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Housetraining a New Puppy

Dear WOOF:

I just brought home my new golden retriever puppy this week. He's been home for almost 7 days and he was doing better on the housetraining earlier in the week, but the last few days he's had quite a few more "accidents." I am crate training him and it seems to be working significantly well, but I am wondering why he's having more accidents as the week has gone on? I notice that he seems to have accidents when my I have visitors. Is he just jealous that my attention is on other things? Am I doing okay training him?


Congratulations on your new puppy! In order for the pup to become house trained, he simply needs to be taught where to go potty and to hold it until he gets to that place. Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding. Some examples of rewards are a treat from you when he sits, your return when he's barking or whining, or relief from physical discomfort. Since the act of eliminating brings relief to the pup, the behavior itself is rewarding for him and he will begin to repeat it wherever it occurs the most frequently.

The quickest way to housetrain him is to prevent him from eliminating anywhere but the right place, which is outside. If he's only going outside, the habit of going there will build, and he will soon learn that he needs to get there when he feels like he has to go.

Typically, the use of a crate is the best form of prevention. They are a good choice because dogs generally won't soil a properly sized crate. So, when you can't be with your puppy, or devote all your attention to him, you should put him in the crate to prevent mishaps. Sometimes you may opt to tether him to you instead (attach his leash to your belt loop around your waist) – either way, preventing elimination from happening anywhere but outside, is the key to successful housetraining.

Food and water intake must be carefully monitored. Food should be given and eaten at regular intervals – if it goes in at regular intervals, it'll come out at fairly regular intervals too. Keep track of the time between eating and eliminating to get an idea of when you need to have him out to try. For water, it is important not to allow him to freely drink at random times. This is a biggie. Pups will need to eliminate water within about 15 minutes after drinking…and if you don't know he just drank a bowl of water, you don't know he has to go out! Give water as often as you like - you just need to know when it went in, so you can get him out to
eliminate soon.

To teach him where to go, you'll want to take him out on a leash, when you think he needs to go like after water consumption, a confinement period, sleep, eating or drinking, and after exercise time. Take him out to a designated spot, where you will give him 3-5 minutes to eliminate. If he goes, immediately surprise him with a yummy treat (wait until he is completely done before giving the treat) and then have some supervised playtime indoors or outdoors. If he does not go within the 3-5 minutes, put him back in the crate (or tether him to you so he can't go off without you knowing it and eliminate in the house) for 10-15min and then repeat the process until he is successful in going outside.

**Note: Since the act of eliminating is rewarding in itself to the dog (because it brings him relief) the reward that you supply for it acts as "a little something extra" for going in the right place. Even if you never supplied the treat for going outside, he'd still become housetrained, provided that he is prevented from going anywhere else!

As for you question of "why?" there are several possibilities. If you find that he is having lots of small "piddles" and/or if he's squatting and nothing comes out, he may have a bladder or urinary tract infection, so a trip to the vet might be in order to rule it out.

You mention that he seems to be having more "accidents" when your guests are over. This can too be happening for a number of reasons:

  • He's not yet house trained so he's almost always an "accident waiting to happen" - with guests over, you're less likely to be actively monitoring/preventing him from having an accident.

  • He may just be a bit excited and "piddle" when your guests greet him, which is commonly seen in young pups, and is different from a housetraining "accident". 

  • He may be concerned about someone or something that's going on at the time. When a pup is frightened, they will sometimes urinate, which is also different than having a housetraining "accident".

Which category he fits into depends on lots of factors, so it is important to enroll yourselves into a quality positive reinforcement training class right away so that your instructor can help determine what may be going on, and give suggestions for handling the problem. He or she will also monitor your progress throughout to make sure you're on the right track. A puppy class is important for your pup's social development too, so we'd suggest that you get into a class as soon as possible!

Visit for more articles on housetraining and for tips on how to find a positive reinforcement-training program. If you live in the Metro Detroit area, please call Trainers Academy directly for more help and information.

Thanks for writing! We wish you the best of luck with your new pup.


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