Puppy Pad Mishaps


Dr. Jennifer Allio


            There is nothing like having that warm, soft little body snuggle up to you at night or during your down time.  There is also nothing that makes you angrier than when that warm soft, little body pees on your brand new carpet.  Next thing you know, you are running around with a rolled up newspaper, chasing that sweet little puppy or dog you fell in love with at the breeder, shelter, or adoption event.  So, put down the newspaper, grab a cup of coffee and read about what we can do to help you and your furry family member.


            Most puppies or dogs have accidents due to a medical condition or the need for some additional house training.  So, many times, you may have to start back at square one with house training.  Yes, even a 10 year old previously housetrained dog can have a mishap or two.  In order to rule out medical causes, you will need to see your veterinarian, but these next few tips may help with the behavioral part of your dog’s problem. 


            First, you must take a deep breath when that fuzzy little creature makes a big mess on your new floor.  Then, if possible, interrupt their little process abruptly by making a loud noise.  As soon as you do this take him or her outside and when the elimination continues outside in a more appropriate place, reward heavily with lots of praise and yummy treats at the spot in the yard he or she finishes on. 


            Next, you will need to clean the mess in the house using a cleaner with an odor neutralizer such as; Urine Away (your veterinarian may carry this product), Nature’s Miracle, or Anti-Icky Poo.  Thoroughly cleaning the area the accident was in is important in the prevention of another accident occurring in that same spot. For our pets, if it smells like a “potty place”, then it must be a “potty place”.  Keeping in mind that their noses are 40 times stronger than ours, we want to make sure our cleaners are truly neutralizing the odor, so using a good product and following the label’s instructions are a great place to start.


            Now, to get that pup outside all the time may be a bit of a challenge, but with a little consistency and determination it can be done.  For younger puppies, you will need to take them outside every 2-3 hours.  When your pup is not under your constant supervision, they should be in a place that is comfortable and easy to clean.  Many people will crate-train their puppies for this reason.  When done right, crate training can be a very helpful tool for the busy family with kids, ball games, ballet, and piano.  Believe it or not, the crate can be a place of comfort for your puppy when you are unable to be around to watch him or her constantly.


            Any time your puppy or adult dog eats or drinks, he or she should be allowed outside for a chance to eliminate.  After play sessions, long stretches in the crate, or a nap on the couch, give your pup a chance to go outside.  As soon as your pup eliminates outside, be sure to reward him or her in the spot he or she eliminates.  This creates a positive association with eliminating outside.  Many times I hear stories of pet owners punishing a dog or puppy for eliminating inside the house only for them to find future accidents in hidden places.  Creating only a negative association with eliminating inside can lead to dogs or puppies finding new places to hide their accidents.  Creating a positive association with eliminating outside helps your pup to better understand where to go and creates a closer bond between you and him or her. 


            Another common method I hear is treating the puppy or dog as he or she comes back into the house.  Doing this creates a positive association with coming back inside instead of with eliminating outside.  Many of these dogs will run out to the backyard only to run right back in for a treat.  They do not think far enough back to know the treat was for eliminating in the yard instead of on the carpet.  Likewise, your puppy or adult dog does not associate a previous accident in the house with your anger upon arriving home to find it.  They do sense your anger by your posture and tone of voice; however, and may give you some appeasement signs in hopes to calm you down.  These might look like cowering (lowering of the head and body while looking up), rolling on their back to expose their bellies, and of course the classic tail tuck running away.


            Do not be discouraged if you have been trying some of these punishment methods with no help. Try switching to a reward system for appropriate elimination and be sure to give your pup plenty of opportunities to relieve him or herself outside.  This sets you both up for success in the long run.  Do not worry if you have an older dog, as they can learn these things, too.


Some other really great resources for housetraining are: Perfect Puppy in 7 days by Dr. Sophia Yin and Way To GO!!  By Karen B. London, PhD and Patricia B. McConnell, PhD.