3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Punish Your Puppy for Accidents in the House


You arrive home from a long day at work to find a big turd in the middle of the living room. Your eight-month-old Golden Retriever bounds up to you wagging his tail.

This is the second time this week! You thought you were done with this!

Before you start shouting, take a deep breath. Realize that yelling isn’t going to help anybody. If anything, it could make the behavior worse.

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Punish Your Puppy

1. Dogs do not understand why you are upset. If your dog pooped in the house at 1pm, but you are yelling at him at 6pm, then he is not making that connection. Even if it was five minutes ago, he isn’t making that connection.

Rewards or punishments are only useful if very, very closely associated with a behavior (within a half-second). Your dog thinks you are yelling at him for whatever he is doing when you start yelling. So...in the above scenario...wagging his tail and greeting you? Humans are confusing!

2. Punishment weakens the bond. Punishment is usually an ineffective way to shape behavior (see #1) and it reduces your dog’s trust in you. Have you ever been yelled at by someone? Even if you loved that person, you probably felt more wary of them the next time you saw him or her. Reduced trust may make your dog less likely to listen to you in general.

3. Yelling can create bigger problems. For some dogs, punishing them may make them more likely to have issues with submissive urination. Submissive urination occurs when your dog urinates to show that he or he isn’t a threat. These dogs are more likely to have accidents into adulthood because they can be triggered by loud voices or people coming into the house, including their owners.

How to Handle an Accident

If you catch your puppy in the act, calmly pick him up and take him outside on a leash to finish the job. When your puppy does pee, give lots of praise and treats. If you take your pup outside but he doesn’t pee after five minutes, then take him back inside. Confine him to a small room or crate for 10 minutes, then go outside again for another try. Interrupting a dog while peeing sometimes requires the dog to calm down before outdoor success can be achieved.

If you didn’t catch your puppy in the act, then you are too late to punish. Take a deep breath. Puppyhood isn’t forever. Clean up with an enzymatic cleaner like Nature’s Miracle, as you don’t want your puppy to think your rug smells like a designated bathroom.

Consider keeping your puppy in a crate while you are away, come home during the day to let him out more often, or take him to doggy daycare for long days at work.

Realistic Expectations

Some puppies learn housetraining faster than others. Bladder and bowel control should not be expected until at least 16 weeks old. Occasional accidents happen, even into young adulthood.

Certain medical conditions can make housetraining harder. If you have health concerns about your pet, then make an appointment with your veterinarian. Animal Care Clinic is proud to help puppy parents through the tough times in Boulder City, Henderson, and surrounding areas.

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