Inappropriate Elimination Behaviors in Dogs

Learn about causes and corrective actions for inappropriate elimination.

Inappropriate Elimination Behaviors in Dogs

Signs of Inappropriate Elimination

  • Dog eliminates indoors
  • Poor overall housetraining habits
  • Frequent urinating or defecating just inside door that leads outdoors
  • Frequent accidents inside crate or confined area
  • Incontinence

Causes and Corrective Actions for Inappropriate Elimination

Housetraining Errors

Most inappropriate elimination problems result from simple housetraining errors such as too much freedom too soon or lack of supervision.

HOUSETRAINING ERRORS Corrective Actions: Study positive-based housetraining methods and faithfully follow them — just one variation can affect results tremendously. To prevent your dog being drawn back to soiled areas, clean all accidents with an enzyme cleaner designed for this purpose. Provide constant supervision and limited freedom to prevent regular indoor elimination and thus establish good habits. If your healthy puppy or dog still shows problems despite your best efforts, seek help from a professional trainer to avoid ingraining poor habits further.


Females and more often males urinate on objects to leave their unique scent for other dogs and to mark a territory as their own — done indoors this usually indicates the dog feels the need to warn away possible intruders because the owner lacks leadership.

MARKING Corrective Actions: Neutering your male or spaying your female reduces hormone-driven behaviors like marking. Train using positive yet firm obedience methods and consistent rules to build trust and respect that allows your dog to relax and let you handle leadership responsibilities like assuring the packs' safety. Teach a "Leave it" command that tells your dog to stop his current action, such as starting to lift his leg, and turn attention toward something else. Ensure your dog receives adequate exercise to help keep him calm.


Urinary tract infections, internal parasites, response to medications and other physically induced elimination problems often account for urination or defecation indoors.

MEDICAL Corrective Actions: Any elimination issue, particularly sudden problems from a well housetrained dog, call for veterinary examination to check for infections, parasites or other potential causative medical conditions.

Punishment Induced

A puppy or dog punished for going indoors doesn't make the "indoors" connection and believes he was punished for pottying, so to avoid displeasing his owner again the dog potties behind a chair or sofa where no one sees.

PUNISHMENT INDUCED Corrective Actions: Never punish your dog for pottying indoors, a gentle "no" provides sufficient feedback before taking him outside. Thoroughly clean all spots where your dog goes indoors and follow housetraining basics such as constant supervision when loose, limited freedom and plentiful praise for pottying outdoors.


Older dogs frequently experience housetraining issues because they cannot hold it as they once did or due to incontinence, the latter proving particularly common in spayed females. Sometimes arthritis makes it painful for the dog to bend and potty, prompting him to put off going so long that he has an accident indoors.

SENIOR Corrective Actions: Increase your dog's daily potty trips and make the time between the last potty trip at night and the first morning potty trip as short as possible. For the incontinent dog who urinates while asleep, place a pee-pad underneath your dog or his washable bed to catch urine. Some veterinarians prescribe a hormone supplement for incontinent spayed females, but be sure to discuss potential side effects. A dog who moves rather stiffly may benefit from prescribed pain killers that make squatting less painful.


A puppy or less confident dog often urinates in response to attention, called submissive urination.

SUBMISSIVE Corrective Actions: Most puppies outgrow this behavior if not punished for it since a punishing response to this submissive gesture escalates the behavior; work confidence building exercises such as positive obedience, teaching tricks or agility training; bend down to the dog's level rather than "looming" over in what appears an assertive stance.

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jwatkins   Cookeville, TN

1/1/2013 9:05:30 AM

Help! Sine we moved to a bigger house 4 weeks ago, my 7 yr old Pit Bull has started peeing on our bed, the kids' beds & the spare bed. It's definitely move-related. I bought 2 more dog beds so she has 3 permanent spots to call her own, but it continues! She will pee in our bed after going potty outside only 30 mins earlier. What else can I do? Hubby is MAD!

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CocoTrouble   Franklin, Georgia

12/27/2012 4:56:47 PM

Mucho Loco
We had Coco, a chocolate lab, first and she was approx 9 months old when my husband decided to get a Boxer puppy from a friend who raises them. We have two problems. We can't understand why they do not go to the backside of the outside pen to poop instead of just in front of the door we have to go in. Secondly, they are both dogs who want you to love on them and each one wants to get the most attention, so both of them are all over you. We usually have to let one out at a time or Coco will lead Trouble Bubble to the backside of nowhere and we have had to get on the 4 wheeler to get both of them back home. As a result, we very seldom let either one of them out because you have to stay outside with each one and we do not have that much free time. When Coco was here by herself she was fine and stayed outside and would roam some but spent most of her time in front of the door on the back porch. Any suggestions from anyone on what to do about either problem?

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skiw9748   Hartford, AL

11/24/2012 10:05:17 AM

245881 - My puppy did, I would just clean it up talk to him softly, Little they can't hold it. Now when he gets to excited he does and only then, he's six months and I dont know how to help him with this; Maybe when he gets alittle older ?

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