House Training Adult Dogs
Treatment for Anxiety-Induced House Soiling
While it’s quite rare, some dogs who were once reliably
housetrained seem to lose their training after a major change occurs in the
household, such as the addition of a disliked individual or the departure or
death of a favored family member or pet. In such cases, the dog tends to
eliminate on furniture, beds and clothing-objects that smell strongly of the
person or other animal. Anxiety-induced house soiling can be hard to
distinguish from anxiety-induced urine marking unless an anxious dog also
defecates in the home. Another anxiety-inducing scenario involves bullying or
aggression from another animal in the home. If a dog fears another household
pet, she may be unable to move around freely and feel forced to soil in the
In addition to our recommendations for general house training,
you can try the following suggestions:
- If possible, restrict your dog’s access to previously soiled areas. You can
do this by closing doors, using baby gates, moving furniture, etc.
- Try to deal with conflicts between family pets. If one of the pets is new,
you can reintroduce them. If you need help with reintroduction, or if your pets
have been together for some time but stop getting along, please seek
consultation with a qualified professional. Please see our article, Finding Professional
Help, for information about locating a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist
(CAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or a Certified
Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) with specialized training and experience
treating this kind of problem.
- If your dog seems upset by the addition of a new person to your household,
try to deal with conflicts between your dog and the new resident. Have the new
person give your dog things she really enjoys, such as food, treats, chew
things, toys, walks, play and car rides. If the problem continues, seek
consultation with a qualified professional.
- If you have a male dog, have him wear a jock strap or “bellyband” (also
known as a male dog wrap) so that he can soil without damaging your home. You
can order a bellyband from a pet supply company.
- If your dog regularly eliminates on objects like beds, furniture and
clothing, place treats under and around those objects. If she eliminates in
predictable areas, place treats in those areas. The areas or objects might
become a signal for food rather than triggers for elimination.
- Clean all accidents with an enzymatic cleaner to minimize odors that might
attract your dog to eliminate in the same spots again.
- Try to make urine-marked areas unpleasant to discourage your dog from
returning there to eliminate. For example, use double-sided sticky tape, vinyl
carpet runner turned upside-down to expose the knobby “feet,” or other types of
harmless but unpleasant booby traps. Be advised, however, that your dog might
simply find another place to soil indoors.
- Try a synthetic hormone diffuser (DAP™, Dog Appeasement
Pheromone). It might have a calming effect on some dogs.
- Consult with your veterinarian about trying medication in addition to
behavior training. Scientific studies show that the use of anti-anxiety
medications can reduce dogs’ anxiety. Do not, however, give your dog any
kind of medication without first consulting a veterinarian.