Potty Training Regression

I wanted to write a page about potty training regression. We see it the most in boys, but sometimes in girls. I know that during this time, it can be a little frustrating, and many people’s advice is to “neuter” your dog and it will stop, but that isn’t always the solution as many dogs will pee on things neutered or not. I appreciate you keeping your dog in tact till 18 months, for their health.

If you have any questions about the benefits of delaying, Dr Marty Greer from The Vet Village put together a page of articles that were written. Many of these studies were done on large breeds like retrievers, but that is because there are many of them around. However, this doesn’t make the information irrelevant to our breeds.

It usually happens as the “teenage” hormones start to kick in, sometimes around 7-9 months. However it could be a little earlier than this, or a little later depending on your dog. Your dog might also not go through this at all. (yeah for you if you are lucky enough to be in this category).

Imagine this – you have this potty training thing in the bag. Your precious pup alerts you on a regular basis when they need to go out and you haven’t had a puddle in weeks – maybe even months – let alone a poop. Life is good. 🙂 Then – all of a sudden – out of the blue – your precious little man has discovered that he doesn’t need to squat to pee anymore – he has discovered that he can lift his leg. And more than that, he has found a new sense of confidence that comes with peeing on things higher up. And so he tries it inside. And it feels good. BUT not to momma!

Yes – this is regression. And no, you are not alone. This is a very normal, highly documented thing for dogs. It is kind of like toddler regression (if you have children you will know what I mean).

So, if this happens to you. Don’t despair. Go back to basics. The more you are consistent, the quicker he (or she) will revert back to their fully trained ways.

Step 1: LIMIT: My motto is, my home is earned, not a right. So, if you pee on my house, that means you don’t have the right to free roam. Dogs don’t tend to want to mark or pee in front of you – they usually do it when you are not looking or busy. So, borrow or get out x-pens or baby gates and make areas of your home smaller for a period of time. If you are watching TV, make a penned area around the couch/lounge. The dog can sit with you or close to you and if he/she starts to wander off, you take them outside to go potty.

If you are in kitchen, x-pen/baby gate around the kitchen to keep the dog with you. As you move around the house, have them with you at all times. Have them on a leash if you need to so you can correct if they start to lift a leg and take them immediately outside.

This step is obviously not a long term situation. It is a short term strategy to help them retrain as they get through this regression phase.

Step 2: CORRECT AND REDIRECT. This flows from the last line of step 1. If you can catch your dog in the act, then the response is meaningful. Your response does NOT need to be huge or threatening to be meaningful.

What I mean by this is your dog has a very short memory. They do not put 2 & 2 together that you find a puddle of pee that they made 10 minutes ago, and you are now yelling at them about. They don’t understand that is the reason.

So, to effectively train, you need to see and correct them as it is happening. And so to do that, you need to be with your dog. This is why in step 1 I suggested to limit their area, and even put them on a leash while in the house.

The correction and re-direction can be as simple as a low “oh no!” and put them outside to finish their business. I would personally go with them on leash, with a treat in hand in order to tell them “go potty” while they are going (not beforehand) and then a treat is presented afterwards with a “good potty”. Why do i say hide the treat? Because your dog can focus on that and lose focus on why they are there. And why do I say don’t say “go potty” a bunch of times? Because you want your dog to associate the action with the words. Which is again why you want to say the words when they are doing the action.

Note: This watching and correction should also be done the first time you go to new places again – your friend’s houses or pet stores or where ever you want them to be able to go and not pee. By doing this, you should be able to go anywhere with your dog and not be worried about them lifting a leg or peeing on the carpet.

Step 3: CLEAN UP WITH ENZYMES: Dog pee has special enzymes in it that tell other dogs information. We don’t want your dog to desire to pee in the same spot, because they are simply adding more information to the other information they left there.

So, I recommend a good quality enzyme cleaner. There are many on the market. But purchase a good quality one. Some brands are: Furry Freshness, Natures Miracle or Rocco & Roxie Stain and Odor Remover.

Make sure you clean up really thoroughly.

**Belly Bands** Some people use belly bands which is fine. For me, these are a “band aid” solution, and to me they certainly have their time and place. For example, a male that I am unsure of, I will put a belly band on till i know for sure he will not lift a leg. Better he pees in the band than on my couch or wall. But, my goal is always to have them be “bombproof” in the house rather than wear a band, which I would have to wash each time they pee. Even though I line the inside with a human pad, it doesn’t take long for them to fill them with a couple of leg lifts.

I know I said it earlier, but consistency is key. If you do it sometimes, but let your pup off the hook and wander around other times, they get mixed messages. It is best to really work hard to nip it in the bed with hard work and consistency and you should be able to take your dog anywhere, anytime without ever having to worry about them marking.

Beagles and Cavalier King Charles Dogs