What to Know About Potty Training Regression in Dogs

shepherd mix puppy lying on a yellow blanket

It can be difficult sometimes to potty train a puppy. So, it can be frustrating when a puppy or a dog who has mastered potty training starts to regress and have accidents again. There are a lot of things that can trigger potty training regression in dogs. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Potty Training Regression in Dogs?

Potty training regression in dogs is when a dog that has been potty trained starts to revert back to having accidents inside instead of going out to do their business. It is also called housebreaking regression.

Potty training regression does not refer to one-off incidents. Dogs can have an accident inside for a variety of reasons. Maybe they are puppies that are still learning, or your dog wasn’t feeling well that day, or they were left alone for too long without a potty break.

When accidents inside the house become a more common occurrence and seem like a pattern of behavior in a dog that has been previously potty trained, that is when it is considered potty training regression.

Why is My Dog Regressing in Potty Training?

There are many reasons why potty training regression in dogs can happen. Although it is a frustrating situation, it’s important to remember that your dog is not intentionally doing it to spite you. Even if you don’t understand at first, it’s up to you to figure out why it’s happening so you can help your dog. Here are a few reasons why your dog might be regressing in potty training:

1. They Are a Puppy and Are Still Developing

It is common for puppies to experience potty training regression. Even if they have seemed to master potty training or other types of training, they can still regress and forget all about it. Their bodies and their brains are still developing.

If this is the reason your puppy is regressing on their potty training, the key is to pick right back up on potty training them and to keep it consistent. This should help them pick it up again quickly and get back on track.

2. Your Dog’s Daily Routine Has Been Messed Up

Dogs thrive on routines and they get used to a daily routine. Big household changes can seriously mess up their routines, which stresses them out and could cause potty training regression.

Big household changes are a common catalyst for stress that can cause potty training regression in dogs. Moving to a new house, adding a new pet, having a baby, working a job with a different shift, etc. can all cause potty training regression.

If this is what’s happening, do what you can to reduce your dog’s stress. Pick up potty training again and do your best to get them onto a regular routine. One that mimics their previous daily routine is ideal. But, if you need to create a new routine, keeping it as consistent as possible will help them get back on track.

3. It Could Be Due to a Medical Issue

Medical issues often cause dogs to have accidents in the house. Gastrointestinal issues, dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, diabetes, and other health conditions can lead to incontinence. This can cause potty training regression in dogs.

If it’s a medical issue, there will usually be other symptoms aside from accidents inside the house. So, keep an eye out for things like fever, vomiting, excessive drooling, and other symptoms to never ignore in your dog.

If you see any of them, make sure you visit the vet. It could just be a urinary tract infection, but you should start with a vet visit anyway if your dog is showing signs of potty training regression. It is essential to go as soon as possible if you see other symptoms too.

4. Your Dog Could Have Separation Anxiety

Just as big household changes can stress out your dog and cause potty training regression, so can separation anxiety. Dogs tend to have a favorite person in the family that they bond with more closely than others.

If that person isn’t around as much as usual, it can stress your dog out and lead to separation anxiety. If your dog already has separation anxiety, then they may have accidents in the house due to being so stressed out from that.

6 Tips for Managing Housebreaking Regression

The best approach for managing housebreaking regression depends on why it’s happening in your dog. Here are some tips for dealing with housebreaking regression in dogs:

1. Visit the Vet

Anytime your dog has an abrupt change in behavior or is experiencing potty training regression, it’s a good idea to visit the vet to rule out medical issues. If your dog is having accidents because they are sick, training doesn’t do much for that, but medication or advice from your vet will.

2. Do Not React Negatively

If your dog has an accident, do not yell at them or attempt to intimidate them by shoving their face in their accident. This does not teach a dog that accidents are bad and they shouldn’t do it – it only teaches them to be afraid of you. This makes them less likely to listen and less likely to respond quickly to any training you try to put in place.

3. Take Them Outside Immediately

Once you notice an accident, bring your dog’s attention to it and then immediately take your dog outside. If the accident is poop, take it outside with you when you take your dog outside and put it in their normal potty area. This will help remind them where it is acceptable to go potty and is a good way to start potty training again.

4. Clean Up and Make Sure No Odors Remain

Regardless of the type of accident, make sure you clean it up thoroughly and use products meant to eliminate pet odors. If your dog can still smell their scent and the accident, then they are likely to go there again as they associate the scents with an acceptable place to go potty.

5. Get Back on a Routine

When your dog experiences potty training regression, the best thing you can do is get back on a routine. Start potty training them all over again and use the same house training tips you used to potty train them in the first place if you need to.

Get on a routine of frequent breaks to help prevent accidents. As your dog gets used to that, then you can work on extending the time between breaks as long as accidents inside continue to decrease or not happen at all.

6. Work With Your Dog on Separation Anxiety

If your dog is having accidents because they do not like being left alone, you’ll need to figure out a way to work with their separation anxiety.

If you can’t dedicate the time to training them out of it and you can’t bring them with you, then you may want to consider hiring a dog sitter or taking them to a doggie daycare while you are away.

If being alone if what’s causing the potty training regression, then making sure they become confident being alone for short periods or making sure they have company should help.

These are the basics of potty training regression in dogs. Once you know why it’s happening, then you can get the help your dogs needs to get back on track. Whether the solution is a visit to the vet, more training, more frequent trips outside, or something else, you and your dog can get through it.