Though accidents happen, it can be very frustrating if your adult dog is constantly peeing in the house. Inappropriate urination is a common issue in dogs that should be addressed as soon as possible.
The first step is to figure out why your dog is peeing in the house. There are a few different reasons dogs display inappropriate urinary behavior, and we're here to break down whether your puppy is simply still training, aging, or showing signs of a more serious urinary tract infection.
Why Do Dogs Pee in the House?
Often called "inappropriate urination" by vets, peeing in the house is a relatively common problem in dogs, but it's usually addressed during puppyhood. If your dog is a puppy, then house training might not be complete yet. House training can take a while, and you might need to review the steps as you go.
If your dog is definitely house trained and the inappropriate peeing started well after house training was complete, then there are other potential reasons for the behavior. It's essential to first rule out health problems before you investigate behavioral causes for inappropriate urination.
If your house-trained dog starts peeing in the house again, there are several potential causes for it.
Urinary Tract Issues
If your dog suddenly starts peeing in the house (or other unacceptable places), it could be caused by a urinary tract infection. This is one of the most common reasons for inappropriate urination and one of the most frequently seen health problems in dogs.
Before you get upset with your dog, go see your vet for an exam and consultation. Your vet will most likely want a urine sample from your dog in order to perform a urinalysis and possibly a urine culture. This test is done to look for bacteria and abnormal cells in the urine. If your vet diagnoses a urinary tract infection, the next step is a course of antibiotics.
Other possible urinary issues your vet might find include cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), crystals in the urine, bladder stones, structural abnormalities, and even tumors. Most urinary issues can be treated with medications, supplements, and/or diet changes. In more extreme cases, issues like bladder stones may require surgery.
If your vet doesn't find a urinary tract problem, the next step is to look for other potential health issues.
Incontinence and Health Problems
Urinary incontinence is often associated with senior dogs, but it's possible for a dog to develop incontinence as a young adult. If your dog is leaking or dribbling sporadically or leaving urine puddles in the bed or on the floor during naps, incontinence may be the culprit. If your dog is incontinent, it's important to know is that your dog doesn't realize it's happening and has no control over it. Fortunately, incontinence can sometimes be treated with medication.
On the other hand, if your dog consciously pees large quantities in inappropriate areas, it's probably not incontinence. Talk to your vet to learn more.
Certain health problems may lead to urinary issues, such as kidney disease, diabetes, and Cushing's disease. Your vet may recommend additional diagnostic testing to rule out one or more diseases depending on your dog's other symptoms (if any). Treatment will depend on the diagnosis.
Puppies may still have accidents when they're being house trained, but old age can bring on other causes of urinary accidents. Forms of dementia or senility can occur in aging dogs, leading to house soiling. These dogs may forget their house training or simply forget where they are.
Other health issues, such as kidney failure, tend to crop up in old age as well. This is another reason to get your veterinarian involved early and often. In some cases, dementia can be somewhat managed with medications and supplements. Many people living with senior dogs that have urinary issues also choose to use doggie diapers or line the dog's bedding and other frequented areas with absorbent pads.
Once your vet has ruled out all health issues, it is likely that you and your dog are facing a behavioral problem.
Some dogs, especially males, display marking behaviors. Marking is often driven by sex hormones, but it can become a habit and continue even after being altered.
Another possibility is that your dog might be exhibiting submissive or excitement urination. This may happen if your dog is intimidated by someone or something. It's common for some dogs to pee when someone is standing over them and looking down, especially if the dog is young or fearful. Dogs may also urinate inappropriately when anxious and stressed out.
Examine the situation in your home to determine if something in the environment could trigger this type of behavior in your dog. Have you recently added a new pet to the household? Has there been a human addition to the family, like a new baby? Has someone in the household recently left or passed away? Dogs are often very sensitive to these types of environmental changes.
Your dog may also be anxious about a situation outdoors that could lead to inappropriate urination. Perhaps your dog saw another dog, heard a loud construction project nearby, or saw something else is upsetting.
How to Stop Your Dog From Urinating in the House
Whatever you do, don't give up on your dog or give your dog away. You can work through this! Of course, you might need to get some additional help. In the meantime, be patient with your canine companion and try taking one or more simple steps to help the dog with its problem.
- Re-train your dog: Because your dog was probably once house trained, it can be helpful to revisit the training and repeat the steps.
- Increase potty breaks: Take your dog outside to pee right after drinking, eating, and waking from naps. Reward your dog for peeing outside in the appropriate places.
- Identify the trigger: Try to figure out if there's a trigger or stimulus in your dog's environment that prompts it to pee inside. Eliminate the trigger if possible, teach your dog to live with it, or change any elements you can to calm your dog's anxiety. For example, avoid sources of fear when taking walks, like the neighborhood's aggressive dog or the area where jackhammering is going on. Play music or use a white noise machine in the house if there are loud noises outside.
- Don't hit or yell: Avoid punishing or screaming at your dog for urinating in the house. This will likely backfire and instead of learning that urinating in the house is the incorrect behavior, your dog may learn that its people are unpredictable or unsafe to be around. Punishing your dog may make it afraid to urinate in front of you (even outdoors), which could lead to more indoor accidents.
- Clean up properly: Thoroughly clean up each accident as soon as possible with an enzymatic cleaner that eliminates the smell. You don't want your dog to recognize the urine smell and think that indoors is an acceptable place for it to urinate after all.
- Get professional help: If you've tried everything and are still unable to make any headway with your dog's problem, consider getting a dog trainer or behaviorist involved for a single consultation or frequent sessions as needed.
Olin, Shelly J, and Joseph W Bartges. Urinary tract infections: treatment/comparative therapeutics. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Small animal practice vol. 45,4 (2015): 721-46. doi:10.1016/j.cvsm.2015.02.005
Sanderson, Sherry Lynn. Detecting Disorders of the Kidneys and Urinary Tract in Dogs. Merck Veterinary Manual, October 2020.
Urinary Incontinence. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.