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Ask Kathy About Puppies And "House Accidents"

By Kathy Santo | Updated: 

Student’s Question:

“My puppy has ‘accidents’ in the same exact spot in my house. What can I do to prevent her from using the tile hallway as her personal port-o-let?” 

Kathy’s Answer:

Puppies lack the ‘future think’ of housebroken dogs, who, when they feel the sensation that means they need to “go,” they think “I must alert someone to let me out.”  When puppies have that same sensation, they think “I have to go”, followed immediately by “Ah, that’s better!” Usually, they give brief hints that they need to go out, sniffing and circling being among the more obvious, but if you’re in the kitchen and he’s in the hallway, you’re going to miss his cue. In order for you to notice, and therefore eliminate any possibility of him continuing to use your hallway as a bathroom, don’t allow the puppy to be out of your sight. I know, easier said than done, but if you put him on a leash and attach it around your waist (or to your belt loop), you’ll definitely notice his next cue because he’ll be sniffing and circling like a fish on a line – something you’ll surely be aware of.

If you’re not up to being tethered to your puppy, another option is to confine him to an “exercise pen” in the same room you’re in. But choosing this option still requires you to keep a close eye on him at all times. As you’ve already experienced, puppy accidents happen in a flash, and even the most conscientious owner has been distracted by children, the phone, or the unexpected departure of yet another favorite character on Game Of Thrones. (Hodor? Really?)

A good rule of thumb is that if you’re at a point in your day where you’re super busy and can’t be actively watching your puppy, then take him for a “potty walk,” and put him in his crate until you’re ready to be back on puppy duty!

Most puppies won’t soil their living quarters, so if he needs to relieve himself, he’ll let you know by barking, scratching or some other equally effective sound effect.

Also, be sure that you’re giving your puppy ample opportunities to go outside.  You may think that since he was outside an hour ago that he can’t possibly need to go out again, but if he’s sniffing and circling, take him out immediately.

By the way, you should never punish a puppy for having an accident in the house.  The blame rests solely on the shoulders of the human in the house who forgot to monitor his charge.  Accidents happen, so forgive yourself, and clean up the mess, which is a lovely segue into the importance of the cleanup! If your puppy smells even a hint of his previous transgression, he’ll interpret it to mean that he’s found the indoor bathroom. And because a dog’s sense of smell is 40 times greater than ours (they have 300 million olfactory receptors compared to our paltry 6 million!), you’ll need to use a non-toxic cleaner specifically designed to eliminate odors caused by pet accidents. Or try the old standby of first cleaning up with soap and water and then using a mixture of 25% white vinegar and 75% water as an overspray to mask any lingering odors.

As your puppy gets older (a relative term as some puppies housebreak more quickly than others), combined with close monitoring and strict janitorial standards, he’ll eventually, consistently choose the great outdoors as the best place to go.

If you’re looking for ways to housebreak your puppy, look no more! The answers to your problems are right here!

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Ramsey, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.

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