Why Is My Potty-Trained Dog Suddenly Having Accidents?

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Why is my potty-trained dog having accidents?

If your previously housetrained pooch suddenly starts having accidents, there’s a reason for that. 

Your dog could be having accidents for several reasons, including:

  • Medical problems
  • Separation anxiety
  • Change of routine
  • New food
  • Old age
  • Food allergies
  • Reaction to prescription medication

How can you fix the problem? Well, read this guide to learn how to save your flooring and your sanity!

Why Is My Potty-Trained Dog Having Accidents?

potty accident

You’ve spent hours successfully housetraining your beloved canine companion, and you know you can trust him to wait until you get home.

However, what’s the deal if your pet suddenly starts peeing and pooping in your home? Why has your puppy forgotten his potty training?

That’s definitely not normal behavior for a previously housetrained dog. Let’s take a look at why your dog might suddenly become accident-prone.

Medical Problems

The most common and usual reason for a dog to suddenly forget his basic housetraining rules is a medical issue of some kind.

Sometimes, urinary tract infections can be responsible for peeing accidents. Other more serious common reasons for unscheduled downloads or leaks might be kidney disease or diabetes. 

Your first action if your pet suddenly starts house soiling should be to take your dog to the vet for a physical exam. Once you’ve ruled out some kind of medical reason, you can start to look for other reasons for your furry friend’s potty training lapse.

Effects of Medication

dog medication

If your dog is taking prescription medication, that can sometimes upset his digestive system, causing diarrhea.

Your vet should forewarn you of any likely side effects of the medication your pet is prescribed so that you can be prepared.

Internal Parasites

Any form of inflammation that affects your dog’s digestive tract can cause potty accidents. A very common cause of gastrointestinal problems in dogs is worms.

Your dog can pick up worms and other parasites in your garden, at the dog park, or from mixing with wild animals and stray dogs. If you think your dog has picked up worms, consult your vet and ensure your dog’s parasite control prevention program is up to date.

Food Allergies

Food intolerance and food allergies also cause stomach upsets in dogs and puppies, causing potty accidents.

Food allergies in dogs typically cause skin conditions, diarrhea, and loose stool and are usually caused by chicken, lamb, beef, wheat, and dairy. 

Separation Anxiety

Terrier Dog Looking Out Window Separation

Pets with separation anxiety can often become so stressed when you’re not around that housetraining accidents can happen. 

Separation anxiety is sometimes triggered if your dog is used to you being around most of the day but your schedule changes so that you’re not home for longer periods. In fact, many COVID puppies are beginning to suffer from separation anxiety and other stress-related conditions now that their owners have returned to work.

Pups with separation anxiety often exhibit destructive behaviors, barking, whining, house-soiling, pacing, and generally appearing anxious or nervous.

Shy Dogs and Noise Phobias

Some shy dogs become upset by loud noises outside your home, and that can trigger accidents. 

Essentially, if your dog is afraid of cars, bikes passing by, strangers, dogs, runners, etc., he might not go potty until you bring him back indoors.

Distraction

Some dogs forget their housetraining because they spend too much time outside sniffing and exploring the backyard or garden rather than getting on with doing their business.

So, when the dog comes back indoors, he might pee or poop because he forgot to go while he was outside!

New Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit that thrive on a regular routine. Your dog knows when he will be fed, exercised, and played with. Your pet also knows his regular potty times.

So, if that routine changes, your pet can easily get confused, which can lead to housetraining accidents and potty-training regression.

Age-Related Diseases

Age related dog disease

Senior dogs can often forget their housetraining skills. My old dog developed canine dementia, and she started having accidents. Other signs of this condition include pacing, increased anxiety, and restlessness. I managed the situation by using pee pads and factoring in more frequent potty trips outside.

Arthritis can be another age-related condition that leads to potty accidents. Senior dogs with knee or hip pain can have problems balancing to defecate and can also experience momentary losses of bowel control.

Your vet can prescribe suitable painkillers, anti-inflammatories, and medication to manage your dog’s age-related issues.

Diet Change

Try to avoid suddenly changing your dog’s diet, as that can cause tummy upsets. 

A dietary change often causes an imbalance in the beneficial and harmful bacteria in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, potentially causing loose stools and a loss of house training in your home.

What Can You Do to Prevent Potty Accidents?

Whatever the cause of your dog’s sudden loss of house training skills, you must not resort to punishment. Never shout at your dog or, even worse, rub his nose in it. Neither approach works and is extremely distressing for your dog.

Try using the following tips to prevent your dog from relieving himself inside your home. If these methods don’t cure your dog’s house-soiling problems, talk to your vet for further advice.

Talk To Your Vet!

Vet With Two Cute Puppies

As previously mentioned, if you suspect that health problems could be the reason for your dog’s sudden continence issues, take your pet to the vet.

Your vet can detect intestinal parasites quickly and simply via fecal testing, and the problem can be easily treated with a deworming medicine. Thereafter, you need to get your dog onto a deworming prevention program to prevent the problem from recurring in the future.

If your dog has a food allergy, a prescription diet can help, together with a probiotic supplement to help re-establish the balance of bacteria in your dog’s gut.

Get Professional Help for Separation Anxiety

Pheromone treatments, such as Adaptil, can be very helpful in dogs with separation anxiety. These products come in the form of plug-ins and sprays that you can use on your dog’s bed. I found Adaptil very effective in calming my dog when she suffered from canine dementia, and they do work for many dogs.

You should also seek the assistance of a professional dog behaviorist to help with your dog’s specific issues. 

Quick Housetraining Refresher

If your dog is easily distracted and seems to forget to go to the bathroom, you might want to try giving your pet a housetraining refresher.

For example, instead of playing with your dog as soon as you arrive home, take him outside into your backyard or head off for a walk. Once your pet has relieved himself, praise him and give him a few treats to remind him of why he’s outside. Now, you can play with your furry friend!

Make Gradual Dietary Changes

hungry chihuahua dog eating with tablecloth utensils at the table.

If you decide to switch food brands or change the type of diet your dog has, don’t suddenly start feeding him the new food or you risk upsetting your pet’s stomach.

Instead, gradually transition to the new diet over a week or ten days. Begin by giving your dog 25% of the new food mixed with 75% of the old food for a couple of days. Next, give your dog a 50/50 mix of both foods for the following two days. Finally, use 75% of the new food and 25% of the old food for a few days before transitioning completely to the new food.

By slowly changing over to the new food, you reduce the risk of your dog suffering a tummy upset. You might also want to consider giving your dog a probiotic to help balance his gut bacteria. Again, your vet will advise you on that.

FAQs

In this part of our guide, we answer a few of the most frequently asked questions by pet parents whose dogs are experiencing potty training problems.

Do dogs pee in the house for attention?

Dogs typically pee in the house due to fear, anxiety, territory marking, health problems, or because they have no other option.

However, some dogs can learn to pee in the house to get your attention. Think about it. Your dog pees on your favorite rug. What do you do? Most pet parents would scold their dog, immediately rush to get their pet outside, or freak out completely. Either way, the dog has his owner’s attention.

So, peeing for attention is a learned, taught behavior. Your dog knows that peeing somewhere inappropriate will definitely get your attention, positive or negative.

Can dogs unlearn potty training?

dog potty accident

Yes, it’s possible for dogs to unlearn or forget their potty training. That’s generally due to several reasons, including:

  • Health conditions
  • Old age
  • Changes in routine
  • Adolescence

Sometimes, if a dog has spent many months in a shelter or rescue center, he might forget his housetraining. However, these pups can usually be retrained relatively easily with patience, reward-based training, and positive reinforcement methods

Why does my dog pee on the floor when he sees me?

When your dog pees on the floor when he sees you, that’s down to an instinctual, physical response that’s referred to as submissive urination. 

Submissive urination generally occurs in young dogs and happens when a dog feels anxious, afraid, shy, or excited. The phenomenon can also occur when the dog wants to acknowledge another animal’s dominance. 

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide on why a potty-trained dog might start having accidents in your home. If you found the article helpful, please share it!

There are several reasons why a potty-trained dog might forget his housetraining. Your dog could have a medical condition, a gastrointestinal problem caused by parasites, a food allergy, or could suffer from separation anxiety. Elderly dogs often develop health issues that lead to frequent accidents, or maybe you changed your dog’s diet suddenly. 

The key to solving your dog’s lack of housetraining skills is to understand what’s causing the problem. If you’re still unsure what the problem is, always consult your vet for advice.

If your puppy experienced a potty-training setback, why not tell us about it in the comments box below?

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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