Potty training your dog, whether a puppy, adolescent, or full-grown family member, can be a difficult and trying time for any pet parent. Urination is an important method of communication for a wide variety of animals, not just yours! Dogs rely on the odors from urine and feces to communicate with other members of their species.
As unpleasant as it may sound, urine and feces contain a wealth of information, encoded, for dogs to understand. These messages last for days, and are easily picked up by other dogs. This is a deeply ingrained survival tool that is a part of their genetic make-up and history, and is, as we all know, a very natural bodily function!
As natural as urination may be, your dog urinating in your home, and even worse, the homes of your friends, relatives, or caregivers, is simply not very socially acceptable to anyone. One good way to help prevent accidents of this nature is to get into the regular habit of watching your dog constantly whenever they are in a new, non-pee-appropriate, environment. It is critical to catch this behavior the first time they go to 'do' it. Once a dog has scent marked an area once, they will try to do it again. Be sure to follow at your dog's heels to watch for the tell-tale sniffing, squatting, or leg lifting indicative of the need to urinate. The moment you see this occurring, distract the dog with whatever signal you have for going outside. Bring them out immediately, without hesitation, and let them do their business there. If you are able to prevent it from happening the first time, your dog will get the message that indoors is not the place to scent mark (urinate).
It can sometimes happen that a dog starts marking inside even after they are house trained. The reasons for this are numerous, and can be as simple as the departure of a family member, the arrival of a new pet, a new baby, or a significant change in routine. Reactions of this nature are generally related to anxiety in dogs, which is understandable considering the gravity of the situations I've just mentioned. And these are only a few!
In puppies, it is normal to dribble urine when greeting animals or people who they feel have a higher place in the social hierarchy of their group or home. Sure enough, for a puppy this means nearly everyone! Puppies have not yet developed good bladder control, and loss of that control can happen easily. As puppies grow up they usually grow out of this, but some dogs can still suffer from loss of bladder control when they are fully grown.
Nervous or under-confident dispositions can often be the cause of inappropriate urination on dogs. Generating confidence in your dog with regular socialization, play, and adequate exercise can remedy much of that nervousness. It is critical, despite the frustration that comes with having to clean up repeatedly after accidents, that the dog never know that you are upset or angry with them in this situation. An emotional reaction will simply make the dog even more anxious. Whatever you do, find a way to release your frustration in a way that the dog does not negatively experience. Offer them patience, love, and calm to help resolve the problem.
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, Decoding the Dog Park, and the Big Book of Dog Training.