Yikes! You thought your dog was doing so well with housebreaking.
There hadn’t been an accident in as long as you can remember but this week is a bit of a mess.
Maybe you were relieved that your puppy had finally mastered holding it through the night after months of steady encouragement and middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks.
So what gives? Why are you now finding accidents? What is going on? Shouldn’t they be over this stage?
As your rational mind knows, mastery of any task does not always progress in one obvious linear direction. There are times of immense progress with a few blips of regression along the way.
If you think about things from a wider perspective you can see the growth compared to months ago.
A Normal Setback or a Bigger Issue?
So how can you tell if this is a normal setback or if something bigger is going on? Should you repeat your earlier tactics, change approaches or stay the course and it will self-correct?
Most importantly, keep your cool. Setbacks and accidents happen. You are not alone. This slip-in-house training is your cue to take a deep breath and look at the problem as the adult in this relationship.
It’s OK to feel frustrated and angry, but allowing your emotions to show as anger when finding a mess in the house will only make your pet confused and potentially cause more problems and anxiety behaviors than it will help.
Contact Your Vet
First, if there have been more accidents compared to normal it makes sense to give your vet a call and make a plan to investigate potential medical causes.
There are many possible and common medical causes for changes in bathroom behavior and since your pet can not tell you with words, this may be the best clue you will get from them that they need a trip to their doctor. This is a good policy for pets of any age, not just a puppy.
Keep notes on the frequency and location of the accidents in case the vet asks and remembers not to let your pet urinate just before heading over to the vet or even in the grass outside the clinic on your way in the door? getting urine or fecal sample will likely come up in a visit based on this topic.
Your vet can also help you think through strategies for getting the behavior back on track while investigating potential medical causes.
Any Life Changes That Could Cause Housebreaking Problems?
Next, take a look at what has been going on in your life recently and think about if there have been any major changes. Have you been asking your pet to accept a schedule that has many irregularities?
Consider going back to square one and allowing them to work forward, ideally much more quickly, than they did when they initially started getting the hang of it.
Questions To Consider
Are they given food, bathroom breaks, and exercise on a regular schedule and with a routine? How long are they expected to hold it?
Have there been other changes in their lives like construction, new people or pets in the house, parties, or travel that may play a role?
We tend to see many setbacks during season changes because of the schedule shifts that come with different activities for the humans in the house.
Getting Back to Basics With Housebreaking
Going back to the basics is always a good start. Supervision is key to finding the right times to praise your pet for going in places you want them to and spotting the signs of a pet about to go in an undesirable location.
Controlling the feeding and walking schedule will make the timing more predictable.
Placing a measured amount of food down on a schedule, usually a few hours before bed, will help to make elimination more predictable.
Limit access to the area where they tend to have accidents if there is a problem spot in the house.
Some folks make sure that the pet is on a leash inside the house so they can keep tabs on things and go out quickly if needed.
Treats associated with urinating or defecating outside need to be given immediately following the desired behavior or your pet may be confused about what is being praised.
A level head, some emotional and medical support from your veterinary clinic team, and your good attitude will likely go a long way in getting things back on track with your housetraining hiccups.
I believe in you and know you and your pet can conquer this challenge!