If you have a dog that pees in the house, then you already know what a nightmare it can be.
This is easily one of the most common problems I’m asked about, so I thought it would be a good idea to put together a comprehensive overview of the issue, and explain what you can do to overcome it.
Firstly, the problem can effect virtually any dog – whether it’s a new puppy who hasn’t been house trained yet, or an adult dog who has only just started to pee indoors again (even if they used to be fine).
This problem can have several causes, such as submissive peeing after being reprimanded, incontinence (if you have an aging dog), or even territorial marking.
What’s more, the difficulty you face in overcoming the problem can vary depending on the cause – so you’re going to need a lot of patience and perseverance for some dogs, while others may learn relatively quickly.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most likely causes and what the best solution is for each one.
Is There A Medical Problem?
The first thing you need to rule out is whether your dog has a medical condition which is causing him to pee indoors (or at other inappropriate times).
Medical problems can range from bladder infections, incontinence, and even stomach upset or changes in diet – so it’s important to check with your vet first, just to make sure there isn’t an underlying problem that’s causing the unwanted behavior. This is especially true if your dog used to be house trained, but is having more accidents lately.
Is He Marking?
Another possible reason for indoor urination is territorial marking. While it’s not quite as common (in my experience) it’s still a possibility if your dog is a little more dominant or doesn’t quite see you as the leader.
He may engage in this behavior whenever he perceives a new threat to his dominance, and this could be anything from a new visitor to a new piece of furniture arriving in the house.
Overall, simple obedience training may reduce the chances of territorial marking, because he’ll stop acting like he’s the leader, and the marking behavior should subside. Additionally, dogs who have been neutered are less likely to mark their territory.
Common House Training Problems
If you have a rescue dog, or a dog that has a long history of living in kennels – then there could be a higher chance that he hasn’t learned his house training quite as well. It’s usually easier for them to slip back into bad habits as well – especially if they’ve never mastered this aspect of their training, or it wasn’t reinforced often enough.
Additionally, puppies are notorious for peeing in the house. This is mostly because they’re younger, and they haven’t had time to learn house training successfully. What’s more, they also have smaller bladders, so they need to be taken outside several times in the day, otherwise they have to to pee somewhere, and indoors will be their only choice!
Catching Them Before The Act
In an ideal world, you’ll be lucky enough to catch them before the act. Often, you’ll see your dog circling around, sniffing the ground, or even cocking a leg to pee. As soon as you see any of these tell-tale signs, you’ll need to give them a little startle (usually a quick clap of your hands will do, nothing too scary is needed) – and this will be enough to get his attention and stop him.
You’ll then need to take him outside quickly, and wait with him until he begins to pee in the designated area.
After this, you need to lavish his with positive reinforcement and praise, so he learns to associate peeing outdoors with your approval.
Catching Them During The Act
If you don’t catch him before, the next best thing you can do is catch him during the act. Again, you’ll need to quickly get his attention with a loud clap of your hands – enough to make him jump and temporarily stop him from peeing. You’ll then have to take him outside, where he will finish peeing. After this, you’ll need to heap on the praise once more (even though you may be frustrated about having to clean up his pee indoors!)
As he gradually learns that he gets positive approval and praise for peeing outdoors, and a loud, startling clap for peeing indoors, he will soon learn which area he should be peeing in.
Always Praise Your Dog For Peeing Outside
Praising your dog at the right time is essential for changing his behavior. In general, you want to give him positive reinforcement whenever he’s engaging in a behavior you want him to perform – and this certainly includes peeing outdoors.
So whenever you take him outside to pee, you want to give him plenty of approval and praise. If you do this 3 to 4 times a day, you should begin to see a steady change in his behavior.
Removing The Scent
While everything I’ve written here seems pretty simple and straight-forward, I’m aware that it’s still a big problem for many people, and house training is often something that becomes a struggle with certain dogs, too. I certainly know it isn’t always as easy as it sounds when it’s written down here!
Over the years I’ve learned several tips for discouraging your dog to pee indoors, but one of the most important ones has to be removing the scent of urine. Remember, your dog has a very keen sense of smell – so even if you can’t smell anything, there’s still a good chance that he can.
You see, a dog is ‘wired’ to not pee in his den, so he really doesn’t want to pee in the house, either. But he’s also ‘wired’ to pee in the same designated area, so if that area smells of urine – well, that’s as good a sign as any to your dog that he should pee in that location.
It makes sense really, doesn’t it? So you can’t hold a grudge against your dog for peeing indoors, he really doesn’t understand what the big deal is!
So to make sure this isn’t making the problem worse, you need to take a look at the cleaning products you’re using. Above all, you need to use an ‘enzyme’ based cleaner, rather than an ‘ammonia’ based one. Enzyme cleaners should eradicate the scent entirely, whereas ammonia ones can still smell of urine to your dog.
Additionally, you may need to give your floors and carpets a thorough, deep clean – rather than the specific ‘spot’ treatment. It takes some initial effort, but there’s a good chance that a thorough cleaning with the right products will help to ‘reset’ your dog’s indoor peeing behavior, especially if you add the other suggestions I’ve made into the mix as well.
Things To Avoid
There’s a few things you need to avoid doing, even if they seem like a good idea. Firstly, ‘rubbing your dog’s nose’ in his ‘accident’ is something that I often hear recommended, but in reality, it’s never very effective.
The truth is that your dog probably won’t understand why you’re doing it or what he’s done wrong, so it’s needless negative punishment. Worse still, it can make your dog scared and fearful of you – which will only make him more likely to pee in different rooms (or hidden corners you don’t know about!)
Also, punishing your dog after you’ve found that he has urinated inside is largely a waste of time (I mean when you’ve come home and realized he urinated 2 hours ago) because he isn’t going to understand what he’s done wrong. The keys to success are catching him before in the act, catching him during the act, and taking him outside several times a day to pee – and heaping on the positive reinforcement when he does pee outside.
If you’re looking for some further details on overcoming this problem, then you should really take a look at the Adam Katz ‘secrets of a professional dog trainer’ website. He gives some awesome step-by-step strategies and video guides on these kinds of issues, and he teaches better methods than you’ve seen anywhere else. You should give it a look