Housetraining 2.0: Get rid of accidents for good
No matter the age or how well trained the dog is, moving to a new home is a big adjustment and accidents happen. Help your dog get on the right schedule by giving a refresher on the basics.
- Be vigilant: Watch for signs that your dog needs to “go”, such as circling, sniffing, whining or squatting. Remember to take him outside during the times most dogs need to go—first thing in the morning, after meals, after naps, after play time and before bed time.
- Be consistent: Establish a routine that works for you and your dog right away. Feed your dog at the same times every day, so you can predict when he’ll need to go. Take him outside on his leash, using the same door and the same potty spot every time. Use the same simple command, like “go potty”, then wait quietly for about 3-5 minutes. If he goes, give him praise and a treat right away. If he doesn’t go, bring him inside. Wait another 30 minutes or so, watching for signs or keeping your dog in his crate, and then try again.
- Be cautious: Until your dog is trained, keep him in a crate whenever he’s not supervised. Try to limit his water intake before you put him in his crate. Remove his water 2 hours before bedtime, and don’t leave food or water in his crate.
Housetraining boot camp
If the basics listed above still aren’t working, it’s time to try a more drastic measure. Temporarily take away your dog’s free time in the house. When he’s inside, keep him in his crate or on a leash with you at all times. Try tying a long leash around your waist to keep your hands free. Take him outside often – every 1.5-2 hours at first. If you miss his signs and he starts to have an accident inside, say “no” and quickly take him outside to his potty spot. Yes, this may feel time-consuming or inconvenient, but it’ll be worth the effort in the long run.
What type of cleaning product do you use for your dog’s accidents? Dogs often re-visit spots where they’ve had an accident if they can still smell it. A regular cleaner may remove the odor to you, but not to your dog’s highly sensitive nose. Instead, neutralize the odor with an enzymatic cleaning product. Or try a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar, which will remove the urine smell and discourage your dog from using the spot again.
Does your dog soil his crate? Try feeding him his meals in his crate. Dogs typically don’t like to go to the bathroom and eat in the same place. This also helps with crate training by creating a positive association with his crate. Be sure to pick up his food if he has leftovers. If he’s relieving himself on his bedding, remove it.
Is your dog using potty pads? While training your adult dog to use a potty pad on the floor might seem convenient, it actually teaches your dog that it’s ok to go inside. This may hinder his housetraining and make the process take longer. However, puppy pads can be helpful if you have a puppy who is going to be left in the house for longer than he can hold it. To determine how long this is, take his age in months and add one. For example, a 2-month-old puppy should be able go 3 hours without any accidents. As he gets older, start moving the puppy pads toward the door, eventually moving it outside to help transition him from using the pads inside to only going to the bathroom outside.
Does your puppy have accidents when he’s excited? If this happens when you come home, calmly and quickly take your dog outside before greeting him. After he relieves himself outside, praise him and return the excitement. If he loses his bladder control when guests come over, ask them to ignore your dog for the first few minutes until he settles down. When possible, take your dog outside to empty his bladder before your guests arrive.
When it’s a health concern
If your dog was housetrained and suddenly starts having accidents, it’s best to visit your veterinarian. Most dogs that are completely housetrained don’t regress unless they’re experiencing a health problem, such as a urinary tract infection.
Stay positive! You’re doing everything you can to house train your dog, and it might take some time. If you need more help, consider contacting a professional dog behaviorist. Don’t give up. With patience and persistence, your dog’s accidents will become a thing of the past, and you can both move forward happily together.