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Our puppy seems to be getting worse rather than better with potty training

Our puppy seems to be getting worse rather than better with potty training; she is a 12-week-old Golden Retriever, and I would have thought she'd be starting to get the hang of it because we've been trying since we got her at 8 weeks. We take her out more and more frequently, yet it seems as if she is peeing every 20 minutes!

Although many lucky owners' puppies make it quickly and uneventfully through potty training, there are others who are less blessed in this area of education. The most frequent complaint I hear in my puppy classes pertains to inappropriate wetting. Uncorrected potty problems are one of the most common reasons less committed owners give up their pets. Perhaps they believe someone else might have better success or at least tolerance for housesoiling; more likely they don't care, as long as the dog and its messes are out of their home.

More dedicated owners, determined to go the distance with their training, frequently resort to drastic measures trying to teach their dogs where to and where not to eliminate. After taking dogs out with increasing frequency, creating baby gate blockades throughout their homes to try to limit dogs to uncarpeted areas, crating for increasing periods of time in hopes of preventing accidents, even punishing in frustrated anger, some owners wonder if their dogs will ever learn.

In general, when dogs have difficulty overcoming educational stumbling blocks, it is because their humans are having trouble teaching. Creating a schedule and building a structured, positive potty-training program really works well with healthy dogs. Feeding at the same times and taking dogs out predictably helps them anticipate and wait for outside "business" trips. Owners' patient indifference while cleaning up mistakes, rather than scolding and punishment, helps prevent puppies from developing anxiety about elimination and resulting behavioral disorders. Good housetraining is accomplished by good, steady leadership.

But a bigger problem than a communication breakdown may be causing many puppies' potty-training lapses; owners should be aware of the signs and symptoms of unrinary tract infections, which are fairly common in puppies that are crated and made to "hold it" for extended peiods of time.

Confined in cages, puppies often will hold urine for amazingly long periods of time rather than defile their inhabited area. This may be admirable and clean, but it is not necessarily in the best interest of their health or long-term potty training. Puppy owners need to provide for their pet's needs, hiring a dog walker to come and take them out and provide water when they will be away from home longer than six hours, or leaving the puppy in a safe area such as a puppy-proofed utility room large enough that they can relieve themselves if they have to. Some owners install "doggie doors" to outside runs so dogs can go out anytime they want to while home alone rather than having the dog get comfortable doing it anywhere inside.

Although sometimes UTIs come on like a train, with the dog's obvious discomfort prompting a quick visit to the vet, more often they start out slowly, with bacteria secretly brewing and multiplying, unbeknownst to all. Early diagnosis and treatment can make the difference between one uneventful course of antibiotics and a serious, ongoing battle with frustrating potty-training fallout.

Urinary tract infection symptoms include: frequent wetting, attempts to urinate or straining immediately after going, releasing small amounts of urine, blood in urine, dark malodorous urine, frequent licking of the genital area, whining, anxiety and restlessness. The relatively inexpensive and simple-to- perform test is done in the veterinarian's office with urine the owner collects from the dog at home. The most difficult part can be collecting the urine; paper plates, soup ladles and pie tins can be successfully placed under a urinating dog if the timing is right and the dog cooperates. It helps to keep the dog on a leash unless you want to spend several hours chasing a panic-stricken dog around your yard with a pie tin in hand. Occasionally urine is drawn directly from the dog's bladder with a needle and syringe; this is done when a veterinarian wants to collect a sample that has not been contaminated by bacteria that might be located lower in the urinary tract or in the dog's genital area. This is especially useful in cases in which tenacious infections fail to respond to an initial course of antibiotics.

Your puppy may not have a urinary tract infection, but it is a good idea for you to get it checked out to be sure. I hope the urinalysis will turn out negative, and you can continue training with a clear conscience knowing the puppy has a clean bill of health. And even if positive, many puppy UTIs are self-limiting and do not require treatment of any kind. But being aware of the problem can inspire owners to be more patient during potty training and to be on guard if symptoms worsen. Many puppies have a hard enough time acclimating to new rules in a new home and trying to stay clean and cooperative. Not having to be held accountable for "accidents" that they can't avoid will help puppies get a grip on potty training with a lot less stress for everyone!


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