For years I heard the same question over and over again: Why is my 6 month old puppy peeing in the house again?
A similar question my friends kept asking was: “my puppy is potty trained, but he’s still having accidents in the house!?”
For many years I thought the most obvious answer was simple: You may have thought your puppy was potty trained, but in reality he still is NOT potty trained.
- Take a step back with your potty training your puppy.
- Don’t give your puppy as much freedom around the house.
- And make sure you take him out any time he wakes up, after every meal, and every 10 minutes when he’s playing.
I thought that was the answer until we brought home our most recent puppy, Elsa…
Why Is My Puppy Having Accidents Again?
I’ve raised dozens of puppies over the years and I followed the same potty training routine with every puppy. Most of my puppies were potty trained around 4 months old. After they hit that magic 4 months of age I had very few if any accidents besides the one offs:
- When Linus was sick he had a few accidents in the house.
- Unlike Linus, Stetson could not hold his pee much more than 6 hours. If he ever got left home alone for an extended period of time he’d have an accident.
- When Stetson was on prednisone he drank a lot of water. During this period it was very difficult to predict when he had to potty. He had several accidents after being home alone for less than an hour!
- Adelle had a urinary tract infection and was having accidents in the house.
- Her first couple years Kona used to drip around the house. She was also known to get excited and urinate.
These are just a handful of stories about our pups having accidents in the house after they were potty trained. However, after over 16 years of raising puppies Elsa surprised me by doing something different then any other puppy. Not in a good way…
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6 Month Old Puppy Potty Training Regression
Just like every other puppy we raised I considered Elsa potty trained at around 4 months old. I can’t remember a single accident in the house for a solid 2 months.
Then right around my birthday it happened. She jumped up on our bed, squatted, and pee’d!
What the heck!? No accidents for 2 months then she pee’s on our bed!
I couldn’t believe it. I had never had a puppy pee on our bed before. Elsa wasn’t even allowed on our bed.
For the next few days I did like I mentioned earlier. I took a step back, limited her freedom around the house and made sure she didn’t have another accident in the house. I also had her checked for a urinary tract infection.
A few days later she went into heat so I chalked it up as hormone related.
8 Month Old Puppy Potty Training Regression
Elsa’s random accident was a long lost memory until she was 8 months old.
This time she ran over to her comfy cozy doggy bed, squatted, and pee’d!
What the !”@:#!!! bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep!
2 months no accidents, then another random accident!!!
This time it couldn’t be blamed on hormones. Elsa was potty trained (as far as I knew), why did she have an accident.
We took a step back, limited her freedom, and made sure she had no accidents for a week. Everything was back to normal or so I thought.
9 Month Old Puppy Potty Training Regression
At this point I was much less confident that Elsa truly knew she was not to go potty in the house. However, a little over a month passed and I began to lower my guard until…
This time she jumped on our brand new bean bag, squatted, and pee’d!!!
Now what was it that George W. Bush said:
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee—I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, ‘Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.'”Bushisms – Wikipedia
Well there must be an proverb for fool me 3 times because I’m an idiot or maybe I’ll have to coin a new term.
Anyhow after Elsa fooled me for a third time I sat down and thought deeply about why she was having accidents in the house after she was supposedly “potty trained”.
SPOILER ALERT: If you want to skip directly to why Elsa was peeing in the house after already being potty trained jump to potty training point #8 below.
Why Has My Puppy Started Peeing In The House Again?
Let’s start from the top with reasons why your puppy might be having accidents in the house again:
1. Your Puppy Is Not Potty Trained
A lot of people try to advance their puppies through potty training too quickly and start giving them too much freedom around the house. This results in your puppy kind of understanding potty training, but not totally.
The result is they still have accidents in the house, but maybe not as frequently as they did when you first started working on their potty training.
2. Your Puppy Is Young And Doesn’t Have Control Of His Bladder
Bladder control is usually not a problem for a 6 month old puppy. However, I get a lot of people telling me their 8 week old puppy, 10 week, 12 week, and 14+ week old puppy is still having accidents in the house.
Some exceptional puppies may be potty trained as early as 10 weeks old. However, most will not have full control of their bladder. Sometimes a young puppy won’t know he has to potty until it’s too late.
3. Your Puppy Is Sick
We had several times when Linus was sick and had diarrhea accidents in the house. If your puppy is sick he may not be able to control his bowels (or pee as in point #4).
If your puppy is sick then visit your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
4. Your Puppy Has A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
I separated this from #3 because it’s a common cause of random accidents in the house.
When puppies get UTI’s they often have difficulty holding their pee. The result: Accident in the house.
If you suspect a UTI is the cause of your pup’s accidents then visit your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
5. Your Puppy Gets Excited
Poor little Kona, our friends Dachshund German Shepherd mix. She used to get what we called excita-pee!
Every time I came over she’d get so excited she’d have an accident in the house.
The solution to this one is to ignore the puppy when you get home so she doesn’t get excited. Once she calms down give her some calm praise and a reward.
6. Your Puppy Is Incontinent
Incontinence – lack of voluntary control over urination or defecation.
We’re not going to go into detail about doggy incontinence. If you suspect incontinence is the cause of your pup’s accidents then visit your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
7. Your Puppy Can’t Hold It That Long
When Linus was 9 months old we took him camping. He refused to pee on the dirt and held it for over a 24 hour period. Finally he let it all out like Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.
Unlike Linus, Stetson could not hold his pee much more than 4-6 hours. If he ever got left home alone for an extended period of time he’d often times have an accident.
Every puppy and dog is different. Some can hold it for what seems like forever while others can only last a few hours even as adults.
8. Your Puppy Has To Go Potty, But You Didn’t Get Him Outside In Time
Let’s get back to our story about Elsa.
After thinking long and hard about our 6 month, 8 month, and 9 month potty training accidents I came to the conclusion that Elsa was potty trained she just didn’t communicate to us the same way our other dogs did.
Linus, Stetson, and Raven would all sit down by our patio door and wait until we let them outside. This is how they communicated to us they needed to go outside and potty.
When we let them outside they would immediately do their business then wait by the door to be let back inside.
Elsa rarely waited by the door to be let outside. While she would wait from time to time we would normally just let her outside when Raven waited by the door. Then let them back in when Raven waited to be let back in.
Here’s what happened: Elsa didn’t always go potty when we let her out with Raven and her signal to us that she wanted to go outside was getting very active, pacing back and forth, and putting her head on our lap.
This was/is not a very straight forward cue and because we didn’t understand we just thought she was being a normal hyper zoomie puppy bouncing around until eventually she had her accidents.
Our solution? Two major points:
- Rather than giving her free reign to go potty. l started leashing her and making sure she went pee or poop when we let her outside. This was our normal protocol with all of our guide and service dog puppies, but we gave Elsa a little more leniency when potty training.
- We got a Smart Bell and began working on training her to push the button when she needed to go outside. A clear signal to use that she had to go potty.
- Solution #1 – making sure she went potty when we let her outside actually solved the problem as we haven’t had an accident in over 4 months.
- Solution #2 – is a work in progress, but a clear signal from her that she has to potty will help us avoid any future accidents.
We’ve been spoiled. Raven, Linus, and Stetson all were easy to potty train. We’ve also potty trained over a dozen other puppies that went on to work as service dogs with no problem.
Elsa was an anomaly. Taking a step back and really thinking hard about why she was having accidents in the house gave us a clear solution to the problem.
Our final solution was simply to leash and make sure she went potty outside every time we would take her out for a potty break.
How about you? Are you having puppy potty training problems?
Is your puppy potty trained, but suddenly having accidents in the house?
What are you doing to solve the problem?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.