Housetraining: Tips for Preventing Accidents

Brought to you by the AKC GoodDog! Helpline – the AKC’s 7-day-a-week training support service
By Hilarie Erb, AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer

At some point, no matter how diligent you are, your puppy or dog will have a housetraining accident. We all get distracted sometimes or fail to take them outside often enough. How should you clean it up? Is it okay for the puppy to see you clean it up? Should you scold him? Read on for answers.


Do this calmly; don’t make a big deal of it because it isn’t the puppy’s fault. It may be frustrating to you, but it was not an act of anger or revenge. He simply could not hold it because he’s too young, or you didn’t take him outside in time. Seeing you clean up won’t make Fluffy “dominant” over you – that’s a myth. But if you have a playful puppy who wants to “help,” that’s different. It’s hard to clean up when he’s attacking the paper towels! Put him in a crate while you do the work. And yes, give a small treat for getting into the crate. You are not rewarding for having an accident; the accident is ancient history and you are now rewarding for getting into the crate. Use an enzymatic cleaner and follow the instructions. These cleaners work the best for removing odors.

Caught in the Act

If this happens, cheerfully and calmly say “Oops!” and get her outside. Then resolve to take her out sooner in the future. If you scold or yell, you might cause her to be afraid to eliminate in your presence anywhere, including outside. It would be a reason for her to sneak off to a “safe” place to go when the urge strikes. Learn to read dog body language. If the pup is circling, purposefully sniffing around, or abruptly heads off in a remote direction, it’s time to whisk her outside for a potty break.


Set your puppy up for success. He should not have unrestricted freedom of the house. The pup also needs to be taken out every hour during the day if he isn’t in a place where he can take care of business. As he gets older the time between outings can be extended. Any time your puppy is not directly supervised, he should be in a crate or pen.


If you have a dog who is marking – lifting his leg, leaving small amounts of urine on things throughout the house – it’s a different behavior issue. But good cleanup is very important for your own happiness as well as getting rid of the odor that will draw him back to the same spot. Use the same enzymatic cleaner. This dog needs careful supervision because, given total freedom, he might claim the whole house. For more on this, read Leaving Their Calling Card.

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2019-01-04T16:15:10+00:00 Categories: AKC GDH|Tags: , , , , , |