Toilet Training Puppies & Dogs

Last updated: January 24, 2013


Animal Training and Behaviour Centre

One of the most stressful and frustrating exercises for a new puppy’s guardian can be toilet training. Just when you think the puppy has got the right idea, you find another puddle.

What do you do?

The association with a toilet spot will be built of the following things:

  • Smell (of urine, faeces or ammonia);
  • Location;
  • Substrate eg: what the surface is made of (this can be grass, sand, tiles, newspapers etc);
  • Occasionally a word, command or sound; and
  • Physiological things like feeding, sleeping and playing.
Two puppies sitting side by side

The easiest method of toilet training is to take advantage of the puppy’s natural instincts. Dogs in the wild are fastidious about keeping the den and nests clean. Dogs generally do not toilet where they sleep or eat. Dogs and pups are most likely to go to the toilet after feeding, playing or upon waking from a sleep.

Initially, the puppy should be confined to a small area of the house (such as a puppy pen/ laundry/bathroom). This enclosure should contain the puppy’s bed and water and feed bowls and the puppy should be fed in this area.

Keep a close eye on the puppy when he or she wakes from sleep or has had a meal or has been playing. The puppy will appear agitated and show signs of needing to go to the toilet. You just need to notice these and respond quickly before the pup makes a mistake and goes in the wrong place. Sometimes they will sniff the ground or even walk around in a circle. If you see these things happening, then carry the puppy quickly and calmly outside on lead and let them go to the toilet. Letting the puppy go to the toilet off lead and alone the puppy will usually get side tracked and forget what he was meant to do. As soon as the puppy has gone to the toilet, give them lots of praise and command them “toilet – good dog”. The puppy will eventual associate the word “toilet” with the right action of urination or defecation.

The closer you can observe your puppy in the first few days, the less chance there will be for mistakes, then the quicker the puppy will understand and be more relaxed. Each time you take the puppy outside, give the word “toilet” and try to use the same spot. As the puppy grows up they will head for that area of the yard.

If you still encounter problems start with a small ‘den area’. That is very important. Make it easy for yourself and the pup at first by having a limited area to keep an eye on. Choose any small room with a floor that is easy to clean as the den. Place the food and water bowls and on the opposite side place a few newspapers for the toilet area. Once the puppy is using the newspaper you can enlarge the “den” area. Place the top newspaper (which is wet) on the bottom of the pile. The smell will encourage the puppy to use this area. The soiled papers can then be placed outside in the yard to encourage the puppy to ‘toilet’ in the area of your choice. Access to the rest of the house can be made slowly, once the puppy is reliable.

You must expect accidents occasionally. Never punish the puppy by rubbing their nose in the ‘accident’. Reprimanding the puppy will only confuse them as to what you require from them. If you catch the puppy in the act of toileting, don’t reprimand – don’t say a word. Just quickly lift the puppy outside and give the command – “toilet”. If you reprimand the pup, you could just end up with a stressed and confused pup, which makes sure they goes when you are not around to scold them.

Some puppies and older dogs will urinate because of excitement or anticipation of seeing their owner. Usually, puppies will grow out of this habit. With the older dogs, it is a little harder to control. Encourage the dog to be relaxed during greetings and to lessen the excitement. Do NOT scold the dog.

After the puppy or dog has urinated in the house, clean the area with a non-ammonia based product e.g. BIO-ZET laundry powder. Leave a bowl of clean water in that area. Even feed the dog the next meal in the same area.

Some extra tips

When adopting an adult dog, most are toilet trained but some are not. Even those who are trained may have learnt to go in places that are not acceptable to you, and you may need to re teach a new place to toilet. Some dogs adopted from Refuges have learnt to toilet on concrete and may need to be retrained.

To do this:

  • Limit unsupervised access to any concreted areas.
  • Observe the dog closely at times when they are likely to need to go to the toilet.
  • Take the dog to the desired location ON LEAD, stand there and wait without interacting with the dog until the eliminate then reward generously. Letting the dog go to the toilet off lead and alone the dog will usually get side tracked and forget what they were meant to do.

If the dog is defecating frequently then limit the times when they have access to food so you are home to do the toilet training.

Reward for doing the correct thing. Do not punish for mistakes – it is better to ignore and make it even easier for the dog to get it right next time so you can reward them for the correct response.


RSPCA animal training courses are available across Australia:

  • Queensland: call the RSPCA Animal Training & Behaviour Centre for further information in regard to courses available on (07) 3426 9928.
  • Victoria: for any information on training and behaviour in Victoria call Amanda Murcutt on 92242521.
  • West Australia: call the RSPCA PawsCentral Adoption Centre for further information about courses available near you on (08) 9209-9309 or visit the RSPCA WA website.
  • NSW: Information is available on the RSPCA NSW website.
  • Australian Capital Territory: Information is available on the RSPCA ACT website.
  • South Australia: Contact information is available on the RSPCA SA website.
  • Northern Territory: Contact information is available on the RSPCA Darwin website.
  • Tasmania: Training is available at the Hobart Animal Care Centre in Mornington. Go to the RSPCA Tasmania website for further information.

13 Responses to “Toilet Training Puppies & Dogs”

  1. kel martin

    hi, we have adopted a 6 month old kelpie puppy. she urinates when we see her is this excitement, nerves, etc etc and will she grow out of it or do we train her out of it. when she urinates on the grass we praise her for this. she comes into the house like a hurricane, urinates everywhere jumps on everyhting and it is difficult to get her out, however outside she is much more settled hence we keep her outside. Id love to have her in to say hello but she piddles in what looks like excitement? advice would be GREATLY appreciated

    • WOAW Admin

      Hi Kel, it does sounds like excitement, but of course we cannot be sure without seeing the dog and learning more about the behaviour and environment. As always, it is a good to have a proactive approach and seek out some training as soon as possible. Taking action early is your best chance to ensure your puppy and your family can enjoy each other for many years to come. Contact your local RSPCA centre and speak with a behaviour and training specialist. see what they have to say and see what training courses are on offer in your area.

      Good luck!

  2. Karen Port Macquarie

    We have a 10week old Bichon and he started toilet training as soon as we got him and it was going great until he developed a tummy upset with the runs and after that the toilet was wherever he was at the time. We are now finding it really hard to get him to toilet outside. Is there any advise

  3. Meshell


    i have resently brought home a toy poddle we have had him for just over a month. he is 13 weeks this friday.

    ever since we brought him home we have been training him with the toilet and where the mat is and even taking him to it when we see he needs to go and saying toilet. he is finding it difficult as he is going wheree ever he is at the time wheather he is on the couch, tiles, bedroom carpet and even in and on the bed.

    we are finding it really frustrating and like we are not doing it right.

    is there any tips on how we can help him to understand more and keep out house pee free as we are consantly cleaning up after him.

    i understand it takes time but he just isnt interested.

    thank you,


  4. kirstie stewart

    we have a gorgeous three and a half month old cavalier X cocker spaniel who spends most of her day outside in a 24 square metre paved, covered courtyard, with breaks for training and walks and playing with her family. our dilemma is that she invariably pees within a few minutes of coming inside, and then again, and then AGAIN. she DOES toilet outside too, and we use laundry powder dissolved in water to clean up her inside messes (as recommended by the vet nurse at puppy pre-school) to try to discourage her from using the house to toilet. she is fed and watered outside, near her kennel in the courtyard, and doesn’t have access to water inside in an effort to lessen the messes inside. what can we try next? i’ve been told she should be housetrained by now and i’m getting desperate!
    Kirstie Stewart Highbury SA

  5. Jarod

    Hi there,
    Just wanted to check if there’s any advice that can be offered to me in regard to toilet-training our adopted 6 month old toy poodle…

    We got her at 3 months and have been trying wee-wee pads with limited success.. and despite us taking her to a designated spot in the house (a spare toilet) she still pees and poos in a few areas which she seems to be comfortable with.. Often times, she pees on the couch and poos on the floor near the TV or passageway leading to the toilet.

    The guy that gave her up for adoption did mention she’s a fairly hyperactive pup which he reckons will mellow with age, we still haven’t seen any such signs. She’s been attending obedience training sessions for the past 6 weeks and so far seems to be able to ‘absorb’ whats been taught. We spend about 15 minutes each evening to go through the training again so that its ‘fresh’ in her head.

    Would really appreciate what advice you can share with me.

    Thanks a bunch!

  6. Marie

    I have just adopted a seven month old border collie – he was very rough with his young family, and he such a lovely puppy, he is supposed to be housetrained and toilet trained – we have had him for 5 days and have spent a lot of time with him. There is an older dog, but this young one is very excitable, really is a working dog, but even when he has been out all night, he comes inside, comes upstairs onto the carpet and poos. Today we left him home for the 1st time for 9 hours, came home, he was very very excited to see me, and then he raced upstairs, did his job and came down, and keeps racing around. We spend time with him till he is exhausted. But how can I stop him from racing upstairs and doing his poo. I cannot say anything to him because it is perhaps a couple of hours later that I go upstairs, so the time for training is not there. He is such a beautiful boy, he is full of jumping beans but he is still very young and has the makings of a beautiful dog.
    Anybody help with suggestions.

    • WOAW Admin

      Hi Marie, I will forward your question on to the Training department at RSPCA Qld and will post their reply. In the meantime, you can call your state RSPCA and discuss with their training team your problem and ideally you can enroll your border collie and yourself in one of their training programs. The following comments are based on my experiences alone and are not the professional expertise that can be provided by the Training Centre at the RSPCA… He sounds like a lovely dog, but he must think that upstairs is the OK place to do his business so if possible, restricting access to this area would be beneficial, while keeping in mind that you have to provide the desired alternative location. When he goes in the right place, reward like he’s the best dog in the world. Please let us know via another comment here how it goes and what you learn.

  7. Suzy Whymark

    There are training courses at RSPCA in the ACT.
    Puppy pre-school and others. Just contact them and ask :-)

  8. WOAW Admin

    Hi Cherisa, I would call RSPCA ACT and speak to them directly about their training courses on offer. They aren’t listed here on the WOAW site but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have the courses your after.

  9. Cherisa Broadhurst

    I wish there ware training courses available here in the ACT RSPCA Centre.
    It seems pretty limited/restircted, centres being only available in QLD, VIC and WA?

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