Housebreaking a puppy starts with the wrong premise – breaking. It’s as if you want to make the puppy stop being a puppy and function like a perfect little toy. That’s neither fair nor realistic.
A pet owner who wants to establish a positive relationship with the pet is focused on housetraining. This approach shows the puppy how to live comfortably in your environment.
Forget the old school methods that teach you to start paper training and swatting a puppy the first day it’s home. Whether you bring home a puppy or an adult dog, you’re taking this animal from the environment it knows and going into an environment that’s totally foreign to it.
The dog has no idea what room is okay to go in and what room is off limits. A shelter dog is usually so excited to have space to walk and freedom to roam that your home is a virtual theme park of wonders. Add to that the presence of maybe other pets or children, and the excitement is almost too much to contain.
Housetraining takes a lot of your time. You need to work with your dog in every room. If the living room is off limits and you notice him sniffing for a place ready to relieve himself, then gently pick him up, say “No” firmly without shouting, and then place him on the floor of the kitchen or the place you want him to go or take him outside.
You may have to do that dozens of times until he gets the message, but it will happen. Make sure you balance the “no-no” spaces with the “yes” spaces. Once your dog has learned the essential house rules for potty zones, you still have to allow for the unexpected.
A dog, particularly a puppy, who is alone and frightened by a thunderstorm or other loud noises may have a potty accident. Or there may be a medical issue that requires you attention. Like humans, dogs can get urinary tract infections that make bladder control difficult.
A sudden change in potty training levels can be a cue that your dog’s behavior change is from a physical problem, not defiance. As your dog ages, bladder control will fail just as it does for many aging humans.
Any drastic change in routine can get your dog off his potty training path to success, too. Visiting relatives, home remodeling or emotional distress are all factors that can cause a dog to be lax in housetraining.
Think about what’s going on around the home as possible reasons why the dog is feeling confused about what’s happening around him and responding erratically. Restore order as you patiently go back and reinforce housetraining in positive ways.