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Persistent Housetraining Accidents—Doesn’t My Dog Know Better?

December 7, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Persistent Housetraining Accidents—Doesn’t My Dog Know Better?

“My dog is doing this on purpose!” is a complaint dog trainers often hear. House soiling is a common, frustrating dog behavior problem. However, it is important to understand that dogs do not eliminate indoors out of “spite,” “anger,” or otherwise “on purpose.”

Consider that dogs will urinate to mark territory and investigate animal waste. They clearly do not find the odor offensive the way we do! Owners often misinterpret the dog to be showing “guilty” body language when in actuality the dog is simply reacting with fearful body language towards the owner’s anger.

There are many reasons dog owners may have difficulty house training their dogs and puppies. Many of them are listed below.

Medical Conditions:

Various medical conditions may make house training difficult, if not impossible. It is important to work with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy before assuming that the dog’s accidents are due to a behavior problem.

Insufficient Supervision:

Insufficient or inadequate supervision can result in behavior problems. Dogs that are not completely house trained need to be in the owner’s line of sight at all times when not crated or confined to a dog-proofed location.

Inadequate Clean Up:

Inadequate clean up is another culprit. Dogs will continue to soil areas that have been previously soiled. You need to clean the soiled area thoroughly with a product specifically made for pet urine. Since pet urine glows under a black light, it can be helpful to purchase one. A black light can be purchased at many pet stores in order to ensure that no accidents are missed during clean up.

Unrealistic Expectations:

Don’t harbor unrealistic expectations. Young puppies need to be let out frequently. Some toy breed dogs may take longer to house train than other breeds. Adult or adolescent dogs adopted from shelters may have never been house trained and need to be treated as though they were young puppies in terms of supervision and crating.

Previous Bad Experiences:

A “bad start” can create long-lasting challenges. Dogs and puppies that were caged in situations where there was inadequate clean up may lose their tendency not to soil in a crate. These dogs can be particularly challenging to house train.

Anxiety or Fear:

Anxiety or fear related behavior problems also contribute to house-training accidents. Dogs that are extremely stressed may lose control of their bowels or bladder. Some dogs will urinate when they are extremely excited. A qualified dog behavior consultant can be helpful in addressing these more serious issues.

Solving a house training problem may involve revisiting basic puppy house training techniques or it may require in depth behavior changes and sometimes even medical intervention. Neutering may reduce marking behavior in some intact male dogs.

Under no circumstance should you yell at or punish your dog for house soiling. The only thing your dog will learn is to be afraid of you. Make sure you reward your dog with praise and a treat when your dog eliminates in a location that is acceptable to you. And most of all, be patient and do not hesitate to hire a professional dog trainer quickly. Dog training and behavior problems take longer to change if they are allowed to continue for a long period of time.

Veronica Sanchez, M.Ed., CABC specializes in Dog Behavior Training. For more information on how to stop persistent house-training accidents, please visit

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