Puppy Toilet Training Tips: The First Days and Nights

Toileting training your puppy may seem like a daunting task, here are some handy tips to get you started

Created: 12/21/2017 Updated: 8/27/2021 - Shelley Audis-Riddell

behaviour, Behaviour & Training, puppy, training

Toilet training

For most new owners, one of their greatest worries is toilet training their puppy. No one wants to be constantly clearing up after their dog, worrying about taking him anywhere or failing in this very first training task – and so they tend to over-think what is actually a very easy process.

Grey puppy dog with cute eyes

The good news is that puppies come pre-programmed to be toilet trained. If you watch any litter of pups, even as young as three weeks old, you will see that mum has already taught them to leave the bed or sleeping area when they need to toilet. Make sure the breeder you go to rears the puppies in the home to ensure this is the case with your chosen puppy – kennel reared puppies often are harder to toilet train for this reason.

So how do we make sure we get it right? Simple – just follow the rules mum has already taught and build on them.

Before you do anything else, decide where your puppy’s toilet area is going to be. Ideally it should be a small outdoor area with grass or a soft surface that is enclosed where your puppy can be safe, and that is close to the house.

There are two parts to toilet training – night time and day time. So let’s start with night time.

Terrier puppy sniffing the grass

Night time

As the puppies have already learned to leave the sleeping area to toilet, to start with you need to restrict the size of our puppy’s sleeping area to encourage him to hold on a little rather than just go to the other end of the room to have a wee!

The easiest way to do this is with a crate or a puppy pen.

Crates make training a puppy a lot easier – but they must be introduced to the puppy correctly and used properly. A puppy who is properly introduced to his crate will look on it as a safe haven and a comforting place to be.

The crate however must always be used with care. Do not use it to shut your puppy for long periods or as an excuse to ignore him. The vast majority of the time your puppy should be out and about with you – that is why you got him after all!

First of all, make sure you get a crate the right size. The puppy needs to be able to stand up comfortably, lie stretched out and be able to get up and turn round. It shouldn’t be so big however that he can use one end for sleeping and the other end as a toilet! Also make sure it is one that is safe without any sharp edges or ‘sticky-out bits’ (even when the door is open).

Make the crate comfortable, line it with bedding that goes up the sides to keep the pup warm and comfortable. Then introduce the crate slowly to your puppy. Leave the door open – and when you are playing with your pup, encourage him to go into the crate – to chase a toy, or to get a tasty titbit. Make him feel happy about being in there and that it is a safe place to be. Don’t shut the door yet!

Feed him his meals in the crate and while he is eating you can shut the door for a few minutes. Whenever your pup is sleepy, put him in the crate so he gets used to going in there whenever he wants a nap – this is his special sleeping place.

Make a hard and fast rule that no one ever disturbs puppy when he is in the crate – this is his sanctuary!

Tri-coloured Border Collie puppy

Once he is happy and relaxed about sleeping in his crate, he can be put in there to spend the night – for most pups this doesn’t take long at all. Every pup is different thought and so you need to be sensitive to your own dog and not rush this (or make your puppy feel locked away from you!). The crate should always feel positive and safe.

Thankfully many breeders will have already crate trained their puppies, as it is a lot easier for them not to have puppies running riot around their house, and this will make things so much easier for you.

If you choose not to use a crate, you will have to find another way to keep your puppy contained in a small area when you are unable to watch him constantly. Puppy pens are great but aren’t very portable.

Now that your puppy is crate trained and happy in the crate, you need to decide where he is going to sleep. For most people it works best that the puppy sleeps next to them to start with. This makes toilet training easier and also helps the puppy settle into his new life – after all, this is the first time he has ever slept alone and you want his new life to start as stress-free as possible. You also always want to be close on hand when he is in a crate so you are sure he is happy there. There is plenty of time to slowly move him to the area he will eventually sleep in later.

Dalmatian puppy sleeping

The first night

Don’t make your puppy’s last meal too late – otherwise he is definitely going to need to toilet before the morning! A last meal around 6pm works well. Limit the amount of water he drinks too. He needs water on hand in case he gets thirsty but great long drinks should be discouraged in the hour or two before bed!

Give him a chance to have a good play, a game an hour or so before bedtime – movement stimulates the digestive system and he is more likely to toilet fully before you want him to sleep. Plus a tired puppy is more likely to sleep for longer!

Go to bed fairly late. It is a reality that having a new puppy means you will get less sleep for a while – but if you toilet train your puppy properly, it will take a surprisingly short time before your sleeping patterns get back to normal!

In the last half hour or so before bedtime, let your puppy relax so he is fairly sleepy and then when you are ready to go to sleep, put him quietly into his crate and go to bed!

Now you have to remember that puppies only have small digestive systems (and if you have a toy or small breed, this is especially true), they may never have had to ‘hang on’ before, and you must avoid and mistakes in the crate. This often means getting up in the middle of the night and taking your puppy out to go to the toilet.

One of the advantages of having him next to you is that you can easily hear if he is awake and restless (which is nearly always a sign of needing to toilet – plus puppies nearly always need to go to the toilet when they wake up).

Then you need to get up early in the morning and the very first thing you do before anything else is get your puppy out to the toilet once more.

It won’t take long until you can make the middle of the night toilet visit later and later, and eventually cut it out all together and your puppy will be sleeping through the night clean and dry.

Then you can start to move the crate bit by bit somewhere else to where you want the puppy to sleep.

Do you need further advice?

If you need any further advice, please contact the OSCAR Helpline Team on our freephone number 0800 195 8000 or email helpline@oscars.co.uk.