How can we get our dog to stop urinating in the house? We have tried everything.

Original Question: My dog is almost 4 years old and still has accidents in the house. We have tried house training constantly and using different techniques but nothing works. Why is he still doing this and how we get him to stop? - Priscilla

How can we get our dog to stop urinating in the house? We have tried everything. May 17, 2018

Hi Priscilla,

Thanks for your question.

I can tell by the tone and content of your question that you think this is unusual and that you have tried ‘everything’. It really isn’t difficult to house train a dog. Most people accomplish this but it takes commitment and persistence. The biggest concern I have in your case is that it sounds like you have let this go on for a while, possibly years. If this is the case, it will be very challenging to reverse because it is well ingrained and your dog likely thinks that eliminating in the house is allowed at this point.

Here are some tips to help address this issue.

Whenever our pets are eliminating inappropriately, whether it be urination or defecation, it can be caused by two things: medical reasons or behavioural reasons. So the first thing we have to do is rule out medical problems.

I recommend you see your veterinarian and perform blood work and a urinalysis with a culture to make sure there is no medical issue causing this. Inappropriate urination can be caused by a urinary tract infection, diabetes, renal disease, hyperthyroidism, neurological disease or other ailments that can be found by running diagnostics. If a medical condition is found, then the appropriate treatment can be implemented and the condition may resolve.

If no medical condition is found, then we have to consider behavioural reasons as a source. Dogs are very in tune with their environment and so there are so many stimuli that can cause them to become anxious or change their behaviour. Dogs can also perceive things that we can’t, so a high-pitched sound that doesn’t bother us, may bother them and cause them fear about eliminating outside. Now you may go hunting for these things, but in the end, it’s rare to find. It doesn’t take much for a dog to start eliminating inappropriately and once they do, the reason they started doing it may be gone but they are now just continuing. The longer you let this go on, the more it’s going to be ingrained and difficult to resolve.

This first thing to do is a deep clean of the areas where your dog is eliminating. If there is a residue of urine or faeces remaining in an area of your home, it will promote more elimination in that area.

I would consider restricting access to the area where the inappropriate elimination is occurring. Sometimes this can be enough to stop it but it may not be feasible depending on the layout of your home and where your dog is eliminating.

I strongly recommend that you take your dog outside for bathroom break as much as possible. Getting them outside often will increase the chance that he will eliminate outside. Once he does, then have a very special treat that he only gets when he eliminates outside. Praise him as much as possible or give him his favourite toy. All of these strategies can be employed to positively reinforce that desired behaviour of eliminating outside.

Avoid punishment if you can. Many people will resort to yelling or scolding their dog when they eliminate inside. This can create fear and possibly aggression. It can also be confusing when people are not scolding them right when the behaviour happens. It’s best to avoid this altogether.

I would avoid putting anything in the house that is appropriate to urinate on such as a ‘pee pad’. When people do this the dog is still eliminating inside and it’s a small step for them to take from eliminating on the pee pad versus eliminating on the rug right beside it. I would avoid this.

Lastly, a lot of cases do take medication to solve these issues. I would have to say that anxiety can be a cause of this but I’m not sure in your case and there’s no way for me to determine that. Keep in mind that you can be providing a very loving home for your dog, however, we have to remember that these were animals that lived in the outside environment and engaged their world by hunting, foraging and hiding. Dogs can develop stress just by being inside a lot with low amounts of walks, social interaction, runs in the park, etc. You can speak to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety supplements and anti-anxiety medication to use as a trial if the aforementioned strategies do not work.

Thanks for your question and good luck!

Dr. Greenway

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