Saving the Carpets: Housetraining

Saving the Carpets: Housetraining

 In This Chapter

  • Setting the stage: The when and where of housetraining
  • Managing the gotta-go schedule
  • Defining the den
  • Ready, set, go!
  • When training comes up short: Special challenges
Babies don’t come potty trained. Neither do puppies. Toy dog puppies, in particular, seem to take a little longer to housetrain — but at least their messes are miniature!
As you soap up yet another Pomeranian puddle, don’t despair. By following some simple guidelines, you really can housetrain your Pom puppy. And if your adult Pom has problems, maybe she wasn’t trained well to start with. You can go back to basics and train her as though she’s a puppy. This chapter guides you in all you need to know — from getting started with the training to solving potty-behavior dilemmas.

Deciding When and Where to Housetrain Your Pom Pup

The best time to introduce housetraining is when your puppy is between 7 and 9 weeks of age. Younger puppies either don’t have the physical control to comply or can’t comprehend what crazy idea you’re driving at.
After 9 weeks of age, puppies often try to go on the surface they were using between 7 and 9 weeks. For example, if somebody thought it was a good idea to throw a scatter rug in the pen for them to use, it’s likely they’ll use any scatter rug or big rug in your house as their preferred potty surface. This is one reason to raise puppies with access to grass or the surface they’ll use as adults.


Every time your puppy goes on grass, the routine reinforces grass as the appropriate place. The same is true if you want her to go on cement (for city dogs) or even on doggy litter. Unfortunately, it’s equally true for rugs, newspapers, and other places you don’t want your dog to use for the rest of her life.


Newspapers? I highly recommend that you steer clear of them as potty-training surfaces unless you have some desire to use them as your ultimate potty surface. The problem is that urine-soaked newspapers smell worse than just plain urine. And if you have a habit of placing your newspaper on the floor, you guessed it — you may find the paper soaked when you pick it up to read!

First, make up your own mind about where you ultimately want him to go. Will he mostly be going in the yard? On the curb? In an indoor potty? Practice early on with any of these options you plan to use later. Fortunately, the training concept is the same.
Of course, your puppy won’t know where you want her to go, but she instinctively knows where she should go — away from her own den (in human terms, her crate or X-pen; more on these later). Little puppies instinctively totter away from their nesting area to relieve themselves. The problem is that they don’t go far because they consider their den to be so small. So although she may be careful to avoid her own bed or even her crate, she may deposit her gifts right smack in the middle of your den and think she’s done just fine.
Your goal, then, is to help her expand her definition of den so she instinctively has no desire to make a deposit any place in your home. You can broaden her limited viewpoint in three ways:

Keep her confined unless she has just pottied. You can use baby gates or exercise pens to confine her in a small area just around the crate. As she grows older and goes longer without soiling that small area, you can gradually expand her confinement area, now her den.

Expand the area of your home she considers her den. A common problem as you give your puppy more freedom is that you may find surprises in parts of the house you seldom visit.

The guest room is a favorite spot for such deposits, which of course makes a wonderful impression on your guests. Your first inclination may be to mumble something about that sneaky little brat pretending to be housetrained but just doing it where you don’t see. But that’s not the problem. She has simply failed to identify these distant or unused areas of your home as her den area because the two of you haven’t spent any time there. She thinks they’re the great world beyond the den, and remember, to a dog, the world is her potty.

To adjust her thinking, take a few steps backward by restricting her freedom. Then make sure you play or hang out together in every room of your house to enforce the idea that this is home turf.


Get rid of the scent. Dogs are programmed to potty where they can smell they’ve pottied before, so clean up an accident with a special enzymatic cleaner (available from pet supply stores).

Creating a Schedule (And Sticking to It)

To prevent your puppy from choosing the wrong location to potty, you have to get her to the right place before she has to go. The problem is that young puppies have poor bladder and bowel control, and even adult Poms have their limits.
To avoid accidents, remember the two S words: Schedule and Signs. Later in this chapter (see the section “Housetraining in Action”) I help you identify when your Pom needs to pee — for those times it’s not completely obvious — but in this section I give you an overview of the schedule you need to keep.
Dogs thrive on schedules, and keeping to a schedule is essential for housetraining. There’s even a physiological reason for this: a dog’s (and even a person’s) gut becomes unconsciously tuned to certain rhythms. The bowel that empties itself at a certain time of day wants to do it at that time every day, whether you remember to let your dog out or not.
The bowel is also stimulated to empty itself by triggers that occur after eating (usually about 15 minutes after eating a meal), so be sure you have your pup in the right place at the right time. For the same reason, don’t feed your puppy a big meal as you pop him into his crate for the night or before you rush out of the house. Allow plenty of potty time — 15 to 30 minutes or so — between feeding and confinement.
When your pup wakes up, he immediately has to urinate. By keeping him on a regular wake-sleep cycle, you can also train him to urinate on a somewhat more regular cycle (although this is less reliable than relieving his bowels on schedule).


A general guide is that a Pomeranian puppy can hold his urine for as many hours as he is months old. So a 2-month-old pup can wait for two hours, or a 4-month-old for four hours, up to about 6 months of age. But every dog is different. If you find your dog urinates on average once an hour, take him out once every 45 minutes. Always take him out before his regularly scheduled program of pee or poop.

Using a Crate, Pen, or Doggy Door When You’re Away from Home

You can’t expect to watch your pup 24 hours a day — no one has that kind of time! So, when you can’t watch him, confine him, just like you’d put a toddler in a crib or playpen rather than letting him just meander around your house alone.

Allowing a crate to teach him to hold it

One of the handiest items in your housetraining arsenal is a crate, which your dog will come to think of as her den. You’ll want to first teach her to enjoy her crate, and I explain how to do that in Chapter Starting Off on the Right Paw: The First Few Days.


Here’s why a crate helps in housetraining: In puppy world, a crate is the equivalent of a crib. Puppies naturally avoid soiling their bed (the smart critters know they don’t want to sit in it!), so being in the crate encourages them to hold off going for a short while. This natural response makes the crate your best bet when you can’t watch him, even if you’re just in another part of the house.

To use the crate, place the puppy in it for short periods, never longer than he can hold himself — never more hours than he is months old, and never more than six hours, period. Let him out when you can watch him. As soon as you open the door, take him to his potty area. Note: You may have to carry him to get there more quickly and avoid accidents.
If your puppy is having accidents in his crate, you can probably chalk it up to one or more of the following reasons:

The crate is too large. The crate should be only big enough for him to stand up, turn around, and lie down in. If it’s larger, he can step to one side, relieve himself, and curl up on the other side. No Great Dane–sized crates for housetraining a Pom!

You’re leaving her in the crate too long. This move is not only cruel but also stupid. By forcing him to go in his crate, you’re telling him:

  • Don’t bother trying to hold it.
  • The crate is in fact an acceptable place to potty.

You’re undoing every bit of housetraining and setting yourself up for a lifetime of cleaning out the crate and washing off the dog every time you leave him crated. Yuck!

Your puppy is experiencing separation anxiety or crate anxiety. You can identify a dog with these problems because he’ll usually also be panting and drooling in the crate, along with possibly peeing and pooping. In this case, deal with the anxiety problems first (see Chapter Dealing with Doggy Delinquents) or try using an exercise pen setup, which I cover in the next section.

Letting her housetrain herself in an exercise pen

Perhaps you need to crate your pup for longer than she can hold it. Or maybe the weather’s too cold or too wet — your dog just stands there on three feet, staring at you incredulously when you try to get her to run out into the elements. Then again, maybe you live on the 20th floor and the elevator stops on every floor while your poor Pom tries to cross her legs. Maybe she’s had surgery, is incontinent, or just plain can’t hold it until you come home. If you face any of these situations, your best bet is to set up a small indoor-exercise pen (see Chapter Prepare to Be Pomerized!). This will allow her to step away from her crate and into an indoor potty arrangement.
To potty train your Pom by confining her to a pen, you need a crate and a litter box or indoor potty. Place her crate (with the door open) in one corner and a litter box or indoor potty (see the following section) in the other. This setup gives her access to a proper surface and allows her to practically housetrain herself.

Using a grassy litter box

“But aren’t litter boxes for cats?” you may rightly ask. Au contraire—litter boxes work for small dogs, too. Here’s the plan:

1. Buy a cat litter box or an even larger flat pan.

An ideal box has fairly high sides but a low entrance area so your puppy doesn’t have to jump to get in it.

2. Buy some sod squares and place them inside the box or on the pan.

Purchase these squares at a home supply store.

3. Place the box or pan where the puppy can reach it inside.

Now your puppy has an indoor grassy area, and she’s learning to do her duty on the proper surface. This routine makes training her to go outside that much easier. When the sod gets sodden (you’ll smell it!), replace it and plant it in the yard.


You can also simply use dog litter, available at major pet supply stores. It’s absorbent, has deodorizing properties, and is attractive to dogs. Dog litter is a good choice if you plan to use a litter box on a long-term basis because it’s hard to keep grass growing inside and eventually you run out of places to plant the old sod outdoors — especially if you live in an apartment!

Using other indoor options

A variety of fancier indoor plumbing options are available for Poms who demand the very best. Well, maybe not plumbing options, more like potty options. They include the following:

Disposable absorbent pads scented to attract puppies: The pads absorb moisture and have a waterproof barrier. Their drawback? Some dogs, especially puppies, like to shred them. Be sure to get the tie-down variety so your dog doesn’t surf across the floor on them. They’re also great for trips.

Washable pads: These pads have a waterproof barrier, an absorbent middle layer, and a moisture-proof top layer to keep the outside surface dry. They’re less expensive in the long run than disposable ones but not as practical for trips or short-term solutions.

Indoor yards of artificial turf placed over a grate: With this setup, liquids drain into a disposal pan so your dog has a somewhat more natural surface to go on. You must empty the pan regularly and hose down and deodorize the turf. One thing to note is that artificial sod may not be as attractive to some dogs that are used to going on real grass, so make sure it’s working for your dog.

Indoor yards of real sod: This is, of course, the ultimate in bringing the outdoors to your dog. You have to water the grass, although some have an underground dirtless system, so you just place water in a reservoir. Still, you need to hose it down with deodorizing spray and replace the grass every few months. These systems do better on an outdoor patio but work well indoors with more frequent grass replacement.

Costs for indoor potty systems range from about $15 for a box of pads to $300 for a fancy turf system that cleans itself. Check a pet supply store or search “indoor potty” on the Internet.

Installing a doggy door

If you have a house with a yard and don’t want to go the indoorpotty route, you may be able to use a doggy door. All sorts of doors are available at pet supply stores, ranging in price from $50 to $150; just be sure you get one light enough for your Pom puppy to push through. The easiest doors to install are those that work with your sliding glass door because they just slide into place, without requiring you to cut a hole in the door or wall.
The doggy door option also assumes a couple of factors:

– The door leads outside to an absolutely escape-proof kennel, preferably with a top that prevents predators from getting in. (The top prevents wild animals, including birds of prey, from regarding your Pom pup as a potential snack. The top is also secure from passersby who may try to steal a cute puppy.)

– Inside, the doggy-door is one side of a pen. The smaller you can make the indoor area, the more it will be like your pup’s den (see the earlier section “Deciding When and Where to Housetrain Your Pom Pup” for a discussion on this important area). If possible, fill most of the area with your pup’s crate, removing the door or propping it open sturdily.


Young puppies catch on to the concept of doggy doors very quickly. You can help her through the first few times, luring her with treats and holding the flap partially open. Gradually require her to push the flap open herself, and soon she’ll be letting herself in and out!

Housetraining in Action

After you know the basics, it’s time to walk the walk and stop the yuck. There’s only one thing missing: your puppy! In this section I show you how to know when she’s gotta go and how to shape her into a potty-trained pee-meister.

Recognizing when she’s gotta go

You can’t rely on the clock to tell you when a potty break’s imminent, so watch your dog for signs of impending peeing or pooping.
Playing and exercising mean she’s also drinking more water, but young puppies don’t give you too much of a clue that they’re about to become walking geysers. Here are a few signs to watch for:

– She walks quickly in circles.

– When playing, she stops, then walks a few steps forward, then stops again.

You have to be fast to catch her when she has to go, so a safer bet is not to start indoor games unless she’s just urinated in the proper place.

Puppies give you much more warning when they’re going to poop. When you see these two signs, get your Pom to her potty area right away:

– They usually start sniffing and circling.

– Very young puppies often whine.


When in doubt, take her out!

Instilling confidence by sticking around for the potty party

Good parents don’t just shove a toddler into a bathroom and lock the door behind him, expecting to achieve good results. He’d be crying to get out or looking for some sort of mischief to get into, but he definitely wouldn’t be getting potty trained!
The same is true of your puppy. You can’t just push him outside and then let him back in five minutes later and think you’ve done your part. Especially if the weather’s bad, he’s likely to spend that time huddled against the door. Then when you let him back in, he wets the floor. “Bad dog!” you exclaim. No — bad trainer!
You need to go outside with him every time as long as he’s still training, no matter how bad the weather or how big your rush. And as soon as he goes, you need to be ready to praise and reward him for his astounding feat.


Even if you have a yard, be sure to practice with the dog on a leash sometimes. Few moments are more frustrating than taking a trip with a dog and suddenly discovering she doesn’t think she’s supposed to potty while on a leash.

Rewarding potty performance

Sure, you can housetrain a dog without using rewards. But the simple fact is that rewards make the job faster and easier. These are the basics:

1. Go outside with her to the specific place you’ve chosen as the potty area.

If you’ve been using sod squares inside (see the earlier section “Using a grassy litter box”), plant one with her urine scent on it as a scent signpost for her because dogs are hardwired to mark the same territory more than once.

2. Ignore her if she tries to play.

She’s not out there for playtime.

3. After she potties, tell her what a good girl she is and give her a reward from the stash of treats in your pocket.

You can move to another area of the yard and play so that playtime is yet another reward for pottying in the right place.


4. When she gets the hang of going in the right place, add a cue (like “Hurry up”) as soon as she’s definitely going to go (unless you happen to say that phrase a lot around the house!). Reward her as usual afterward.

Soon she’ll associate the cue with the action, and you’ll have a dog that can eliminate on cue! “Spend a penny” is popular with people who want to sound old fashioned and also not accidentally give the cue to potty in the wrong place.

Overcoming Housetraining Challenges

Housetraining is the single most difficult training task most people have to face with any dog, and toy dogs in particular. The reasons for this problem can vary. Many people raise toy dogs inside until the dogs have formed bad ideas about the proper potty surface. New owners tend to let their puppies have too much freedom. (After all, how hard is it to clean up little puppy messes?) Then again, it doesn’t help that toy dogs simply take longer than big dogs to gain control over their bladders and bowels.


Whatever the case, don’t give up. Even if your dog takes longer to housetrain than your friend’s dog, it will happen. However, if you seem to make no progress, or if your dog is backsliding, you may need to back up and start at square one, reverting to no unsupervised freedom. Yes, it sees like a lot of work, but it’s really very little compared to cleaning up for the next decade. And good training is certainly better than banishing your dog to the laundry room.

Reacting constructively to accidents

You’ll probably find some puddles and poops inside that you never saw your Pom deposit. Dragging her to the scene of the crime, pointing, and rubbing her nose in it only tells her that every once in a while, for no apparent reason, you lose your mind and turn on her. Yelling, slapping, and generally going insane doesn’t get the point across any better. In fact, it’s the perfect way to ruin a trusting relationship. Your dog has no idea what your problem is, because she can’t relate what she did ten minutes ago to what you’re going on and on about now. (For more insight about punishment and why it rarely works, see Chapter Dealing with Doggy Delinquents.)


Instead, follow up the deed with these moves of your own:

1. Hold your temper.

2. Clean up the mess.

And what to do if you catch your dog in the act, pottying inside the house? Take these positive steps:

1. Make an abrupt noise, like “Arrgh” to get her attention.

2. Try to sweep her up and get her outside.

She may not be able to stop midstream, so be careful she doesn’t leave a pee-pee trail all the way to the door by keeping lots of towels handy. 

Cleanup 101

Unless you’re Super Trainer, your puppy will have accidents. A place that smells like urine or poop is a place that screams “Go here!” to your dog. To avoid repeat performances, you need to get rid of as much of that scent signal as possible. (Of course, you want to do that anyway for your own olfactory comfort!) Avoid ammonia-based cleaners, which smell like urine and can act as an inadvertent welcome sign to dogs.
To clean potty-soaked carpet:

1. Scoop up any droppings and soak up as much liquid as possible as quickly as possible.

Your aim is to prevent it from reaching the carpet pad.

2. Add a little water and again soak up as much as possible.

If you have a rug-cleaning machine that extracts liquid, use it.

3. Apply an enzyme-digester odor neutralizer (a product specifically for dog accidents), and leave it on for a long time, following directions.

Use enough neutralizer to penetrate the pad.

Note: Cover the area with plastic so the neutralizer doesn’t dry out before it can break down the urine.

4. Add a nice odor like a mixture of lavender oil or vanilla with baking soda to the area. Let it air out for a day, then vacuum.

3. After she’s outside, ignore her until she relieves herself; then reward her as usual.

4. Consider it a reminder that you need to watch her more closely.

Understanding common medical causes for potty problems


If your adult (over 1 year old) Pomeranian still isn’t housetrained — or reverts back to having accidents when he’s housetrained — have your veterinarian examine him to make sure a physical problem isn’t the cause. Some medical reasons are as follows:

– Urinary tract infections cause repeated urges to urinate with little warning.

– Diabetes and kidney disease cause increased drinking along with increased urination.

– Some drugs like steroids also cause increased drinking and urination.

– Spayed females are more prone to urinary incontinence. Place an absorbent pad under her when she sleeps.

– Geriatric dogs may forget their house manners and have accidents.

– Internal parasites, gastrointestinal upsets, and some food allergies can cause uncontrollable diarrhea.

Dealing with involuntary emissions

Have you ever been pee-in-your-pants scared? That’s one type of involuntary emission — and your dog is even more susceptible to pee that is out of her control. Even a trained dog can suffer from some type of involuntary urine emission.

Submissive urination

Picture this: You come home, bend over to greet your sweet little Pom, and what does she do? Squats and pees all over the floor! If you’re living the nightmare, odds are that your Pom has a classic case of submissive urination, which she’s doing in response to your dominant signal of bending over her.


She can’t help it — and punishing her only makes the condition worse. The good news is that she’ll probably outgrow the problem if you help her. Avoid these actions that make her feel submissive:

– Bending over her

– Staring at her

– Scolding her

– Intimidating her in any other manner

Instead, keep your greetings calm, get down on her level, and forgive and forget if she urinates. By teaching her a few tricks, you can increase her confidence and give her a way to earn rewards.

Excitement urination

Some dogs just can’t help dribbling urine when they’re excited. They, too, usually outgrow this excitement urination as they gain bladder control. The best treatment is to decrease the excitement level. To do this, greet your dog calmly and teach him to do some simple tricks in exchange for treats. Also reward him just for being calm. The goal is to train your dog by gradually conditioning him to be calm during low-excitement events, working up gradually to higher-excitement events. In addition, teach him some simple lowkey tricks to distract and calm him.


Punishing a dog with excitement urination only leads to his confusion and possible submissive urination.

Tackling the not-so-involuntary emissions

Is your Pom driving you crazy with general lack of housetraining or with marking (when a sexually mature male dog lifts his leg to urinate, thus marking his territory), and you’re thinking of banishing him to the laundry room, garage, or outer space? You’re not alone, and thankfully, solutions are available.

Absorbing the puddle

Enter the belly band for males. A belly band is, simply stated, a band that goes around the belly with an absorbent pad strategically placed to catch any urine a male dog may aim in any direction (see Figure 13-1). Replace the pad as needed, and your home is pee free. These belly bands are available in many pet supply stores, most dog catalogs, and in any toy dog specialty catalog.
For females, a belly band won’t work because the part she pees with isn’t near her belly. Instead, try the panties they sell for females in heat. Place an absorbent pad in the panty and change as needed.
Whichever you use, change the pad frequently, and don’t use it in place of proper housetraining efforts.

Discouraging the problem

Sometimes the smaller the dog, the more he tries to make a good mark and the higher he tries to lift his leg.


The best cure is prevention by neutering before sexual maturity. This step can’t guarantee that he won’t mark, but it greatly lessens the chances. If he’s already sexually mature and has started marking, then neutering usually (but not always) helps alleviate the problem. 

Figure 13-1: A belly band for male dogs keeps your home pee free.
If you don’t want to neuter him, you may or may not be lucky, and he may or may not be a marker. If you would like to make a million dollars, invent a way to keep intact male dogs from marking.
by D.Caroline Coile,Ph.D.