Should You Punish Puppies for Potty Accidents?

Adrienne Farricelli

Puppy owners want fast results and may wonder whether you should punish puppies for potty accidents. The answer is no.

New puppy owners often struggle with potty training their puppies and may wonder whether puppies should be punished for having potty accidents. How can the puppy learn he has made a mistake if he's not punished for it? That's a good question, but while it is true that dogs can learn through punishment, it also true that punishment has many drawbacks that make it not worthy of applying in the first place. Let's take a look at some of these repercussions and how they can negatively impact your puppy. Also, let's take a look at alternative methods for potty training puppies without the use of punishment.

Should You Punish Puppies for Potty Accidents?

Many puppy owners wonder about what they should do when they catch their puppies in the act of peeing or defecating in the home or when they come home from work and find a puddle of urine or pile of poop. Is punishment necessary? The answer is a big no. Let's see why we shouldn't punish puppies for having potty accidents in the home and then take a glance at more positive, risk-free potty training methods.

Lack of Associations

If you find a puddle of pee or a pile of poop upon coming home from work, it is easy to become angered. Perhaps, you had a bad day at work, worked long hours and the last thing you want to do is clean up messes left from the puppy. It doesn't help that your puppy seems to act guilty, as if he messed up out of spite or revenge every time you come home and find "surprises" further proving to you that you really have a bad pup.

Well, here are some facts. Yelling at your puppy, pushing his nose in his pee or poop or spanking him with a rolled newspaper won't do nothing to potty train your puppy. because puppies learn through associations between close events. He therefore cannot associate your expression of anger with something he did several minutes of hours prior to your arrival. All he knows is that, when you come home from work angry like that, you are punishing him for what he is doing at the moment, which is likely looking at you or coming to greet you.

And that guilty look? It's not because he is thinking about his former pee or poop, it's just his instinctive reaction to your anger. He is simply showing to you appeasement signs in hopes of calming your down and not harm him.

Fear of Going Potty in Your Presence

But let's say you catch your puppy in the act of peeing or pooping, what should you then? Shouldn't you punish him then since there are now good chances of him associating your expression of anger with the act of eliminating in the home? The answer is still no. Why? Because by doing so, you risk causing your puppy to associate the act of going potty with your presence.

This means, that, with time, your puppy or dog will hide to pee and poop and suppress his signs he needs to potty which you actually need to see so that you can take your puppy or dog out. Countless puppy and dog owners struggle with their dogs peeing and pooping under beds, on couches and in the most secluded places and remedying the situation is not easy, so best to avoid this route.

Fear of You

On top of all of this, if you punish your puppy for having potty accidents, you risk teaching your puppy to become fearful of you. This fear can impact your puppy's physical and emotional well-being.

Every time you reach down to pet your puppy or attach a leash to his collar, how can he know you are not going to spank him or grab him to push his face in his mess? Any form of physical punishment can lead to a dog who becomes hand-shy and may even lead to defensive biting. Even scolding in a stern voice and yelling can hurt your puppy at an emotional level causing him stress and fear.

Positive Puppy Potty Training

So now that you know about the negative repercussions of using punishment, what should you do? Here are some tips.

  • Clean up puppy messes in the home using an enzyme-based cleaner such as Nature's Miracle.
  • Learn how to recognize signs your puppy has to potty.
  • If you catch your puppy going in the act, you can try to redirect him by running towards the door and enticing him to chase you out of the door. Once outside, encourage him to potty there.
  • Always praise and reward your puppy for going potty outside.
  • If your puppy doesn't potty outside keep a watchful eye on him or crate him and then try again later in 15 minutes.
  • Train your puppy to go potty on command.
  • Supervise your puppy when in the house. Keep him in a small area nearby the door where you have an unobstructed view.
  • When you cannot supervise, place your puppy in a crate for brief absences and in a longer-term confinement area lined up with absorbent pads for the longer absences.
  • Feed your puppy on a schedule for more predictable outings.
  • Take your puppy outside to potty first thing in the morning, after napping, after playing and exciting happenings and prior to bedtime. On top of this, for young pups take your puppy outside at least every half hour to an hour depending on age.
  • Be patient. Just like potty training kids, potty training puppies takes some time.
  • If you work long hours, read these tips on potty training your puppy if you work all day.