Pet Articles

Dog Urinates in Home

A pet owner’s greatest frustration is often inappropriate elimination in the house. When the beloved family dog starts to use the living room as his own personal restroom, owners are understandably distraught. Aside from the monetary and time costs of cleaning up the mess left by their dog, the most serious cost can be to the relationship between pet and owner. Unable to understand, and therefore cope with the reasons underlying a pet’s continued housesoiling, some owners choose to give up their animal altogether. This scenario is unfortunate, and often unnecessary, considering that the behaviour is one that is easier to manage than most owners think.

The first thing that dog owners must understand is that there are many causes of inappropriate urination in the dog. Pinning down the cause is often half the battle, since identifying the problem helps us to select the appropriate treatment and greatly increase the odds of its success. The second thing that dog owners must know is that dogs do not urinate indoors to upset humans; dogs yearn to please humans.

What would cause a mature dog to urinate in the home despite being given ample opportunity to do so outside? There are medical reasons and behavioural ones, and any vet will tell you that distinguishing between the two is crucial and often dictates the type and success of treatment.

Medical Causes

There are many diseases, especially in older animals, that may manifest themselves as housesoiling. Many geriatric dogs drink and urinate significantly more than usual – something your vet may refer to as “PU/PD”, or “polyuria/polydipsia” – as a result of kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and others. This is why it is important to mention significant increases in your pet’s water consumption to your vet. Dogs needing to relieve themselves more frequently than usual may in fact be suffering from bladder infections, prostate problems, or even tumours of the urinary tract. Incontinence is another culprit. Incontinence can result from neurological dysfunction or decreased urinary sphincter function. Also, geriatric pets may urinate in the home as their cognitive function and awareness of their surroundings declines.

A thorough history, including details about the volume, frequency, and colour of urination can help point your vet in the right direction. In addition, a laboratory analysis of your pet’s urine sample – or urinalysis – with or without simple bloodwork, can be invaluable. Often times, what appeared to be a behavioural problem turns out to have a medical basis, and can then be treated accordingly. Lab tests available through your vet not only rule out behavioural causes, but can help to narrow down the possible medical causes.

Treatment for medical causes of inappropriate elimination very much depends on the cause and the individual patient. Talk to your veterinarian.

Behavioural Causes

In puppies and young dogs, peeing in the house most often stems from insufficient housebreaking training. Urination in response to excitement or as a show of submission to other dogs or people is also common.

Separation anxiety can be an underlying cause of inappropriate elimination. Dogs that are highly bonded with their owners may become distressed by their absence, particularly if the owner has recently had longer periods away from home than usual. Older dogs are especially prone to experience this. Dogs with separation anxiety often show behavioural changes in response to the cues of their owner’s impending exit, such as jingling keys or putting on a coat. During and after this time, they will express their upset with signs of overt agitation and restlessness (vocalization, pacing) or with depression (decreased willingness to get up or eat).

The cornerstones of managing separation anxiety include increasing daily exercise (to tire your pet out in advance), desensitizing your pet to your exit routine, and slowly letting pets get used to your absence in small, rather than large or sudden, increments. Leaving dogs with chew toys, other pets, or simply leaving the TV on for them, will help to divert attention away from your absence. In severe cases, a vet may prescribe dog-specific sedatives.

Marking, or urinating small amounts on upright objects, is a behaviour that is likely familiar to the owners of unneutered male dogs. Everyone has seen a male dog lift its leg on a fire hydrant outside, but problems arise when your good loveseat becomes the stand-in. Marking indoors is often the result of territorial instincts being triggered. Watching through the living room window as a strange dog or person approaches or even walks past the house can lead or motivate a male dog to mark his home turf – literally.

Neutering intact males stops marking in over half of these dogs. Another option is to minimize the stimuli leading to marking by keeping pets away from windows so a passer-by stays out of their line of sight. Redirecting the marking behaviour toward an upright stake outdoors, and rewarding urination at this appropriate site with food or praise, is also a strategy that some owners find helpful.

The Bottom Line

In summary, owners don’t need to wring their hands when faced with urination in the house. A thorough history, physical exam, and urine tests performed by your vet will help distinguish medical from behavioural roots of the problem, and help tailor a treatment to your pet accordingly. Armed with an understanding of the cause of the problem, a treatment strategy, and a little patience, the family living room no longer has to double as your dog’s restroom.

By Rebecca Greenstein – Pets.ca writer

39 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar Janet iskin says:

    Hi,

    My fixed male continues to urinate in one particular spot at night regardless of what time I walk him at.
    We go on three lengthy walks per day, with a hour long run/play session on the second walk.
    I have tried cleaning the area repeatedly, even varnishing it and still he chooses to urinate there.
    I tried sectioning off that area and he will go against whatever I use to block it off.
    He is entirely healthy, having been examined by our vet.
    I am thinking it is more a form of habit.
    Would putting some sort of diaper on him work?
    A friend of mine suggested that I close the door to my room at night so that he can’t go outside to pee in his pee spot.
    I didn’t do that as my other two dogs would be constricted to being stuck in my room, also my cats need to get to their litter boxes, food and water.
    Nothing i do seems to help. I ignore the urine, do not even acknowledge it, I simply put newspaper on it to absorb it.
    I use only positive reinforcement with my dogs. I don’t want to crate him at night as he is accustomed to sleeping with us. I will if I have to though, this way I could take him out first thing in the morning to walk him.
    I can’t afford an animal behaviouralist and don’t know what to do anymore. Please help!
    Thank you!
    Janet

  2. Avatar going crazy says:

    We have 4 shelter dogs, 2 female, 2 male. My male dogs, one 10 lbs. the other 70lbs. continue to mark my entire house. If it has a leg they will urinate on it. The worst has been lately, they have decided to urinate on my bed and the pillows on it. My bedding is in the washer on a regular basis, you would think that just closing the door would be enough, but we have lever doors and the large dog can open any door. This is never done when I can catch them. It is always after we leave. They are really well behaved with this problem being overwhelming. Help

    • Avatar Marko says:

      First off dogs only want to please humans so this is unintentional. Given that this is the second untrained dog….you need to actively solve this with dog training from a pro as you are not having luck doing this yourself. You will have to invest some time and a bit of cash on this.

      ssscat is something you can try to discourage marking behaviour in specific areas http://www.amazon.ca/s?ie=UTF8&search-type=ss&index=kitchen&field-keywords=SCCCat
      If your male dogs are not neutered, neuter them as this can help.
      If the dog can open a lever….change the lock to a cheap handle.

      Good luck!

    • Avatar Janet iskin says:

      Hi everyone, I have a beautiful 3 year old male dog who I neutered when he was 1 year old, I walk all three of my dogs three lengthy walks per day.
      He continues to urinate during the night in one spot. I heard that putting treats where they urinate will end their wanting to urinate where they eat.
      I have tried varnishing the floor there, I clean it daily with vinegar.
      I have reverted back to using newspapers, he is perfectly healthy.
      My other two dogs do not do this at all. I only use positive reinforcement with my dogs, all three are very bonded with me.
      I thought about using a diaper, ( but he would tear it off), a friend suggested that I close the bedroom door at night but I also have cats who need their litter box. I love him so much so it is more of an issue of why is this happening? He gets lots of love and praise when he pees outside.
      After he urinates on this spot he looks sheepish. I wait to change the newspapers so he doesn’t see me, ( hard to do since they all follow me room to room).
      Has anyone had a similar experience that they were able to successfully overcome? Thank you!

  3. Hi, I have inherited my mother in laws six year poodle. She is house trained BUT when she gets mad she wets in my house or even on my bed. I have had her one year. I have had her checked for medical reasons. She is healthy! I feel she does it out of spite. I just never know what makes her mad. I walk her everyday. Except for the wetting she seems well adjusted. Scarlett is crated when we are away. Lately, she has started staying away from us at night during the waking hours. We do have a 10 year old doxie. They seem to get along fine.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This question is better suited to our forum where other members can chime in. Feel free to register there and post this question for free. Good luck!

  4. Avatar Alan says:

    I brought home a shy 4 y-o mongrel from a home that was used to famly conflict. (He love his “mum”, but probably had a rough time from his “dad”, I gather.
    I took him out for 6 longish walks on his 1st day, but he didn’t wee once. He’s settled in very well and is very happy in our ground floor flat, and I took him a walk late last night before bed. As I was brushing my teeth he eventually had a wee all across the bedroom carpet!!!

    His “mum” did warn us that he’d recently started weeing up chairs, and this might have contributed to his being placed for Rescue adopion.

    I’m hoping it’s a passing phase and that a secure happy home might help, but can anyone please give any advice?

  5. Avatar Alan says:

    Thanks, Marko, but I’d already read that article. Thanks all the same.

  6. Avatar Michael Marzelli says:

    I have a three year old female beagal. She has started suddenly to pee on the bed. We had her checked for urinary problems and she is fine. We have had to return to the crate when we are not home. Is this a simple case of separation anxiety or does someone else have a theory. Would love to hear from someone who has seen this behavior change.

  7. Avatar Janean says:

    We have a 17 year old Yorkshire Terrier/Pug Cross, he has always been house trained, up until about a year ago, the pooing and weeing occur whilst we are still in the house, every morning we come down to this and have to clear and clean the area, mop and wait for it to dry before starting the kids breakfasts and school lunches. We have tried everything, we are at our wits end, especially with the smell, the house stinks, we have cleaned, moped, sprayed, lit candles, leave the back door open for fresh air (which is not good in winter) and about everything else, we honestly dont know what else we can do. Help please.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      First off, please be compassionate with your elderly dog. Some dogs, just like some humans lose bowel and bladder control when they age. You might consider doggie diapers at night or a pee pad in the area the dog relieves itself.

      Secondly, has this dog seen a vet? There are medical conditions that may be causing this and if these are not investigated your frustration is very much misplaced.

      Dogs never want their owners to be upset with them, they LIVE to please us. But all living bodies start to fail at one point or another….and older dog bodies that are having problems require a vet to check them out.
      Good luck!

  8. Avatar Jaclyn says:

    I have a 1year old great dane who turned one 3 days ago. He sleeps in a crate at night because he will urinate near a door in the middle of the night if he isnt. He does enjoy his crate but will urinate in it almost every night. My husband even gets up 2 times a night to let him out. Even with letting him out he sometimes urinates. What do we do? He is a great dog and we love him so much but this has become a big issue.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      The crate should be large enough for one dog to turn around in and lie in comfortably – when it’s too large the pet may urinate in the cage.
      For additional info i encourage u to post this in our forum….it’s free.
      good luck

  9. Avatar Mariah says:

    My boyfriend and I got our dog from a rescue shelter about a year ago and he turned out to be a pit bull, german shepherd, boston terrier mix. He’s 1 year and 4 months old and fixed since 4 months old. we’ve recently had an ongoing problem which I can’t find any forums on his behavioral issues.

    So he has a dominance issue in which we are constantly having to reinforce with squirt bottles and coin shakers. We have noticed that he’s territorial over our two couches when it comes to our cat. But recently he’s been urinating when we use the squirt bottles and when we discipline him. Today he even had an obsession with a fly he couldn’t catch and he was wining relentlessly at it. Next thing we knew he had peed on the couch with the same obsession with the fly. We doubt that it is marking and we are home all the time so it’s not separation anxiety. We are at a loss of what to do.

    We walk him multiple times a day, we praise him when he does the things we like, and we constantly give him floor time where we play with him on his level. Right now we live in an apartment and are honestly thinking of giving him to a family with a house because we feel we may not be suitable to his condition. Although if there’s something we can do to make it less stressful on all of use than we’d like to try that before hand. Thank you!

    • Avatar Marko says:

      If this were my dog I’d 100% get the advice of a pro dog trainer that was referred to me by someone I trust. Feel free to post this on our forums to see what advice others may have to offer.
      Good luck.

  10. Avatar Diane says:

    Hi there, I have two soft coated wheaten terrier one 11 and the other 9. The 11 year old has started peeing in the house. I have brought her to the vet and everything seems okay. I also have a cat who once the dog pees on the carpet it becomes her litter box. I have cleaned professionally the carpets and still they return to the same spot. I have spent over $2000 on carpet cleaning in the last year and am down to two area rugs left. The others are rolled up downstairs because there is no point laying them out. I am a stay at home mom so I am with the dogs all day and when I am out or in the evening they are in their crates. She has plenty of opportunities during the day to go outside so WHY????? so confused. Any suggestions???

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I’d post this on the forum for additional ideas, but professional carpet cleaning is for humans not animals. You need a serious dog urine enzyme cleaner to get get rid of the smell or your cat will SURELY still be smelling the urine even after it has been “professionally” cleaned. Then the cat pees on that area to say, this is MY area.
      Hope that may help.

  11. Avatar Theresa says:

    Hi I just became owners of 2 dogs they were already house trained and we have had them for a month and now we are having a problem within the last two days one of the dogs have been wetting and pooping on the floor we are not sure which one but think it is the female. We take them out 3 times a day and they get to walking, playing, what would cause them to start doing that no health problems and it doesn’t happen all the time.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This is a tough one since you can’t be sure which dog is the “guilty” one. That’s step 1. I might set up a video camera to determine which one is doing the peeing.

      Second….how can you be sure the dog is healthy? As mentioned in the article there are indeed medical causes for this. Step one is seeing a vet to rule out medical issues.

      A video of the dog peeing might show straining or other signs of a problem.
      Good luck!

  12. We have a one year old female Scottie. She’s been fixed and house broken for quite a while. Recently she began urinating in the house. It seems to take place whenever she isn’t allowed to go in an area or our 10 year old Wheaton doesn’t want to play with her.. HELP!

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Many times dogs exhibit a gesture or behaviour just before they poo or pee. Watch for that behaviour! Give a firm and loud no if she starts to urinate and immediately take her outdoors. Then praise her BIG TIME for doing her business outdoors. Feel free to post this on our forum as well.
      Good luck!

  13. Avatar Eugene says:

    Great article with a lot of good ideas. I found the NO method really worked with our Border Collie, but as Marko says you absolutely have to make a big (very positive!) fuss when she goes in the right place. Ours loved the positive attention and adores the good girl comments she gets when she does it right.

    I found a few Squidoo articles that helped as well with a few ideas, have a look if you want: http://www.squidoo.com/happydogforlife

  14. Avatar lorraine says:

    i suspect our rescue dog has behavioural issues relating to inappropriate defecation. do you know of any good sites to visit with more advice?

  15. Avatar Lynn says:

    I have a 1 1/2 yr old male neutered shihtzu who WAS competely housetrained for over a year now. About 6 weeks ago, I got a playmate for him. She’s a mini shihtzu and only 4 months old so she’s not spayed yet.

    The puppy is doing very well with her housetraining. She has NEVER peed on the area rug in the livingroom but she did leave a log there once but before she did that, the older dog URINATED on the rug! Released a FULL bladder right in front of me as they were playing! Since then, he’s peed TWO more times (in a total of 3 different spots) on the rug and once on the kitchen floor!!!

    I got this puppy so that he would have company and they get along well together but I CANNOT stand any dog peeing on a rug in my home.

    I’m at my witts end…..I love him but I can’t live like this and I can’t afford the damage he’s doing (the area rug sits on a laminate floor).

    He’s perfectly healthy, has a scheduled lifestyle, eats/drinks in the morning and at supper and gets his water dish when I’m home. He goes outside regularly and has his play time/exercise each day.

    I put up baby gates to the livingroom but he’s knocked them down while I’m at work and AGAIN does empties his bladder on the rug!

    He can’t be bored as he has a playmate now. The radio is left on all day and he has PLENTY of toys.

    PLEASE HELP! I’m in tears.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Hi Lynn – There’s a lot going on here. This is the wrong place to post this question as this area is to comment on the article.
      Please post this on our forum http://www.pets.ca/forum/ for free where other members can freely share advice and the topic will be all about your particular issue. Thanks in advance and good luck!

  16. Avatar connie says:

    we adopted what appears to be a Shetland sheep dog cross 5 months ago. Vet thinks she was about a year and a half old. The shelter told us she was 3. We tend to agree with the vet’s opinion. At the pound she was very excited but NEVER had an accident while we were with her or when we would pet/play with her. When we got her home she began to pee when we would reach to pet her. A few days after we got her she stopped coming to my husband or I. She has always been connected closely with our teenage children more than the adults. We have been careful not to scold her when she pees. We also did not pressure her when she was avoiding the adults. The urination problem is much better and she now seems comfortable with us all – however will still urinate at times when we give here attention. Sometimes even when one of the kids just looks at her and calls her. We are also having trouble teaching her to go to the door and let us know when she has to go out. She has had very few accidents, other than the submissive peeing. She has never messed in her kennel. Not sure what else to do about the peeing.

  17. Avatar debi dunn says:

    i have a 17 month old dachshund he sleeps with us but the last couple of weeks he has started to go for my husband when he puts him out on a morning why is this my husband is thinking of getting rid of himplease help

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This dog (like all dogs) needs obedience training.
      Dogs DO NOT naturally know how to make humans happy, they need to be taught to listen by a professional.
      Please feel free to post this on our forum for free for a better back and forth.
      Good luck!

  18. Avatar jasmina says:

    My dog is 6 years old most happest dog ever never peed in house, my husband used work lot out of town now he got new job he home everyday, and my dog started peeing on carpet only at one spot, its driving me crazy, I don’t know why he is doing that, he looked at my hubby sleeping walked in hallway peed right next to me, I took him outside right away but I don’t know why he is behaving like this.

  19. Avatar Lori says:

    My dog is between the ages of 12&14 when I got him he would never urinate in the house some time last year he has started doing so. I would let him out frequently during the day and stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning to make sure he is let out a final time. But between the time I let him out and 6 when my husband lets him out we have two or three places he’s urinates. I can also let him out for a couple hours at a time and an hour after letting him in he is peeing in myhouse again. How can I help him to not do this? As a result he has been spending most the day and
    night in the garage or outside . Any suggestions on how to fix this is greatly appreciated as I would love to let him inside sleeping on my kids floor again.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I think you should post this on our forum for a better back and forth, but it is possible that this is related to a medical condition, and so the first step imo, would be a checkup at the vet.
      Good luck.

  20. Avatar Jessica says:

    I have a 4 month year old puppy that continues to pee in the house! She goes outside with our 5 year old dog and she pees and poops out there! But when she comes back inside she pees in small increments, sometime in large and poop and eats it! I don’t understand why or how to fix it! Please help!

    • Avatar Marko says:

      These types of issues are just too complicated for a blog post comment – please post it on our forum which is free to join of course. – thx1

  21. Avatar Kirsty says:

    Hi, I have a labrador that turned 1 last week, we have bought a gate for the garden to stop him urinating on the grass as it’s got patchy, but ever since he gas starting urinating in the house, and once pooed, this is really out of character for him as he has never done anything like this! Obviously we know he is doing this as he isn’t happy we’ve took the grass away from him, but how can I stop him using the house as a toilet?

    Thank you

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