This is the 5th instalment in the 13 part series: ‘House Training – The Ultimate Guide.’
Although the most important aspect of the house training method described in this guide is PREVENTING accidents, no owner will ever be able to completely avoid them.
Very young puppies have little if any control over their bodies and sometimes pee instantaneously without even knowing it’s going to happen. It isn’t their fault.
And it’s a fact that very few dogs are truly house trained and can be trusted until they’re 6 months old or more. So you should expect the odd accident right up until this age.
How you deal with these accidents can have a dramatic effect on your success in house training because puppy’s are drawn to the smell of earlier accidents for repeat performances.
Cleaning up effectively and thoroughly is so important to the house training process that I decided to dedicate an entire article to it. So let’s discuss how you should deal with the inevitable accidents and how to remove pet stains and odors properly.
I’ve also included how to avoid accidents in the first place and how you can learn from them to improve your house training progress.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- Why Do Accidents Happen? – The 6 Common Causes
- How To Avoid Accidents In The First Place – Solving The 6 Common Causes
- How You Should React To Accidents
- Learn From Accidents To Sharpen Your House Training Skills
- Why Cleaning Up THOROUGHLY Is So Vitally Important
- Why Some Cleaners Need To Be Avoided
- Commercially Available Cleaners To Use
- Finding Hidden Spots: Use A UV Black Light For Detective Work
- How To Remove Pet Stains And Odors Thoroughly: Step By Step Instructions
- My Complete House Training Program
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Why Do Accidents Happen? – The 6 Common Causes
Many people wonder, why do dogs urinate or defecate in the house in the first place?
Assuming your puppy has grown sufficiently to have some control over their bodies and you’re following a good house training schedule, it’s likely there’s a clear and solvable reason for their mistakes.
The first thing to keep in mind is that your dog isn’t doing it to spite you and they want to be clean and to please you. But sometimes other instincts or outside influences get in the way.
Here are the six most likely causes if you’re seeing repeated accidents:
- You’ve not taken your puppy to their bathroom spot with enough frequency and they cannot hold it.
- The smell of a previous accident remains and is attracting your dog back to the same spot to toilet there repeatedly.
- Eliminating in a particular spot has now become a habit.
- A Change in diet.
- A change in routine.
- A Health problem.
How To Avoid Accidents In The First Place – Solving The 6 Common Causes
Referring to the previous section:
To solve reason 1, you need to work on your house training schedule and be more vigilant.
To solve reason 2, you need to clean the area far more thoroughly! You will learn exactly why and how to do so in this article.
To solve reason 3, you need to supervise your puppy far more closely and do not allow them the opportunity to eliminate there. You have to break the habit.
To solve reason 4, you need to keep your puppy on the same food. Any sudden changes in a puppy’s diet will almost certainly result in an upset tummy and a few days of diarrhea. Also, too many treats can cause more frequent and unpredictable bowel movements so put a limit on treats.
To solve reason 5, you need to work on keeping everything your puppy does to a strict routine and schedule. Without one, who knows when they need to eliminate? What goes in on a schedule, comes out on a schedule. Randomly feed, they will randomly poop.
To solve reason 6, if you’ve ruled out the previous 5 reasons by taking appropriate action, all that’s left is a medical problem and you should take your dog to see a vet.
Health issues such as urinary incontinence and bacterial bladder infection are common in puppies, while diabetes is a common cause of incontinence in older dogs.
All these conditions and more could be responsible for your dog being unable to control themselves and only a vet can rule them out or treat it
How You Should React To Accidents
I cover this subject in part 3 of this series: House Training: The Mindset And Approach You Must Take. So I’ll try to keep this short:
What You Should Do
If you catch them in the act, clap your hands and say firmly (do not shout!) ‘NO!’ If they stop, you can take them to their toilet spot. But if they’re unable to stop, just let them finish where they are before moving them away and cleaning the area.
This is somewhat going against others advice who say to always take them to their bathroom spot. But if they don’t stop, you will then spray their mess all the way from where they are to their bathroom spot and this will make cleaning so much more work.
If you stumble across a mess long after the event, you should essentially do nothing. There is no correction or redirection you can give. You’re too late. So just move puppy away and clean up the mess.
In both instances, you absolutely must deep clean the mess thoroughly for reasons discussed a little later in this article.
What Not To Do!
Don’t shout, don’t get angry, it has absolutely no positive effect whatsoever on either you or your puppy. You get stressed and they get scared, that’s all.
Don’t physically punish them in any way. No swatting their nose or rubbing their nose in it.
If you find a mess and drag your dog over to it and punish them in this way, they won’t know you’re angry because they eliminated inside, they will just think you get really angry when you see pee or poop. They will learn to be scared of eliminating in front of you.
This is a very bad thing because when you take them outside, they will try to try to hold it as long as possible thinking that’s what you want.
You might then think they don’t need to go, take them back inside and as soon as you turn your back they will find a hidden spot and eliminate where they think you can’t find it.
Finally, don’t crate your puppy or dog if they are soiling in there. This will destroy their natural instinct to keep their den clean and this is an instinct you want to keep.
Learn From Accidents To Sharpen Your House Training Skills
Every time there is a house training mistake is an opportunity for you to learn.
If they’ve been able to eliminate anywhere other than where you’ve chosen them to, you should ask yourself: Why?
Assess the situation, figure out how the mistake was allowed to happen and make the changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Either you haven’t taken them outside to potty often enough, you haven’t supervised them sufficiently or you missed the signals and behaviors that show your puppy is about to eliminate.
So either take them to potty more often, supervise them more closely (or crate them when you can’t) or study your puppy more closely to learn the behaviors that show they’re about to potty and take them to their spot.
Remember, any mistakes are yours. Your puppy needs to learn from you where you want them to potty and only you can teach them.
Why Cleaning Up THOROUGHLY Is So Vitally Important
Dogs are strongly attracted to the smell of urine and feces and where they can detect it they are keen to toilet again.
Their sense of smell is almost unbelievably sensitive too. So if your puppy has an accident in your home and you don’t clean the mess thoroughly, your puppy will be drawn back to that spot to eliminate there again. The urge for them will be irresistibly strong.
Because a dog’s sense of smell is so keen, cleaning a spot so thoroughly that they can’t detect even the slightest hint of urine isn’t the easiest thing to do.
This is why it’s so important and makes the house training process so much easier if you prevent accidents in the first place.
And any time there is an accident you must be meticulous with your cleaning. Otherwise the spot will just be calling out to your puppy, begging them to potty there again.
And this leads us to an important point.
Why Some Cleaners Need To Be Avoided
The idea of cleaning is to remove every single trace of odor from the spot so your puppy cannot detect it and isn’t attracted to toilet there again.
But maybe surprisingly, some cleaners can have the exact opposite effect and actually attract your puppy instead.
A major cause of the smell of urine is ammonia. And many average household cleaners also have ammonia as an ingredient so they smell much like urine.
So if you use such a cleaner you’re basically asking your puppy to come back to that spot and use it as a toilet.
Avoid all cleaners that contain ammonia!
It’s also worth noting that most basic household cleaners do a very bad job at ridding a spot of all odors. So the pet industry has created many specialized cleaners for this very job.
Commercially Available Cleaners To Use
When house training, you need to buy and use cleaning products labelled as being specially formulated for the job at hand: The job of cleaning up and neutralizing pet odors.
These products contain special enzymes that break down and destroy all the odor creating proteins and ensure a thorough clean that leaves nothing behind to attract your puppy to toilet there again.
The things you’re looking for in a pet odor cleaner are:
- An Enzymatic cleaner that breaks down the odor causing proteins.
- Odor eliminating. Masking the smell is insufficient, it must be removed.
- Ammonia free. for the reasons stated above you simply must avoid all cleaners containing ammonia.
There are a huge number of cleaners for the pet owner that are very effective and come in different styles and formats.
Personally, for the most efficient clean I use and recommend two types of cleaners.
First of all, absorbent crystals and powders to soak up as much mess as possible. Two such products are: Urine-off Zorb it up and Pet Absorb crystal sponges.
You sprinkle these over the wet area to soak it up. It dries very quickly, hardens and then you can simply vacuum it up.
This first class of product isn’t necessary if you’re willing to take up as much urine and feces as you can with paper towels or tissues first.
Secondly, you want an odor neutralizing cleaning product. Examples of which are: Urine Off Odour and Stain Remover Spray for Dogs and Puppies.’ and ‘Formula H Disinfectant.’
Finding Hidden Spots: Use A UV Black Light For Detective Work
How can you tell if you’ve actually removed ALL traces of urine from an area? Because often when your puppy pees they will step in it and trail it around the room.
Or what if you can smell urine but it’s dried and you aren’t sure exactly where the smell is coming from? How do you find it?
There is a very useful tool to uncover even the tiniest spots of urine you haven’t been otherwise able to find. And that tool is a ‘black‘ or ‘UV light.‘
Urine contains phosphorus that famously glows a yellowy-green when under UV light and it also contains broken down proteins that glow under the light too.
So investing $10 to $25 in a hand-held UV torch is a worthwhile idea to find urine spots you’re otherwise unable to see.
For the smoothest journey through the house training process you can sweep the areas your puppy spends time in with a UV light and thoroughly clean any little spots you find.
This will remove any encouragement to go where they shouldn’t due to previous accidents or something your puppy or even you might have trodden into the house.
How To Remove Pet Stains And Odors Thoroughly: Step By Step Instructions
Here is a step by step cleaning method you should use every time your puppy makes a mistake inside your home to ensure a thorough clean and avoid repeat performances.
Note: You should remove your puppy from the area off the accident and keep them away until you’re sure it’s clean. This because they may be tempted to repeat their accident before it’s clean, but could also try using your cleaning agents as toys or tread through the spot, walking mess or cleaning product all over the room.
1. Always clean up as soon as you possibly can. The longer a mess remains, the harder it is to remove. Speed is of the essence!
2. Remove as much of the urine or feces as you possibly can before cleaning. Pick up all solids with tissues or a plastic bag and discard. If on a hard floor, soak up liquids with paper towels or tissues. If on a carpet, rug or other fabric, sprinkle the area with a commercially available absorbent powder, allowing it to soak up and harden before vacuuming the area.
3. Now wet the area well with your specially chosen, enzymatic pet stain removing solution.
4. Work the cleaner in by gentle scrubbing / rubbing of the area. It’s vital that you cover the entire area where the mistake was made.
5. Thoroughly rinse the area with fresh water repeated times, to thoroughly take up the mess and all the cleaning agent used.
6. Now spray the area with an enzymatic, ‘odor neutralizing’ cleaner of your choice (enzymatic, odor neutralizing for the reasons described in the sections above.) You need to make sure you cover the entire area, and also be sure to use enough for it soak deep down into the carpet, through the underlay and down to the floor beneath to get rid of all the odor.
7. Allow the area to dry completely, then use a UV light to inspect the area and check for any remnants or spots you may have missed. It’s essential that you lift every last trace of urine so there’s zero odor. If you find any, clean the area again.
8. If you have no UV light, you can use your puppy to test if the area’s been successfully cleaned. If your chosen cleaner is scented, they’re bound to sniff the area at first because it’s a new smell so ignore their first inspection. But if they repeatedly sniff around the area, there’s a good chance they can still detect their earlier mess and you should treat the area again.
Although literally ‘a dirty job’…somebody’s gotta do it! And because cleaning thoroughly is a very important job when house training your puppy, it has to be done properly!
Dogs and puppy’s have a very strong instinct and desire to eliminate in spots where they have previously been.
So if they have an accident in the home, you have to thoroughly remove every last molecule of the mess and it’s odor or it’s encouragement to go in the same spot again.
By meticulously cleaning after every accident and occasionally searching with a black light for any spots you may have missed, you can cut the risk of your puppy having future accidents dramatically.
Remember, supervision and prevention is the best course of action, but accidents will happen. And now you know how to remove pet stains and odors thoroughly and why this is so important.
My Complete House Training Program
This was part 5 in a 12-part series where I’ve tried to provide all the guidance you could possibly ever need and covered everything I can think of for you to be able to successfully house train your puppy or adult dog. Please see the entire series linked to below:
- Part 1: House Training – The Ultimate Guide
- Part 2: Basic Need To Know Facts Before You Start
- Part 3: The Mindset And Approach You Must Take
- Part 4: House Training Products, Supplies And Equipment You will Need
- Part 5: Accidents Happen: How To Remove Pet Stains And Odors
- Part 6: Feeding Choices Make A Massive Difference
- Part 7: How To Use A Crate To House Train A Puppy
- Part 8: House Training Without A Crate: Constant Supervision
- Part 9: How To Paper Train Your Puppy Or Dog The Easy Way
- Part 10: Umbilical Cord House Training: What is It? How Does It Work?
- Part 11: Puppy Potty Training Guide – Complete and Step by Step
- Part 12: How To House Train An Adult Dog – And Solving Common Issues
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OUR TOP 5 MOST POPULAR DOG PRODUCTS
Across the entire Labrador Training HQ website here are the top 5 dog products that have been popular with our readers over the past few months: