Indoor potty problems have several potential causes, some of which can work in combination. As with other behavioral and health problems, your close observation of when the accidents occur and identification of any coincident changes in her environment—food, routines, activities, social life, for example—are key to identifying and addressing the root cause. Problems that frequently manifest as potty ‘accidents’ include:
Stress. Your best friend experiences stress with changes in her routines and environment. And change is on steroids when your new B first arrives and adapts to her new home. Similarly, pack members of long standing also experience stress with many types of change—some seemingly minor to us—and can have the same undesirable reaction.
- Reducing stress involves making your dog’s life more predictable—to her—and making her feel safe. This means establishing schedules and routines for key activities such as feeding, play and elimination. It involves her having a ‘safe place’ to go when feeling anxious. And it entails consistently calm and reassuring behavior from you. For additional information regarding stress management, see our discussion here.
Health issues. Several ailments—some serious—can present as incontinence. So always remember that what you perceive as an ‘accident’ could be an indicator of an underlying health problem. These health issues include urinary tract infections, diabetes, and Fanconi syndrome. Remember that even if your dog DNA tested clear for Fanconi, she can nonetheless acquire the disease.
- Urine strip tests you can perform at home can indicate whether these three health issues may be the cause. But see your vet for full examination, diagnosis and treatment.
Aging. Growing old can lead to accidents two ways. First, aging diminishes holding capacity—dogs must eliminate more frequently. Second, potential dementia can interfere with her ability to recognize the need to go.
- More frequent potty breaks in her daily routine can help curb accidents.
Lack of proper training. Especially in new pack members, poor or inadequate training may be to blame. Consider starting housetraining anew if she is a puppy.
- Establish a strict routine for potty time; first thing in the morning; after all meals; several times during the day; and last thing before bedtime. Use the same door every potty break so she learns where to go to signal she needs to go out. And forgo relying on her to use a doggie door until she can reliably ‘ask’ to go out.
- While indoors, inhibit elimination by confining the dog to a crate or a limited area—preferably in your view—using baby gates or an ex-pen. And if you are unable to crate or confine your special friend, keep her at your side on a 4 foot leash. If you see her circling and sniffing as though she’s looking for ‘the spot’, take her outside!
- Finally, praise and treat her when she eliminates in the right place. And when there are accidents, forgo scolding—or even raising your voice. Your dog would understand you are angry. But she would fail understand why. So anger breeds confusion and fear—which inhibits her learning and could create new problems.
If it seems that you’ve tried everything and your new dog is still eliminating in the house, see your vet. If your vet deems your dog healthy, the next step is to engage a professional, certified behaviorist or trainer.