Why do some dogs prefer to urinate indoors?

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As we breed more and more hyper-sociable dogs, who live indoors with us and train us to spoil them at the top level of indulgence and love, we see more and more toilet training issues- even in adult dogs. For many dogs, there are lots of very good reasons why it is perfectly acceptable to toilet indoors. Sadly, few owners agree with them on that point. Small dogs especially Dachshunds and Maltese are repeat offenders, even as adults.

First- there can be medical reasons and anxiety issues why your pet may soil indoors. If in any doubt, then have your pet fully checked by your vet before you attempt any of the below.

So, given we are dealing with dog or dogs whose health is under control but still use your indoor floors as a toilet area, let’s look at very simple reasons why that might be.

In the case of Dachshunds and other small dogs-they hate getting their feet and paws wet and cold. It is often that simple.

If you pick them up after they come back inside on a winter’s day and feel their feet-often the feet feel freezing cold to your touch. The dog licks the paws furiously when back inside to warm and dry his toes, all the time seriously unimpressed he had to get them cold and wet in the first place.

For the elderly arthritic dog, such coldness means yet more pain, so going outside to urinate etc becomes something to minimise.

The older dog with sight or night problems or dementia issues is often scared to go outside in the dark and may need company. For the last 5 years of our very elderly dog’s life, I had to take him outside at night, stand there regardless of the weather, and tell him I would wait. Walking sideways, so I was always in his line of sight, he would toilet ASAP, and then bolt back inside. If anyone else put him outside and left him, he would be back in pronto still with a full bladder.

In addition to anxiety issues, small dogs have physical depth perception issues, so it is harder for them to train and interpret using only visual training clues clue ie pointing etc so they get mislabelled as less trainable. They respond better to sound and touch clues. Remember that next time, when you furiously hand signalling your dogs, and see how it is your larger dogs who respond more quickly to your hand command signals.

It is important to set your pup up for success from the start, -but you can also retrain even an older dog.


It is important to set your pet up for success from the start.

For pups, the rule for being able to hold onto their bladder is:

1 hour for 1 month of life + 1 hour (to a maximum of 10 hours for an adult dog).

A 2 month-old pup can only hold on for 3 hours & a 3-month old pup only for 4 hours etc before they must be let out to urinate.

If you were to crate these pups for hours and hours on end, they develop a learnt helplessness, as there is no escape to urinate anywhere but inside then they give up trying to go outside and just wee where they want inside…

Some of the worst house-soiler pups come from breeders who lock the mother and her pups in a crate for 23 hours a day. These pups learn, long before you purchase them, that it is ok to urinate in beds or baskets and that can be very hard to unlearn.

Set the puppy up for success by:

  • Setting a timer on your phone or clock so you get an alarm that it is time to take the pup outside. 
  • Take the pup outside after any change in activity so they have an opportunity to stop and urinate.
  • Make sure you put all the dogs outside 10 mins after any meal, as there is a natural drive to toilet at that time.
  • Walk outside with them and as they urinate, use a command work repeatedly.

After a while, you will be able to then take your dog anywhere anytime, give the ‘pee’ command and the dog will toilet. This is especially very handy on long car trips etc.

  • Reward your dog with a treat after they urinate outside but make sure you give the Treat Outdoorsotherwise, they associate the treat with coming Inside, Not with urinating Outside
  • If you catch them in the act of urinating in the house, using a soft kissing sound to distract them to stop, then take them outside. Otherwise, they only learn not to toilet inside in front of you, not that they shouldn’t toilet inside.
  • If you have one very persistent offender puppy, there are special ‘umbilical cord leads’ that go around your waist and down to the dog. This keeps them beside you and under your control so no toilet accidents can happen.

It takes about 30 repetitions before the brain rewires, so over a 21-day period you should be able to retrain the bad behaviour.

Obviously, if your own health or balance or home environment means a waist-lead to your dog endangers your own health, then don’t use one.

Alternatives are a playpen or crate to keep the dog under observation when inside until it can be trusted.

  • If the pet does soil inside, don’t use ammonia-based cleaners etc. Use “Urine-Off” spray which we use at the clinic as it is superb for cleaning and deodorising most surfaces. It must be used according to the guidelines for your floor coverings.

In Summary;

  • Expect ‘accidents’ if weather inclement.
  • Anticipate and prevent by making sure they go out, stay out and actually do empty their bladders and/or bowel.
  • Use trigger words to train to urinate on command.
  • Give reward outside not inside.
  • Take outside 10mins after a meal.
  • Don’t allow free run of the house until that trust is earned.
  • 1 hour/per month of age plus one hour to an absolute maximum of 10 hours in an adult is the most you should expect your pet to wait. Shorter time frames are better where possible.