A whole lot can happen in your dog’s life while you’re away. You can manage bathroom etiquette infractions effectively with kindness and empathy.

  • There is no way for a dog to realize that relieving himself in the wrong place is a bad idea if he’s alone when he does it.
    • His in-the-moment reinforcer is that an empty bladder causes him to feel better.
    • This habit can become a conditioned response as the faint scent of old urine or stool draws your dog back to the same place.
  • Separation anxiety may be an important cause.
    • Not all dogs who wig-out when alone chew the door off the house and destroy the window blinds.
    • When overwhelmed by the anxiety of being alone some urinate and/or defecate inside.
    • Separation anxiety can worsen fast.
    • These problems are complex; every situation is different.
    • To make it possible for a highly anxious dog to learn a healthier response to being home alone she’ll need anti-anxiety medication and a tailored behavior modification plan.
  • Elderly pets sometimes lose control of their urine or stool when home alone.
    • Dementia causes some senior dogs and cats to forget their housetraining skills.
    • Symptoms can be inconsistent as lucidity comes and goes.
    • Many of these old timers have painful joints that can make it hard for them to get outside to go.
    • We can improve brain and joint function for a lot of canine seniors. They need to see their doctor.
  • Other possible causes:
    • Indoor elimination can result from a change in your dog’s feeding time. If she eats just before you leave the house she may have the urge to defecate when no one is home to let her out.
    • A dog who’s been frightened by thunder while eliminating outside may start to house soil during storms.
      • The fear can be severe enough that she may refuse to go outside when it’s windy or raining.
      • Antianxiety medication usually helps these pets relax so they can learn the rules.
    • Uninvited neighbor dogs who visit your yard can motivate your dog to engage in indoor territorial urine marking.
      • Neutering is a great fix for these boys.
      • It’s a gift that keeps on giving.
    • Spayed female dogs may leak urine while sleeping or resting.
      • This will occur whether you’re home or not.
      • There are effective medications to manage urethral sphincter muscle incompetence also called spay incontinence.
  • Some dogs get distracted when they’re let outside for “last call” before their person leaves the house.
    • She may be sniffing around or chasing squirrels or rabbits. Taking her back inside before she eliminates can result in house soiling while you’re gone.
    • Fence-fighting with the neighbor dog is another common distraction.
  • There is a long list of purely physical disorders that can be responsible for indoor elimination. A medical exam and urinalysis should always precede behavior treatment.

Let’s face it; living in a dog latrine is a real drag.

  • The good news is that nearly every behavioral or physical cause of these welcome-home surprises can be successfully treated.
  • Never punish a dog for messes you find later. He’ll recognize your unhappy body posture when you arrive home but he won’t connect your reaction to a mistake he made earlier in the day.
  • Defiling the home territory is not normal canine behavior.
    • Your dog feels worse about it than you do.
    • Pet “shaming”, while a popular amusement for some pet parents does not promote healthy learning.

Nearly every house soiling problem can be successfully managed. Keep the faith, get qualified medical and behavioral advice, and don’t give up.