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 home.
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.