September 21, 2010 07:01 PM

Dear Ethel,

I have a 5-month-old mixed-breed puppy and an 11-month-old mixed breed puppy who are both technically housebroken (we’re not using training pads anymore). They hold it at night for up to 10 hours, yet when I leave them by themselves, for no longer than four hours at a time, they still have accidents sometimes. If not one, then the other – it’s like they take turns! What’s the issue here separation anxiety? Don’t they have each other when I’m out? Help!

–Pee-at-Home’s Mom

Dear PaHM,

I’m making assumptions here, but I’m guessing you can make it through the night without an urgent trip to the bathroom. Can you make it that same amount of time during the day? Probably not.

Dogs are like that, too. Circumstances affect their urges to pee. And, don’t forget – yours are still puppies. They’re still developing, and might not be mature enough to hold it, or to understand that they have to.

Dog trainer Janeen McMurtrie, of Minnesota’s Smart Dogs Training Center, says that young canines get the “puppy zoomies” and have to run around. “The more active you are, the more active your entire physiological system is,” she says. “The puppy gets excited, then has to eliminate.”

This may not be what you want to hear, but you’ll probably have to take a step back in your training and start using puppy pads again, or limit your dogs’ roaming space when you’re not home. McMurtrie prefers using pads, especially since your puppies already know how to use them.

Eventually, you can transition away from the pads by moving the area in which they’re allowed to pee toward the door. Once you get them to go near the doorway, one weekend when you’re at home you can put the pad right outside the open door and work with your puppies, teaching them to head outside as soon as they need to go.

Basically, your dogs are letting you know that they’re not ready to do what you’re asking them to do – yet. They’ll make some mistakes along the way, but eventually, they’ll tell you when they are.


Got a thorny pet (any pet!) problem that you can’t figure out? Try Ethel – she’ll do her best to help. Send your questions to Include your pet’s age, breed and sex, and try to give as much context to your problem as possible.

Previously in Ask Ethel:
Ask Ethel: It’s Impossible to Trim My Cat’s Claws!
Ask Ethel: How Can I Make My Dog Stop Wetting My Bed?

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