Sudden Breakdown of House Training


A Visit to the Vets.


If fouling indoors has started suddenly a visit to your vet should be taken first just in case it is related to a health issue.
Your pet could have a bladder infection, or other health issues, that are causing them to lose control of their bladder/bowels. A vet can advise you what the problem is and how your pet can overcome it.

If your pet takes medication, ask the vet if this could be the reason for the sudden change and what can be done to solve the problem.

Has your pet recently been neutered? If it has the vet will tell you if this could be the reason for the change. If it is a hormone-related problem, there may be medication to help, or it may only be that your pet needs to go out more frequently.

If your pet is a mature adult, it may be an age-related problem, again there may be medication or just going outside more frequently will stop the fouling indoors.


You now know your pet does not have any health issues relating to the breakdown of house training and that you need to look further.


There can be several reasons why your pet may have suddenly forgotten their house training, anything from being bullied, change of habitat to changing feeding times, etc.



More often than not, a change in toilet habits is the result of a pet developing a fear of going outside and can be for many reasons, including fighting, bullying, road traffic or fireworks.

Dogs are usually with us or close by, so if these issues arise, you will no doubt be aware of them. However, with cats being more free-roaming, this is unlikely to be the case. You may have to try keeping your cat indoors for a few days to see if your cat calms down and try the following to prevent further mishaps:

·Limit access to the area where your pet has been relieving indoors. For example, the room where your cat has been spraying or defecating keep the door closed.
·Provide a suitable alternative litter tray indoors.
·Clean any areas that have been marked thoroughly with a solution of washing powder and warm water. Do not use disinfectant as this will encourage repeat behaviour.
·Place a small bowl of food or drinking water next to the area commonly used for relief. Cats, for example, will not relieve where they eat, and this will build respect for this area again.

Change in Routine or Environment

Dogs, in particular, are creatures of habit and any change in your pet’s routine or surroundings can cause them to become confused, resulting in house accidents. It can sometimes happen if an owner’s work schedule changes, a new arrival to the family or someone in the household moves out (such as a child leaving for college). It could even be something as simple as a change in feeding and walking times. If your pet is used to relieving its self at set times, being let out after a meal and walking a set time, make any changes to these routines gradually will enable your pet to adjust.
You may have home renovations in progress with builders coming and going, room layouts changed or extensions made. Even just new furniture or carpets with unfamiliar smells can be the cause.

It’s essential to realise housetraining is very location-specific for dogs. Your dog may not understand the rules still apply when visiting friends or relatives. Take time to remind your dog of their housetraining rules every time you visit someplace new – go outside frequently for potty breaks. And make sure to supervise your dog closely indoors until you are sure things are back on track.

Submissive Urination

Some dogs, from their ‘pack’ instincts, are programmed to accept authority from those they consider to be superior to them. Seeking approval and being eager to please is a natural reaction that makes them more submissive and lacks confidence when greeting others. Because of this, it can lead to your dog urinating in their presence which is essentially their way of saying “you are superior, and I am no threat.”

Submissive urination can usually be seen most commonly in puppies and young dogs but can affect mature dogs. It’s not a deliberate act to annoy but is involuntary, and the dog may not even be aware they are doing it at the time.

It can quite easily be confused with a house training problem when, in fact, it is entirely different and as such, should be approached differently. Do not punish your dog, this will make them even more nervous and likely to do it even more, and you’ll end up going around in circles.

Excitement and stress are key triggers to this behaviour. When arriving home, you need to anticipate your dog’s greeting and minimise their excitement by not talking to them or making eye contact – this alone can be enough to cause urination. Let the dog out to relieve as normal outside but without fuss and reward them for doing it in the correct place. Every family member and visitor must adopt the same approach for your training to be effective.

·Dog training classes that use positive reinforcement are another great way to socialise and improve your dog’s confidence.
·Have plenty of helpers to assist you, so your dog generalises their newly learned response.
·Incorporate other activities into their weekly schedules such as agility, fly ball, or obedience classes. These create self-esteem, confidence and above all, the opportunity to meet people who understand dogs and are likely to be helpful with your training.

Irregular Feeding

With any house training, it is first essential to establish a good feeding routine. When a pet is allowed to feed freely, their body clock cannot synchronise.

Split their daily allowance of food into two or three small meals, one morning feed, one mid-day, and one late afternoon feed. The food should be provided for 20 minutes and then removed, with any remaining food discarded.

Cats and dogs have an innate response to relieve at a point furthest away from their food and bedding areas, so we have two possible solutions for house training problems.

Firstly, you can use an indoor crate as a rest area overnight which confines them to an area they are less likely to soil. By doing this, your pet will have to make it known to you; they want to go outside to relieve.

For dogs, introducing an indoor kennel should be a positive experience. Dogs enjoy finding a simulated den area within the home, like behind the sofas or beneath the table. Make your indoor kennel covered, so it’s just as inviting. The kennel should help to keep your dog clean overnight, which then allows you to praise them for the correct response.

The indoor kennel is only a short-term measure; however, until a new habit has been adopted. As time progresses and cleanliness overnight is becoming more consistent, the indoor kennel door can be left open for progressively more extended periods.


Pet Detective Time.


You feel none of the above has occurred and still can’t put your finger on why this is happening. You are going to have to gather clues together to try and find the reason. To help, write down the answers to these seven questions:

·When did your pet first start soiling the house?
·Was it done during the day, while you were out, or at night?
·How frequently has it occurred, write down how often over the past week, month, and include, as best you can, the time, if you were in and day or night?
·Where does the soiling happen, is it the same place or several different places?
·Does it happen in the pet’s bed while it is sleeping?
·Does it happen near any of the outside doors, (possibly indicating the pet knows it needs to go but is not alerting you)?
·Does your pet do it when they become excited, when playing with them, perhaps when you return home or visitors come?

Once you have gathered these details together, it’s time to consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist to identify the cause so that you can take corrective actions.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t punish your pet out of frustration. Don’t yell, spank or rub your pet’s nose in the mess as this will not work, and it may cause it to urinate behind the sofa or other hidden places, making your detecting job all the more difficult.

But we doubt you would go down this route anyway and hope by following our suggestions above you soon sort out the problem, forget all about it and are back on the sofa happily curled up together.