but you can use whatever you’d like.

Every time you take your puppy out to go, say this word right to him. Say it before he does it, say it excitedly when he does it (dogs pick up on your intonation), and say it right after. After puppy's done, praise him for it, but don’t give him a treat for it — not just yet.

Make sure your pooch listens to you and understands that there is an association with this word and what he’s doing.

Repeat this one simple step for a week, or until you think your pup is finally getting the point. You’ll know when he starts understanding it because when you say it, he’ll run to the door or start barking (reacting to your command).

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Once you establish this, it makes the rest of the process a whole lot easier, particularly if you have already set a specific spot for your dog to go to and you've done this consistently. Having a specific spot outside is very important as well.

2. Tools for toilet training a puppy

Puppy toilet training timeNext, you’ll want to get a small container, such as Tupperware, that the dog can realistically go potty in. If you can spare a few extra dollars, you can buy puppy potty training pads, or if you're “really rich” then just go ahead and get a grass litter box for dogs (same thing as what cats get, those lucky felines!)

Before you go out with your dog, show the dog this container (or whichever other tool you chose) and say the word then show him a dog treat. Bring your puppy outside, put the container (tool) in a spot, and show your puppy a treat, say the word againand point to the container. Do it diligently.

Do not give your pup the treat unless he goes INTO the container.

If your dog doesn't go into the container, put the treat away and do not force him to use the container. If he goes around its general vicinity, that’s a step in the right direction. The key is getting him to do it on his own. Forcing him to do it or using any negative reinforcement (such as scolding or spanking) won’t help with the process.

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This part of toilet training a dog could take between 1 week and 1 month, depending on many different factors: your dog, your dog's breed, how he grew up, and so on. But the biggest factor will be your methods, so make sure you follow the instructions to a letter and – again – stay consistent.

3. Timing of puppy toilet training

Tools for toilet training a puppyOnce you get your pooch going into the container on a regular basis, and you think he’s pretty comfortable with it, the next step is to move the container into the bathroom in your home, next to the toilet.

After about a week or two of having the container in your bathroom, put it on a platform that’s a couple of inches off of the ground. After every few days, move it up higher, until you reach toilet seat level. Depending on the size of your dog, you may have to build or buy dog steps for him to reach the toilet.

Once you’ve gotten to this point, start putting the container in the toilet and show your puppy it’s in there. This step may take a little persistence, but you’ll get there; especially if you've gotten this far.

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During all this toilet training for dogs, always remember to use the word diligently. Don't forget to praise your dog, and give a doggy treat every single time he does what you asked him to do.

This whole process could take anywhere from 1 to 4 months, but it will definitely be worth it. Just make sure to feed him the right dog food so that you wouldn’t regret teaching him the skill of going into your bathroom, if you know what I'm saying.

Every dog is different, and for some of them it may take longer to learn while others won’t give into the whole dog potty training program at all. To help with the process, you can consider using a variety of dog training supplies that dog owners use for other behavioral training methods.

James has been a certified veterinary technician for the last 8 years in Birmingham, UK. After working with many dogs, he's changed his focus to writing, building businesses and researching subjects on canines and products created for dogs.