When an "Accident" Happens

One of the key issues in housetraining is to follow Rule Number One: If you don’t catch your puppy doing it then there is nothing you can do. We don’t care what someone else may tell you or what you read, if you find a mess that was left when you weren’t there, clean it up and forget it.

Discipline won’t help because unless you catch the puppy in the act, he/she will have no idea what the scolding is for. Your puppy has urinated and defecated hundreds of times before he met you. Mom or someone else always cleaned it up. Nobody made a fuss before and they will not put the punishment, regardless of its form, together with something they’ve done without incident numerous times before. Especially if they did it more than 30 seconds ago! Puppies are just like children. Unless something was really fun (and a repetitious act like going to the bathroom isn’t), they are not thinking about what they did in the past. They’re thinking about what they can do in the future. At this point in their life a puppy’s memory is very, very poor.

Anyway, let’s face it. It was your fault not the pup’s. If you had been watching, you would have noticed the puppy suddenly walking or running around in circles with his nose down smelling for the perfect spot to go to the bathroom. It’s just as consistent as the taxi cab driver behind you honking immediately when the light changes. The puppy will show the same behavior every time. It may vary a little from pup to pup but they always show their own “pre–potty pattern” before the act.

The same should be said as to your first reaction when you actually catch them in the act of urinating or defecating. It’s your fault, you weren’t watching for or paying attention to the signals. Don’t get mad. Quickly, but calmly pick them up and without raising your voice sternly say “No.” Carry them outside. It will help to push their tail down while you are carrying them as this will often help them to stop urinating or defecating any more.

They’re going to be excited when you get them outside, but stay there with them a while and if they finish the job reward them with simple praise like “Good Dog.”

In the disciplining of dogs, just like in physics, every action has a reaction and for training purposes these may not be beneficial! If you overreact and severely scold or scare the heck out of a puppy for making what is in your mind a mistake, your training is probably going backwards. With housetraining this is especially difficult for them to understand as they are carrying out a natural body function. Carried one step farther is the idea of rubbing a puppy’s nose into a mistake he made, whether you caught him or not. In the limits of a puppy’s intelligence, please explain to us the difference of rubbing his nose in the mess he left in your kitchen an hour ago versus the one the neighbor’s dog left in the park two weeks ago. If the dog were smart enough to figure all of this out, the only logical choice would be to permanently quit going to the bathroom. Punishment rarely speeds up housetraining. Often it makes the dog nervous or afraid every time he/she needs to go to the bathroom.