Avoiding Accidents: 15 Ways to Nail Housetraining

Toilet training is something that a lot of new dog owners can get frustrated with.  It is not pleasant to come into a room and discover that your new pup or rescue dog has had an accident on your brand new rug.  Apart from the obvious of not giving them access to a new rug you don’t want them to wee on, there are a few simple steps that, if applied consistently enough, will mean that your pup will be house trained in no time.

Your ultimate goal is to have them know that outside is the place to pee 

1. Get into a good rhythm and be patient

Get into the habit of taking them outside as frequently as you can.  If they haven’t gone for a while, if they have had a period of particular excitement or playing, if they have just woken from a nap or if they have been fed or had a drink recently, it may be time to take them outside.

Be on the ball!  If you have visitors, don’t forget to take time out for pup pee breaks, especially as all the excitement of new people may mean your pup could struggle to hold on as long as normal.  Or, if you have just returned home after a short period away, make sure that letting pup put for a toilet break is the first thing you do and don’t encourage them to get too excited with your return either – this could result in an accident too.

Try to be as patient as possible and stay outside with them until they go.  Often people just don’t give their pup long enough. Stay out for at least five or ten minutes, even if the weather is miserable or your favourite programme is on TV.  If they are spending a lot of time sniffing, don’t discourage this as this often stimulates the desire to go. Ideally, you want to let them be off lead. If they have to be on a lead, try to use a long line or a flexi lead as they are less likely to want to go when restricted on a short lead.

If they don’t like going out in bad weather, try to create an area that is perhaps a bit more sheltered.

Don’t distract your dog with toys and games until they have done their business.  It is important that you stay out with your dog the whole time. If you go back inside they may just focus on trying to come back in with you or, more importantly, they may go whilst you are in and then you have missed your chance to reward them.

Don’t play with your dog in the garden until they have done the loo! 

If you have been out for ten minutes with no success, we would recommend going back inside and then keep going out at ten-minute intervals until you have success.  It may seem a bit of a pain, but it will really pay off in the long term!

If you have children and they are taking pup outside, make sure they know the rules too and are respecting them.  Inconsistency really sets back the training regime.

2. Praise, praise and more praise is the key when they get it right

When your dog does go to the loo outside it is really important to praise them enthusiastically and reward them immediately after they are done.  Make sure you have a really tasty treat ready that you know your pup loves. Every time they pee in the garden they should be rewarded for it, so make sure you always remember to take treats out with you.  This is the key to success.

You may also want to add a potty training cue.  So when they are just finishing pottying you can say “good potty” and as they gradually get better with going outside you will hopefully be able to ask them to “go potty”.

Don’t forget to reward every time they do the toilet outside! 

3. Is my dog trying to tell me he needs?  Look out for the signs

If you notice that your pup is starting to sniff a lot, circle in a particular area, move towards the door or become restless, this could be a sign that they need to go potty.  If you are able to catch them before they go, get them out into the garden as quickly as possible and get ready to reward any success.

4. Whoops – too late!  Rubbing their face in it won’t work!

You may have people tell you that if your dog has an accident to rub their face in it and tell them off so that they know that they have been bad.  This doesn’t work! Not only is it likely to make your dog frightened of you, but they will also just try to hide their accidents from you, for example, they may just start doing it behind your sofa or in a corner.  This is especially true if you shout at them a long time afterwards – they won’t even associate the telling off with the accident.

Praising when they offer the right behaviour is the most effective way to guarantee success with toilet training.  Don’t forget that, when you first get your new puppy they don’t know that they are not allowed to go wherever they like.  It is up to you to show them what you want.

Toilet training is one of the first training exercises that you are likely to work on with a new puppy or rescue dog.  To start off your training journey by punishing your dog, you are not getting off on the right foot. You want to strengthen your new bond and encourage trust.  Puppies are like sponges and suck up everything they are exposed to with great sensitivity in those early days. By using positive training techniques you will avoid the possibility of making them more fearful at a crucial stage.

This is also important for rescue dogs, they may have had traumatic experiences in their past and they will likely have been anxious in the kennel environment.  Treating them with kindness and positivity is so important.

5. Don’t encourage repeated accidents inside – clean up REALLY well

If you don’t clean up an area that there has been an accident in, your dog may be more inclined to go back there again.  We recommend a good stain and odour remover to ensure that any smells have been eradicated as much as possible.  This really is an important part of the process. Dogs have a strong sense of smell and like to pick a pee spot.  If you have not gotten rid of the smell completely, this can encourage your dog to go back there again. A normal disinfectant/cleaner is not usually enough, and sometimes is not safe for use around your pets anyway.

If you are finding you can’t stop your dog from going back to that same spot, no matter how much you clean it, then you may want to just try to restrict your dogs access to the space until you have the outside toilet training sorted.

If you want to use items from around the home to help you clean up dog urine, we can recommend a vinegar and baking soda mix.  Just mix up one cup of white vinegar, one cup of water and 2 teaspoons of baking soda and pop it into a clean spray bottle. Having used this before, we can confirm that this is a tried and tested formula.

Clean any accidents up really thoroughly to help avoid a repeat incident

6. Should I use Puppy Training Pads?

Our advice would be, if you don’t need to then it is always better not to.  If your dog has easy access to the garden and there is someone around most of the time to get them out for frequent potty breaks during the day, then stick with this regime.

There may be the odd indoor accident but, as long as you clean up thoroughly and stick to regular trips outside and huge rewards when there is success, this is by far the best option.  Using puppy pads or paper indoors can lengthen the period of time it takes to achieve complete outdoor potty training success. You are essentially training them to potty indoors and then having to redo the training to get them to potty outdoors.

7. If I do need to use puppy pads, what is the best way to train my dog to use them?

We recognise there are circumstances that may necessitate the use of puppy pads.  For example, you may live in an apartment block, have to leave your pup unsupervised for a few hours in the early days or have mobility issues.

So initially, we recommend that you cover as large a space as possible with the puppy pads or newspaper.  This increases the chances of your dog having success with going in a place you want them to.

As they start to reliably go on the pads, you can gradually reduce the number that you are using until you then only have one or two.  If you are using newspapers, you may want to use a few sheets as they are thinner and less absorbent. Also be aware that newspapers, although much cheaper, can sometimes leave their print on the carpet once wet and this can be hard to remove.

Puppy pads can also be fixed into a specially designed tray.  This reduces the chance of your pup dragging the pad around the house, or ripping it up in play and also helps to catch any excess moisture that may leak through.

Once they are down to a single pad, this can then gradually be moved towards the door.  You then work hard on encouraging only outdoor potty breaks and, as always, reward enthusiastically whenever this happens.

8.  Don’t change up feeding times

Try not to vary your dog’s feeding schedule too much otherwise it can make it more difficult for you to predict when they may need out.  This is especially true if you have to leave your pup on their own for short periods.

We don’t recommend leaving food out for your dog all the time either.  Not only can it then be difficult to measure how much you are actually feeding, but it can then be difficult to get into a rhythm with regards to a toilet training schedule.

Free feeding is also not great in terms of exercise. We always recommend allowing an hour or so after eating a meal before exercising your dog to avoid the risk of tummy upsets or even twisted gut (bloat).  If you are free feeding and the dog is unsupervised, it is hard to know when they last ate and how much they had.

Be consistent with feeding schedules to help avoid unexpected accidents

9. My pup seems to be pooping an awful lot – is this normal?

Just like us humans, every dog is an individual when it comes to bowel movements.  Some dogs will go just once or twice a day and others may go a bit more.

If you are finding your dog is going very frequently, if they are doing extremely large or very runny poos, then there may something else going on.

The first thing we would always recommend is to ensure that your dog is on a high-quality food and that you are not overfeeding.  It is important to check the feeding guides and measure out your pups food in the beginning. If your dog is on a food that is poor quality, they often do not absorb the nutrients so well and this can result in copious amounts of large poop.  Even some high-quality foods will just not agree with your dog and, if you are finding they are having softer poop, you may need to consider making a change.

If you are swapping foods, we would always recommend doing this gradually, over a few days to a week.  A sudden change in diet can also cause upset tummies.

If you are persistently seeing soft poops/diarrhoea we would always recommend consulting with your Vet to rule out any underlying medical condition.

10. Think about water access too

Please don’t restrict your dog’s water access during the day in the hope that this will help them master toilet training more quickly!  It is important that your pup can drink fresh water when they need it. If your pup seems to be drinking excessively, you should consult with your Vet.  Otherwise, let them drink when they need it and then just be prepared to get out on a potty break soon after.

Restricting access to water through the night can help minimise accidents overnight.  Providing they have free access to water during the day, then you may want to consider restricting their access from around an hour or two before bedtime.

We would also recommend ensuring that the water in your pups bowl is cool but not freezing cold.  Extremely cold water can sometimes cause a little chill in the bladder and can make your pup need the loo more frequently.

11. What about when my dog is home alone?

You want to set your dog up for success.  New puppies have smaller bladders and can’t hold on for as long as an adult dog can.  Ideally, whilst you are getting a new pup settled in, you don’t want to be leaving them on their own much.  If you do have to be out for an extended period, perhaps you could ask a friend or family member to help out.

If you do have to leave them for a short while, try to get them out for the loo immediately before you leave and then if they can be in a contained area, they will be less likely to do the loo in the space they are sleeping.

Some people choose to use a crate.  This can work well but it is really important that your dog is comfortable being left in a crate and that they are not left for a prolonged period cooped up.  Crate training overnight can also be useful for helping your pup stay dry overnight more quickly.

Crate training can help with potty training overnight or when left unsupervised.  It is very important to make sure your dog is comfortable being left in it and that they are not left for prolonged periods 

12. How long can I expect all this to take?

There is no exact timetable and no quick fixes for this training process.  Every dog is different. Usually, it all of a sudden just clicks into place.  Just remember patience, consistency and praise are key and if you are following all the steps above, you are setting your dog up for success.  As time goes by, you should also notice that your pups bladder naturally starts to become bigger and stronger and that they are able to hold on for longer without needing a toilet break.

13. Walkies and potty time can be another challenge

If you have been working on toilet training in your garden and off the lead, sometimes it can take a bit of extra encouragement to get your pup to start using a proper walk as an opportunity for a potty break.

Sometimes being on the lead can put your pup off going to the toilet, some dogs like to have a bit of space or privacy.  You may want to use a longer training lead to give them a bit more space. I love the Halti Training Leads, these are adjustable in length.

It can also just be a case of too much distraction.  All the new smells and stimulation that your pup is exposed to on a walk can mean that they just forget to think about potty time.

Sometimes a pup may just think they are only allowed to go potty in the garden and not anywhere else.

The key here is to wait until you think your pup will be needing to relieve themselves, get them out on a walk and if they do have success, as you always do, make sure you are ready to reward them profusely with praise and a treat.  The more you do this, the more they are likely to go when on walks.

If you are taking your dog for a puppy playdate, try to get them to go potty before the dogs meet up.  If they do potty whilst in the company of the other dog, don’t forget to still praise and reward.

Don’t forget that your dog might need a little extra encouragement to start going for a potty break when out on lead walks 

14. Don’t forget to make allowances for older dogs too

Sometimes elderly dogs may start to have accidents in the house when they never did before.  Just like humans, senior dogs can start to have a less reliable bladder. It may just be as simple as making sure that you let them out more often than you previously did.

Don’t forget that your elderly dog may need out more frequently than they did when they were younger

15. Is your dog suddenly having accidents in the house – don’t forget to check out underlying medical issues

It is also important to get your dog checked out for any underlying medical conditions if they suddenly start to have accidents in the house.  This may be something that is treatable and things will improve but, if it is something that just needs to be managed, you may need to consider introduced house training pads, doggie diapers or belly bands as a longer-399term option.

Good Luck!