Help! My Dog is Potty Trained but Keeps Going in the House!
I’ve heard it time and time again, “Help! My dog is potty trained but keeps going in the house!” My response? “Are you sure your dog was fully potty trained in the first place?” It can be frustrating when your puppy just doesn’t get potty training, despite your best efforts.
But, before you give up and decide to become a professional carpet cleaner, take a deep breath. Patience and consistency are your best friends — well, besides your pup, that is. To help her learn where to do-do, here’s a list of five doggie do-do’s and five naughty no-no’s.
The #1 reason why puppies and dogs are dropped off at shelters year after year is because of housebreaking issues. Many new dog owners do not realize just how important it is to fully potty-train their puppy or dog.
Dos and Don’ts of Puppy Potty Training
Puppy Potty Training Do #1: Create a daily schedule for your furry friend!
If you are the type that creates spreadsheet calendars just for fun — this is your big opportunity! Your pup needs a consistent schedule that you both stick to each day. Assuming you don’t speak puppy, this is the only way that you can both be on the same page.
If you don’t have a routine in place, you can start by taking your dog out every two hours. Your dog needs to be in his crate when you are gone, aren’t supervising him and while he’s sleeping at night. This will help teach him to hold it for extended periods of time. Once you return or wake up, you should immediately take him out of his crate and continue to take him out every 2 hours.
Next, start adding 15 minutes between his potty breaks each week so he gradually learns to hold it longer. So if you start with an 8 week old puppy and 2-hour intervals, your weekly schedule should look something like this:
- Week 1 – Every 2 hours
- Week 2 – Every 2 hours and 15 minutes
- Week 3 – Every 2 ½ hours
- Week 4 – Every 2 hours and 45 minutes
- Week 5 – Every 3 hours
A 15-minute increase is in line with your puppy’s age if you start him at 8 weeks. But regardless if he’s 8 weeks, 8 months or 8 years, adding a time gradually will help ease him into controlling his bladder without either of you feeling too much anxiety.
Puppies generally have to use the bathroom after eating or drinking, after waking up from a nap or if they have been playing for a while. So although you could take your puppy out after you see they have woken up from a nap in order to avoid a mistake, that won’t keep him on a schedule, and that’s what you want to do.
Here’s a great example:
If I take my pup out at 10 a.m. and he takes a 30-minute nap in his crate, that would put us at 10:30 a.m., which is 1 ½ hours away from his next scheduled potty break. So, instead of taking him out, I will place him in his crate until 12 p.m. and then let them out of his crate to go potty. I do this each time the scheduled potty breaks fall out of line with the schedule – with the exception of after eating or drinking water.
If I take my puppy out at 7:30 a.m. and feed him at 8 a.m., I will take him back out 15 to 30 minutes later and start my 2-hour schedule from that point.
I know I keep mentioning this, but it is SO IMPORTANT for you to understand that in the dog potty training process, there are going to be accidents. What you do when your dog has an accident is very important. Yes I know that nobody likes cleaning up after the fact but if you react negatively your dog will start to associate your anger or frustration with him going to the bathroom and will be afraid to eliminate around you. I would say this is the biggest mistake people make while potty training their dog.
So instead of reacting negatively by yelling or even rubbing their nose in it concentrate more on heavily rewarding the good behavior. Now your family has a potty trained dog they can enjoy in the house or if you’re dog sitting you can return the dog fully potty trained to the owner — with, of course, a small bill!!
Puppy Potty Training Do #2: Understand she’s as young as she is cute!
You know that friend you envy because she announced on Facebook that she fully potty trained her new three-month old puppy? She didn’t. It is simply wrong to talk about a puppy being fully potty-trained before she is at least six months old. There’s a lot you can do in the meantime to avoid accidents, but there is still bound to be an accident here and there (think: puppy playtime excitement!)
So stop thinking that your pup will grow up to wear an adult diaper! She’s super cute, and super young. She needs your patience and understanding as she explores this big new world.
Wondering how long your pup can “hold it”? The Humane Society says, “Generally speaking, a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours. Don’t go longer than this between bathroom breaks or they’re guaranteed to have an accident.” (Read more about that here)
Puppy Potty Training Do #3: Develop a secret language with your pup!
No matter if onlookers whisper, it is not weird for you to have a conversation with your furry friend! In fact, a few keywords (think: “potty” or “outside”) said at the right time, and you will have your pup “performing” on cue. Before you know it, you will have your own secret language.
Once you have a handle on your puppy’s potty schedule and he is learning that outside is the place to take his potty breaks, it is time to teach him how to tell you he has to go out!
The Bell Method – The way I taught my 11 week old Golden Retriever to tell me when he needs to go out was to simply hang a little Christmas jingle bell with ribbon or string at nose height on the door handle that leads outside. And then I trained him to ring it ONLY when he had the urge to go potty.
Here’s why this bell is Magic:
— I no longer had to “Catch My Dog in the Act” to train him to go outside. Now he tells me!
— Now my dog had a way to communicate his need to go outside. And he could call me from the other side of the house WITHOUT barking (who wants to train their dog to bark to go outside – super annoying and a whole new problem to solve)
— When my little dog’s bladder was 15 seconds away from bursting, he didn’t have to run all over the house trying to find me to tell me he had to go, and have an accident on the stairs or something. Cuz he knew if he rang it, I’d come a runnin’.
Puppy Potty Training Do #4: Lavish plenty of praise on your proud pup.
Puppies respond to praise. One of the most difficult hurdles for many new dog owners to get over is the fact that positive reinforcement works a hundred times better than negative reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement in dog training can go by many names, most of which are valid and worthy: reward-based training, science-based training, force-free or pain-free training, etc. Regardless of the terminology, the general theory behind this line of thinking remains the same.
So what’s the big deal about whether or not to do positive or negative reinforcement? A pat on the head and a treat will have a stronger impact on your dog’s behavior and training than a loud yell and a smack on the rear.
One teaches fear and causes anxiety and a whole host of other problems, the other encourages your dog to continue to do the right thing to earn more treats and praise. It doesn’t matter what you’re training them to do, positive reinforcement just works better. Reward your dog for good behavior. This is perhaps the single most important puppy training tip to remember as your puppy grows.
Don’t overreact when he has an accident. Never, ever yell or rub his nose in it! This hostility is the reason dogs “sneak” around, go behind couches, and in other rooms to have an accident.
You want your puppy to relieve himself in front of you outside, so yelling at him is counterproductive! Your puppy doesn’t understand why you yell sometimes and not others! TEACH him where you want him to go potty by being patient, taking him to the same potty spot outside, staying with him and quietly praise him when he goes potty outside and provide a great treat afterward!
Puppy Potty Training Do #5: Make a cozy den for your four-legged friend.
The smaller the environment, the more successful we will all be! This is the same reason why crate training works. Most puppies don’t want to poop or pee and then be subjected to it, or lay in it. Provided that the crate you got for him is not too big, crates make going potty uncomfortable.
If your puppy pees or poops in the crate; he is going to have to lay in it until someone comes along and lets him out. And, let’s face it: as long as you keep your dog clean, chances are he is going to desire to be clean. Almost no dog wants to sit in his own urine or excrement.
And, once he has an accident in his crate he realizes this; and it gives him motivation and teaches him to hold his bladder etc.
Please note that he has to be old enough to hold his bladder! It is unfair to crate young puppies for long durations because they are incapable of being potty trained when they are little infants.
And, if you crate young puppies until they poop or pee on themselves… it simply desensitizes them to being clean. They learn that being dirty and stinky is just part of life! Be sure to get puppies out for potty breaks often! And, it is recommended that puppies only be crated however many months of age they are plus one. So if you have an 8 week old puppy (2 months old) he should only be crated a maximum of 3 hours.
Getting Started – When you are thinking about crate training and purchasing a crate I recommend getting a crate that will be big enough for your adult dog. Unless you have oodles of money laying around, I would not necessarily get a crate the size of your puppy and then continue to get bigger crates as he ages. And, don’t think you aren’t going to need a crate when your dog is full grown, because crate training has its benefits throughout the lifetime of your dog!
Instead I would recommend getting a crate big enough for your adult dog and partitioning it off to be smaller depending on the size of your puppy. Many crates come with a partition that can be inserted. If the crate is TOOOO big, chances are your puppy can have an accident at one end of the crate and lay at the other end, which mostly defeats the purpose of crate training.
Acclimation – You want to get your puppy used to his crate before you leave him for 3 hours or more. The best way to do this is to provide him with a hefty amount of exercise prior to crating him so he will be too tired to care that he is in a crate. If he just woke up from a nap and you slide him into a crate he is much more likely to have a terrible fit and a bad experience; which will make crating him next time more traumatic. When he is exhausted, he might have a small puppy fit; but then he is probably going to take a nap which will help make his experience more pleasurable. I usually start crate training the first night puppy comes home, (after I exercise him) and I put that crate next to the side of my bed. This way I can hear the puppy if he stirs at night and he can also hear me breathing.
Remember that if he is a puppy, he has probably come from an environment where he is used to hearing his littermates at night and going into a totally sterile environment with no noise at all is going to be a bit terrifying for him! I have found that putting him next to the bed, helps us both sleep and helps with potty training!
Crate Games – During the day it’s a good idea to play crate games with your puppy or new dog. I believe all dog training should be positive and revolve around games. I toss my puppy’s favorite treats inside, I throw their toys in and encourage them to run inside and get whatever I have tossed in.
I also never put him into his crate without giving him potty breaks followed by substantial treats. If your pup gets a piece of chicken every time he gets into his crate, he will be much more likely to enjoy running into his crate. I want my dogs to enjoy their crates!
Leaving Them… Whenever I leave my dog, or puppy for the first time I want to make it as positive of an experience as possible. So I stuff a large Kong (never leave anything that your dog could choke on in his crate) with peanut butter or liverwurst, then freeze it and only give it to my dog/puppy when I leave him in his crate for a substantial period of time.
I also make sure to leave some kind of music, TV, or other background noise on while I am gone so my pup doesn’t panic. Very few of us live in an environment of “quiet” most of the time. We have the TV or our music, or chatter amongst ourselves going on for our dogs to hear.
So it is no surprise that it causes some panic when we leave and our pup has no background noises that he’s used to hearing. Instead, they hear the neighbors, or the sounds outside, the mailman, the trash truck, and other noises that may scare them and cause them to bark.
Remember crate training is like any other kind of dog training, you must teach them through good experiences!
Practice! Practice makes perfect! So I crate train my dogs even when I am home. I don’t want them to associate my leaving with crate training or spending time in their crate, or this can create fears or bad feelings with my leaving. Instead, I crate my dogs before I train with them (so that crating is associated with something positive) and I also crate them periodically during the day.
This way I can hear what they are doing, and I can reward good quiet behavior and just get them used to it on a consistent basis.
Now That you Know What to Do, Here’s What Not to Do:
Puppy Potty Training Don’t #1: Punish your apologetic puppy for an accident.
This is the number one rule of successful potty training.
Whether or not you catch her in the act, do not scare her, rub her nose in it, or swat her bottom. This can create a rift in your relationship for years to come. You can make a noise (like “No!”) but be 100 percent sure you don’t scare her. Accidents are a frustrating but inherent part of potty training. Be patient.
Puppy Potty Training Don’t #2: Try to maximize her bladder capacity.
Especially if you are crate training, be mindful of your puppy’s small bladder. As a general rule (that only holds true for puppies under seven months old), your puppy’s age (in months) is the number of hours she can hold her bladder. When she is sleeping, she can hold it longer than when she is playing. But never make a puppy hold her bladder over seven hours. Do not ignore classic pre-elimination behavior:
- Sniffing around
- Whining inside the crate
- Looking out the window
Puppy Potty Training Don’t #3: Feed your precious pup “doggie-Spam”.
You want the best for your canine friend, so be sure to feed her the best. Do not feed her the dog food equivalent of Spam. Her digestive health will reflect the quality of her diet.
Oily and fatty foods, which are often found on our tables or in bad quality feeds, can lead to severe dog health problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, and pancreatitis. Even worse, there are several people foods that are highly toxic to animals. Onions or any food prepared with them, for instance, can be unsafe for dogs and should never be given to him.
Besides, some pooches that are constantly fed with table scraps have the tendency to become dependent on them. Dogs that eat table scraps may start refusing to eat regular dog food. Aside from that, feeding your pet with table scraps can also cause him to develop undesirable behaviors such as begging.
If you intend to reward your pup for good behavior, just give him various high quality treats which are especially made for them.
Puppy Potty Training Don’t #4: Let her go on solo adventures in the house.
There will be a day when your pup can explore your home to her heart’s content. But that day is not today. The more she roams freely, the more mysterious poop piles you will find.
It’s important to watch your puppy at all times for his safety and your sanity, but this is also the key to successful potty training. You can’t prevent accidents if you don’t have your eyes on the dog. Here are some puppy training tips to help with supervision:
Take your puppy to its potty spot frequently. How often will depend on his age and bladder strength. For very young puppies, it could be as often as every 15 minutes. Better a wasted trip than an accident.
Set a timer if you’re having trouble remembering when to take your puppy out. Watch your puppy for telltale signs he has to go such as sniffing the ground, circling, or whining. When you see those signs, take him straight to his potty spot.
Use a leash tethered to you or furniture if you are having trouble keeping your pup in sight. Put your puppy in his crate or a playpen area whenever you can’t supervise him.
Puppy Potty Training Don’t #5: Try paper training, unless you and your dog are really ambitious.
Most people prefer training their dogs to go outside to do their business, however, there are circumstances that make taking dogs outside difficult: consider those in a New York City apartment, or living with disabilities.
There are also some dogs that HATE and refuse to go outside in different types of extreme or inclement weather and prefer to stay indoors all the time. For these situations there is the option for indoor potty training.
Not everyone who owns a dog lives in suburbia. Because of this, potty training can look completely different for the many dogs and their owners who live in the city. This can be particularly difficult due to the fact that apartment buildings, townhouses and condos don’t always have a balcony, yard or patio for Rover to do his business.
These Urban dogs have to hold it through the many hallways, elevators, stairs and common areas before ever making it to an appropriate spot to go potty – which means these dogs need predictable patterns to learn how to eliminate on the right spot. They also have to learn to pee on concrete, which is not half as fun as marking trees and grass.
Although dogs tend to like smelly things, believe it or not, they prefer to avoid their own waste.
If Rover refuses to go potty outside during cold or rainy weather, can you really blame him? Cold weather creates its own set of stress for dogs, but now more than at almost any other time of the year, your weather sensitive canine companion needs your undivided attention.
Many dogs can be very stubborn about going outside in inclement weather to do their business, causing accidents in the house. To avoid this, and the frustration that is sure to follow, the solution may be bringing his potty spot indoors so your canine companion can still go regardless of the bad weather.
Indoor potty training for dogs is even recommended occasionally when dogs (especially small dogs) are having a particularly difficult time housebreaking. Sometimes it is simply easier to embrace the problem and work towards a common goal together; it is like a give and take between you and your small dog.
Just say no to Puppy Pads. Puppy Pads are usually marketed to dog owners with new puppies or for puppy training, but I do not recommend their use for your dog! It is often hard to distinguish a puppy pad from your other things. Think about it; puppy pads are soft and plush and smell like ammonia.
The carpet in your house is soft and plush. Bathroom rugs are also plush and soft and smell like our human (ammonia scent). Human sweat and urine often smells like ammonia (even to us in some circumstances) now remember that your dog’s nose is thousands of times more powerful and sensitive than your own nose.
No wonder these dogs pull down bath towels, and pee on your laundry piles and carpet; because of course by using ammonia scented puppy pads we are in fact teaching him to do so! Interesting thought right? I mean, most people don’t realize how stinky we are (to our dogs) and how our own odor can increase the likelihood of our dogs using our things as a place to mark or put their own scent and relieve himself. Heck, he figures you did!
We can alleviate this problem when we teach our dog that he has a potty spot and that spot is the only place he can use to relieve himself.
I am a big fan of the “Potty Patch” and similar items because it is simulated grass and does not resemble blankets, laundry, or carpets. I once taught a Service Dog to potty using this method because he was going on a cruise with his owner. We got “fake grass” and taught him to potty in the shower so it was easier cleanup for his owner.
Puppy potty training can be difficult, but with a dollop of consistency and a sprinkle of patience, your pup will be well on her way!