What to Do if Your Housetrained Dog Pees or Poops Indoors

Inappropriate urination and defecation aren’t always a housetraining problem. Learn some common non-housetraining issues, and what to do about them.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #27

Behavioral Causes of Peeing or Pooping Indoors

Inappropriate elimination can signal certain behavior problems. The commonest might be separation anxiety, which in its more intense forms could be called separation panic. One sign of true separation anxiety is that the dog may chew and claw at doors and windows, apparently trying to escape; another is that he may let go of urine and stool. Thunderstorm phobia can produce the same result, as can terror in other contexts. It’s not unheard of for a dog to let loose during severe punishment. I’m tempted to say that in that case the behavior problem isn’t in the dog, but harsh, ill-informed advice is everywhere and even the best and kindest people can be misled into following it.

What if Your Dog Is Afraid to Go Outdoors?

Dogs too afraid to go outside will obviously sooner or later eliminate indoors. Sometimes the fear arises after a specific terrifying event. More commonly, dogs who fear going outdoors didn’t get appropriate socialization in early puppyhood; completely normal life experiences strike them as strange and alarming. That is among the saddest behavior problems any consultant sees -- crucial parts of early development have been missed, and the resulting fear of the wide world can sometimes be ameliorated but can’t be undone. Some dogs can learn to feel reasonably comfortable in a few outdoor contexts or at certain times. For others, the best we can do is teach them to use a designated spot indoors so there isn’t any pressure to go out.

When Your Dog Pees in His New Home

Some dogs, especially male dogs, start life in a new adoptive home by marking every vertical surface they can find, indoors as well as out. It’s best to treat this as a housetraining problem, just in case it turns out to be one, but often enough it seems to be a result of stress. As the dog settles into a clear and consistent routine and becomes comfortable, the indoor marking fades away.

Fortunately, most inappropriate elimination can be -- um, eliminated, either through remedial housetraining or through treatment of the underlying physical or emotional problem. See your vet and consult a competent behavior professional for help. For tips on how to housetrain your dog or puppy, you can see my episode on that topic at dogtrainer.quickanddirtytips.com.

I love hearing from my listeners so this show can be responsive to your concerns. Email me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com and come see me on Facebook. Thank you, and goodbye for now!

Thanks to Dr. Marcela Salas, of Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, for her help in preparing this episode. Any errors are, of course, mine.

Dog Looking Outside image from Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).