Q&A: How do I stop dog from peeing when left alone?

I have an Irish terrier and he is 10 months old. We never leave him a lone for more than 4 hours at a time, and that only usually happens 3-4 times a week. Only recently he’s started to pee in the house when we leave him. I wouldn’t say he suffers from separation anxiety as he doesn’t cry or bark when we leave him, and he isn’t attached to one person in particular as spends a lot of time between our house and my parents house as they are retired.

He is house trained and hasn’t had any incidents in a while when he is not a lone. I have no idea how to train him not to pee in the house when we are not there!

Many thanks,

Greetings, and thank you for contacting Dog Training Basics!Q&A: How do I stop dog from peeing when left alone?

This sounds like a case that would benefit from wearing an investigative hat and a magnifying glass! In other words, it needs some investigation to see what is really going on. In such a case, I would recommend recording your dog’s behavior in your absence. Many times, dog owners are surprised at what they see. Without seeing exactly what is going on, we can only make some assumptions. Here are a few ideas:

An Authentic Need to Potty

Some times we must give dogs the benefit of doubt. While you state your dog hasn’t had any accidents for a while when in your company, consider as well that in your absence your dog cannot go to the door and ask to be let out. You can get some important hints by looking at the urine you find when you come home. Is there an actual big puddle? If so, there are good chances your dog is actually urinating from a real physiological need to empty his bladder. In other words, he really had to go!

Excessive Drinking Behaviors

While some dogs refuse to eat or touch their water bowls when left alone, some may engage in the opposite behavior. Excessive drinking behaviors can stem from boredom or as a displacement behavior from frustration. It’s a good idea to monitor your dog’s water intake when he’s left alone. Fill up his water bowl before leaving, and then, upon your return, check how much is left. If he’s guzzling water like there’s no tomorrow, he’ll likely not be able to hold it. Monitoring water intake is another reason why it’s worthy to record his behavior when you’re away.

Urine Marking Behaviors

It may seem a bit early for your dog to mark, but consider that urine marking behaviors have been seen in dogs as early as 3 months old! Take a look at the urine when you come home. Is it on a vertical surface? Is it just a trickle? Dogs who urine mark prefer to lift their legs purposely on certain items such as furniture, a table leg or a lamp, and generally, use only a little trickle. The urine marking can be a sign of stress or territorial behavior. This is another case where recording your dog’s behavior may offer an important puzzle piece. It could be your dog sees other dogs or people from the window and he may urine mark as a way of “erecting boundaries” to his territory or leaving some “pee mail.”

Any Excitement Urination?

When you greet your dog upon coming home, make sure he isn’t actually urinating right then. It could be you think your dog urinated hours ago, when in reality the accident just happened, only it happened so fast your weren’t able to see it. Some dogs are really quick in squirting urine. One moment they’re there greeting you, and the next, right when loom over to you greet them, they release this little dribble of urine. Another good reason to record your dog’s behavior as you may not see the urination as it happens but a recording may show a whole different story!

A Case of Separation Anxiety

You mention separation anxiety is unlikely, but so do many countless owners who record their dog’s behavior in their absence only to notice behaviors that never expected. Turns out, their dogs are constantly pacing, circling, scratching at doors and windows and whining. Many times, owners think their dog eliminated in their absence, when in reality what they are seeing are actual dribbles of drool, which is common in dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. There are different versions of “separation anxiety.” Some dogs attach to a particular person and some others attach to both their owners and suffer from isolation distress.

As seen, there are several possibilities that can explain your dog’s behavior. Your strategy to reduce this behavior will vary based on your findings from your recording. Here some tips:
•If your dog urinated from an actual physiological need, consider letting him out to relieve himself before heading out. This can lower the chances for accidents.
•If your dog is drinking excessively, try to leave him a stuffed Kong to keep him occupied. Hopefully, this would distract him from the water bowl.
•If your dog is marking after seeing people and other dogs from windows, it may help to prevent access to such visual stimuli. Window film may help or you can keep him in different room. Also, make sure you clean up those soiled areas with a good enzyme-based cleaner. Using a crate may help reduce the chances for eliminating in the home.
•Excitement urination can be reduced by making greetings low key or greeting your puppy outside.
•Separation anxiety needs a process of desensitization and counterconditioning. To attain an accurate diagnosis, show a trainer or behavior consultant the behaviors you have recorded.
•If your dog isn’t neutered, neutering may lower the chances for urine marking related to hormones. It’s estimated that neutering can help reduce marking behaviors in roughly 80 percent of dogs.
•Last but not least, anytime new behaviors pop up, it’s always a good idea to rule out medical problems.

I hope this helps, and that you’ll be able to go to the root of this problem! Best regards,

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Adrienne Farricelle

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I leave him at home he pees in the house: on the carpet, on the bed, on flowers..
    My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

  • Maybe you should try taking him for a walk about 10 minutes before you leave to go somewhere.

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