How To Correct A Puppy Accident

Liz wrote to me with a question about how to correct a puppy accident:

She writes: “As I’m reading about housebreaking, I notice you say to give a “Strong Correction.”  What exactly do you mean by strong? I have a Toy Schnoodle who is a 10 week-old puppy. He is doing pretty well as far as going outside, I do watch him like a “Hawk” but, ya know… he does have an accident or two.”

How To Correct A Puppy Accident
Is Different Than How You Would
Correct An Adult Dog

I replied: “I’m glad you asked this question.

correct a puppy accidentFor an adult dog (or even for an older puppy) you would use the tab-leash and collar to give a tug and release (or an e-collar, if you were going that route). You’re looking for anything to humanely create an uncomfortable association with the act of eliminating in the house. When I wrote, “strong correction” what I meant was: Motivation, or having meaning. That will vary from dog to dog. The more you train with your dog, the more you’ll know how firm to tug on the leash to get your point across.

The Right Way To Correct A Puppy Accident–
Especially With A Young Puppy– Is Very Different
From How You Would Correct An Adult Dog


For your breed and your dog’s age, simply saying, “No! No! No!” in a booming voice and then carrying him by the scruff of the neck with one hand and scooping him up with the other hand and then running him outside where you will say, “Get busy!” is enough. With the exception of the super dominant, headstrong puppy– just walking quickly toward the pup and saying, “No! No! No!” and then interrupting the behavior will be motivational.  That’s all you’ll need to do to correct a puppy accident at this age.

He will have accidents for the next week or two: That’s to be expected. But you need to associate a negative (No! No! No!”) with the behavior (eliminating in the house) every time he does it. That’s the key.  He will quickly learn to choose between the negative association (which only happens if he does it in the house) and the positive that will be associated with eliminating outside (the praise he receives and the relief of eliminating uninterrupted).  So, the level of motivation for your correction is different when a correct a puppy accident compared to an adult dog.