2 Ways on How to Toilet Train a Puppy Successfully

How to toilet train a puppy

Whether you are a stay-at-home or 5 to 9 pet parent, you can give your puppy the best chance for success in potty training if you give them your full attention for 3 days.

Many dogs have been given up to shelters because they seemed impossible to housetrain. In reality, housebreaking a puppy does not need to be complicated.  By instinct, dogs want to be clean in their living space – where they eat, drink and sleep. It is our responsibility to show them where these boundaries are. So, how do we toilet train a puppy successfully?

You will need the following:

  • Time
  • Patience
  • Consistency – this will increase your chance and speed of success

Your puppy will need the following:

  • Outdoor access
  • Washable puppy pads if indoor potty training
  • Cuteness – to stretch your patience

How to toilet train your puppy successfully will depend on the type of pet parent you are. Everyone’s life situation is different and to help simplify this guide, we are defining two types of pet parents based on one core aspect to house training – the availability to spend with your puppy during the first 3 days of the potty training.

You may find yourself a combination of the two types, so adjust your style as you see fit.

Which pet parent are you?

Stay-at-home Pet Parent

If you are available to be with your puppy for the whole day.


Watch your puppy like a hawk. When nature calls, your puppy’s body language will change. Some telltale signs are circling, sniffing or rushing to the exit. When you spot this, act immediately.

  • Lead them to where you want them to potty – this could be a spot in your garden or balcony. If you have no access to outdoor space, designate an indoor toilet area with either a washable puppy pad or a grass potty box. Go to How to train your puppy indoors. And depending on urgency, you can pick them up and set them down in the toilet area. Use your instincts for timings.
  • Use your chosen command to tell them what you want them to do. For example, say, go wee, go poo, do your business, go potty. Dogs recognise sounds and when this is given to mark an action, they eventually put these together.
  • When they go, lavish them with praise using the same command word, but this time, add the word “good” as in “good go wee.” You can also give them a treat to reinforce this as a rewarding behaviour. Dogs are people pleasers. They want to make you happy and will likely want to repeat what they’ve done right.
  • Rinse and repeat with consistency.


Keeping to a schedule during potty training will establish a routine for your puppy and make her toileting habits more predictable.

How does a puppy house training schedule look like?

When do you need to take your puppy to the toilet even if she is not showing signs of needing to go

1. First thing in the morning when they wake up

  • Give your command,– and you may have to say this a few times until she goes ( I do not agree with those who say you only have to say it once. From experience, this does not realistically work, so use common sense on how often you need to say it before your puppy gets it.) And be patient.
  • As soon as she goes, praise and say “good potty” Make it evident that you are pleased.

2. After feeding or drinking.

For puppies, what goes in must come out right away.

3. After playing

If you have seen puppies play, you know that they are an excitable bunch. This stimulation causes them to want to pee. Sometimes, they will drop their toy and scurry away to find a place to go. And if their designated toilet, whether outdoors or on a washable puppy pad, is not easily accessible, they will likely have an accident on the floor before they reach the area. Best to pay attention and take them to the toilet after a period of time playing.

4. After napping

Whether it is a 30-minute snooze or a two-hour nap, play safe and take them to the toilet area as they will likely want to empty their bladder.

5. Before going to bed

Make going to potty part of the routine before saying good-night to your pup. How you train your puppy following this schedule is setting up your puppy to adapt to your lifestyle.

6. Use the “month plus one” guide

What is the month plus one? Use as a guide, take the number of months your puppy is and add one to the number to determine the hours your puppy can hold her bladder before needing a potty break. This means a 2-month-old will need potty breaks every 3 hours.

7. Middle of the night rendezvous

Most puppies can hold their bladder when they are sleeping. But because puppies are so different in their sleeping habits, it will be safer to set your alarm using the “month plus one” guide when you put them to bed (having them in a crate will be very helpful) and plan to take them to the toilet as planned.

You will learn what your puppy’s sleeping habits are like in the next few days. Even if they sleep through the night, still plan to take them out as scheduled. You want to be the one in control and not the other way around. Puppies usually go through an adjustment period as they get accustomed to their new home. Be prepared for a few sleepless nights and anticipate managing this with the planned toilet breaks in the middle of the night. Knowing what to expect lessens the stress first-time pet parents usually feel when they are dealing with their first puppy.

“I’m busy. Check back in 3 hours”

-Maisie Cockapoo @ 3 months

How long do I keep my puppy out if she refuses to do her business?

Remember we said you need patience during toilet training? Even if your puppy is beginning to understand the command doesn’t mean the requested action will come right away. They might need time to sniff around and find the perfect place before deciding it is time to go. You might find it a challenge during the cold of winter or when you are half-awake in the middle of the night to hang around and wait for your puppy to do her thing.

Persist, and you will be rewarded with a well-trained canine companion who respects your home and presents no threat to your floor or carpet.

5 to 9 Pet Parent

We do not all have the luxury of being stay-at-home pet parents. Someone has to bring home the bacon. Literally the bacon treats. This may mean that you will only get to spend time with your new puppy when you get home from work until you have to leave again the next day. This makes house training a bit tricky but not impossible.


Arrange to pick up your pup on a Friday or Saturday when you will have at least 2 to 3 days of full attention to house training. It is a time investment that will have long term benefits when your puppy learns proper toilet etiquette.

During these 3 days, follow the steps given to Stay-at-home Pet Parents, except you should start crate training.


Some people are not comfortable with the thought of their puppy in a “cage”, let me assure you that crate training is recommended by humane animal organisations because of its’ many benefits.

Just watch this homemade video of this clever dog who came out of her crate to position the electric fan towards her crate and got back into her “house” to get comfortable. Amazing! That doesn’t look like a crated dog in distress.

I, personally had a very successful experience in crate training Millie (whose namesake this brand is from) and I genuinely advocate this.

Anyone who got to know Millie, our labrador, can attest to how she was an upstanding canine citizen all of her 14 years. She was affectionate, friendly to kids, dogs, people, other pets and had no such “crate training trauma” as some people claim.

When we took Millie home at 12 weeks old, we were living on the 14th floor of a hi-rise building in Manhattan with no easy access to outdoor space. We would carry her down the long hallway to wait for the lift, hoping she would be able to hold it until we get our ride, hopefully with no other floor stops to the ground level. It was a very stressful routine and I am sure it would probably have done more harm to Millie if she had to experience such routine fraught with anxiety.

Crate training her and and using puppy pads were an enormous help in restoring order to our lives.

How can crate training help in toilet training a puppy?

Dogs are den animals. They naturally seek out small spaces for security. They will associate their crate as a safe place to go when they are tired, need a nap or simply to get away from other family pets or children (yes, puppies also have their limit for stimulation).

In relation to house training, a crate can give your puppy a sense of boundary. Dogs are clean animals and they do not want to soil where they sleep and eat. Instinctively, they will want to hold their bladder as much as they can.

Prepare the following:

  • Crate – the size of the crate should only be big enough for your puppy to stand up, lie down and turn around. If your puppy is going to double or triple in size as she matures, opt for a bigger crate with a divider. These crates are adjustable and are great for puppies to grow into.
  • Dog/Baby gate – Find a small area in your house or flat that can be gated. Leave her crate open and placed on one side of the wall. Give her toys or a kong to chew and a bowl of fresh water beside her crate. This will be your puppy’s room while you are away.
  • Washable Puppy Pads – We will assume you will be away for 6 to 8 hours during the day and your puppy will be home alone. Hopefully the first 3 days you’ve spent with training her included introducing her to her indoor toilet in the form of reusable puppy pads. Disposable puppy pads are a popular choice because of their convenience. After all, when it is used, you just need to throw it out and you’re done. But convenience come with a hefty price.

Why shouldn’t you use disposable puppy pads?

  • Not Environmentally Freindly – puppy pads clog up our landfill and takes 500 years to disintegrate.
  • Messy – puppies love tearing up the puppy pads. Soiled or not soiled, it is just as satisfying for your puppy to rip this apart as she would toilet paper (which seems to be their favourite).
  • Safety hazard – your puppy can choke on the puppy pads plastic backing when this is shreded to tiny bits.
  • Eyesore – No one wants to see a hospital blue frame disposable puppy pad around their living space. A solid colour no-pattern washable puppy pad is discreet that only you and your puppy knows this is a puppy loo.

What gives us away that we are “lockdown puppies”?