How to toilet or house train your dog

Daunted by the thought of house training your pup? Our guide will make things a little easier.

Cockapoo outside in the garden

Puppies might naturally take a few months to be completely house trained without the odd accident. 

Don’t worry if it seems to be taking a while – their bowels, bladders and the muscles that control them are still growing after all. Adult dogs that have had no previous house training may also take longer to change their habits. And even fully trained dogs have accidents sometimes, especially when settling into a new home. 

But again, don’t worry. With a bit of patience, they’ll soon get the hang of it.

To stop your dog from going to the toilet indoors, you’ll first need to show them where they should go. 

Rewarding them when they do their business somewhere appropriate will help them form good toileting habits.

Take your dog out regularly and at appropriate times  

It’s important to give your dog plenty of opportunities to go to the toilet outside while they’re learning to control their bowel and bladder.  Whatever the weather or time, try to take them outside when they’re likely to need to relieve themselves, for example:

  • after a sleep
  • after eating or drinking
  • after play or exercise
  • whenever they become very excited, for example when visitors arrive

Whether you’re taking them out into the garden or the street, start by keeping them on the lead, so you can keep them safe and be close enough to reward them as soon as they go to the toilet.

Recognising the signs that your dog needs to toilet  

Keep a close eye on your pooch until you start spotting the signs they’re about to go to the toilet. The signs could include sniffing the ground, turning in a circle and starting to squat.

If you see these signs inside, gently interrupt your dog, and take them outside to see if they’ll go to the toilet. Try not to distract them.

If they go, reward them. If not, just quietly return indoors. But make sure to give them enough time to do their business before returning inside – patience is key.

If they didn’t go, keep a close eye on them when you get back inside. They’re likely to need to go outside again very soon. 

Once they’ve learned that going to the toilet outside is a good thing to do, they might begin to let you know they need to go by whining and moving towards the door. If they do, make sure to take them out quickly, and reward them when they’re done. 

Always reward them for toileting outside  

It’s important that you give your dog a reward as soon as they have toileted, so they know that you are really pleased with this behaviour. 

Be sure to tell them what a good dog they are and give them a tasty treat as a little bonus. 

The more you reward behaviours you want, the more likely they are to keep behaving that way. And soon, the relief of going to the toilet outside will be all the reward they need. 

Prompt your dog to ‘go to the toilet’ when you ask them  

Teaching your dog to go to the toilet when asked can be very useful – you can encourage them to go when and where is most convenient for you. 

Every time you notice your dog about to begin toileting, quietly say the word or phrase you’re going to use – for example “be quick” or “wee-wee”. Be careful to say this just as they begin to go so that, over time, they can learn to associate your words with what they are doing.

When they’ve finished, reward them as usual straight away.

When you’ve been practising for a good while, take them to a usual toileting spot at a time they usually need to go. Say your chosen phrase and see if they go to the toilet. 

If they don’t, continue practicing for a little while longer before trying again, and be patient. It may take some time, but they should start to understand soon. 

What to do if your dog has an accident indoors

This is likely to happen while they’re learning, so be prepared.

If you spot them toileting, resist the temptation to react and just let them finish.

This might well take some self-training on your part but being cross and telling your dog off might make them anxious about you and their relationship with you. 

If you tell them off, they may just go to the toilet somewhere hidden to avoid you. This could lead to you not being able to clean it up properly, resulting in unwanted smells as well as potential damage to your flooring. 

Make sure to clean up with a biological cleaning preparation, so that the smell is completely broken down and removed from the area.

If you have any concerns about your dog’s toileting behaviour, speak to your vet. They’ll be able to rule out any medical issues and refer you to a qualified trainer or behaviourist if necessary. 

Help us to help even more dogs and their owners

If you’ve found this page helpful, please consider leaving a small donation to help us to create more useful advice. 

Related articles

How to train your dog to be calm, relax and settle
Basic training
How to train your dog to be calm, relax and se...
How to get your dog's focus and attention
Basic training
How to get your dog's focus and attention
How to get your dog into a routine
Training at home
How to get your dog into a rou...