Dear First Time Puppy Owner,
You must be so excited to finally have puppy home. If you’re anything like us, that first day was preceded by months of research and looking at breeders and adoption agencies as you tried to find the right little puppers for you and your family. Then weeks of nesting as you try to accumulate all the supplies you’ll need. The toys, the collars, the treats, the bowls… And now finally… finally puppers is home. They’re sniffing around, exploring their new home. Playing with all those new toys with the enthusiasm and exuberance that only a puppy can really muster.
And then, pee.
It may be a traditional squatted pee that you just don’t intercept fast enough because you misinterpreted their sniffing. Or it may be a real true accident, where they seem to be sitting there wagging their tail at you, and then they move, and there’s a big spot on the carpet. Haruka’s first accident happened when she was totally sprawled out, happily chewing on her new stuffed whale as Jim pet her. She just froze from playing all of a sudden for a second like she was startled, and then we saw the spot growing underneath her.
You take that first accident in stride, because they are just a puppy after all. But then a week or two passes, and even though you follow all the directions, listen to all the advice on all the websites… it keeps happening. Your puppy has learned to sit, to lay down, to wait for treats all with such speed that you could almost burst with pride – but the accidents… they keep happening. And you’re frustrated. You wonder what you’re doing wrong. You wonder if there’s something wrong with puppers that they’re not getting it as fast as they learned everything else.
But take heart. It will be okay. It just takes a lot longer than you’d really think.
Because here’s the thing: housebreaking is a process. Even with dogs that are super smart, even with dogs that are super trainable, even after they get the hang of a myriad of other tricks… housebreaking is a process. And it’s easy for us as adult humans to forget that. No matter how smart your puppy is, no matter how fast they learn other things – housebreaking will take time.
And why is it so much different than learning to sit? If puppy learned sit in a matter of a couple days, why can’t they learn to be housebroken faster? Well, first of all, because there’s a biological component to it. The fact of the matter is, their bladders are super small still, and it takes a few weeks worth of growth and development for them to have the muscle control to actually hold it when they need to. And so even if they know that outside is for peeing, they simply might not always be able to make it. And sometimes that’s hard for us to remember if we’ve never struggled with health issues. We simply don’t remember I time when holding it was really just that hard. Uncomfortable, sure – but not impossible (again, barring health complications).
It’s also a process of getting to know one another. It takes time for you and your puppy to figure each other out well enough that you can communicate effectively. You may not be able to distinguish the subtleties of puppy’s little noises to tell if it’s an “I want attention” whine or an “I have to pee” whine for a couple weeks. You may need more than a few days to be able to figure out curious sniffing vs. sniffing to make wee. And puppy takes some time and experimenting after learning that outside is for business to figure out how they’re going to alert you. Sometimes they may whine, sometimes they try barking, sometimes they’ll nudge you or be more mouthy than usual… they’re figuring things out as much as you are.
And so I know it’s frustrating. I know you feel like you’re doing everything you’re supposed to, but it’s still not enough. But take heart. Don’t give up, have patience, and remember: housebreaking is a process.