Housetraining Puppies

Every pup makes a mistake at some point; here’s the best way to clean it up.


A primary concern of all responsible puppy owners is housetraining. Nothing gets old as quickly as cleaning up piles of puppy poop and puddles of puppy pee. An effective management and training program that prevents accidents is key to successful housetraining (see “Getting Off to the Best Start”), but even the most dedicated puppy owner is likely to slip up and allow at least one mistake.

Of course, when that happens, we clean and scrub and remove all traces of urine and feces. We work on two levels: we want the carpet to look good again, and we want the smell of the dog’s mistake to disappear.

Ridding carpets of the smell of urine is the larger challenge. We want the rug to smell good for our comfort, of course, but it’s actually more important for our dog that we restore the rug’s normal scent! A dog’s nose is infinitely more sensitive than ours; what smells clean to us may well still shout “bathroom spot!” to Spot.

Different product manufacturers go about this in a variety of ways. Some use masking agents, which are general deodorizers that cover up the urine odor with a perfume or essential oil. Most masking agents wear off long before urine smells do, however. Other products contain chemical agents to kill the bacteria and fungus – chemicals we’d rather not expose our dogs to. Best of all, from our perspective, are those that employ the use of enzymes that break down or digest the protein complexes of the urine into substances that either evaporate or can be rinsed away with water.

There are lots of products being marketed to dog owners specifically for cleaning up after mistakes, and it takes a careful read of the labels to determine which type of agents each uses. We’ve reviewed the field, and narrowed down the offerings to the few that employ enzymes. Our goal was to find reasonably priced products that actually destroy rather than cover up odors, without the risk of irritating (or even toxic) chemical exposure for Spot and for you.

-By Pat Miller


Previous articleOn Responsibility
Next articleCanine Counselor
Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.