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My partner and I recently got a border collie puppy (8 weeks when we got her, 11 weeks now) and since we got her she has been having fairly regular accidents inside (as young puppies do). We have been trying to housetrain her. We have been:

  • Taking the puppy out regularly, usually on/around the hour, every hour, unless she is sleeping (then we go as soon as she wakes up)
  • We have been taking her outside every time she goes to the door and sits by the door (in the hopes that she links this behaviour with going out and going potty)
  • We have been rewarding her with praise (good girls and chest rubs) and treats when she goes outside
  • We have been ignoring 'accidents' inside and quietly cleaning them up (as we were worried that the cleaning up noise was rewarding her)

However, over the last 2-3 days her accidents have gone from being a once a day thing to 6-8 times a day thing. Now just about every time she urinates she does so inside (in a bunch of different spots in the house). We are at a something of a loss and we are really having a hard time not showing our frustration with the situation as it seems to be getting out of control.

Can you help us?

Some additional information: She is great at nighttime, she manages 5-6 hours without any problem in her crate. Also, she is currently having some major issues with chewing/eating things outside (I don't know how that might be related, but it might be, I guess). And, lastly, other than at nighttime (and about an hour before bed) she has constant access to her water. She tends to eat slowly, so she basically free feeds (not by our choice). Once again, I don't know how that could be related, but it might be, I guess.

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With all my dogs the only option I ever found that actually worked was to simply take the puppy, place her at the accident and firmly address it with your "No" word. I don't know why people always seem to say that ignoring it and just cleaning it up does anything, your dog won't make the link that this is a bad thing. And if the accidents are increasing, it certainly doesn't mind doing it's bussiness in his "home" territory.

For me this approach worked within a week or 2. I pick up my puppy, place it near the accident, point at the accident so she has attention on it and just address her with the usual "What's this? No! Bad!" and such. Take them out right after to see if they have to do anything more, so you can reward it outside instead. It might sound silly, but hey, it's worked for a Border Collie, Alaskan Malemute and a Maltese-Poodle mix.

Ofcourse very excitedly reward doing it's bussiness outside with cheerful attitude and treats if they are on hand.

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  • While I totally agreew with praising a puppy when it goes in the correct spot/area, punishing them when they go in the wrong area does nothing to teach the dog what you actually want them to do. The pup is not choosing to do the "wrong thing" as dogs have no concept of right or wrong. – furreal training Oct 6 '16 at 21:57
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    Well call it what you want, I don't see it as punishing. I just make them aware of what they did wrong, and it's always worked for me with every dog I've owned so far. They do get it, and they get it fast. My ex's dog was 2 years old when they moved in, he did his bussines in the house at their place regularly. They couldn't get him to learn. It only took me around 2 weeks to get him off of that behaviour. – Kevin Peters Oct 10 '16 at 14:06
  • While it may have seemed to "work", dogs learn wihtin half a second if their behaviour will be rewarding or provide a consequence that they don't like. Punishing works the same way with a human child in the fact that if you are trying to teach them piano and they play the wrong note, we simply yell no but do not tell them the correct note to play. The child becomes confused, frustrated and may even act out in anger or hide in fear as they do not know what is happening and what you wish of them. – furreal training Oct 10 '16 at 22:04
  • books.google.com.au/… – furreal training Oct 10 '16 at 22:04
  • You do show them the right way by taking them out and rewarding them for doing their bussiness outside. Dogs are not stupid animals, they make the link between "if I do it inside it's obviously not good" very fast. And it has nothing to do with fear or anything. There is no 1 right way to do things and I am simply stating the way that worked for me. I tried that other approach with my first dog for months and it never stuck. I switched to this approach and within 2 weeks my dog stopped doing things inside and, I will stress again, does not show any feelings of fear or anything because of it. – Kevin Peters Oct 13 '16 at 13:11
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What do you mean when you say "quietly cleaning them up"? Everything's probably dependent on the personality of the dog and what they are aware of. But I think the biggest thing for us has been letting the puppy observe the cleanup. It seems like she eventually learned that inside isn't the place to go because we always made it go away. The last accident she had, she even tried to help lick the pee out of the carpet. Now she doesn't go inside at all (and she's a 4-month old).

Another thing that could help is, if your puppy is peeing, surprise them and try to get them to stop. Then take them outside to finish if they could stop. Just make sure nothing's negative about it any potty experience and they're getting a reward they really like when they go outside. Don't try it for pooping, they don't seem to be able to stop once they've started.

Overall it sounds like you're doing the right thing. A bunch of accidents over a couple of days may just be a small phase.

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  • When I say quietly clean up I mean, if I don't catch her in the act, I just quietly get the towel and cleaner and clean up. Fussing with the towel makes her jump and think it is time to play tug-o-war, and I just worry that that sort of thing encourages the urination, or at the very least, the jumping up behaviour – Maaya Oct 6 '16 at 17:51
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If you catch her in the act, interrupt her. Usually lifting the pup off the ground will get them to stop peeing and then you can carry them outside. You can also say 'no' or 'oops' whatever your negative marker word is, but only if you catch her in the act. She won't understand what she did wrong if you bring her back to the area even a few minutes after she's finished.

What are you using to clean up with? You'll need something that eliminates the odor, like Nature's Miracle Stain and Odor Remover. Otherwise, it will be difficult to break the association.

Are you crating her during the day (or any non-sleeping times) at all? If not, try crating her for short periods of time and then taking her outside immediately. For example, after coming inside from a walk play for 15 minutes or so and then put her in the crate with a stuffed Kong or other toy. After an hour or so, take her outside. If she pees/poops reward her and repeat the process gradually lengthening the amount of free time between crating. If she won't pee outside after walking around for 15-30 minutes, take her back inside and put her immediately into the crate so she can't have an accident. Take her outside again after 30 minutes. Rinse and repeat. The goal is to set her up for success by not creating an environment where she's likely to have an accident.

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This is easy. You just have to treat the animal more like you would a human. If a human were to urinate and/or defecate in your living room, you would be disgusted, and your initial reaction would be involuntary; visceral. In a way that reflects your attitude. Likewise, if a dog does the same thing, then react in kind. If you're disgusted; then be disgusted; act disgusted; express your disgust honestly. Dogs, typically, are keenly sensitive, and empathically aware. There's no need for excessive physical confrontation or yelling because they are hypersensitive to feelings like guilt, shame, rejection, disappointment, etc.

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  • Honestly, this makes a lot of sense. I realize that I just sigh and get to cleaning up if I catch her. So, perhaps I should make a slightly bigger deal out of it... (Nothing punishing or anything) but more expressing my displeasure more clearly. – Maaya Oct 6 '16 at 17:53
  • @Maaya Try not to be afraid of punishment or discipline. There's no need to be cruel. You just need command of their respect. Use your own best judgement for discerning what's appropriate in any given situation; and act accordingly. – voices Oct 6 '16 at 20:13
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    Punishment does not teach a dog what you want them to do and punishing them for a natural behaviour will only make them fearful of you and simple wait till you are not around to do their business as then it will be safe – furreal training Oct 6 '16 at 21:59
  • This is somewhat in line what my answer, I agree in that you need to make it clear to them in a good way. This doesn't encourage any fearful behaviour if you don't resort to physical confrontation or yelling as you said. – Kevin Peters Oct 10 '16 at 14:09
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    @furrealtraining You don't know what you're talking about. Every point you make is constructed from poor logic and projected assumptions about others. – voices Oct 12 '16 at 6:06

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