One of the questions I receive on a fairly regular basis is, “Why does my dog have accidents in the house?” or “How do I deal with my dog when he/she has an accident in the house?” I think it’s critically important to remember that your dog is not having accidents out of spite, anger, or just because they are “bad”. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why dogs have accidents in the house.
Medical: While the list is not necessarily in any particular order, this issue is listed number one for a reason. Sometimes medical problems are overlooked when they really should be the first suspect. If your dog suddenly starts having accidents in the house, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your vet to rule out health issues.
Not Properly Potty Trained: If your dog is a puppy maybe their potty training isn’t complete yet. Be patient and give your puppy a little more time. Some puppies need more time than others when it comes to potty training. To put things into perspective, just think how long a child takes to potty train. If you have a dog that has been outside most of his/her life then you’re starting from square one. They will need to be trained to hold it while in the house. Some may see an older dog and just assume they should know better which isn’t necessarily true. Additionally, You may have adopted a dog that was never properly and fully trained. Like a dog that has lived most of his/her life outside, you need to be patient and invest some time in potty training.
Time Between Potty Breaks: It’s amazing what dogs can do and their ability to “hold it” is nothing short of miraculous. However, dogs are still living creatures and have the same requirements as us. Reevaluate the amount of time you’re giving your dog between being let outside. You may be waiting too long, especially if your dog is a big water drinker or they have eaten recently.
Anxiety/Stress: A new home, schedule changes, people arguing, new dog/baby, etc. can all cause stress and anxiety for our dogs. Like people, dogs can become stressed and/or anxious and this may increase their need for more frequent potty breaks. Be mindful of anything that could cause stress to your dog and adjust their time between potty-time accordingly.
Diet Changes: When moving your pooch to a new food it’s recommended you do it gradually to avoid stomach upset. Keep a close eye on your dog during these transitions and let your dog out more often, just in case. Also be aware if you or someone else feeds your dog treats or people food they may not be used to. This often times causes tummy upset and could require an emergency visit outside.
Inadequate Exercise: Dogs that do not get enough exercise during the day can become restless at night and may have accidents in the house if they don’t have access outside.
Submissive or Fearful Urination: You may have seen this before and if you have, you know it’s a little heart-breaking. A fearful or very submissive dog will sometimes urinate when approached. These are dogs that need a lot of love, patience, and trust building.
Medication: Always check with your vet whenever your dog is prescribed a medication. Sometimes medications increase the need for potty breaks. Some steroids can cause our dogs to become thirsty which in turn will cause them to require more frequent outside time. Keep this in mind at night. A dog who normally can hold it through the night may need to be let out when on certain medications. Set an alarm if needed and remember, your dog doesn’t want to feel this way either.
Confusion / Old Age: A dog in their later years will sometimes experience dementia or confusion. These dogs, for various reasons, may begin to have accidents in the house. Visit your veterinarian for an evaluation. Doggie diapers, love, and patience are often the best solution.