Here are 6 most common reasons for dogs peeing inappropriately and solutions on how to stop a dog from peeing in the house and other unwanted areas.
1. Potty training is still in progress
Dog’s bladder and housebreaking develop in different times with different dogs. Some dogs may need over a year to be fully house trained, while others learn faster. It is common to have setbacks so don’t panic if there is an occasional accident with a young dog.
When adult rescue dogs are brought home, it is common that they relieve themselves indoors. In shelters dogs often don’t get to go enough outside so they get accustomed to toileting in their living area. Consider them a puppy when it comes to potty training.
What to do:
Clean the mess and start/continue with potty training.
2. Medical issue
If your dog is for sure house trained, gets to go outside enough and regularly but suddenly starts urinating inside the house, there is a high possibility of a medical issue.
Same applies with a puppy still in house training progress but who urinates in odd situations such as when sitting down or getting up.
What to do:
Take him to the vet right away.
3. Submissive or excitement urination
Submissive urination is an uncontrollable reaction of a puppy or dog in a situation that he finds threatening. Prior to piddling the dog is usually showing other signs of insecurity such as tucking the tail, licking the lips, looking away or rolling on his back.
Tucking the tail, licking the nose, crouching down... this dog is showing very clearly that he is stressed, scared, and not enjoying the situation. The human makes it worse by bending over and looking in the eye. Urinating out of fear could be a possible next course of action for the dog unless the situation eases up. (Photo: Getty Images)
The dog is simply communicating in clear dog language that he is experiencing stress and that he is not a thread.
Excitement urination is equally an uncontrollable reaction to a highly stimulating situation such as greeting a person or a dog. This is typical in puppies and they usually grow over it.
What to do:
Regardless of which one the problem is, the maneuver plan and objective is the same: to calm things down.
When an excited pup with piddle issues comes to greet you, ignore him until he calms down. Then call him to you and give attention calmly. If the energy levels rise again, ignore him again. Do all high energy activities outside.
When greeting an insecure pup with piddle issues give him space. Never initiate a greeting with any dog by going over to the dog. An insecure dog will find it most intimidating.
Always let the dog decide whether he wants to greet you or not and come to you, not the other way around.
Give him space, don’t look in the eye, don’t lean over. When the dog shows signs of willingness to engage, go down to his level facing your side towards him and let him approach you at his own pace.
If the dog shows signs of confidence, gently stroke him in the chest and sides. Avoid head, neck and back as he might find it intimidating. End the session before there are signs of discomfort (lip licking, head turn away, yawn…).
Play games with the pup to build his confidence and the relationship between you.
4. Changes in life or in habit
Dogs get stuck on habits. Some more, some less. When something changes, say a change in family members, moving to a new home, renovation, a new carpet… It stresses some dogs a whole lot and the response might be an accident in the wrong place or marking the new “intruder” with urine.
Teaching the dog confidence and flexibility through play goes a long way in solving piddling issues at home. (Photo: Getty Images)
A sudden change in the daily schedule is another risk zone. For example if your dog goes outside every day at 4 pm when you come home from work, but one day you are delayed by two hours. There is a high possibility for an accident to be waiting at home. It’s a muscle memory and suddenly he can’t control himself.
What to do:
Long term solution: Teach the dog (and yourself) the concept of flexibility.
Vary the feeding times, places and methods, walking times, places and methods, play new games, go to new places, teach new things. Introduce new objects and people by making it fun for the dog (include his favorite food or toys in the mix).
It will take bit of time but in the end having a flexible minded dog will be well worth it.
Short term solution: Plan ahead.
With new home or furniture, and the dog’s and peoples’s old beds, toys and other items so there is the familiar scent from the get go. Then play (games involving food) on and around the areas so there will be a positive association.
If appropriate let the dog get involved with something long term occupation such as chewing a bone in the new area.
If you have new furniture or items that you DON’T want the dog to be involved in, spray Noooooo…! the first thing. It will make the areas and items uninteresting for marking. For example a christmas tree or large house plants.
If your dog doesn’t yet have a flexible toileting routine, have figured out a dog sitter to call upon in case you have delays for coming home.
5. Toileting in the guestroom
Dogs prefer not to toilet in their living, playing, eating or sleeping areas. If you have rooms with less use, your dog might be so wise as to think that this is a good place to relieve themselves. Safe place, out of sight.
This might also happen if the dog has been punished for toileting in the house. The dog has learned to seek a place where he is not seen.
Never punish, scold, point fingers, yell, get mad at a dog for toileting. It only results him toileting out of sight, loosing confidence, and weakening your relationship with your dog. (Photo: Getty Images)
What to do:
Clean the mess and get rid of the smell.
Then simply spend time in that room with your dog so that he will consider it his living area as well. If it’s a no-go room for dogs, then restrict the access altogether by closing the door or installing a dog gate.
6. Territorial marking and lifting leg wherever
All dogs have the urge and need to mark their territory by releasing a small amount of urine in a spot. Some dogs, intact males especially, may have this urge to a level of obsession which even overrides their house training.
Marking is usually somehow stress related - the dog may feel threatened or anxious to a varying degree.
Male dogs need to have plenty places to lift their leg where it's completely appropriate and allowed. (Photo: Getty Images)
Not all leg-lifting is territorial marking though. They might just need to relieve themselves and for some reason he doesn’t mind doing it inside.
You can tell the difference by the amount of urine.
Situations which might trigger marking in living areas:
- Scent of another dog. Whether another dog has visited your house or only a scent has travelled along with clothes, shoes, bags etc.
- New member of the family. Be it a new pet or a new human, it might trigger a territorial response especially if it stresses the dog.
- New object or piece of furniture.
- Garden furniture and other objects outside on patios and smaller gardens and yards may be a bit of a grey area for a dog who generally does his deeds outside (in the same garden) but not in a specific area.
What to do:
Do this first: Neuter or spay your dog. This may or may not break the habit immediately but it will help tremendously.
Long term solution: In point 4 we already touched the subject of flexibility as a concept and how to introduce novelty items to the dog's life. The dog will feel less need for marking when he doesn’t feel threatened by changes in life and they are introduced the right way.
Short term solution and management: Plan ahead and manage.
If you come home smelling like another dog, do something fun immediately with your own dog, before he starts sniffing you and getting worried. For example give a juicy bone, train fun games using food or toys, go outside if the dog loves it. To connect the scent with fun.
Then wash your clothes and take a shower before you sit down anywhere.
Introduce new dogs always in neutral territory. Bring them home when they have done meets and greets and are friends.
With other new family members make all efforts so that the dog doesn’t feel threatened by them. Introduce their scent initially through games. Make sure the dog still feels as safe, loved and attended as before.
Like mentioned before, nothing pushes the dog to mark, or pee in general, like the scent of urine.
If your dog has a habit of marking or relieving in an unwanted area, you need to get rid of the smell. Use cleaning products that don't contain ammonia as that itself smells like urine to dogs. Use enzyme cleaners or natural products such as Stinkynator.
When the area is neutral again, you can decide whether you need to restrict the dog’s access completely with a physical barrier, whether you need to condition the area as a living area or whether you need to make the area uninteresting with a safe product like Noooooo…!.
With a safe natural product like Noooooo...! you can make new items and cleaned areas uninteresting for the dog so they will rather find another spot to pee.
Always show the dog where he IS allowed to mark and relieve and have such areas and objects available.
For example in the case of garden objects, go through the process of cleaning and saturating with Noooooo…! the objects that you don’t want to be marked and set up a post nearby for him to go lift his leg.
4 Things to Keep in Mind
1. Feeding in the spot might help but not always
Dogs usually don’t want to go toilet in the same area as where they eat but there are exceptions. Dogs who originate from puppy mills (usually bought from pet shops) might be used to potty and eat in the same small area from early on associating feces with food.
This is hard to break.
With all other dogs, feeding in the areas you don’t want the dog to potty usually helps.
2. Go to the vet
Even if the original reason might have been a medical issue, it might develop into a behavioral problem if the underlying issue is not treated quickly. With a sudden unexpected urinating issue, the first destination is the vet.
Make sure your dog gets to go outside enough and regularly.
When you are not supervising, limit the dog’s access to hard-clean areas, such as the large living room carpet. Use doors or gates to define an alone time area where there is only a comfy bed and a bowl of water in there.
When you are at home and supervising, look for peeing signs. Sniffing the floor or circling around a spot. Act immediately. Gently, firmly, calmly (no need to speak here) take him outside and wait until he has relieved himself there. Praise for the good deed.
Spray the areas where the dog showed interest in urinating with Nooooo…!. This will make the are uninteresting. (Read the use instructions and test on hidden part first.)
4. Effort and teamwork
House soiling issues are rarely simple to solve and will take effort and management from your part and possibly the help of a veterinarian and a behaviorist.