It’s often a very frustrating and confounding problem when our sweet, perfectly house trained dog, suddenly forgets the bathroom is “that-a-way.” However, before we conclude that the dog has just decided it’s just too much bother to wait, there are some other options we should rule out.
Underlying Medical Conditions Can Cause Your Dog to Pee / Poop Indoors
There are quite a few medical conditions, both serious and mundane, that can cause your dog to loose [sic pun intended] control of their bodily functions, including:
- Dementia – Older dogs can develop dementia just like people do
- Digestive Upset – Just like us, not everything agrees with our dog and bad food, new food, new supplements, and new treats, can be culprits
- New Medications – A change in, or new medication can cause changes in bathroom habits
- Arthritis – Painful joints and bones can make dogs reluctant to walk outside and assume the position
- Increased Water Intake – This can actually be an indicator of several medical conditions including medication changes, diabetes, and others
- UTI (Urinary Tract Infections) – Yep, dogs get them too
Other more benign problems can cause unauthorized bathroom breaks, however, if you suspect a medical condition is causing your dog to forget its training, you should immediately consult your veterinarian.
Environmental Changes Can Cause Your Dog to Pee / Poop Indoors
Though some find it hard to believe, a simple change in routine can cause dogs to “go” indoors. Things like an unfamiliar guest in the house, a new piece of furniture, or a change in your sleeping habits can cause some dogs to pee / poo indoors. Other changes that can precipitate this include:
- New Pets – The presence of a new pet, especially a dog or cat can cause a change in bathroom habits
- Frightening Events – Another possibility is that something scary happened during a recent trip to the bathroom
- Change in Exercise Habits – Walks and playtime are often unmarked by us as bathroom breaks, but rest assured our dogs take advantage of them, less time exercising can call for increased bathroom break time
- New Home – It’s not uncommon to bring a new, house trained dog into your home and have them behave like bathroom pros only to have them break training after a few weeks
Remember that environmental reasons causing dogs to pee / poo indoors are just as real as medical ones. Often, recognizing the environmental cause along with some simple remedial training utilizing positive reinforcement is enough to re-establish those good habits again.
Here is what noted trainer and behaviorist Patricia McConnell, PhD, has to say on the subject:
1. All houses are not created equal! Just because a dog is “housetrained” in one house, doesn’t mean she is housetrained in another. Every time you go to a new location, pretend your dog is a puppy who needs to learn that the bathroom is in the yard, not on the carpet.
2. Eagle eyes and Energetic Owners. The early stages of housetraining require continual supervision, and a willingness to take the dog outside every ten minutes. Keep your eyes on your dog at all times if he is loose in the house—it only takes a few seconds for a dog to squat and pee. And take the dog outside to potty much more often than you think you need to—better to take the time now rather than trying to retrain a dog who goes in the house!
3. Make it Magic! If your dog could, she should be Facebooking to all her friends that “I have my owner trained to give me a treat if I potty outside!” Every time your dog potties outside you should be beside her giving her a GREAT treat (I’m talking chicken) right after she’s done. Eventually you can skip the reinforcement and say a simple “Thank You,” but keep up the treats for longer than you think you need to, and you’ll have a dog who is house trained for life!