How to Train Your Dog to Go Potty

Medium
1-6 Months
Behavior

Introduction

You rush home after work to get your puppy outside to go to the bathroom, but instead, find a home interior that’s been decorated with poop and urine.

The rescue dog that you’ve just adopted has a hard time understanding when and where she should potty because she was never trained properly in the first place.

Potty training a dog can be a frustrating experience, but cleaning up after an untrained dog in your home is worse. Many dog owners aren’t sure where to begin and end up making mistakes that can delay the training process or result in serious behavioral issues in their dog.

Regardless of his age, training your dog to eliminate outside can be trying, but it’s far from impossible. Here are some steps to help you potty train your dog, as well as some actions to avoid.


Defining Tasks

Teaching your dog to eliminate outdoors is a critical component of dog ownership. Your pup needs to understand what you are asking him to do, and as such, you need to be a clear communicator and teacher. You will need to teach to your dog’s personality and strengths, or else risk serious damage to your dog’s psyche and to the relationship you both have with each other.

Understand that you are working against a dog’s naturally inherent instincts. In the wilderness, dogs and their ancestors go to the bathroom wherever they please. Therefore, it’s up to you to clearly specify to your dog where and when he can eliminate.

Depending on your dog’s age, this training process can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months or so. Be prepared for an occasional accident or two even after your dog has been trained, and understand that sometimes accidents happen!

Aside from keeping your home sanitary and clean and instilling a sense of respect in your dog for your position as leader, potty training your pup will help him avoid an all too common fate for dogs whose owners gave up on potty training them: being surrendered to a shelter.

Potty training can be accomplished successfully, but you need to make sure that you are consistent and clear in what you are asking of your canine.


Getting Started

Here are some essential elements and items that you will need to get started with potty training your dog:

  • A leash and collar: These equipment items will help you retain control over your dog when you are outside.
  • Training treats: Small, healthy training treats can be used as reward and motivation for whenever your dog does what you’ve asked.
  • Poop scooper and waste bags: Responsible dog owners clean up after their dogs, even outdoors.
  • A dog crate: Puppies and adult dogs can benefit from a sturdy, sizeable crate which will help speed up the potty training process.
  • Cleaning products: Have appropriate, non-toxic, pet-friendly cleaning devices on hand to thoroughly clean any accidents, so your dog doesn’t eliminate in the same spot repeatedly.
  • Time and patience: Without these traits, potty training will be a challenging and uphill battle. The process will not happen overnight. You need to be patient and consistent, as well as willing to put in the time and effort to help your dog know what you want from him.
  • A fenced yard or puppy pen: While these forms of security are optional, they can assist the potty training process by giving your dog a specific, safe spot to eliminate in.

Once you have these items, what’s next? Review your schedule and begin to find consistent time periods to encourage your dog to potty outside. Ideally, right after the dog eats in the morning and the late afternoon and evening would be best. Your dog and his body will quickly associate going outside after dinner is done.

Another key to getting your pup on board with potty training is to choose a command, a particular word or phrase that he will learn to associate with going to the bathroom outside. Consider a phrase such as “Let’s go,” “Good potty,” or “Do your duty.” Once your dog associates this command with your request, he will understand that he is to go potty outdoors.

The Potty Pad or Paper Method

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1 Vote
Potty Pad or Paper method for Go Potty
Step
1
The concept
If you live in a high-rise apartment or if you struggle with mobility issues, getting your dog outside to potty quickly is an impossibility. In these situations, potty training your dog to use pads or newspapers may be the best option for you and your dog.
Step
2
Supervise your dog at all times
If you take your eye off your dog before he learns how to use the potty pads, you’ll have accidents to clean up. Keep him on a leash and beside you until he learns where to go.
Step
3
Strategic placement
Be sure to place the potty pads or papers in a spot that is easily accessible for your dog. Don’t move the pad around during training or you may confuse your pup.
Step
4
Use a code word or phrase
When you lead your dog to the puppy pad, repeat a code word such as “Good potty” or “Get busy.” Repetition of this step will help train your dog to eliminate on command.
Step
5
Create good habits
Bring your dog to the puppy pad repeatedly, every five minutes or so, until he goes to the bathroom. The time frame here may vary depending on the dog’s age, as puppies may need to be brought back to the pad more frequently.
Step
6
Don't punish mistakes
It may take a few tries for your dog to associate the potty with the pad or paper. If you catch your dog in the middle of an accident, don’t yell or scream. Simply pick him up or guide him over to the pad to finish eliminating.
Recommend training method?

The Clicker Training Method

Effective
1 Vote
Clicker Training method for Go Potty
Step
1
The concept
Some dog owners have found potty training success through the use of clicker training. A clicker can be purchased at any pet store and can easily be incorporated into potty training for a quick elimination solution.
Step
2
Choose a potty spot
When you take your dog outside, direct him to a particular area every single time. He will begin to associate this place with elimination.
Step
3
Observe and report
Watch your dog closely and patiently; he may sniff around for a few moments here.
Step
4
Use the code word
As soon as your dog begins to urinate, quietly speak the chosen code word or phrase. Hearing this word or phrase will tell your dog this is the place to go potty.
Step
5
Click and treat
Use the clicker just as your dog is finishing elimination, so click while the behavior is still happening but not too soon in the process. You don’t want your dog to stop peeing before he is all done because he hears the click and thinks he’s getting a treat.
Step
6
Give your dog praise
After you’ve used the clicker and given your dog a treat, shower him with some love and praise for a job well done.
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The Crate Training Method

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Crate Training method for Go Potty
Step
1
The concept
Whether your dog is a puppy or a grown adult, crate training has been proven to lead to quicker potty training success. By instinct, dogs look for a den, a private spot of their own, and they don’t want to urinate or defecate in their den.
Step
2
Make sure the crate is the correct size
For your dog’s comfort, he should be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around in the crate comfortably.
Step
3
Create a schedule
Your dog should never be left in a crate for more than seven hours straight as he may be forced to eliminate inside his crate because he can’t wait any longer to go. Puppies in particular need to be let out of their crate to go potty more frequently. Typically, a puppy can “hold” his need to eliminate one hour for every month of his age (i.e., a two-month-old dog should be able to wait two hours between potty breaks).
Step
4
Be consistent
Don’t let your dog wander around the house randomly during the day and expect there to be no accidents. Always put your dog in his crate when you are not home, so he learns to wait until he is released from his crate and outside before eliminating.
Step
5
Make the crate a home
Include light bedding, one or two of your dog’s favorite toys, and even an old shirt that has your scent on it to make the crate a cozy den for your dog.
Step
6
Praise your pup
Remember to praise your dog immediately whenever he goes to the bathroom outside. A treat or two, or simply a “Good boy!” will work wonders.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Lynsy
Golden Retriever
2 Years
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Question
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Lynsy
Golden Retriever
2 Years

My dogs used to live outside and we’re able to go potty whenever and where ever. We just moved and I’m struggling to teach them when and where to go potty.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
685 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sofia, I suggest crate training both dogs for potty training. Check out the Crate Training method from the article linked below. Make sure that the crate doesn't have anything absorbent in it - including a soft bed or towel. Check out www.primopads.com if you need non-absorbent beds for them. Make sure the crates are only big enough for them to turn around, lie down and stand up, and not so big that they can potty in one end and stand in the opposite end to avoid it - use two separate crates for the dogs. Dogs have a natural desire to keep a confined space clean so it needs to be the right size to encourage that natural desire. Use a cleaner that contains enzymes to clean any previous or current accidents - only enzymes will remove the small and remaining smells encourage the dog to potty in the same location again later. The method I have linked below was written for younger puppies, since your dogs are older you can adjust the times and take them potty less frequently. I suggest taking them potty every 3 hours when you are home. After 1.5-2 hours (or less if they have an accident sooner) of freedom out of the crate, return them to the crate while their bladders are filling back up again until it has been 3 hours since her last potty trip. When you have to go off they should be able to hold their bladders in the crate for 5-8 hours - less at first while they is getting used to it and longer once they are accustomed to the crate and more potty trained. Only have them wait that long when you are not home though, take them out about every 3 hours while home. You want them to get into the habit of holding their bladders between trips and not just eliminating whenever they feel the urge and you want to encourage that desire for cleanliness in your home - which the crate is helpful for. Less freedom now means more freedom later in life. Crate Training method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If they are not already used to a crate expect crying at first. When they cries and you know they doesn't need to go potty yet, ignore the crying. Most dogs will adjust if you are consistent. You can give each dog a food stuffed hollow chew toy to help them adjust, and sprinkle treats into the crate during times of quietness to further encourage quietness. If pups continue protesting for long periods of time past three days, you can use a Pet Convincer. Work on teaching "Quiet" but using the Quiet method from the article linked below. Tell them "Quiet" when pups bark and cry. If that dog gets quiet and stays quiet, you can sprinkle a few pieces of dog food into the crate through the wires calmly, then leave again. If she disobeys your command and keep crying or stops but starts again, spray a small puff of air from the Pet convincer at her side through the crate while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, then leave again. If she stays quiet after you leave you can periodically sprinkle treats into the crate to reward her quietness. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Only use the unscented air from the Pet Convincers - don't use citronella, it's too harsh and lingers for too long so can be confusing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Aubrey
Cockerpoo
8 Weeks
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Question
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Aubrey
Cockerpoo
8 Weeks

We've got an 8 week old puppy. He's not yet had all the injections to be able to go for a walk, but can go into the backyard. The problem is he's decided he has two places where he goes to the toilet. The backyard and on the rug in the front room. He's very good at using only those two places and will hold it for quite a while until he can get to one or the other, but obviously we'd like to stop one of them. How can we disassociate the lounge rug from being a toilet in his head?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
685 Dog owners recommended

Hello James, At this age training will look like better management so that pup can start developing a long-term habit of keeping the home clean - which will help pup to want to keep it clean on their own also, and rewarding pup for going potty outside in the correct spot. Check out the Tethering method and the Crate Training method from the article linked below. I suggest following a combination of those methods, so that pup doesn't have access to the rug unless their bladder is completely empty. Be sure to clean the rug thoroughly with a cleaner that contains enzymes also. Only enzymes will completely remove the smell and any remaining smell from the accidents will encourage pup to go potty on the rug again. Look on the bottle for the word enzyme or enzymatic - many common pet cleaners at grocery and pet stores have it but not all, so be sure to check the bottle. Crate Training and Tethering methods: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Don't expect pup to alert you when they need to go potty. Keep pup on a strict schedule. A puppy learns to hold it between scheduled potty trips first. Alerting you on their own when they need to go doesn't come for several months often, so a schedule will be important for a while - even after pup is no longer having accidents when you stick to the schedule. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Gamora
Pug
6 Weeks
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Gamora
Pug
6 Weeks

Hi! I am potty training my puppy by using potty pads because I live on the 3rd floor in my apartment. Every 1-1.5 hours I would put her on the pad and say “go potty” and 50/50 she would but the other 50%, she’ll immediately go on the floor or her blanket. I don’t know what else to do and the proper “punishment” for her since I do not believe in swatting her or yelling at her.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
685 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tina, At this point I don't recommend punishing - that would probably only cause pup to avoid going potty in front of you (which isn't good sometimes), instead of pup realizing the punishment was for the actual accident. Pup doesn't understand potty training well enough for punishment to be effective yet. Better management is what you need. I suggest setting up an exercise pen and covering the floor of it with two or three pee pads. Each time you take pup potty, put them into the exercise pen and close the door so that that is their only option for pottying and they can't leave yet. Ignore any crying. Tell them to "Go Potty and wait for pup to go potty. When pup finally goes potty on the pee pad in the exercise pen, praise them, give a treat, and let them out. You don't have to stand at the pen waiting - it may take pup an hour to go at first, but do stay somewhere where you can see them and be ready to praise, reward and free them when they go. When they are going immediately when you put them in the pen and say Go Potty, then you can remove one of the pee pads and see if pup still goes on one of the other ones, instead of the floor next to it. If pup is doing well, then phase out the other pee pad too in a few days - so that there is just one pee pad. Finally, remove the exercise pen, leaving the pee pad in the same location, and take pup over to that pee pad every hour or so and tell them to "Go Potty". If pup doesn't go, attach them to yourself with a hand-free leash and try again every 30 minutes, until they finally go on the pad when you take them are are given a treat. Don't give pup any freedom until they are empty. I would remove blankets and soft bedding at this age also. Check out cot type beds, and beds with waterproof covers like www.primopads.com, and use only those types of material around pup until they are fully potty trained and also not likely to chew those items up and swallow the pieces. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Milo
Beagle mix
3 Years
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Milo
Beagle mix
3 Years

Hello,

I'm having trouble with my dog peeing when he is too excited. His previous owner told us that he had never peed inside before and he is house train but with us, he pees a lot. I have come to realize he isn't peeing because he feels like it, but because he gets excited or stress and that triggers him to pee or sometimes poop. He becomes stressful when there are loud noises or too much movement(He doesn't bark though, he pants and shows signs of stress and then he will pee) When left alone. Or if I am taking too long to take him out for a walk. He pees when we play with him, so I have to cut playtime short to avoid him peeing. And recently he has been peeing right before we take him out for a walk, like as I am getting the harness. He gets excited. He used to bark but not anymore. Now, he is peeing when he knows he is about to go for a walk. One time, I just picked up the leash and he started peeing, one time he peed on my leg as I was putting the harness on him. I use to feed him before taking him out, and when I would put his food back or clean up a little he would pee because I am taking too long to take him out, even though I am going to take him out. Then, I changed the routine, now I am taking him out before I feed him. At first, it was working, then he went back to peeing if I get close to the leash. I thought, maybe he has to go to the bathroom badly and feeding him takes too long, so for him to go potty quicker, I can take him out before he eats. But that was a failure. So, to help the problem, I started to put the harness on him and taking it off through the day and not taking him out. So, he can get used to me putting it on him and it doesn't mean going outside every time. When I do take him out, he won't be as excited. Whenever he doesn't pee or doesn't get too excited, I give him a treat and I praise him a lot. Also, I started a playtime schedule. I will play with him directly after the walk because he is less likely to pee or poop because he just went outside. Should I keep doing this or is there any other method I should be trying?

When we first got him we would let him roam around the house at night while we sleep and we would wake up with pee or poop waiting for us in the morning. Now, I keep him in my room to sleep with me at night and I will close the door. This helped a lot and he sleeps under my bed at night and he loves it under there, it is like his little space. Or sometimes he will cuddle with me. But, he knows not to sleep in my bed when I'm sleeping unless I invite him to. He doesn't pee or poop in my room at night, but I was thinking about getting a crate to keep him in at night and/or when no one is home(Although someone is always home, he is rarely home alone.) He does have a little separation anxiety. He used to bark a lot when I leave, or pee and poop, but we've been working on it he has gotten a lot better when I leave. Should I get a crate or should I keep doing what I am doing? I would like him to have his own space. Or can I train him to pee inside the crate and not keep in my room all night? But he only pees when he is triggered, so I don't know if that will do much. When he is with me, in my room he doesn't pee. I think him being with me calms him. I was thinking about getting a baby gate to restrict him from walking throughout the apartment but he can still move around if he would like. I can set it up in my hallway where he can't have access to the living room, the kitchen( that is where pees mostly) but still have access to my room and no other room. And this can help to keep him in one spot when I leave or if nobody is home. Any suggestions? I just want to know if I am doing it right and/or is there anything else I can do to help.

Milo is a reactive dog as well. It's leash frustration. I would love to take him to the dog park or a doggie daycare and let him socialize because that can help him. But, I can't take him because he will bark too much, probably scare the other dogs. And I don't want people to think he is an aggressive dog when he isn't. I have never heard Milo growl in my life. He has never shown signs of aggression or shown his teeth. He is the sweetest thing. He just doesn't have any dog manners. And it's embarrassing when he barks at other dogs. What I've been doing his picking him up when we see another dog or walk in a different direction. But, I don't wanna keep doing this. I was thinking about a bark collar but I don't want to hurt him or be scared when he sees another dog. My goal is to walk past another dog without him barking and acting crazy. Before, he would never listen to me, and he is beagle and they don't listen very well. He is easily distracted. When he sees another dog, it was hard to get his attention. Like he forgets I exist. When he starts acting up, he even foams at the mouth which makes matters worst. And he whines too. Taking him to the vet is a nightmare. Now, I have been working on him listening to me outside and I feel much more confident in training him. Now our bond has gotten closer and I feel like he would listen to me better. What I've been doing is sitting outside with him. I would find a bench and we will sit and relax. For some reason, this helps SO much. I've seen a lot of improvements. Now, he sits with me on the bench, and he cuddles with me. I also train him inside, and he is perfectly fine. It's just outside he is a bit distracted. But we are getting better at it. I can tell him to sit without treats when we are outside, and that is such a huge improvement( I am very proud of this lol) I just don't know where to start, how and what method would be effective for his reactiveness. I wanna be able to take him other places and expose him to different places. But, I feel like I can't because of his behavior, he gets way too excited and it's unbearable when I take him a new place. He looks like a crazy dog and I look like I can't control him. I wish he was more obedient and calmer.

Thank you so much! Anything will help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
685 Dog owners recommended

Hell Jala, You are on the right track with a lot of things. Taking him potty before exciting things is great, confining him more at night is good. First, don't worry about him not having enough freedom at night. Staying in the room with you off the bed in or out of a crate are both fine. I would suggest getting him used to a crate because you will probably end up needing it for other training, whether he sleeps in it at night or not. I would definitely NOT train him to pee in the crate. That could actually make potty issues worse. Unless there is a medical issue it doesn't sound like he is peeing because he can't hold it but because of anxiety or a lack of potty training -despite what previous owner said. The atmosphere in her house may also have been a lot calmer so she really may not have had the same issue - either way it is what it is. Don't train him to pee in the crate. Train him to hold it while in the crate! Overall it sounds like he probably would benefit from structure, boundaries, and more calmness in the home. Anxious dogs tend to need predictability, leadership, clear rules, and calmness more than your average dog. Confidence building exercises may also help him - such as him learning to overcome new things like agility obstacles or certain types of tricks. Work on the following commands with him to help with structure. Make him work more for your attention and keep interactions calm - be genuine and loving but not super excited with him or babying him. He needs consistency and calmness while adjusting probably. That doesn't mean you can never get him excited outside, but for now - calm. Place - this command is especially important: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Out command - which means leave the area - use when he needs space to calm down: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method - important command: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Crate training - Surprise method combined with crate manners video linked above too: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate I suggest keeping a handle-less drag leash on him in the house right now while you are home to supervise, something such as VirChewLy (sold on amazon) that won't catch on things as easily as a normal leash would. Practice picking up the leash and dropping it again like you did with putting on the harness and taking it off again, then when you need to direct him somewhere like outside or the crate, calmly pick up the leash and lead him where he needs to go - no big show or excitement. We want his whole energy to calm down and be less anxious, less excited, and less aroused - and instead calm and relaxed. VirChewLy: https://www.amazon.com/VirChewLy-Indestructible-Leash-Medium-Black/dp/B001W8457I?psc=1&SubscriptionId=0ENGV10E9K9QDNSJ5C82&tag=lidotr-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B001W8457I Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Maggie
American Pit Bull Terrier
4 Months
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Question
1 found helpful
Maggie
American Pit Bull Terrier
4 Months

We brought Maggie home on New Year's Eve - she was only 7 weeks old, and came right from the nest to us. Because she was so little, and we live in Wisconsin where it is so cold, she could not handle the outdoors long enough to do her bathroom thing, so we started by pad training her right away, which she did pretty well at right from the beginning. Then, at about 3 months, she started to get worse at it - peeing right next to the pad, on our rugs, and even on her own bed a few times, while we were right there. We had some relationship stress in the home, and thought she may be reacting to that; my husband and both lost our tempers at least a couple of times and yelled out of frustration, though we know we shouldn't have. We thought when the weather got better and we could start taking her outside, she would do better, but she is not. We'll take her out and she'll sniff for 30 minutes and do nothing, then come in and pee on the floor next to the pad. One day, she ran right on to the couch and peed there - very deliberately. This morning, right after she woke up, I took her to the door to go out and was about to put her leash on her and she just squatted and peed on the rug. I clapped my hands and said, "No, Maggie, we go potty outside," and she ran over to her bed. I said, "Maggie, let's go outside. Maggie, come," and she peed on her own bed - again, very deliberately. She sleeps with us and can hold it all night long - for as long as 10 hours. She does have a "tucked up vulva," but this is almost always a lot of pee - not a dribble. She has never been left alone, never crated, has always slept with us, gets tons of play and attention - what can we do to get her back on track?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
685 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mary, 1. Suggest crate training her. 2. Get rid of the pee pads completely. 3.Take up any area rugs right now. 4. Clean up any accidents with a spray that contains enzymes to remove the pee smell better - remaining smell encourages accidents. 5. Remove her dog bed for now and instead use something non-absorbent in the crate while potty training, like www.primopads.com Check out the "Crate Training" method from the article linked below. The key is for her to only be free when he bladder is completely empty, which helps her go potty outside and stops accidents - which needs to happen to break the bad habit of peeing inside. Since she is older she can go potty every 2-3 hours, instead of 1. If she doesn't go potty when you take her, put her back in the crate and take her again in 45min-1hour. After she goes potty, give her 2 hours of freedom out of the crate before butting her back in the crate until the next potty trip. If she has accidents during that time decrease the amount of freedom. When you are not home she should be able to hold it for 4-5 hours maximum. When home take her out more often to help her learn and avoid potential accidents though. Many pee pad trained dogs confuse other fabric with pee pads, such as rugs. Since she is doing this I suggest simply getting rid of pee pads and strictly taking her outside to retrain her. This is also why you want to remove rugs and soft bedding dor a while - you want to break the habit of peeing on fabric completely right now while you reward her for going potty outside and avoid accidents by using the crate. When she ran away after the scolding her for peeing, when she peed a second time on the bed that time was probably submissive peeing from getting in trouble, which is made worse by acting angry because the dog is doing it out of fear or anxiety. With submissive peeing the key is to remain calm and boring. Some puppies do it and others do not. Most grow out of it if you prevent it from happening regularly. The initial peeing accident - the one she was scolded for at first, was probably related to pee pad-fabric confusion. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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