How to Help Prevent Puppy 'Accidents'
It is normal for puppies to have "accidents." In fact, soiling accidents are unavoidable in the early days of training, even if you keep a constant eye on your puppy. The chances are that several soiling accidents will occur inside your home before your puppy gets a handle on controlling his bodily functions. What’s most important is that you learn how to handle these situations correctly, since improper disciplinary actions can result in bad habits.
It is common for first-time puppy owners to make mistakes in handling accidents, but you must take into consideration that puppies are not like human beings. Puppies do not have the capacity of linking the long-term nature of cause and effect. It is futile to punish a puppy for an incident that occurred hours, or even a few minutes ago. Doing this will only confuse and frighten the puppy, which can place a strain on the bond that you are trying to create with your puppy. This is why trainers advise owners to keep their puppies crated until they have been trained to wait until they are taken outside to relieve themselves.
Acting Without Overreacting
Punishments should always be within reason and should not be severe, no matter how messy the accident was. It is also not wise to follow advice regarding extreme but effective punishments. While harsh punishments may work with some dogs, they sometimes border on the absurd and inhumane. Examples of these so-called “effective punishments” are rubbing the nose of the puppy into his "mess," beating the puppy, or locking the puppy up in a dark, enclosed space. These kinds of punishments are simply acts of cruelty; they are not the right way to raise a puppy. Your puppy will grow up fearing and mistrusting you.
An appropriate reprimand must be given to the puppy as soon as you see that the puppy is eliminating inside the house or is about to. Stop the puppy from eliminating by reprimanding him in a firm and loud voice. A quick "No!" or "Stop!" should do the trick.
Another effective way to stop him would be to startle him with a loud noise, causing him to immediately stop what he is doing. You might also take hold of the scruff of his neck and give him a quick shake, causing him to stop what he is doing and turn his attention to you. In all of these instances, follow by taking him outside immediately so he can finish eliminating and reward him with positive reinforcement once he is done. Whether you use verbal praise, petting, or a training treat, you want your puppy to associate going outside to eliminate with good responses form you.
To avoid accidents, you must always keep an eye on your puppy. Always be on the lookout for signs that your puppy is about to eliminate. These signs include sniffing at the floor, scratching at the door, whining, or looking uncomfortable.
Whenever an accident does happen, and it will happen, do not blame the puppy immediately. Remember, that it is your responsibility to keep a constant eye on the puppy, and when you cannot do this you will need to place the puppy in his crate. Before you begin cleaning the mess, make sure that the puppy is not in the room so that he cannot see you cleaning the mess. This may cause him to associate soiling on the floor with your willingness to clean it, giving him no incentive to discontinue the behavior.
Getting Rid of the Evidence
Cleaning up thoroughly after an accident is very important because a puppy has a very keen sense of smell and will return to the spot where he previously eliminated unless all of the scent is removed. Using common cleaning products like soap or detergent powder simply is not enough. To completely eliminate the smell, it is best to use chemical cleaning products and a specially formulated odor eliminator. If you did not buy a pet formulated odor eliminator before bringing the puppy home, now would be a good time to get one. After you have cleaned, keep the puppy away from the newly cleaned area so that he does not ingest or come into contact with the chemical cleaning products.
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