Housesoiling in adult dogs ranks among the most common complaints of dog owners. Even the most reliably trained dog can have trouble controlling bowel or bladder function during illness or stress. If your dog suddenly loses its house-training manners, take him to your vet immediately to make sure he is not ill. Review recent events that might have made your pet anxious if there is no sign of physical illness.
Dogs may lose desirable habits in response to events that are not immediately obvious to their owners (such as a neighborhood female dog being in heat, arousing tensions in dogs of both senses). There may be changes in the dynamics between your dog and another household pet. Or loss of house-training habits sometimes reflects an owner’s stress because dogs are sensitive to their owners’ moods. Your dog may react to your tensions and withdrawal by reasserting territorial claims with deposits of urine or stool. It may even void in a place that is strongly associated with you (your bed or clothing).
Even if you’re busy, it’s important to keep up your twice-daily walks instead of just letting the dog out in the yard. Spending more quality time together reduces your own stress level and benefits everyone’s sense of well-being. Dogs benefit from structure in their daily routines.
If your dog loses its house-training manners, follow these steps:
- Prevent accidents by resuming basic house training. Provide frequent opportunities for your dog to eliminate in an appropriate place. Walk it on a leash within a half-hour after each meal (or sooner) and, if possible, every few hours during the day. Reward your dog’s appropriate elimination immediately with abundant praise. Remember that it is not useful to punish a pet for inappropriate elimination. This is especially important when the problem’s underlying cause is psychological or physical stress.
- Decrease your pet’s desire to return to soiled areas. Odors must be removed because they will attract your pet and maintain objectionable habits long after the initial cause of the misbehavior is gone. Thoroughly disinfect and deodorize the soiled area. Many effective household cleaning productions, such as alternating diluted white vinegar and baking soda, can neutralize or at least dilute the odors that attract your pet to the location. Products containing biological enzymes can be helpful in deodorizing, too. After cleaning, block your pet’s access to the target area with an obstacle such as a piece of furniture. Alternatively, feed your pet at or near this spot or simply place a bowl of water there.
Submissive behavior signals a dog’s recognition of its inferior social status toward another dog or a person. Physical clues associated with submission are similar to those displayed by defensive, even fearful animals. These may include ears flattened against the head, head and neck lowered, body arched in a sitting position or crouched low to the ground, and tail held low or between the hind legs. Submissive behavior during greeting may be accompanied by a dribbling of urine. This submissive urination is seen particularly in young dogs and most often in young females. It may persist into adulthood, but it usually resolves as urinary sphincters mature and the pup gains confidence in a stable human family.
- The key to treating submissive urination is to keep greetings brief and calm. Excited entrances and exits may worsen the problem. Everyone entering or leaving your home, including you, should be calm and controlled.
- Avoid prolonged direct eye contact when greeting the dog so that it does not feel threatened.
- Do not pet the dog on its head or back during greeting. This may trigger submissive patterns, including urination, because petting is a subtle form of asserting dominance over the dog. Petting should be avoided during submissive urination so as to avoid unintentionally encourage that behavior.
- Walk your dog at regular and frequent intervals so that its bladder does not become too full.
- Crouch or kneel on the floor so that you present a less intimidating figure. Standing over a dog, particularly when it lacks social confidence, can be threatening.
- Let your dog approach you rather than moving toward your dog. This will be less menacing and will allow your dog to greet you at its own pace.
- Punishment is not recommended because it only aggravates the problem. Punishment makes your dog more anxious and increases its tendency to urinate submissively. Further, because the urinary (and anal) sphincters may relax during times of stress, the pet may naturally void more out of fear. Your dog may learn to fear and avoid you or to anticipate punishment at social encounters.
Source: "Canine and Feline Behavior Problems"