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Most dog parents have dealt with occasional accidents. Maybe you forgot to let your dog out one last time before you left to run errands and returned home to a puddle on the floor. Or maybe the weather was bad and your pooch just couldn’t be persuaded to venture out to do his business.
However, when peeing in the house becomes a habit, it can leave you feeling confused, frustrated, and even desperate. Tragically, housebreaking issues have led some dog parents to feel that surrendering their pets was their only option. There are other solutions!
If your dog is peeing in the house more than occasionally, here’s what you can do to help him break the habit.
Why Is Your Dog Peeing in the House?
It’s important to first establish why your dog is peeing in the house. If you don’t understand the reason for your dog’s behavior, simply put, you can’t help him. And your dog will continue to pee in the house – something neither your or your dog want!
Briefly, here are some of the reasons your dog might be peeing in the house:
- He has medical issues that cause incontinence
- He’s not spayed/neutered
- He wasn’t properly trained
- He’s not let outside often enough
- He is suffering from anxiety
- Prior messes were not properly cleaned
This is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you want to dig into the full range of possibilities, please download my free “pee-book” below!
7 Things You Can Do About Your Dog Peeing in the House
1. Visit Your Veterinarian
The first thing you should do if your dog is peeing in the house is to talk to your veterinarian. There are a variety of medical conditions that can lead to dogs urinating in the house, and treating them is vital for your dog’s health and for solving the peeing problem.
Some issues may be relatively minor, and some are more serious. Either way, your veterinarian is the best person to diagnose any medical issues causing your dog to pee in the house.
Medical issues that can lead to urinating in the house include:
- Pain when squatting or lifting the leg to urinate (a possible sign of Canine Osteoarthritis)
- An infected bladder or urinary tract
- Bladder stones
- Kidney or liver disease
- Cushing’s or Addison’s disease
- Adrenal gland issues
- Intestinal parasites
- Cognitive problems caused by brain disease or dementia
- Age-related illnesses and conditions
In addition to ruling out medical issues, your veterinarian may also be able to help you determine other reasons for your dog’s urinating. If it’s due to dominance issues or anxiety, a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist can give you tips to help solve the problem.
2. Spay or Neuter Your Dog
Intact dogs are much more likely to engage in urine marking behaviors. Spaying or neutering frequently reduces or greatly eliminates the behavior.
If your dog is older, it’s more likely that the urine marking has become a habit and you’ll have to use other techniques as well to bring the behavior completely under control. Here’s more information on urine marking.
3. Train (or Retrain) Your Dog
In puppies, peeing in the house frequently means that they just need more training. In older dogs, revisiting the house training process sometimes solves the issue.
Training a puppy takes time, patience, and consistency. Constant supervision helps to ensure that you can avoid accidents.
If you can’t supervise, keep your puppy confined to a crate, or a space small enough to prevent him from peeing there. You may want to block off a section of a bathroom or laundry room. Always make sure it’s large enough that your puppy has space to stand, turn around, and lie down. And of course, never leave your puppy unattended for hours on end.
Take your puppy outside frequently – at least every two hours as well as immediately after waking up, before going to bed, and right after eating. When you take your puppy outside, use a leash, and go to the same spot each time. It’s a good idea to use a specific word or phrase while he relieves himself so that eventually he will learn to go on command. Make sure to praise him and offer a treat immediately after he does his business.
Avoid using puppy pads, since they can sometimes lead to confusion and teach him that he is allowed to pee in the house. Don’t yell at him when he has an accident, but if you catch him in the act, you can use a loud noise like clapping to let him know that it’s not OK.
Housebreaking an adult dog is a similar process. Many experts recommend a method known as the umbilical cord method. This involves keeping your dog tied to you on a leash so that you can supervise him at all times. After a number of days you can gradually give him more freedom.
Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on routine, and this is especially important if you are housebreaking. Keeping his feeding on a predictable schedule will also help to establish a predictable schedule for potty time.
A few tweaks in your dog’s routine can set him up for success if you are trying to break him of the habit of peeing in the house. If your dog consistently has accidents in the same place, you may be able to change the meaning of that location by placing his food and water there. Most dogs will not pee where they eat. In addition, make sure he’s getting enough physical exercise and mental stimulation.
4. Give Lots of Potty Breaks
Depending on age, breed, size, and other factors, some dogs just can’t hold it as long as others. It’s important to make sure that your dog is getting the chance to relieve himself as often as he needs.
No matter how well trained, dogs’ bladders have their limits, and going beyond those limits leads to accidents. As a general rule, puppies should start by going out every hour. Then you can add one additional hour for every month of age. Adult dogs should have the chance to go between 3 and 5 times per day. Most can hold it for 6-8 hours if needed once they’ve been properly trained. Senior dogs may need to go slightly more often – possibly every 4-6 hours.
5. Identify and Eliminate Triggers
If you pay close attention to when and where your dog pees, you may notice a pattern. It may be possible to identify the cause of the peeing and make minor changes in your dog’s routine or environment that make accidents much less likely to happen.
For example, if your dog tends to “mark” new items that come into the house, avoid leaving thing in areas that make them accessible. Introduce new people and objects slowly and with careful supervision. More on urine marking here.
If certain noises or events trigger peeing caused by anxiety, you may be able to lessen the anxiety by playing music or white noise to mask those sounds. A pheromone collar or diffuser may also help to keep him calm if he has noise phobia, separation anxiety, or other anxiety issues.
Adaptil products are drug free and mimic the natural hormones that mother dogs emit to make their puppies feel safe and calm. The diffuser covers up to 700 square feet and can be used in the area of the house where your dog tends to tinkle. It’s odorless, so you won’t smell anything, but you may notice a difference in your dog’s anxiety.
The calming collar can be worn all the time except for during bathing or grooming, and it’s great for use when he’s outside or you’re away from home with your dog.
6. Clean Up Accidents Properly
Even if you don’t notice a smell, your dog may detect lingering odors that invite him to return to the scene of the crime. That’s why it’s so important to clean up properly after your dog pees in the house.
A good enzymatic cleaner is one of the most important things you’ll need. These are different from regular household cleaners, which may leave the area looking and smelling clean to you, but may only be masking lingering odors.
Enzymatic cleaners actually break down the odor so that even your dog’s sensitive nose won’t be able to smell anything. I like this one by Simple Solutions.
If your dog pees on a hard floor, wipe up the liquid with a paper towel. Then use an enzyme cleaner to clean the affected area.
Carpets and upholstery are a little trickier. Here, an enzymatic cleaner like this one is even more important, since it will penetrate everywhere that the urine has affected.
The first thing you want to do is to soak up as much of the urine as possible with a cloth, towel, or paper towels. Then saturate, but don’t flood, the area with your enzyme product. Use the bottom of the bottle or a scrub brush to agitate the cleaner into the stain.
Next, set a wet white cotton cloth or towel on top of the area and let it sit for 24 hours with something heavy on top. It’s important to use a white cloth so that no color seeps into your carpet. You may have to repeat this process more than once, depending on how deep the urine penetrated.
If you suspect that your dog may have peed in areas that you haven’t located, a black light can help you to find any hidden spots and treat them before your dog develops the habit of going there to do his business.
7. Get Professional Help
There may be many factors that are contributing to your dog peeing in the house. In addition to consulting with your veterinarian, you may want to arrange a consultation or a few sessions with a Veterinary Behaviorist who will take the entire situation into consideration and prescribe specific behavior modification techniques, with or without medication.
If your dog is peeing in the house, it’s not hopeless! With patience, consistency, and possibly a little trial and error, you can treat the issue and enjoy a happy dog and a pee-free home.