Potty troubles with a new puppy can leave even the most patient person feeling frustrated and ready to call it quits. Let's face it, the thoughts that you once had about bringing home a cute little puppy have now faded into the subject of how to artistically apply plastic wrap to his bottom so your friends won't notice! Rest assured you are not alone.
The first and most important thing to remember about training your puppy is not to yell or become angry. Your anger just frightens him and makes him likely to lose control of his bladder. It also makes him fearful about going potty in the house, now he will just learn to hide it from you, a vicious cycle. Your puppy has a 3-second memory. If you leave him to run to the phone and aren't watching him he very well may go potty. If you find this spot an hour later and rub his nose or face in it you are only ruining his trust. He has no clue why you are angry and why you've chosen to shove his face into the carpet. If you can't catch him in the act just clean it up and forget about it.
Another part of your potty regimen should be doubling up on potty runs outside. The more you work with your dog the faster he'll be trained, which applies to ANY problem). Another helpful hint is the use of baby gates. This helps contain the puppy in the kitchen where he cannot soak the carpet with urine when you are unable to watch him. It's very important not to let your puppy on the carpet anywhere in house unless you can devote 100% of your undivided attention!
Once you've caught your puppy in the act or within 3 seconds after the act, pick him up and say calmly but firmly, without raising your voice or sounding angry, "No! Potty Outside". Then immediately take your puppy outside, put a leash on him and lead him to a spot you've designated for him. You should then repeat over and over again, "go potty! go potty!" in a friendly tone. Give your puppy a good five to ten minutes for this. If he doesn't go it's ok, just try again later. If he does go potty praise him with much exuberance. Make it a huge deal and even offer him a treat or throw a ball for him. Once you can give him a positive and fun association with going potty outside he will want that experience again.
Another helpful hint for this process is putting some feces you've found in the house in the designated outdoor spot. When he encounters this it will help to reinforce that this is the spot for him to eliminate. If you have any urine soaked housebreaking pads, you can leave one outside in his spot which will work just as well. Remove it as soon as he goes potty on his own in that area.
All puppies need to be taught to go outside. Until they are 16 weeks of age it's very common to have potty problems. If housebreaking has become a repetitive problem over a period of months and your puppy is pushing five to six months old, then you haven't removed enough of the odor in the carpet. This applies to feces as well as urine. Your puppy can detect odors 1000 times better than you.
Nature's Miracle and other enzyme-based odor removers work well, but only if you let it dry completely. Often a puppy will be let back into the room before the spot is dry, smell the remaining odor which triggers the bladder or bowels so the problem begins again. Remove the puppy from the area, let the treated spot dry completely, and then vacuum before you let the puppy back. Make sure there are no other dry urine spots in that area to trigger a response. You can use a black light, (best used at night,) to detect urine stains.
At night it's wise to crate your puppy or put him in the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room where there is no carpet he can soak. Give him a big stuffed animal to cuddle if he is not in a crate. He'll feel like he's got his mommy or a sibling with him to help them not feel too lonely. Once you have doubled up on his potty runs and completely eliminated the odor in the carpets, you should find peace… at last.
- Written by Colleen Paige. With over two decades of expertise as a dog trainer and animal behaviorist, Colleen teaches people to be kind to their dogs using love and leadership in combination with "speaking" dog language. A columnist for Fido Friendly and regular guest expert for many national magazines, TV and radio programs, she also founded National Dog Day, (August 26th)! Check out Colleen's new book, The Good Behavior Book for Dogs.