Potty Training Blues

Potty Training Blues

So things have been going fairly smoothly in the house training department with your new little puppy. Then out of the blue, your 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 her 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 still 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.

Here are a few common mistakes that puppy parents are often guilty of.

Problem #1 Giving puppy access to too much house too soon?

It’s easy to feel sorry for that beguiling little creature wailing away in her crate, all she wants is to be part of the family and join in the fun. You must steel yourself though, this is just a temporary state of affairs and soon enough, your puppy will have earned her house privileges merit badge, but until then, for the good of your carpets, keeping her confined with your puppy containment arsenal of gates, playpens and tethering is the route to the fasted house training success. If you’ve already erred and puppy is running amok through the whole house, it’s time to reign her in and set some firm boundaries until she’s graduated Puppy Basics 101 with honors.

Problem #2 Not supervising closely enough with everyone watching for Pre-Potty Behaviour.

“Pray tell, what, (you ask scratching your head in bewilderment) is Pre-Potty Behaviour?”

Almost all puppies will give the keen-eyed puppy observer two subtle clues that an accident is about to happen. A puppy about to “go” will drop her nose to the ground and begin to walk in a small circle. Be Fast. You have exactly 3 to 5 seconds to intervene before that small bottom drops to the floor. Gain a bit of time by exclaiming “Molly No! NO! Potty outside!” and rush to scoop the little offender up and ferry her safely outdoors where you’ll pour on the praise and reward her “going” in the right spot with a special treat and your heartfelt affection and praise.

Forgetting that any change of activity should be time for a potty break. You should take your puppy outside after the following: 10 minutes after a meal, after waking up in the morning, waking up a nap during the day, immediately after a play session with the kids. During playtime it’s easy for puppies to get distracted, then suddenly realize they have to GO!

Too much crate time, not enough time outside. Not taking puppy out often is an area that causes the most problems. Every hour during the day for the first week will seem like a lot of trips, but you’ll be rewarded with a puppy that more quickly reaches potty training Nirvana!

Keep treats on hand

Keep a few puppy tempting treats in your pocket, give her a tiny bite along with praise in a couple of key areas. When you get to the door, stop and praise. “Good Molly! Potty Outside! Good girl”! Give her a pinch of treat to help layer going to the door with a reward. Don’t forget timing, within seconds of her “going” in the proper spot, another bit of treat and more enthusiastic praise.
Remember, a really scrumptious treat can be a big incentive and help your puppy learn twice as fast! The more times you can reward Molly for getting it right, the quicker she’ll be house-trained.


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. Most accidents happen right after a nap or a play session. Once you’re outside, if you find that she wants to play and not potty, is it because she’s been cooped up too much & simply needs more time to romp and expend puppy energy?

Puppies simply have to have time to play and exercise, so don’t expect her to go immediately when she might first just need time to romp and expend some of that youthful exuberance. Plus, “a tired puppy is a good puppy” remember? There are added benefits to taking the time and playing with her for a while, after she’s had a chance to unwind, 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 hurrying through her potty break and taking her back inside because “she’s just playing and not doing her business”.

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 “Molly, go potty, goood girl go potty outside”. (Dogs love long vowel sounds, stretch out praise words 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. Don’t forget to reinforce your praise with another bit of treat. A few more minutes walking and letting her romp will ensure that she’s empty and ready to go back inside.

Puppy Tip: What 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, repeat as needed.

Try Tethering

Often tethering is very effective with the puppy that has the basic idea but is still having occasional lapses. Simply keep Molly’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 one of those delicious treats and your praise.


  • 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, don’t 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 “Molly, baaad 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, then 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 Molly, potty outside, gooooood girl!” End with a single bite of treat, let her know you love her and she’s back in your good graces.
  • Last, but not least, refer to “Cleaning Up After Your Puppy” LINK for all you need to know to save your floors and clean up effectively.

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.

Just be sure everyone knows to watch for her cues & keep those treats coming!

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