AVOIDING COMMON PUPPY POTTY TRAINING MISTAKES
Allowing your puppy too much freedom too soon. This is by far the most common mistake that dog owners and new puppy owners make when trying to housebreak their hounds, so my first piece of advice in nearly all cases when people are struggling with potty training is that the owner needs to tighten up their supervision. This was covered in the “supervision” section above, but it bears repeating… if your puppy is having accidents out of your sight, you’re not supervising her closely enough. Implementing an umbilical cord training program (to stay on top of what your pup is up to) is a great way to get a huge, instant improvement in your puppy’s housebreaking progress!
Thinking the job is done when you’re not there yet. When housebreaking is going well, I always warn my clients not to get a false sense of security and slack off on the rules. When you’re on a proper housebreaking program, your pup will very likely have few or even no accidents right from the start, so it’s easy to convince yourself that your puppy “gets it” — then when you start to relax and ease up on your supervision, confinement and scheduling, the pup you thought was housebroken starts having accidents. No matter how well your pup is doing with housebreaking, I typically tell clients that they’ll have a chance to breathe and relax when the pup is 5–6 months old. Until then, things will be progressively improving and getting easier, but you still need to be on the ball to make sure your puppy doesn’t get off track.
More people = more problems! When there are multiple people in the household, it’s easy to think someone else is watching the puppy or taking her out. When there are a bunch of you sitting around the living room, you feel like the pup is being well-supervised, but if there’s not one person assigned to the job, it’s likely nobody’s really paying close attention. If you’re hearing a lot of “I thought YOU were watching her!”, an umbilical cord training program will be a huge help. Whoever’s holding the leash is in charge of watching the pup — when they can no longer do it, they’re responsible for either handing the leash off to another person or putting the puppy in the crate. This is an especially helpful approach for kids, whose attention to supervision can drift away easily… and it’s great for easily distracted adults, too!
Another helpful tool for households with multiple people is the written puppy potty chart. By writing down every meal, every trip outside and every pee and poo, you’ll make sure everyone knows what’s up with the puppy — so you don’t accidentally go 8 hours without taking her outside because everyone in the house thinks somebody else already took her out!
Other people’s houses. Even if your pup is an advanced student with her housebreaking at home, she may have potty training issues in a new environment. Don’t make the common mistake of assuming she’ll be just as good at your friend’s house as she is at yours… when you go visiting, you’ll need to supervise your pup very carefully and make sure she knows where the potty area is. After your pup has made a few visits with no accidents, you can gradually start to allow her more freedom… but remember, it’s always best to be sure she’s had a recent successful potty trip before allowing her any freedom indoors. A slow approach is best on this one… especially if you want your friends to invite you back!
Expecting a young puppy to let you know when she needs to go out. Many owners are surprised by the fact that their young puppy doesn’t go to the door or bark to let them know she needs to go outside. Though some puppies do quickly learn to show an obvious signal that they need to go out, in the beginning, most owners will need to watch for more subtle signs. Most pups will walk in circles, sniff the floor or show other signs, so you’ll need to be observant to catch those less obvious early signs. If you play your puppy potty training cards right, most pups will learn to give you a more robust signal later, but in order for that to happen, your dog needs to believe that she MUST get outside to go potty. If you’ve been lax in your training and allowed the pup to believe going potty in the house is an option, she may never learn to signal, since she believes she can just go pee on the rug. If you’ve been vigilant with your training program, your pup will believe she needs to get outside to relieve herself and will likely start giving you a signal that she needs you to come open the door. Some dogs are subtle… they’ll just stare at the door or sit in front of it, while other dogs are pushier and will give more obvious signs, like barking or scratching at the door. According to a parma animal hospital, you want your pup to give you an obvious signal that she needs to go out and you don’t want to wait to see what she comes up with on her own, you can teach her to bark to go outside or to ring a bell to tell you she needs to go out, but in most cases it’s best to wait until the puppy has at least a month or so on a good housebreaking program before starting that training.
Using treats for potty training a puppy. This one may surprise you, since giving your puppy a treat for going outside seems like a great way to make her want to do it more often. I don’t recommend this approach, however… while it may work in some cases, giving treats as housebreaking rewards can cause big problems for some pups. In some cases, puppies smell the treats and will be so interested in them that they won’t get down to business because they’re busy trying to figure out where that yummy smell is coming from. Another common issue is the puppy who figures out that she gets a treat for going potty outside, but she’s so anxious to get it that she’ll squeeze out a few drops of pee, look up at you to say “GIMME THAT TREAT!!”, then go back into the house with a nearly full bladder, which causes her to have an accident shortly thereafter. For most pups, you’ll find that praise and play are better rewards for housebreaking, so save the treats for your obedience training!