Pet Parenting: X marks the (potty) spot

Dear Denise,

My inside dog has been housebroken for several years, but has started urinating in several particular spots lately (like my daughter’s bedroom floor — I’m going to have to pull up the carpet!). Why would she start doing this and how can I get her to stop?

Dear Mama:

Anytime there is a sudden and abnormal (and this would be abnormal for your dog) behavior change in your animal, your first step should be a trip to your vet. You need to rule out any physical changes or illness that could be the underlying cause- urinary tract infection, loss of bladder control due to age, diminishing eyesight, etc. After physical cause is ruled out, we can begin to think about behavioral causes.

If there are no physical ailments contributing this problem, the next step is to begin to think about any changes in the household that could be raising stress levels, and that includes stress levels of the humans because that goes right down the leash. Since the primary problem seems to be in daughter’s room, start there. Has your daughter recently changed schedules, gotten a boyfriend, having trouble in school, getting in trouble at home…it could be anything. Has your daughter moved rooms? Again, try to think of things that have changed your dog’s routine or caused stress in the home. If you can identify the source of the problem, hopefully you can correct it.

In the meantime, I would suggest putting a Comfort Zone plug-in in your daughter’s room. The plug-in emits an analog of a scent given off by females when they are nursing and can be very comforting to some dogs. If your dog is ‘comfort marking’- something dogs do to mark a space as there own, especially if they are stressed- then this could greatly reduce the incidence of urination, if not eliminate it altogether. The product also comes in a collar form. Another option is to simply close the door to your daughter’s room or block access to the areas your dog is eliminating until the problem is under control.

Good luck, and feel free to follow-up with me if you have additional questions.


Denise Holmes is a pet behavior counselor with over 25 years of experience. She focuses on family pet training and animal-assisted therapy.  She has consulted with Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helped set up a variety of local programs and produced a CD to help expecting parents introduce the family pet to a newborn,