Q: Why does my dog house soil?

Any dog, even a fully housetrained adult dog, may have house-soiling accidents when they first move to your home. The stress of new surroundings and a new schedule can disrupt their routine. Usually, once they get accustomed to your household schedule, the accidents stop.

If you’ve consistently followed the housetraining procedures and your dog continues to urinate in the house, there may be another reason for their behaviour, such as:

  • Territorial urine marking: Dogs sometimes deposit small amounts of urine to scent-mark their territory. Both male and female dogs do this, and it most often occurs when they believe their territory has been invaded.
  • Separation anxiety: Dogs that become anxious when they’re left alone may house-soil as a result. Usually, there are other symptoms as well, such as destructive behaviour or vocalization. Learn more about separation anxiety.
  • Fears or phobias: When animals become frightened, they may lose control of their bladder and/or bowels. If your puppy is afraid of loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, he may house soil when he’s exposed to these sounds.
  • Medical problems: House-soiling can often be caused by physical problems such as a urinary tract infection, a parasite infection, or even a seizure. Check with your veterinarian to rule out any possibility of disease or illness.
  • Submissive or excitement urination: Some dogs, especially young ones, temporarily lose control of their bladders when they become excited or feel threatened. Submissive or excitement urination usually occurs during greetings or periods of intense play, or when they’re about to be punished.

Adapted from: http://www.ddfl.org/resource/re-housetraining-your-dog/

Q: How can house-soiling be treated?

Training techniques for house-soiling dogs are virtually identical to those needed to house train a new puppy. However, even if house-soiling dogs are retrained to eliminate outdoors, indoor sites may continue to be used, since the odour, substrate, and learned habit may continue to attract your dog back to the location. In addition, dogs that eliminate indoors are in essence, performing a self-rewarding behaviour since they relieve themselves and do not perceive that the area they have used is inappropriate.


The key to effective house training is vigilant supervision and prevent access to indoor elimination sites. If you find your pet in the process of eliminating in an inappropriate location you can use a mild correction and redirect him/her to an appropriate area.

When you find your pet in action in an appropriate place:

  • Reinforce the acceptable behaviour with lavish praise or food rewards
  • Use a word cue prior to each elimination so your dog will learn to eliminate on command


If you have trouble keeping your dog in sight leave a indoor leash attached to your dog. This leash can also be used to deter any elimination or pre-elimination behaviours (such as sniffing, circling or squatting) and to direct your dog to the appropriate area without delay. Whenever you are not available to supervise, your dog should be housed in either a confinement area where they do not eliminate (such as a bedroom, den, crate, or pen), or in an area where elimination is allowed (such as a dog run, pen or room with elimination area, or outdoors).

Your dog must never be allowed access to indoor sites where they have previously eliminated unless you are there to supervise. Access to these areas can be denied by closing doors or putting up barricades. Odours that might attract the pet back to the area can be reduced or removed with commercial odour counteractants (see more here).

Feeding schedules – set your dog up for success

Feeding schedules can be regulated to improve owner control over the situation. After a dog eats, they will often eliminate within 15 to 30 minutes. Dogs that eat free-choice often need to relieve themselves at a variety of times throughout the day. Dogs that eat one or two scheduled meals each day often void in a more predictable manner. Feeding a low-residue diet may also be of benefit because a dog often has less urgency to defecate and produces fewer stools.

Soiling when confined

A dog that eliminates in its confinement area such as a den, crate or pen, poses special problems. These confinement areas may not be the ideal training aid for your dog. Since their purpose is to provide a safe, comfortable area for a dog to “curl-up and relax”, it is not appropriate for dogs that are anxious about a small confinement area such as a pen or crate. While this can be overcome with training techniques, it may be better to confine these dogs to a small room such as a laundry room or kitchen where your dog is fed, or a bedroom where they sleep.

Aged or ill

If your dog has reduced control due to their physical health, scheduling changes may need to be made. If possible, arrange your schedule so that more frequent trips to the elimination area can be provided. Alternatively a dog walker, or doggy day care, may need to be considered. If you cannot accommodate your dog’s decreased control, installing a doggy door, or providing a papered area may be necessary. When age related cognitive decline is suspected, a drug trial may be considered in conjunction with retraining techniques.  You should seek veterinary advice if your previously house-trained dog is now house soiling.

Q: How to Remove Pet Stains and Odours

Machine-washable items

  • Add a 0.5kg box of baking soda to your regular detergent and wash as usual, air-drying if possible. If you can still see or smell the soiling, wash again with an enzymatic cleaner — these break down pet-waste odours.
  • If your pet soils the sheets or blankets on a bed, cover the bed with a vinyl, flannel-backed tablecloth while you retrain them. It’s machine washable, inexpensive and unattractive to your pet.

Carpeted areas and upholstery

For “new” stains (those that are still wet):

  • Soak up as much of the urine as possible: Place a thick layer of paper towels on the wet spot, and cover that with a thick layer of newspaper. If possible, put newspaper under the soiled area as well. Stand on this padding for about a minute, and repeat until the area is barely damp.
  • If possible, put the fresh, urine-soaked paper towel in your pet’s designated “bathroom area.” Rinse the “accident zone” thoroughly with clean, cool water, blotting dry.

For stains that have already set:

  • Use a high-quality pet odour neutralizer once the area is clean.
  • Use carpet stain remover if the area still looks stained after it’s completely dry after extracting and neutralizing.
  • Avoid using steam cleaners to clean urine odours from carpet or upholstery. The heat will permanently set the stain and the odour by bonding the protein into any man-made fibres.
  • Avoid cleaning chemicals such as ammonia or vinegar. Strong chemical odours may encourage your pet to reinforce the urine scent mark in that area.