Did Your Dog Forget His Potty Training? Here’s What to Do

You’ve spent all that time potty training your dog, and now it seems he’s having more and more accidents in the house. What’s going on!

There are lots of reasons why a dog is peeing or pooping in the house, and they aren’t all because he forgot his potty training. If he’s always been well house trained and this is a new behavior, the first thing you need to do is take your dog to the vet for a check up.

*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you buy something I may receive a commission. This has no effect on the price you pay.*

Can dogs forget potty training?

Old dogs who develop canine cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia) can forget their house training.

Are you sure you’re dealing with a case of “forgetting?” If you don’t have an older dog, you know he doesn’t have health issues and he’s not taking medication, isn’t it possible he was never fully house trained to begin with? Is it possible your rescue dog needs more time to adjust to his new home?

Has your dog been having accidents in the house all along, or is it something he started doing recently?

Why dogs regress in potty training

House training, or should I say issues with house training are complicated. Is your dog actually regressing? Maybe he wasn’t as fully house trained as you thought. Could it be the a medical or behavior reason behind it?

I’m going to list the possible reasons for potty problems, and in the next section we’ll look at each reason in depth and make recommendations on what you can do about it.

  • Not fully house trained
  • Puppy has unsupervised access in the house
  • Change in routine/anxiety/moving house
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Medication that causes increased urination
  • Overfeeding or feeding a poor quality diet
  • Incontinence
  • Rescue dog isn’t fully house trained and/or needs time to adjust
  • Urine marking
  • Excitement peeing
  • Doggy dementia
  • Loss of muscle/nerve damage to control their bladder and/or bowel
  • Illnesses such as kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s,
  • Arthritis

Article recommendation: “Eight Reasons Why Dogs Pee Inside – and the Solutions

Did Your Dog Forget His Potty Training Here's What to Do

How to stop your dog from having accidents in the house

How or if you can stop it will depend on the reason. If your dog has always been well trained and the peeing/pooping is a sudden change, a visit to your vet is a priority. It is the only way to determine if this new behavior is the result of a medical condition. If everything checks out, look closer to home and think about what, if any new events or changes have been taking place lately. If you aren’t sure how to help your dog get used to what’s going on, a trainer or animal behaviorist can help.

Not fully house trained

If your puppy has been having the occasional accident, it could be the result of incomplete potty training. 

  • Were you taking him out every hour?
  • Did you reward him with a treat every time he peed or pooped outside?
  • Were you taking him to the same spot, on a leash and no playing with him during a potty break?
  • Did you take him out quite soon after he ate or drank?
  • What about first thing in the morning? Not after you’ve made your coffee, but the second you open your eyes.
  • If you were out for a couple of hours, did you take him out as soon as you came home?

Did these questions help you see some areas where you may not have been as consistent as you could have been?

Puppy has unsupervised access in the house

Allowing your puppy unsupervised access in the house will result in him peeing or pooping, often in places you may not be aware of. The more opportunity he has to do this, the less likely your house training efforts will be effective.

Tether your puppy to you using a leash so you can keep an eye on him, and when you can’t or simply need a break, put him in his crate (if he’s being crate trained), in a puppy play pen or behind a baby gate. You still need to take him out regularly though!!

Change in routine/anxiety/moving house

Anything that disrupts your dog’s normal routine can cause house training issues.

♦ If you’ve been off work for several months like many have been and now you’re back in the office, separation anxiety is bound to happen. There are things you can do to reduce that anxiety, and it includes not leaving him alone too many hours. That means hiring a dog walker, putting him in doggy day care, or having friends, family or neighbors lend a hand.

This article will give you more information – “Here’s How a Dog Trainer Can Help With Separation Anxiety

♦ Welcoming someone new into your home will upset his routine, at least until everyone gets used to a new normal. Be sure to keep to his schedule, give him plenty of exercise and attention. If he’s bothered by a new dog, supervise them when they’re together, and if it’s a new baby be sure to do some socialization training so your dog doesn’t develop a fear of children.

This article will help prevent/deal with a dog’s fear of children – “How to Help a Dog Afraid of Kids: The Essential Do’s & Don’ts

♦ Moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, and your dog won’t be immune to the upheaval and chaos, all of which can cause him to have accidents in the house.

  • Putting him in doggy day care or having someone you trust take care of him when things are particularly hectic will help. Try it for a couple of hours first to see how he likes it.
  • Stick to his routine as much as possible.
  • Have his bed, favorite toys and blankets set up in your new home when he gets there, but if that’s not possible make it the first thing you do.  
  • Start playing a CD of dog calming music now, and when you find the ones he relaxes to, those are the ones you will play during the move and while he’s settling in.
  • Rescue Remedy or an Adaptil plug in may help him relax, reducing accidents.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

No matter how well house trained your dog is, if he has a UTI he will have accidents because he can’t wait. Once it’s cleared up, he should go back to being the wonderfully house trained dog he always was.  

Medication that causes increased urination

Medications such as steroids, for example, are known to cause a dog to have to pee more often. No matter how many times you take him out, accidents may still happen.

If your dog will be on this type of medication long term, scroll to the bottom of this post for ideas on how to deal with this new normal.  

Overfeeding or feeding a poor quality diet

If your dog eats a lot, it stands to reason he’s going to poop a lot. If he eats a poor quality diet or you often switch brands, it’s going to cause stomach upset, and that includes diarrhea.

Accidents are going to happen if:

  • Your dog is having a bout of diarrhea and doesn’t have time to tell you he has to go out again
  • You may not be home and he can’t wait
  • He’s trying to tell you he has to go out, but you don’t get the message

Speak to your vet about how much your dog should be eating daily in order to get to, or maintain an ideal weight

Choose a good quality food with ingredients that are actually real food

Find a brand with different types (dry, canned, freeze dried, dehydrated…) and flavors for variety. It will keep your dog interested, so you don’t have to keep switching and causing stomach upset.

Are dog diapers a good idea

Incontinence

It is the inability to hold urine in the bladder, which is different from needing to pee more often because of disease or illness for example.

Incontinence can affect dogs of any age both male and female, but typically it is seen in middle aged to older female spayed dogs. There’s nothing to prevent it only to treat it once it has started. 

Options can include:

  • A change in diet
  • Antibiotics
  • Hormone therapy
  • Surgery
  • Supplements
  • Homeopathic/herbal remedies
  • Many people have had a lot of success with a drug called Proin

Waterproof dog bed covers, pee pads and doggy diapers can all help and you’ll find more information about that further on in this article. 

Rescue dog isn’t fully house trained and/or needs time to adjust

Your newly adopted rescue dog may never have been house trained properly, or he was in the shelter a long time, didn’t get walked much so had no choice but to pee and poop in his kennel.

It doesn’t take long for a previously house trained dog to remember his training, just be sure to take him out pretty often at the beginning.

With patience, consistency and some helpful tips, you can house train a dog of any age.

This article will give you some tips – “Can You House Train an Older Dog

Urine marking

Urine marking is not a house training issue, it’s not your dog seeking revenge or being spiteful for something you’ve done. It is usually a sign of anxiety, stress or claiming ownership. Some of the situations that can cause a dog to mark include:   

  • a new baby
  • an unfamiliar face
  • another pet
  • new things in the house
  • moving house
  • being adopted
  • sign of illness or medical problem in an old dog
  • may see a dog outside and feel the need to mark his territory
  • suffering from separation anxiety
  • lacks confidence
  • reaction to unfixed animals in the house
  • staking his claim to items or territory he thinks belong to him

To learn more about how to deal with this issue – “How to Stop a Dog Marking in the House

Excitement peeing

It’s quite common for a puppy to lose control and pee when excited. Most will grow out of it, but since you don’t know if your dog will, there are things you can do right now that will help.

  • Ignore your dog when you come home, or at least keep the greeting low key. Ask all family members and visitors to do the same
  • When he does get too excited, redirect his behavior by asking him to sit or lie down as a way of bringing that level down
  • As soon as you walk in the door take him out for a pee
  • When your dog is calm, reward him with attention
  • Take him outside for a pee before starting to play

Read this article for helpful advice – “Here’s the Right Way to Stop a Dog From Excitement Peeing

Doggy dementia

Dogs that develop dementia forget their house training, and it’s not uncommon for them to come back from a walk and pee and poop in the house. Annoying yes, but it’s not their fault.

There are several treatment options for dementia, here are a few:

  • Anipryl (U.S. and Canada), Selgian in the UK (may slow down its progression)
  • Solliquin – to learn more about this product visit their website 
  • Melatonin
  • CBD oil
  • Rescue Remedy
  • B vitamins
  • Valerian/Valerian & Skullcap
  • Senilife
  • Aktivait
  • Nutramind – Available in the UK at your vet’s office
  • Nutracalm – Manufactured in the UK by the same company that makes Nutramind, also available at your vet’s office

Will they help to the point the accidents stop? In my experience no, but my dog also has kidney issues so your experience may be different. Either way, they can make a big difference in quality of life.

As far as accidents go, pee pads and diapers are the best way to protect your floors.

Loss of muscle/nerve damage to control their bladder and/or bowel

Dogs that have back end weakness or nerve damage will have difficulty controlling their bladder and/or bowels. Your vet is the expert and is the one to advise you on any treatment options that can bring back some control.

Illnesses such as kidney disease, diabetes, Cushing’s

Typically seen in older dogs, these diseases all cause a dog to pee more often, and no matter how many times you take him out it may not be enough. Medication and changes in diet can make a big difference, and see the section below for other ways to help.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a painful condition, particularly if it isn’t being well managed, and that can make squatting/lifting a leg difficult. Your dog still pees and poops outside, but may not “finish” because of the discomfort.

If walking is too painful, a dog may not make it to the door in time, or just pee in his bed because he can’t get up.

Even if he does go for a walk, it may be too short for him to pee as many times as he needs to.

There are various treatment options available to help ease your dog’s pain, both medication and natural. Managing your dog’s condition can reduce and even eliminate potty issues, but in the meantime diapers and pee pads will protect your floors.

Here are some alternatives to speak to your vet about:

Are dog diapers a good idea here is what you need to know2

What to do if peeing and pooping in the house is your new normal?

Whether accidents will be your new normal for a long time to come, or it’s just temporary until your dog’s condition improves or medication kicks in, here are some thing you can do to keep your floors clean and your stress levels down. Remember: This is not your dog’s fault, and when we take on the joy of welcoming a dog into our hearts and homes, we also take on the responsibilities that go with it. 

Dog diapers

I mentioned this in some of the issues above, but for more information this article is a must read – “Are Dog Diapers a Good Idea? Here’s What You Need to Know

Pee pads

I couldn’t have lived without pee pads. My dog was very well house trained, but when she developed kidney issues and doggy dementia on top of that it was impossible to get her out enough. I didn’t want to use diapers so I covered my floor in pee pads. Granted it’s not the best look, and my husband wasn’t thrilled, but she was able to pee whenever she had to and wherever she wanted to, and my carpets were fine.

If you’d rather not take such a drastic step, when you can’t supervise her block off a large area for her, especially at night, and cover that area in pee pads. Be sure it’s large enough for her to walk around, have a bed and be able to pee far enough away from where she’ll be sleeping.

Medication

Incurin – a form of estrogen which doesn’t cause bone marrow problems that some estrogens do. This was recommended by Dr Kate Pittman, a guest on one of my podcasts

Proin – by prescription from your vet. Many senior dog parents I know have seen massive improvements with the use of this medication, pretty much ending their dog’s incontinence, while others didn’t see the same positive results.

Waterproof/washable

Some dog beds come with waterproof covers that can be removed and washed, while many dog parents use large waterproof hospital pads on the bed or under the blanket.

Ruggable washable stain resistant indoor/outdoor rugs have a cushioned non slip pad and come in different sizes, a wide variety of gorgeous patterns and colors.

 

For information about my virtual training and dog care consultancy service, and to book an appointment, please visit my services page.

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