House Training: Stress in Older Puppy Causes Potty Training Failure

In their house training efforts dog owners think they are doing everything correctly, but often times other factors not even thought about, can complicate an otherwise good house training plan.

My clients purchased a 7 pound, pure bred female spaniel puppy at 6 months of age and called me 2 months later because they just couldn’t seem to make any headway in their house training efforts.

They reported that their puppy is peeing and pooping all over the house – even after they take it out and— it’s getting worse. You might say, “They’re at their wits end!”

Now at first blush, you would think that by 8 months of age, things would have been running smoothly. Not so with this couple.

Here’s what I discovered on the first visit:

  • Their puppy is being fed a little over a cup of dog food daily.  It only weighs 7 pounds.
  • They have an older small male dog, 10 years old that is getting beat up by the puppy (rough dominant puppy play only) so the owners keep the puppy in an exercise pen away from the older dog – to protect the older dog.
  • This is stressing the puppy out to the max by not allowing access to older dog to play and socialize.
  • They carry the dog around and hold it in their laps a lot.
  • Their puppy doesn’t earn anything.

My recommendations:

  • Reduce their puppy’s daily intake of food.  What goes in must come out!
  • Make sure the puppy gets out frequently. They are doing four potty breaks daily plus walks. Praise/treat for going potty in the right place.
  • Work on obedience training sits and downs 3 times daily for 2 minutes each plus earn everything.
  • Minimize lap time for a while. Give it back later if earned by doing sits and downs.
  • Engage both dogs in the daily training ritual of sits and downs with young pup on a 6’ leash to control her bully tactics with older brother. Praise/treat for neutral or positive behavior around older brother.

One month later:

No more potty accidents in the house.  Puppy is much happier with no stress to be seen as she can now perform sits and downs next to her brother without trying to steal his treats or bully him around. Can be called off when getting too rough with brother.

Now knows how to ring the bell to go outside.

We are now stretching time out of crate and more liberal access to limited parts of the house with owner supervision – and with a great deal of success.

While the puppy was being over fed, much of her stress/anxiety (and probably added to the house training problems) stemmed from not being allowed to play and interact with her brother.   Once I taught the owners how to referee the play activity, the puppy’s stress/anxiety went way down. She was clearly a very different and much happier puppy on my last visit.

This was clearly a win-win for everyone!

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are with the teacher of your children.   And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

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