5. Toilet Training

Many greyhounds are very clean when it comes to their toileting habits and prefer to hold on until they are outdoors, but others may take a little more time to learn the new expectations of them in a home. It’s not uncommon for all hounds to have a couple of accidents to begin with.   

Many racing greyhounds have only ever lived in a kennel environment, with regular let outs for a run and toilet break during the day. Some greyhounds never receive any formal toilet training and for a few of them, all the world is one big concrete or grass toilet!  

So how do dogs learn what is a toilet and what isn’t? Puppies actually start learning when they are still with their mum. At 3-4 weeks of age they start leaving the nest to toilet, and quickly learn what surfaces to use. For puppies that have been raised on one surface only, such as newspaper or concrete, there is less difference between bed and toilet, and these dogs can be harder to toilet train because to them the whole world is a toilet!  

Foundations for a successful toilet training programme: 

Set them up for success:  

Set up a crate or confinement area for your hound. The benefit of using a crate or confinement area such as a playpen, is that dogs prefer not to toilet where they sleep and are more likely to hold on until they’re let out. It also prevents the hound from wandering around the house and weeing in places when you’re not there to supervise 

To reduce the likelihood of any accidents, the greyhound is only allowed freedom inside if they have an empty bladder. This means they will need to be taken out first for the chance to go to the loo before being allowed access to the spaces outside their crate or confinement area.  

This doesn’t mean they can’t have freedom, rather that they need to be given the opportunity to get it right before allowing any mistakes to happen. 

While the hound is learning, leaving the back door open in the hopes they will let themselves out usually ends up with accidents inside. It’s a bit like asking a toddler to find their own way to the toilet without first learning how to get there or that its even incorrect for them to go anywhere but the toilet.  

Times that they will likely need the toilet: 

  • First thing in the morning and before bed at night 
  • Before or after mealtimes 
  • After a big drink of water  
  • After playing (with people or dogs) 
  • When they are let out of their crate or confinement area 
  • Before they are left in their crate or confinement area 

Watch out for signs that they likely need the toilet:  

  • Sniffing the floor  
  • Circling 
  • Restless (especially if getting up after a lie down) 
  • Hovering around the doorway to where they get taken out to go to the loo 

Taking your greyhound out to the toilet: 

It’s best if you walk them outdoors on lead as to prevent any accidents en route and any zoomies to distract them beforehand. Say your cue e.g. “busy” and wait with your greyhound while they go to the loo. Once they’ve been reward them with a tasty treat, a game, or an off lead wander around the garden. This is beneficial to prevent the accidental association of being taken inside immediately after going; wee = end of fun exploring outside time. 

Marking behaviour:  

The other problem that some owners face is when their male greyhound decides to ‘mark’ (lift their leg) inside the house and release a small amount of urine, not completely emptying their bladder. These boys may need to be reminded that the toilet is outside, and that marking is fine for nature, but not allowed inside on the leg of the dining room table. Keep an eye on your hound so you can interrupt them and escort them outside. Once again supervision and proper clean-up is the key.  

Stress can be a cause of marking behaviour in male and female dogs so it’s worth thinking if anything has changed for your dog recently. Newly adopted dogs often mark to create a sense of familiarity in new environment and this behaviour decreases as the dog settles in and becomes more comfortable.  

Frequently Asked Questions:  

What do I do if my greyhound has an accident?  

It’s no big deal and there’s no need to make a fuss, all you will need to do is thoroughly clean the area so that the greyhound is not attracted back to this area by the smell. Often an accident occurs because you missed the warning signs that they needed to toilet (sniffing, circling, looking restless, going into a room they’ve previously had an accident in). For clean-up avoid products that contain ammonia or ammonium as when these products breakdown they smell just like another animal’s urine. Instead look for enzymatic cleaners, or products designed for cleaning up after puppies.  

If you get angry with your dog when they have an accident you will likely just make them scared to go to the toilet in your presence and this can make things worse.  

My greyhound wants to go out at night, do I have to get up and take them out?  

Due to a change in routine and stress they may need an overnight toileting break while settling in. It is important that you do not teach your greyhound that 2 am is a good time for a game or a quick zoom around the yard, night-time toilet trips should be all business. Simply clip on the lead, walk them to the toilet and stand there waiting for him to go. Once they’ve finished you can reward him with a food treat or a quick pat, and it is back to bed. Check out our Settling at Night resource for more information.   

I let my greyhound out to go to the toilet, but when they come back in, they wee just inside the door. What am I doing wrong? 

Often owners just put their greyhound outside the back door and expect it to head off to the toilet on their own, after five or ten minutes they assume the dog has relieved themself and let the dog back in, only to find they immediately piddle on the floor. Sometimes the reason the owner does not want to go outside is that it is cold, dark or rainy. If it is cold, dark or rainy the greyhound probably does not want to go out into the weather either! 

The answer is to escort your greyhound to the toilet – regardless of the weather. This way you can be sure that they have has actually been to the loo.  

 When should I expect my greyhound to be trained?  

At the age that most greyhounds are adopted, they do have the physical ability to hold-on, unlike puppies who may not have full bladder control. Some greyhounds seem to take longer to toilet train than others, often due to the lack of early substrate preference learning. These dogs can take months to really get the idea that the toilet is outside – but patience, supervision, and proper clean-up is the key.  

Of course, upset tummies, and the stress of changing homes can lead to some accidents, as can some medical problems such as bladder infections. If you are doing all of the above and your greyhound is still having problems, a trip to the vet may be in order. This is also true of dogs that have been very reliable, and suddenly seem to lose their training.