How to potty train your dog


Just like potty training a toddler, house-training a puppy strikes fear into the hearts of many a new dog owner. But never fear – training your pup to relieve himself outside (and even in a certain spot in the garden) does not have to be stressful and, in fact, can form the basis of the bond you will forge with your new pet.

Follow these tips:

  • Only attempt to start house training after 12 weeks. Before that, puppies don’t have the appropriate bladder or bowel control. If you get them when they are older, it might take a bit longer to train them.
  • Be patient and be consistent in your efforts.
  • Don’t be despondent if your pup has a number of accidents and setbacks. Just pick up and move on (literally and figuratively).
  • Use positive reinforcement, and never raise your voice in frustration. If you’re stressed out, it’s likely your dog will be too.


The five steps to house training your puppy:

  1. When you first bring your pup home, confine him to a defined space in your home e.g. the kitchen, bathroom, cordoned off area etc, and lay down newspaper. Make sure the newspaper is spread out because dogs don’t like to go near where they eat or sleep so don’t make the mistake of only putting newspaper down where they sleep.
  2. Stick to routine mealtimes and take his food away in between.
  3. Let him out last thing at night and first thing in the morning. Wait and watch him until he’s done his business and then reward him with praise or a little treat. Let him out often during the day.
  4. Look for early signs. These could include sniffing, circling, panting, barking or scratching. As soon as you spot a sign, let him out.
  5. Try to take him to the same spot each time. His scent will trigger him to do his business. You can even (but not always) choose a spot that suits you (behind some bushes for example). He will soon learn that that’s where it’s safe to go for toilet breaks. And with any luck, you won’t need to clean it up!

The do’s and don’ts of house training

  • Don’t punish your dog if he has an accident. Accidents happen and shouting at your dog is just going to make him fear you.
  • If you catch him in the act or about to go, clap loudly to distract him, and then quickly (but gently) take him outside.
  • Don’t rush him (in the act of eliminating or the whole process). Be patient – you will be rewarded for your efforts.


House training an adult dog

If your previously house trained dog suddenly starts to relieve himself indoors, it could indicate a medical problem, so head to the vet to get him checked out. If there are no medical reasons as to why your dog is eliminating inside, consider the following possibilities:

  • Something is causing him to be stressed or anxious
  • He doesn’t like going outside in bad weather
  • He could be marking his territory
  • He has developed a certain preference for a particular surface (the carpet for example)

If you suspect any of the above, it’s advisable to talk to an animal behaviourist to get to the bottom of the problem. They will then prescribe the appropriate training methods.

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