I have a 14 week old Goldendoodle who is currently staying with me and my pack for house training. Despite her owners efforts she continues to have incidents of potty in the house daily, if not multiple times a day. You’ll notice I refer to them as “incidents” instead of “accidents,” because if we’re being honest with ourselves then we know there are no house training accidents, only incidents of owners not paying close enough attention. 

Harsh? I don’t mean it to be. The reality is that life gets in the way of properly house training a puppy. Here’s why you’re having a problem house training your puppy and it’s effortless for me:

1. I don’t have young children to distract me.

2. I don’t have young children to distract the puppy.

3. I have the ability to stay home with the puppy 24/7 because, well… that’s my job.

4. My husband and I have  a quiet evening routine that consists of my reading a book on the sofa and him watching TV while doing what my father in law calls laptopping (surfing on ones laptop).

5. I don’t feel bad, not ONE BIT, that a puppy I’m house-training is either crated, gated, or tethered within 2-5 feet of me at all times. Although I prefer tethering when possible.

Are you picking up what I’m putting down? The difference between my house and your house is the amount of distractions that take my time, energy, and focus away from the puppy. I am almost 100% sure I would be having just as much difficulty house training your puppy if I had other things to worry about. But, I don’t.

And that’s why about 30 minutes ago, after only 48 hours my trainee…. the ever so cute oodle doodle  gave me what was likely her first alert whine, followed promptly by pawing at the front door & the jingly bells I placed there. It was absolutely brilliant!

How is that possible? You’re wondering. Well, she’s tethered only a few feet from me with only a few options:

1. Self entertain (play) with the bones & toys I’ve provided her

2. Go to sleep

3. Attempt to get my attention

4. Pee/poop right in front of me

The first three items above are critical to your dog’s long term success in your home. Let me elaborate…

The reason you shouldn’t feel bad about tethering your puppy a few feet away form you even when you are home is because your puppy needs to learn to self-entertain. It’s temping to want to spend every single second playing with your puppy or cuddling your puppy, or touching your puppy when you are home — but that doesn’t do anyone any good. In fact, you are likely creating a “velcro-dog who feels anxious when it doesn’t have you or your attention. Even though my puppy spent the good majority of her day crated (with LOTS of potty breaks of course!), I will continue to tether her in the evening to ensure that my house training stays on track. Her being tethered to my table also prevents her from getting to me. I am encouraging her to self entertain and play by herself, even though I’m home. Trust me, we have the next 10-15 years together… so the few months I have to teach her this important skill are well worth the tough-love. Plus, by not allowing her to constantly be on me, I can use my attention and play-time as a reward for potty out side! Now THAT’s a great reinforcement if I ever did see one! As soon as she goes potty outside she is allowed to come inside and be off-leash for a 10-15 minutes play session with me. SO FUN! Potty outside is followed by play time!!!

As I look around my living room, my three adult dogs are asleep or resting quietly in their beds. This is what life is like for dogs when humans are settled and resting. If you ever expect your dog to learn this skill then you need to actually TEACH them the skill when they are puppies! When humans are resting, you (puppy) need to rest or self entertain. When it’s time to play the humans will let you know! It’s really that simple. In all fairness, I hope that everyone gets at least one opportunity a day to turn on the play for their dogs. That is only fair for all the time they spend in resting mode to accommodate our tired/lazy post-work selves.

And lastly, the alerting. With my puppy tethered just a few feet away, it becomes clear as day when she needs to go potty. Because she can’t sneak away and hide to potty somewhere inappropriate,  she is left with the choice to either let me know she’s agitated (because she needs to potty) or to go potty right in front of me. Some dog trainer friends of mine may disagree, and that is OK, but my experience with house training dictates that some puppies do need to be caught in the act and told NO with a low & firm voice tone in order to learn that the house is not the toilet. Other puppies develop substrate preference quickly outdoors and never need the comparison between “no inside….yes outside,” but again, in my experience, some puppies learn faster when you can catch them in the act.  That’s not to say you should wait them out to force them to be caught in the act. I’m just saying that you may as well turn an accident into a teaching moment. Because trust me, even for someone like me who is being super diligent about watching the puppy, all it takes is two seconds for me to get distracted and that’s all it takes for my puppy to get a bright idea of going pee-pee on my floor.

Then…that magical moment happens: your puppy makes a little noise, or starts to strain at the leash trying to move away from the spot where she’s been tethered and happily chewing her bones and/or sleeping, and you say “do you need to go outside?”

“OMG! You understood what I was trying to tell you! I AM SO RELIEVED THAT YOU UNDERSTAND ME because I really didn’t want to have to use your house as a toilet!” <– your puppy.

Moral of the story? It’s easy to house train a puppy. But, it’s very difficult to stay focused on house training your puppy when life inevitably gets in the way. Plan accordingly! Set a schedule with physical timers if you have to. A little tough love the first two months at home goes a long way to a long life with your dog. And if you need a professional to house train your puppy don’t feel bad — it’s not your fault that you’re having trouble! Sometimes life just gets in the way, despite your good intentions. Don’t be so hard on yourself, and definitely not your puppy.


Need help with house training your puppy? Our expert dog and puppy trainers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties can help you and your puppy get on track. 786-529-7833 training@applauseyourpaws.com  @doggiedeeva on twitter, Applause Your Paws on Facebook. 



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