You have a sixteen week-old puppy that has become a shining beacon at the center of your world.  You love everything about him: his velvety ears; his round little belly; even his puppy breath.  However, if he pees on your rug one more time you’ll wring his wrinkly puppy neck.  That’s the cold, hard truth.  As much as you cherish these early puppy months, in your moments of weakness you have to admit that you feel like you’ve made the worst possible mistake of all time.  Don’t be ashamed.  You’re definitely not the first person to feel this way.  Despite feeling like you’re doing everything right (you’ve read all the books, after all), something is just not clicking.  It’s possible that you’re overlooking a few very simple, common factors that can change everything.  Let’s discuss.


Unfortunately when we tell you to supervise your puppy, that does not mean that you can do the dishes, check your facebook and cook dinner while your puppy plays with his toys in the living room.  Have you seen the speed at which a puppy can pee? It’s like a lightning strike…of urine.  All it takes is one second while you’re turned around for your puppy to have an accident.  There are only two ways for you to be sure you won’t miss an accident: Keep him tied to you; or crate him when your eyes aren’t physically on him.  I’m sorry folks, but that’s the reality of having a BABY dog in your house.  If he’s tied to you then you’ll easily be able to notice when he’s circling, sniffing or just generally looking like he “needs to go”.  Then you can immediately take him outside and reward him for going.  This leads me to my second point.


I can’t remember where I read this, but I always tell my clients, “if you use kibble you’ll get kibble responses”.  The biggest mistake my clients make is underestimating the power of a REALLY good treat.  Most people feel that if they give their dog a piece of their boring old food every so often it’ll be enough to convince them that it’s better to go outside in the cold, than on that plush, absorbant carpet. Not so, my friends.  If I had to pee outside all winter, I’d need some motivating too…although in my case freeze-dried liver wouldn’t work as well.


Puppies are smarter than you think.  When my sister’s dog Norman was really little, he learned that if he squatted as though he LOOKED like he was peeing, then my sister would take him straight back inside where it’s warm.  Crafty little Yorkie.  A lot of puppies that I see might not empty their bladders with just one squat.  Instead of taking them straight back inside, play a little with them to stimulate their bladders and give them plenty of time to actually empty the contents of their bladders entirely before you take them back in.   You’ll be doing yourselves a huge favour if you can learn to tell the difference between an “oh my gosh I couldn’t hold it anymore” type of pee and a “mommy’s looking at me so I’d better look busy” type of pee.


Puppies don’t like to pee on a surface where all the pee is going to pool up around their feet-would you?  In my experience, they prefer substrates that are porous and absorbant, like carpets, grass, or soil.  If that means clearing a spot of snow so that your puppy has a small patch of grass to pee on, then so be it.  If that means having to walk a little bit so that you can find the edge of a parkette or a dirt patch, then it’ll be worth it.  There’s a reason you stand there for twenty minutes on the paved sidewalk while your puppy seems determined not to go.  Find somewhere squishy and you’ll cut your potty break time in half.


So you’ve had two whole weeks without an accident.  Guess this means you can fold up the crate and bring the area rugs out of the garage right? Wrong.  Assume your puppy isn’t housetrained until you’ve gone three whole months without a single accident.  People tend to get a little too comfortable and they forget that the reason their puppy hasn’t had an accident is because he’s gotten used to the structure!  Be very careful not to relax too much too soon.  You’re better off gradually increasing his freedom a little at a time.  For every couple of weeks without an accident, for example, you could give him access to one more area of the house and do NOT let up on the supervision.  If he’s regressing, it’s more than likely because you’ve gotten a little less vigilant…puppies stay puppies for a lot longer than you think.

Above all, remember that puppies are babies.  Lower your expectations.  If you always expect less, then you’ll be happier with even the tiniest successes!  Small victories dear readers…and one day at a time.