Puppy potty training regression can be caused by several things, from medical issues and separation anxiety to an inconsistent schedule or household changes. Potty training isn’t a perfect process and some regression is normal, but owners should keep an eye out and bring their puppy to the vet if they suspect there is an underlying health issue that might explain their puppy’s sudden regression.
Otherwise, owners just need to be consistent and stay strict with their puppy’s training until they get the hang of it and become reliably house trained. Positive reinforcement is an important tool for owners to use when their dog does well.
Here are 5 steps for dealing with puppy potty training regression:
1. Rule Out Medical Causes
If you aren’t sure why your puppy is regressing, it might be a good idea to bring them to the vet just to be safe. Medical issues like urinary infections, bladder stones, and diabetes could cause accidents and may require treatment.
If a medical issue is found to be the cause, follow the prescribed treatment and most likely your puppy will go back to normal once they are feeling better. If not, continue potty training techniques until he or she picks it up.
2. Establish a Consistent Daily Routine
Your puppy should be put on a consistent watering and feeding routine and be fed healthy, high quality dog food. This will help keep their digestion regular and get their bowel movements on a regular schedule. Get to know your dog’s potty habits so you can anticipate when they need to go.
Also, make sure that your expectations are realistic. You can’t expect a puppy to hold themselves for very long, so make sure that you are giving them the opportunity to go out often to their designated potty area throughout the day until they get used to alerting you when they need to go.
This means that if you are away for work all day you should make use of an indoor pet gate or leave them in a decent sized playpen with a puppy pad so they can move and do their business with some space in between, or have someone come over to let your dog out every few hours.
3. Track When and Where Accidents Happen
If you have been consistently taking your puppy out away from his crate or usual sleeping place and it just isn’t working, keep a journal of when and where accidents happen. This can give you an idea of whether there are any trends and can help you find out what you need to adjust to make it work.
If you find the problem is focused around a specific time or area you can put your focus into changing those circumstances by taking the puppy out more or watching how much water they are given before bed, to give a couple examples.
4. Give Positive Reinforcement for a Job Well-Done
It is important that you show your puppy that they are doing good with positive reinforcement in the form of dog treats and praise when they show signs of needing to go out or go in the right place.
Try to avoid negative reinforcement unless you catch them in the act and you have given them a chance to go out recently. Don’t punish a dog for going inside if you have left them alone all day, because that is not something that they can control. Also, putting their nose in it after the fact just confuses them and will not help with their training.
Negative reinforcement is not a good long-term solution and can backfire by making your puppy scared of you and do things like pee inside out of nervousness.
5. Try to Get Your Puppy to Go in the Same Spot
Getting your dog to go in the same spot can be helpful for several reasons. Not only can it help develop a scent that encourages them to go, but it just reinforces the whole idea of creating a routine and helps make it easier for you to pick up after your puppy.
When you go to the same spot and give them praise and treats when they go there, the dog will associate that spot with doing its business and see the whole thing positively, because they know that it makes you happy when they go in that spot. Dogs are smart and properly executed positive reinforcement can go a long way in helping a puppy build good behaviors that last.
Puppy potty training regression happens for a number of reasons, from adolescent rebellion (which can occur anywhere between 4 months and three years, where hormones distract dogs and they seem to reach a learning plateau) and health issues to marking behaviors, which are a behavioral issue.
The important thing is to rule out medical problems and start your potty training again from step one when this happens. Stay strict and consistent with your puppy and make sure you are around to give them plenty of chances to do well. Eventually your puppy with get the hang of things and accidents will become less frequent.
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