House Training Adult Dogs (cont.)

Treatment for House Soiling Related to Bad Weather

There are a few dogs who are perfectly house trained-except when the weather is bad and they don't want to go outside. These dogs are often tiny, like the toy breeds, or have short, thin coats, like some of the sight hounds. Another factor that can wreak havoc with house training is the city sidewalk in winter. People use salt to melt the snow, but most dogs feel a burning sensation on their feet when they walk through salt. If your dog learns that her feet hurt every time she goes outside to eliminate, she may become resistant to going outside.

In addition to our recommendations for general house training, you can try the following suggestions:

  • Minimize the unpleasantness of bad weather by dressing your dog appropriately. You can find well-designed winter coats and raingear for dogs, as well as boots to protect their feet from salt and snow. If your dog seems reluctant to wear boots, you can try a special cream or salve that will protect her feet from salt, such as Musher's Secret.
  • Build an overhang for your yard to protect your dog from the elements.
  • If you have a covered balcony or deck, put down a plastic tarp and cover the tarp with grass sod. (In order to try this option, you must have an enclosed, secure balcony to ensure the safety of your dog.)

Treatment for Anxiety-Induced House Soiling

While it's quite rare, some dogs who were once reliably housetrained seem to lose their training after a major change occurs in the household, such as the addition of a disliked individual or the departure or death of a favored family member or pet. In such cases, the dog tends to eliminate on furniture, beds and clothing-objects that smell strongly of the person or other animal. Anxiety-induced house soiling can be hard to distinguish from anxiety-induced urine marking unless an anxious dog also defecates in the home. Another anxiety-inducing scenario involves bullying or aggression from another animal in the home. If a dog fears another household pet, she may be unable to move around freely and feel forced to soil in the home.

In addition to our recommendations for general house training, you can try the following suggestions:

  • If possible, restrict your dog's access to previously soiled areas. You can do this by closing doors, using baby gates, moving furniture, etc.
  • Try to deal with conflicts between family pets. If one of the pets is new, you can reintroduce them. If you need help with reintroduction, or if your pets have been together for some time but stop getting along, please seek consultation with a qualified professional. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, for information about locating a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) with specialized training and experience treating this kind of problem.
  • If your dog seems upset by the addition of a new person to your household, try to deal with conflicts between your dog and the new resident. Have the new person give your dog things she really enjoys, such as food, treats, chew things, toys, walks, play and car rides. If the problem continues, seek consultation with a qualified professional.
  • If you have a male dog, have him wear a jock strap or “bellyband” (also known as a male dog wrap) so that he can soil without damaging your home. You can order a bellyband from a pet supply company.
  • If your dog regularly eliminates on objects like beds, furniture and clothing, place treats under and around those objects. If she eliminates in predictable areas, place treats in those areas. The areas or objects might become a signal for food rather than triggers for elimination.
  • Clean all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to minimize odors that might attract your dog to eliminate in the same spots again.
  • Try to make urine-marked areas unpleasant to discourage your dog from returning there to eliminate. For example, use double-sided sticky tape, vinyl carpet runner turned upside-down to expose the knobby “feet,” or other types of harmless but unpleasant booby traps. Be advised, however, that your dog might simply find another place to soil indoors.
  • Try a synthetic hormone diffuser (DAP, Dog Appeasement Pheromone). It might have a calming effect on some dogs.
  • Consult with your veterinarian about trying medication in addition to behavior training. Scientific studies show that the use of anti-anxiety medications can reduce dogs' anxiety. Do not, however, give your dog any kind of medication without first consulting a veterinarian.

What NOT to Do

  • Do not rub your dog's nose in her waste.
  • Do not scold your dog for eliminating indoors. Instead, if you catch her in the act, make a noise to startle her and stop her from urinating or defecating. Then immediately show your dog what you want her to do by running with her outside, waiting until she goes, and then immediately rewarding her.
  • Do not physically punish your dog for accidents. Do not hit her with newspaper, spank her or jerk her collar. Realize that if your dog has an accident in the house, you failed to adequately supervise her, you didn't take her outside frequently enough, or you ignored or were unaware of her signals that she needed to go outside. Punishment might frighten your dog and could even worsen her house training problems.
  • Do not confine your dog to a small area for hours each day without taking other steps to correct the problem.
  • Do not crate your dog if she soils in the crate. This will just teach the bad habit of soiling the sleeping area and will make it even harder to house train your dog.
  • If your dog enjoys being outside, don't bring her inside right after she eliminates or she might learn to “hold it” so that she can stay outside longer. Wait for her to eliminate and then go for a fun walk or briefly play with her before taking her back indoors.
  • Do not clean accidents with an ammonia-based cleanser. Urine contains ammonia. Cleaning with ammonia might attract your dog back to the same spots to urinate again.

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk.

If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.