Help! My dog just peed...Potty Training Basics!

‎"HELP! I don't know what to do! I'm at my wits ends! My new dog has peed inside when I told him not to. I rubbed his face into it while screaming at him "NOOOOO!" and he just doesn't seem to understand! I don't know what to do! He gets on the couch and pees. Then he's on the bed, peeing. Every time I yell loudly at him, he just pees again, and then he runs and hides. I mean, I just don't know. I got him yesterday at 6pm, so he should know by now that peeing inside is NOT okay! He also pooped inside, and I promptly took the poop and smeared it all over him (Ceasar Milan recommended this), and all he did was poop some more! If he can't figure it out, I will have to send him back. I feel so bad, but it's not my fault at all and I just don't see why he hasn't figured it out yet! I don't have a crate and he isn't penned because these are cruel medieval canine torture devices and I REFUSE to use them! He's 4 mos. old and I take him out at 8am and 8pm, so I don't know why he's having these problems! HELP!"

We have all seen these types of cries for help, and while the above (fictional) example is exaggerated, one of the top reasons animals are given up or returned to a shelter is potty training issues. As such, I wanted to write this blog post about the 10 tips I personally follow every, single time I am potty training. Whether the dog is a young pup or a wise senior, if you follow these tips, your chances of success will significantly increase and you might feel less inclined to bash your head against the wall. (I am currently in this process with my foster dog, Winston, and even though it's tiring, I very rarely feel stress from this because I follow these rules I've established for myself from my own experience.)

The top 10 tips...
1. Accidents WILL happen. If a new dog is already going, it's too late! Let him finish and immediately take him outside (or put him on the pee pad, depending on your method - do NOT pick him up when he is releasing, because your pup will quickly learn to hide from you while releasing, thus making your dog fearful to be around you while going to the bathroom). Keep a great odor eliminator (bought at the vet's) and a ton of paper towels handy! REMEMBER: Expecting your new dog to have no accidents is HIGHLY unrealistic. Before getting a new dog, discuss with ALL family members about this reality, so everyone knows what to expect in the first few weeks.

2. An accident is MY fault. When a dog in-training has an accident, I merrily chant to myself (to the tune of the Smurfs "la la la la la la" song), "Amanda, if you hadn't been so lazy or you hadn't been paying so much attention to facebook, this wouldn't have happened!" When you get upset by an accident, you should only ever be upset with yourself, because your dog is in TRAINING, so logically he doesn't yet know that going to the bathroom outside is the only way. Be patient and just clean it up, and continue on.

3. Take the new dog out every 30-45 minutes regardless of what is happening. Even a quick 5 minute pee pee trip will suffice. It doesn't matter if your pooch is 8 weeks old or 8 years old. It's better to assume that your new dog is flat out incapable of holding his bladder for any length of time. If you start with the 30-45 minute rule, then your dog will have plenty of opportunities to release outside, thus eliminating the need to release inside. Successful potty training is all about consistency and preventative measures.

4. Take the pup out after he/she sleeps, plays, eats, looks at you weird, starts sniffing, sits down, get the point. Chances are if you are thinking to yourself, "does he need to go out?", the pup probably DOES have to go out!

5. The general rule of thumb is that for every month old a puppy is, that puppy can last about an hour. So, my current foster puppy, Winston, is about 4 months old, so he can hold it approx. 4 hours. Does that mean I only take him out once every 4 hours? Absolutely not, BUT, this is a good thing to consider when you have to leave your house or when you go to bed.

6. Basically, if you are PROACTIVE and don't give the pup a chance to go inside (because you've gone out every hour and taken him out after meals, sleeping, and play time), then your pup won't ever have the NEED to release inside. Now, remember that they may STILL to release inside. Think about when you really, really, really have to go to the bathroom and you finally go, how good does it feel (gross, I know)? At the time, on a scale of 1-10, I'm pretty sure it's around a 15, so think of this in terms of the dog. It feels heavenly for a dog to go to the bathroom, each and every time, so, even when you are diligent and doing everything you can, your dog might STILL release inside, not because he needs to, but because he simply enjoys it or he's testing your patience in life or because the devil on his shoulder beat the crap out of the angel and won the battle to do bad. Just smile, and tell the dog with your eyes that you know exactly what he's doing and that he may have won THIS battle, but you WILL win the war on potty training.

7. SLOWLY increase the time between potty breaks ONLY when your pup is responding well by having either no accidents or only a random one when you weren't being as diligent. And by "slowly", I mean increase the time at a glacial speed! If your new dog has consistently been able to have no accidents for 30-45 minutes, then add another 15 minutes on, so you're taking your dog out every 45-60 minutes. If you rush things, you WILL fail, I guarantee it. If, however, you take your time and be reasonable in your expectations, you WILL be successful!

8. Restrict the freedom a puppy has until he starts to understand that freedom only comes with reliability (this is when you can't watch the dog like a spy in a James Bond movie). I often see people posting about how their new dog is peeing EVERYWHERE. Well, what do you expect? If the pup doesn't know not to pee inside, and you let him go everywhere, logically, he WILL pee everywhere. Use a crate or use a pen and keep your new bundle of joy in an area that is easy to clean (think kitchen or other hard surfaces). In my experience, this is the BIGGEST mistake people make and this is what makes people the ANGRIEST. Use your common sense here and do NOT cave in to the charmingly irresistible puppy eyes your pooch is giving you! You WILL feel mean. You WILL feel uncertain. You WILL try to convince yourself that it'll be okay. You WILL let him out when you shouldn't. DO NOT FALL VICTIM TO YOUR UNCERTAINTY. Freedom is a PRIVILEGE for the dog. He must earn it because it is a REWARD. When he looks at you with those sad puppy eyes, just calmly tell him, "You can come out when you learn that you can't go to the bathroom inside." If you absolutely MUST let the dog out when you can't watch him 100% of the time, then use the umbilical method where you attach his leash to his collar/harness and then attach the leash to your belt, so, where you go, the pup must go.

9. Learn your dog's body language. Some dogs are like potty ninjas and will be playing and just plop down for a poo or will pee while walking, etc. These dogs are MUCH harder when it comes to learning their body language, but the signs are still there. Sniffing, "pacing", suddenly stopping while playing, going to the door, coming to find you, crouching down, assuming the "poop position", etc. When you learn the dog's body language, you will learn when he needs to go outside.

10. Choose your method. I am a HUGE advocate for ONLY releasing outside, though everyone has their preferred method, but STICK TO THE METHOD YOU CHOOSE. If you are training for outside release, then any inside release is undesirable. If you are training for pee pads, then use this primarily and only add a walk or two a day until your dog gets it. Training to release in the human bathroom is easy. However, if you train for pee pads or bathroom release, then PLEASE be diligent when you are bringing your pup somewhere that is NOT your home. I've had people bring their dogs over and they think my rugs are pee pads, etc. This does NOT make a polite doggy guest.

So, these are the 10 rules I personally follow, and I've been very successful in training a variety of dogs or helping people train their dogs. I know there are other tips, but I find that the fewer tips you follow, the greater your chances of success, as with the adage K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid).

Please feel free to post your own success stories so those who are going through this painful process can know that we've all been there, we all know it sucks, but we all understand that it DOES work! :o)

Tags: house training, training


marlajoy's picture

Great tips! Hopefully this gives people a realistic idea of what potty training is like - it doesn't happen overnight!