Why is My Puppy Still Having Accidents? The Do’s and Don’ts of Puppy Potty Training

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puppy potty training, why is my puppy still having accidents

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.

Do’s and Don’ts of Puppy Potty Training

puppy potty training, why is my puppy still having accidents

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.

You may want to create a free-flowing environment for your pup to self-actualize, but she will only be potty-trained if she eats at the same time every day. Two scheduled meal times — one after morning playtime and one in the evening — will minimize the number of times your puppy has to go. Never leave food out all day, or you will need to replace your carpet!

Potty breaks also need to be consistently-spaced throughout the day, so that your puppy trusts that you won’t make her hold it too long. Be sure to differentiate potty breaks from outside playtime, so that she isn’t confused. When she knows what to expect, potty training can be a great way to build trust!

puppy potty training, why is my puppy still having accidents

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.

puppy potty training, why is my puppy still having accidents

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.

Puppy Potty Training Do #4: Lavish plenty of praise on your proud pup.

When your furry friend goes outside and drops it like it’s hot, you need to party like it’s 1999. Okay, maybe that’s a little much. But be sure to calmly reinforce the positive behavior in a cheery voice. Even better, give her a treat. Do this immediately so she understands why she is being rewarded.

Puppy Potty Training Do #5: Make a cozy den for your four-legged friend.

The most effective method of potty-training is crate training. That is, your pup stays in a small crate (big enough for her to turn around, but no bigger) for most of the day/night unless she is outside eliminating or inside playing with you. At no time does she roam freely, until she is potty-trained.

Crate training takes commitment, because it is fun to watch a freely-roaming puppy. But if you create a cozy den for her, you will utilize her “den instinct” to maintain a clean sleeping area. Plus, she will be able to get all the sleep that a puppy needs to grow big and strong!

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.

puppy potty training, why is my puppy still having accidents

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
  • Squatting
  • Circling
  • Barking
  • Restlessness
  • Whining inside the crate
  • Looking out the window

puppy potty training, why is my puppy still having accidents

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.

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.

Puppy Potty Training Don’t #5: Try paper training, unless you and your dog are really ambitious.

If you live in a third-floor apartment, it might be tempting to lay out papers in the (soon-to-be smelly) corner for your pup’s elimination. But paper-training is the most difficult type of potty training because your dog may have trouble understanding where elimination is acceptable, especially when she visits other houses. Unless you both are ambitious, stick to crate training.

puppy potty training, why is my puppy still having accidents

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!



About the Author

An avid outdoorswoman, pet-lover, and animal shelter volunteer, Alexandra Seagal firmly believes that knowledge is of the utmost importance when it comes to pet ownership. With this mission in mind, she founded Animalso — a comprehensive website that covers topics ranging from potty training to playtime. In her spare time, she coddles her pet hamster, cat, and dogs — her pride and joy.


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There are 14 Comments

  1. Vivienne Vickery says:

    Excellent information written in a calm way making it all so simplified. From memory our puppy let us know when she wanted to pee and poo. She had her bed near the hallway leading to the front door. When she wanted to pee or poo she would let us know by coming to find us somewhere in the house and made talking noises we would say toilet and she would run to the front door. If she wanted to go out to play she always went to the back door and 10 years later that still applies so she trained us. She chose her way of how she wanted things done we obeyed and I really don’t remember that being a problem. It was especially useful at night we are on a huge country piece of land and if she needs to go out at night. She comes running back real fast she doesn’t like being out on her own. With cane toads and snakes I don’t either!!!


    Alexandra Seagal Reply:

    Haha, sweet! Thanks for sharing, Vivienne!

    And thanks for a compliment on the article 🙂


  2. Ellen says:

    I know there is a catch to this but I am desperate. My Boxer was born Oct 29, 2016. I got him New Years Eve. He is still not 100% trained. I had 4 Rottweilers prior him and the most ot ever took was 2 weeks. No crate just an alarm clock every two hrs & no food betweeb breakfast & dinner. Boxer I have discoveted drink a lot! So agter I0 min or so we go outside, he pees & we come back in. When he does do the two “P’s” outside I praise him like crazy. Am at wits end.
    ellen jones


    Minette Reply:

    crates are a wonderful thing


    Alexandra Seagal Reply:

    Ellen, housebreaking a dog takes between 4 and 6 months so keep you schedule and maintain patience 🙂

    And as Minette told, crates could be very handy.


  3. Gloria Lowe says:

    I have a 18 month Shih Tzu whose previous owner had a doggy door for her to go in and out as she pleased. Unfortunately, I do not. I am trying to paper train her. Morning are ok. However, in the evening she will not use the paper, but will wait until I bring her inside to either eliminate on the kitchen floor, inside stairs, etc. HELP!!!


    Alexandra Seagal Reply:

    Paper training is one of the most unpredictable ways of training your puppy. Too many things can go wrong with it.

    Try to get your dog outside, or to a special place at home.
    Consider hiring pet walker (it could be your neighbor)


  4. Karin says:

    I need help with my 3 year minature dashound. He lifts his leg and pees on everything. He is fixed. I ordered the dog training tapes, but can’t figure out how to fix this behavior.

    He goes outside when we are home,but if alpha Mom (me) is not home and the rest of the family misses his cues he will go else where. He has a puppy pad that he could go on. The reason we still have this is we keep them (jack russell who is perfect and mini Dashaund) in the kitchen when we work 14 hour days. My little jack russel holds it. Little mini dashound can not and goes on the puppy pad and then wherever else like the island corner. Sometimes when we leave the house temporarily I put the doggy diaper on him and he hasn’t peed in that yet but that is only a few hours….if I didn’t he would pee.

    Help. How do I get him to stop marking the house…my husband wants me to get rid of him for this.


    Alexandra Seagal Reply:

    Hey Karin,
    Small dogs have a small bladder. Don’t expect them to hold pee for a long time (14 hours is too much).

    In order to get him used to puppy pads try this steps:
    1. Don’t miss his cues
    2. And praise him a lot when he goes to the pad
    Crate training can be handy here.

    But probably it’s not the case.
    You told he goes on the puppy pad but then goes somewhere else. This could be because bad odor discourages him.

    Another thing is to consider to hire dog walker (it could be your neighbor) when you are not home.

    In a worst case, if nothing worked for you, try to go for paper training.


  5. Constance says:

    Thank you thank you thank you. I’ve been looking for answers to when to expect potty training to be complete so knowing she’ll be 6 months old before I’m sure is very helpful. As a handicapped person who cannot get out of bed except a few times a day, she stays with me on the bed and when she starts to pant I know she needs something. I’ve always trained my dogs on the bells so it’s nice to know someone else does that too.
    For people who need to use words besides ‘outside’ to mean ‘relieve yourself’, and people who don’t like ‘potty’ and’poop’, here are alternatives I’ve heard: “do your business”, “make water” and “make dirt”.


  6. Angrla says:

    My four month old daushand pees almost everytime in her crate I haven’t had any success in crate training is there any suggestions to help to get her on track to crate training again? When we first got her she done pretty good. She understands what outside means.


    Minette Reply:

    I doubt that she understands if she is having issues. Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/dirty-puppy/


  7. Todd says:

    i’ve used your methods on a female boston terrier/ miniature pincher mix and it works fabulously ( except for over excitement and barking) those we are still working on.

    we just got a new puppy a few weeks ago a boxer pup
    he is about 13 weeks now. He has gotten sit, lay down and go to your bed fairly quickly and is beginning to understand the ” ringing of the bell”
    my question is I made the mistake of letting my emotions get away from me after a potty mishap
    he had gone out and went and then back in and went again and did this a couple of times
    needless to day the last time I yelled loudly! snatched him up and whisked him outside and obviously scared him because he ran and hid under my vehicle.

    I’ve been keeping my cool and trying to gain his trust back but i am so worried that i’ve ruined my relationship with him.

    can you give me any advice on how to get his trust back???


    Minette Reply:

    It takes time, try and control your temper and make training fun, it will come back if you do those things


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