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Housetraining your puppy: A troubleshooting guide

“My puppy can go all night without pooping or peeing:  why do I have to take him out every hour during the day?”

A puppy’s metabolism slows during the night, so he will naturally eliminate less.  During the day, he is eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, chewing and everything in between, so frequent bathroom trips will help prevent accidents.

“I take my puppy out every hour, and she stills has accidents in the house.”
Make sure you are either watching your puppy (i.e. she is in sight, not around the corner) or confining her in her crate or puppy-proofed area.  Clean up any accidents with an enzyme-based cleaner so she won’t return to those spots (Nature’s Miracle is a favorite of many).  Also, make sure no one is punishing accidents:  this will only teach your pup to eliminate when you aren’t around, making housetraining even more difficult.  This includes “showing” a puppy his mess after the fact or, worse still, rubbing his nose in it.

“So I’m just supposed to watch her pee in front of me??”
Not at all!  The key is to divert her by gently startling her in a non-threatening way.  For example, some owners clap their hands excitedly and say, “Outside!  Outside!” before taking the puppy out.  What you don’t want to use is a loud “NO!” or other sound that causes her to cower or run away.   

“Max knows to run to the door when he has to go, but then he just pees right in front of it before we can take him out.”
Puppies don’t understand “in a minute”:  when they need to go, they need to go now.  This is particularly true if your pup is younger than 4 months:  they simply don’t yet have bowel or bladder control.  We recommend keeping everything you need for potty runs right by the door:  leashes, boots/slippers, treats, poop bags, etc.  Many of us have gone back to the puppy room for that leash we forgot and been rewarded by a puddle!

“Every time we go outside, Cleo acts like she forgot why she’s there!”
She probably did, especially if she was off-leash.  With so much to see, smell, chew and (sorry) roll in, puppies need our help to stay focused.  Take Cleo out on leash each time, take her to her potty spot, and stand there until she does something (up to 5 minutes, though it will probably feel like 10!).  If she neither poops nor pees, take her back inside and try again 30 minutes later.  Once she has pooped or peed in her spot, she can play in the yard if you choose.  Leaving a leash or dragline attached will make it easier to gently redirect her when she starts digging in the perennials or chewing your deck furniture!  (Notice we said ‘when,’ not ‘if’!)

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