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House Soiling and Urine Marking Behavior

If your dog is soiling inside the house, first take him to your veterinarian for a check-up. He may have a medical problem even if he doesn’t act sick. Many different kinds of medical conditions from urinary tract infections to diabetes to parasitic infections can cause a change in your dog’s elimination habits. Your veterinarian may want to run tests on urine, blood or stool samples.

Dogs soil, or relieve themselves in the house for many different reasons. Your dog may never have been fully housetrained, or he may be having a breakdown in his housetraining due to a variety of reasons. He may be afraid to go outside, or not want to because of uncomfortable weather (too hot, too cold, too wet).

Your dog may be afraid of something – such as a noise , like thunder or fireworks, or of being left alone . Fear loosens the bladder and bowels, causing your dog to soil.

If your Fido has been soiling for quite some time, or has never been fully housetrained, he may have developed preferences for indoor surfaces and locations, such as the carpet in the dining room, rather than outdoor areas, such as the grass in the corner of your yard.

Your dog may be urine-marking. Because dogs urine mark to announce their presence, marking often increases when something changes and the dog believes he needs to re-assert his presence. Urine-marking in multi-dog families often occurs when the dogs don’t get along well or frequently compete against one another for important resources.

When dogs urine mark, they will typically leave small amounts of urine in favorite places rather than larger puddles. Urine marking problems are much more common in intact (not neutered) males, compared to neutered males and females. Just because your dog is lifting his leg or urinating in the house doesn’t automatically mean he’s urine-marking – he may just be relieving himself.

Can you connect the marking to some event that your dog saw as a social challenge or change in his social environment? Do you have houseguests? Have you acquired a new pet? Do you have new furniture or carpets? Is the soiled object something that can carry outside odors such as shoes, a briefcase or a coat?

Dogs may also urine-mark when they are anxious . Depositing their own familiar scent in their surroundings is thought to have a calming effect on dogs. If your male dog isn’t neutered, that’s your first step in decreasing urine-marking behavior.

No matter the reason, never ever try to punish or discipline your dog by showing him his “mess” and yelling or hitting him. Your dog cannot connect the results of his behavior with your later attempts to punish him. Punishment after the fact doesn’t work and will damage your relationship with your dog. Your dog is not soiling to make you mad, to be rebellious or to leave you a message.


Do you need help training your Fido puppy? When she was a puppy, we trained our Irish setter Coral without ever saying NO, NEVER spanking her and with relatively few “accidents” in the house. Puppy “accidents” are nothing more than a breakdown in supervision or the result of not providing puppy with enough potty breaks.

You’ll find Coral on the cover of our award winning “Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy” book that gives you an easy to follow, effective, step by step housetraining plan.

We also authored two DVDs for PETsMART on housetraining. Although not available on our website, you’ll find them in your local PETsMART store. Look for “Crate Training the Right Way” and “Housetraining: A Plan for Success”. If you don’t find them on display, ask a PETsMART trainer to help you locate them. We have to be honest, avoid their Potty Training manual.

If your Fido is soiling ONLY when she’s left alone, the problem could be separation anxiety. If that’s the case, you’ll find our “Managing the Home Alone Dog” CD helpful. Remember though, soiling only when home alone can happen for reasons other than separation anxiety. The most common are some other kind of fear related problem, insufficient number of potty breaks, and your dog knowing that she’ll be scolded when you ARE home, but never scolded when you aren’t. That’s another reason why showing your dog her “mess” after the fact just doesn’t work.

If your Fido is soiling or marking consistently in one spot, try a harmless “booby trap” such as the SSSCat to startle him when he approaches the spot. Designed not only for cats but small or easily frightened dogs, this is a motion detector that emits a harmless spray and hissing sound when triggered by movement. Great not only for housesoiling and urine marking but for counter surfers and trash trowlers as well.

Animal Behavior Associates - Helping Fido
4994 S. Independence Way
Littleton, CO 80123

Phone: 303-932-9095
Fax: 303-932-2298