My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Urinates/Defecates in the House


What’s the Problem?

Any age dog who urinates and defecates around the house. Most often these dogs dirty in the unused areas like the basement, guest room or formal dining room, or by the door he normally exits from, but some go anywhere, anytime.


In pups under four months of age, little control over their urine and bowels is possible. They pretty much go when they need to go. If your young pup shows any amount of control, count yourself lucky.
In pups under eight months, they can be forced to go inside by being left alone for long hours, sudden changes in the amount or content of their diet, poor supervision, or they may never have understood housebreaking completely and were then given too much freedom.
In animals older than eight months, it can happen because the dog was never really 100% housebroken.
If your dog is older, recently neutered or on some new medications, please read those articles first.



This is a critical part of all housebreaking. Housebreaking is built on your dog’s urge to keep his sleeping area clean. Keeping him confined to a crate between walks can speed along the housebreaking process. This assumes the walks come at the needed times.

Some people have luck confining the dog to a small room, but a crate is a better bet.

If, after a successful potty break and some play, you’d like to keep your dog out with you, by all means please do! Just keep him on a leash next to you. Keep a hold of that leash! Not only will this deter many dogs from going, but it will also allow you to get him out promptly when he starts showing signs he needs to go.


This is the biggest cause of ongoing housebreaking problems – inadequate supervision for that dog. If your dog gets out of sight, makes a mistake and you find it later— guess whose fault that is? Not the dog’s.

Close doors, gate off exits, keep the dog on leash with you, put a bell on his collar or any combination of the above. Do what is necessary to keep an eye on him. You can weight things in your favor by using a Belly Band on your male or “panties” on your female. These, alone, can inhibit many dogs from making an indoor mistake. Just be sure to get them off before you let them outside.

And if other family members routinely allow your dog to wander, the simplest “quick fix” for this is to make them clean up the mess.

Get Out!

Walk this dog on a schedule and go out with him. Reward his going outside with praise and petting. Make sure he understands that is exactly what you want.

Also, how often is he getting out? If he’s making mistakes when left alone long hours, he may be anxious or it may just be too long for him to hold it. See if getting him outside more often improves things.

What Goes In…

Sometimes the quality and amount of food fed contributes to this issue. If your dog poops more than three times a day and/or poops large amounts then you may want to consider feeding less or feeding a more nutritionally dense food. Sometimes just simply soaking the food in equal amounts of water before feeding can lessen this problem. Experiment and keep an eye on things. If he’s eating and drinking a great deal, the poor pup can’t help it.

Common Human Errors

The biggest problem is not acting on this as early as possible. Don’t wait to see if a dog will “grow out of it” because if they don’t (and most won’t on their own) you will have months of unwanted habit to work through.

Next, don’t scream, yell at or hit the dog. This does not help the dog understand anything but to be frightened of you.

Please clean up properly with an odor neutralizer designed to clean up dog urine and feces. If the dog can smell the mistake, he will be reminded to go there. Just what you don’t want.

Talk to Your Vet

Please get your dog checked by a veterinarian if a housebreaking problem comes on suddenly in a normally clean dog or if it seems to you your dog is drinking a lot of water (if he’s peeing large amounts, he’s drinking large amounts).

Further Advice

Two little tricks that sometimes help is to feed the dog in the area she likes to use as a bathroom and to make her do down/stays in the area after it’s been cleaned. These are not meant as punishments. Once you turn the toilet into the cafeteria and lounge, many dogs will choose to keep it clean.

Lastly, how long will it take to get things back on track? We generally tell people about as long as the dog has been dirty.


  1. Hi, This is a fabulous resource, by the way. We are first time puppy owners ( I had dogs growing up in the 80s in the suburbs, totally different thing!). We live in a city with a yard that has stairs down to small yard with garden beds but no grass. Our sweet pup is an 8-week old rescue (border collie/fox terrier mix) and is showing signs, from what I am reading here, of being paper trained. He simply refuses to pee or poop outside. Always goes on peepads in his pen(attached to his crate). He seems to pick up on things quickly, but the paper training seems pretty ingrained, which I’m guessing is a good sign, but I’m wondering what we do to transition from paper training to going outside. My husband is very concerned about what continued urine will do to our hardwood floor. Since our pup is still so young, we can’t take him on walks until after his 3rd vaccination. He’s great in the crate, but has peed in it at night a few times (still trying to figure out what time to do middle of the night bathroom trip).How would you recommend we proceed with training him to go outside at this age and these circumstances? Thanks so much!

    • Hi and congrats on your new baby! My guess? He’s never been outside so doesn’t know anything about it. So, take him out of schedule, play there and have fun. Grass doesn’t really matter since he’s not used to grass. Dogs learn to potty on pavement, gravel, papers, dirt, grass — it’s all about where they are used to going.

      PLEASE do not wait until the 3rd vaccination to start getting him out – esp. with a border collie mix (BC are often sensitive animals). At this age, carry him around the block – let him see and smell everything, let people pet him – socializing is KEY.

      Crate during the day when you’re home and can get him outside then, can you give him papers access at night? He’s still a baby so just can’t hold it yet.

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