(“Or I thought she was trained, what happened?”)
So things have been going fairly smoothly in the house training department with your new little puppy love. Then out of the blue, your little fluffy bundle starts to slip in her faithful adherence to the house rules. As you come through the family room you almost tread in a puddle that shouldn’t be there, or so you thought!
You can tell by the guilty look on little miss’s face that she knows better, (or you think that’s what she looks like) and you try not to overreact but what’s a puppy owner to do you ask?
- Should you correct her?
- Why is she suddenly having accidents?
- Is it your fault?
- DOES she know better?
For pity’s sake, let’s get this house training part of puppy-hood over already, you sigh…
Probably one of the most frustrating parts of house training a new puppy is thinking you both are getting it, only to find your puppy seems to have forgotten all her training and has gone back to step one of the process.
When I’m asked what the quickest way is to resolve this sort of misstep in the process, my first thoughts are what the puppy owner may be inadvertently doing to confuse their puppy.
It’s so important to go slowly in the amount of freedom you allow your new puppy to have in the early days after her arrival. It’s always better to prevent accidents that to have to back up in puppy training to eliminate bad habits. Here are a few tips if things have been going swimmingly and suddenly taken a turn in the wrong direction.
Make sure everyone is watching carefully for “Pre-Potty Behavior”.
If she’s playing energetically with the kids in the family room and pauses to sniff the floor, perhaps walking in a small circle while looking bewildered, scoop her up quickly and out she goes. During playtime it’s easy for puppies to get distracted, then suddenly realize they have to GO! You only have about 3 seconds to scoop her and prevent an accident.
- It may help if you see her begin to squat to clap your hands sharply or speak her name loudly “Bella, NO! Potty outside!” to hopefully stop her long enough for you to scoop her up and get her outside.
- Keep a few Cheerios in your pocket, give her one or two along with praise in a couple of key areas. When you get to the door to go outside, stop and praise. “Good Bella! Potty Outside! Gooooood giiiiiirl”! Give her a Cheerio to help layer going to the door with a reward. Cheerios or a similar small easy to swallow treat can be a big incentive. Timing is everything: give her one as you open the door, with a “Good girl Bella, go potty outside, goooood girl”
- Don’t forget, when she wakes up from a nap or comes out of the crate, that you scoop her up immediately and ferry her outside.
Once you’re outside, if you find that she want’s to play and not potty, is it because she’s been cooped up for a long while and simply needs more time to romp and expend puppy energy? Try playing with her for a while, then after she’s had a chance to vent puppy energy, steer her over to the potty spot. Puppies simply have to settle a bit before they are ready to “go”. Don’t make the mistake of taking her back inside because she’s just playing and not doing her business. Take the time to exercise her.
- After she’s had some exercise and begun to slow down a bit, stand or walk slowly near the potty area, ignore her efforts to engage you in further play. Tell her quietly “Bella, go potty, gooood girl go potty outside”. (Dogs love long vowel sounds, stretch out praise to appeal to your puppy’s keen sense of hearing).
- Be careful not distract or interrupt as she’s going, but do praise happily once the deed is done and layer praise with a few Cheerios. A few more minutes walking and letting her romp will ensure that she’s empty and ready to go back inside.
- If she doesn’t go to the bathroom and you are fairly certain that she needs to? Bring her back inside and pop her in her crate for 10 minutes. Then take her back outside and repeat a short playtime and opportunity to potty.
- OR Try “tethering”. Often tethering is very effective with the puppy that has the basic idea but is still having occasional lapses. Simply keep Bella’s leash on when you bring her back inside. Slip the handle over a doorknob or a willing child’s wrist or some other safe area where she can be watched. Put her in a comfortable spot, with something to lie on and a toy. Do the dishes or work on dinner while she ponders life and her lack of house privileges. After an hour or so, take her back outside to try again to earn some of those Cheerios and your praise.
IF in spite of all your efforts, Bella has an accident what should you do?
- If she has been doing fairly well and this is simply a lapse. It’s OK to tell her off a bit. Use tact, don’t yell, do not lose your temper. Upon finding the evidence of her misdeed, carry her back to the scene of the crime.
- Scold her while pointing at her “accident’ Your tone should be disapointed, slightly growly “Bella, baaaaad dog,,, nooooo, baaaad girl”.
- DO NOT rub her nose in it.
- A tiny swat on the bottom won’t mar her for life and sometimes is a good reinforcement to your correction.
- It can be helpful if a bit difficult to hold her while cleaning up the spot, so carry her outside to the safe zone. Begin the walking routine adding a bit of quiet praise, even before she potties since obviously she’s empty now. “Good girl Bella, potty outside, gooooood girl!” End with a single Cheerio, let her know you love her and she’s back in your good graces.
Don’t despair, a few accidents are truly not the end of the world. Your puppy isn’t going to fail at this, nor will you if you make sure everyone knows to watch for her cues & keep those Cheerios coming!