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Housetraining Adult and Senior Dogs

The Humane Society of the United States

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Any dog, even a fully housetrained adult dog, may have house-soiling accidents when first moving to a new home. The stress of new surroundings and a new schedule can disrupt their routine. Usually, once they get accustomed to your household schedule, the accidents stop.

It's also possible they've never been housetrained. Give them a few weeks to settle in to their new home and follow the procedures for housetraining puppies » 

Here are some reasons why adult and senior dogs might have accidents in the house:

Senior dogs

As your dog ages, they may need to eliminate more often than in the past. Just as people can have difficulties as they age, so can dogs. They may not be able to "hold it" as long as they used to. They also may become incontinent. This is not a housetraining issue.

If your senior dog has accidents frequently, your vet should examine for possible medical problems. If the vet says it's not a medical issue, you will have to manage the situation instead of trying to housetrain the dog.

If you are at work all day, you may need to:

  • Hire a pet sitter to visit and let your dog outside.
  • Confine them to a room of the house where accidents will be easy to clean up.
  • Try sanitary products for your dog, such as doggie diapers. They fit like little pants and hold a disposable absorbent pad to catch urine. These work best on female dogs. Belly bands—fabric bands that wrap around the dog's waist and contain an absorbent pad—are available for male dogs. They're available at most pet stores and online.

Small dogs

Because of their short legs and small size, you may need to make some special accommodations for your small dog:

  • Provide a sheltered spot near the house or under a porch or deck for your dog to eliminate in bad weather.
  • Provide a bathroom spot covered with mulch or gravel so your little dog won't have tall and/or wet grass pressing against their tummy when he eliminates.
  • Clear a path or other area for your dog to eliminate when it snows.

Follow our basic housetraining procedures to housetrain your dog »

Other types of house-soiling problems

If you've consistently followed the housetraining procedures and your dog continues to eliminate in the house, there may be another reason for his behavior, such as:

Medical problems: House-soiling can often be caused by physical problems such as a urinary tract infection, a parasite infection or even a seizure. Check with your veterinarian to rule out any possibility of disease or illness.

Submissive or excitement urination: Some dogs, especially young ones, temporarily lose control of their bladders when they become excited or feel threatened. Submissive or excitement urination usually occurs during greetings or periods of intense play, or when they're about to be punished.

Prevent submissive urination »
Prevent excitement urination »

Territorial urine marking: Dogs sometimes deposit small amounts of urine or feces to scent-mark their territory. Both male and female dogs do this, and it most often occurs when they believe their territory has been invaded. Prevent urine-marking behaviors »

Separation anxiety: Dogs who become anxious when they're left alone may house-soil as a result. Usually, there are other symptoms as well, such as destructive behavior or vocalization. Learn more about separation anxiety »

Fears or phobias: When animals become frightened, they may lose control of their bladder and/or bowels. If your puppy is afraid of loud noises, such as thunderstorms or fireworks, they may house soil when exposed to these sounds. Learn more about fear of thunder and loud noises »

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