End Housetraining Accidents After Puppyhood

Think your dog is house broken? “When it comes to housetraining animals, especially dogs, it’s a misconception to say once they’re trained, they know what to do in every situation,” says Joan Hunter Mayer, Santa Barbara-based certified professional dog trainer and owner of The Inquisitive Canine. If you find yourself repeatedly cleaning up pee or keeping puppy pads around beyond the puppy years, read on for Mayer’s advice on how to solve common potty problems that may arise after puppyhood.

House Training Accidents

Problem: My dog always has accidents when he’s in other homes, hotels or stores.

Fix It: When you go to a friend’s house for the first time, if you had to use the bathroom you would go look for it and expect the host to show you where to go, says Mayer. In the same way, you need to show your dog where to go each time you take him somewhere new. When you arrive at your new location, put him on a leash and walk him to where he should eliminate, she suggests. Do this before going into the home. When he goes, give him praise, a treat, let him off the leash or provide another reward. Even if he eliminated on your walk to the new location or before you got in the car to go, dogs are usually able to mark so you should be adamant about waiting until he goes before you head inside.

While you’re at the new location it’s important to pay attention to your dog’s body language so you can anticipate accidents before they happen. If he gets up and goes sniffing around and wandering off, take your dog outside for a potty break, she says. Also, keep in mind the triggers that often stimulate an animal to go – scent, excitement, another animal and the urge to go.

Problem: My dog wakes me up to go number two in the middle of the night.

Fix It: Some problems could be tied to a medical issue, so if your dog’s potty behavior suddenly changes, pay your vet a visit first. Next, you should think about what has changed in your dog’s life – a new diet, a new eating schedule, new treats or too many treats, a stressful situation like a new baby or a move, etc. In general, you may want to consider having your dog eat earlier in the evening at a set time each night and possibly a lighter meal. With dog problems like this, Mayer stresses paying attention to the details and routine to try to figure out what’s going on. Keep a log of all of the foods and treats that are eaten and when for a few days to see if you can find a connection.

Problem: My dog will only eliminate on the grass and refuses to go on the curb or sidewalk.

Fix It: Ideally, you should teach your dog to go on a variety of surfaces from the beginning whether it’s cement, dirt, rocks or the curb. “The more exposure you can give your dogs to different scenarios, the faster they’ll learn and they’ll start to be able to apply it to different settings,” says Mayer. But if your country dog is used to only going in your backyard, she suggests doing a lot of dress rehearsals before you get into a situation where your dog’s preferred spot isn’t an option. When you know your dog has to go, find a cement area to go and practice. Think about cues that can help your dog understand it’s time to eliminate, such as saying “Go Potty” or the rustling of a poo bag.

Problem: My dog had an accident on our rug and now he keeps returning to the scene of the crime to do it again.

Fix It: Unless you’re in the market for a new rug, you’ll want to try to clean up the mess and get the scent out since smell is one of the key triggers that stimulate dogs to go. Remember, your dog can often still smell messes after we think we’ve cleaned them, says Mayer. So contact a cleaning service that specializes in eliminating odors such as an industrial or commercial cleaning firm and make sure they will use pet-friendly solutions. Then, go back to basics and refresh your dog’s memory on where he should eliminate. “And throw a party when they go where you want them to go,” she says.

Bottom line: Whether your dog is five years old or 10 years old, housetraining is always an ongoing process and you can’t thank your animal enough for going outside and going to the bathroom. Your consistency is key for helping them succeed. Also, remember that every dog is different and situations may change over time. Diet, water intake, medications, and health will all play into housetraining and when dogs need to eliminate.