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House training series part 2: Difficulties

Making pet wishes come true!

This article is for people who have an adult dog or a puppy over the age of 6 months that still has frequent accidents. The first thing you want to do is read the article on House training basics and schedule a check up with your veterinarian to make certain you are not dealing with an illness or medical issue. You may also want to read about submissive urination, excitement urination and separation anxiety to see if any of those behavioral issues fit your situation.

Several things can present challenges for some dogs and extend their house training:

1. Puppy mill dogs and/or dogs who were confined to crates for extended periods of time may have learned by necessity to ignore their instinct to keep a clean crate.

2. Small toy breeds often develop more slowly, lose body heat more quickly (making them more reluctant to brave the Minnesota winter outings), and have smaller bladders that go as long as other adult dogs.

3. Dogs who are trained in apartments may have trouble making it all the way to the outdoors.

4. Dogs who were yelled at, scolded or punished for accidents typically take longer to train because the tension created a negative association to the training process.

For the more difficult situations, practice basic crate house training (as in the article linked below) and also get your dog on a regular schedule of food and outdoor visits. Regular mealtimes and amounts should be observed and your dog should not be allowed to ‘free feed’. In other words, dinner is at 6pm, and dishes are collected by 6:30pm. The potty breaks should occur at regular intervals throughout the day, with a 4 hour maximum (you can make that longer at night). Keep a journal of your dog’s accidents: time, location, circumstances. As your journal develops, look for a pattern and/or consult a trainer or behaviorist to help you find one.

Additional Tips:

Go outdoors with your dog and praise the dog for eliminating outdoors. (You may also give a treat if you like)

Allow some play time outdoors often, so that your dog does not learn to delay going in order to prolong the time outdoors.

Use a verbal command like “potty” or “hurry up” to cue the behavior.

Feed your dog on a schedule (rather than free feeding with a full bowl) so that elimination is more predictable.

Use positive reinforcement (praise, play, treats) to encourage the training.

Do not scold or punish for accidents.

If your puppy has been crated for some time while you were out, you may want to carry your puppy out from crate to the outdoor elimination spot to help eliminate accidents on the way.

Offer a special treat for outdoor elimination (a favorite that your dog does not get at any other time)

Use an enzymatic cleaner on accident spots to break down residual odors.

Offer frequent outdoor breaks on a regular schedule


Patience, consistency and routine will help get your dog on track. If you are still having trouble, do not overlook potential health issues or behavioral issues. Consult first with your vet, and then with a trainer.


Fairy Dogparents
 Plymouth, Minnesota