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How to stop your dog from peeing in the house


Amy Jamieson

Sept. 7, 2018


You know that face — the sad, guilty look a dog flashes when he’s been caught peeing in the house. Your first thought may be to scold him, but is that really going to stop it from happening again? In most cases, the answer is no.

There could be medical reasons why your already house-trained dog is peeing in the house. Stressful changes in your household or hormone issues can also be the culprit. Here’s how to assess the situation and put the kibosh on canine accidents.


1. Rule out medical reasons for accidents

It’s best to address this confusing problem at its root. Rather than scolding a dog for the behavior, determine if something is really wrong health-wise.

“If your dog suddenly starts peeing in the house or can't seem to hold her pee in, take her to the vet," says Elisabeth Weiss, a dog behavior counselor and the founder of DogRelations NYC.

According to Weiss, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the main causes of dogs having accidents inside and they require medical intervention. There are also several medical issues that can cause sudden incontinence in dogs, especially older ones, including Cushing's disease, kidney problems, diabetes and prostate diseases. It's important to rule out any medical issues before addressing a possible behavioral one. (More about that later.)


2. Address practical issues

If your pet is guzzling down water and potty breaks aren’t being offered, you can predict what’s going to happen next.

“You don't need to have a bowl of water out for your dog all day long,” Weiss says.

And, you definitely need to make those potty breaks pretty consistent. If you aren't going to be home all day, hire a professional dog walker or sitter to help out. Both your canine and your carpet will benefit from that arrangement.


3. Establish a routine

Like many people, dogs can thrive on schedules.

“Animals are creatures of habit,” says Nora Kogelschatz, manager of training and behavior for Bideawee, one of America’s first no-kill animal rescues. “When they wake up in the morning, they should go right outside to the bathroom and then usually 30 minutes after eating, they should go out again. If you’ve set a specific schedule for your dog and it changes suddenly, it could cause them to go to the bathroom in the house.”

Kogelschatz says that if you know your schedule is going to change, start to slowly move around times so your dog can properly adjust.


4. Talk with your vet about hormonal changes in older dogs

As your female dog gets older, you might start to notice that she is having more accidents. Weiss says this can result from the hormonal changes that are taking place in her body, and thankfully, there are medications that your vet can prescribe to address the problem. Similarly, if you have a male dog who isn't neutered, he "could be marking because of the hormones in his body.” This can be solved by getting your dog neutered.


5. Determine if anxiety is plaguing your dog

Certain dogs can suffer from behavioral issues when their person leaves them behind or in other situations. According to Weiss, if anxiety is causing occasional accidents it’s important not to scold your dog if you catch him in the act, as this type of punishment could signal that peeing in front of you is bad. This could lead to accidents in places you can’t see, like behind the couch — and nobody wants those kind of surprises. Anxiety can also be caused by a pet owner leaving for long periods. To prevent or lessen that type of anxiety, Weiss encourages you to ignore the accident and then reward your dog for good potty behavior. When he does the right thing and relieves himself outside, you should use high-yield rewards, like food and plenty of praise.


6. Take note of changes in your household

Stress can turn your life upside-down and the same is true of pets. If accidents are suddenly occurring, take a look at what’s going on around you and how it could impact your pet.

“It could be anywhere from construction on your house to adding a new family member,” says Kogelschatz. “These factors can stress a dog out and throw off its sense of comfort. Try to keep your dog’s routine as it always has been and if you can’t, consider getting a dog walker.”


7. Ask yourself: Is my dog truly house-trained?

It may be time to go back to the basics because perhaps your pup didn’t fully get it the first time around.

“A lot of dog owners think their dogs are fully house-trained, but they are not quite,” Weiss says.

As such, if you come home to find that your dog has peed in the house, she recommends that you ignore it and go back to enacting some basic house-training protocol. For instance, you can confine your dog to a small area in your house or use a crate to retrain him, she says.

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