By Destin Benoit
Last Updated July 26, 2021

For any pet parent, successfully toilet training their dog is essential to human/canine harmony in the home. So when, despite all your training and encouragement, your pooch simply won’t pee where they are supposed to – outside – it can be a difficult time all round.

Not only is it deeply unpleasant for your dog to pee around the house, it can also be a sign that something is wrong. And whether they are a puppy or an adult dog, this is a habit that needs to be nipped in the bud. But how do you overcome your dog’s ‘peeing outside anxiety’ and get his toilet habits happily back on track?

We take a look at what you need to do when your dog refuses to pee outside.

Chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy and wet spot on carpet indoors

Is it Normal?

While it is not desirable, reluctance to pee outside is not uncommon behavior in dogs, especially young pups or dogs that are new to your home. And it most cases, it is a temporary inconvenience that can be resolved.

But as with any methods to change a dog’s behavior, it will need patience and positivity rather than punishment. And this begins with understanding the reason why your pooch is avoiding doing their potty outside.

Reasons Why Your Dog or Puppy won’t Pee Outside

Once you understand the cause or reason behind your dog’s refusal to do their potty outside from their perspective, you can formulate a plan to support a correct change in their toilet behavior. Here are the main reasons why your dog doesn’t want to pee outside in their yard:

Inadequate House Training

One of the most common reasons why your dog is peeing inside your home instead of in their backyard is that they have not been properly house trained. And this can apply to adult dogs as it can to young pups.

Rescue dogs, for example, may have issues with their toilet habits due to it being a new environment or simply because they have never been shown the right way – and place – to go potty. They may not also have been taught any boundaries and feel more comfortable peeing inside.

Understanding more about your adult dog’s background, especially if they have come to you as an adult, can give you more clues as to why they are refusing to pee outside.

And if you are a new pet parent to a puppy, it is inevitable that they are going to have indoor accidents while they get to grip with the toilet routine you are expecting them to follow. Over or inconsistent use of puppy pee pads can also confuse a young dog, leading to bathroom behavior that is undesirable.

If these scenarios sound familiar then don’t worry, with some patience and consistent training, both puppies and adult dogs can learn to pee more appropriately and go potty outside.

An Underlying Health Issue

Especially if your dog has suddenly started peeing on your carpet or it is totally out of character, then it is important to get them checked out by a vet who can rule out any underlying health issues, which could include:

Urinary Tract Infection

Also known as a UTI, this is an infection of the urinary tract and/or the bladder which can make your dog feel as if they need to pee more often or without warning. UTIs can also be uncomfortable and distressing for your pup, especially if they are also showing other associated symptoms, such as fever, pain, blood in their urine and straining when they try to pee.

Antibiotics and a diet to support urinary tract health can quickly resolve this problem.

Incontinence

While an inability to always control their bladder is more common in older dogs, young dogs can also be affected by incontinence, particularly females if they have recently had a litter or have been spayed. If so, it is important to get them vet checked if you are concerned.

You may also like our review of the Best Dog Diapers.

Arthritis

Your dog’s diminishing mobility may also contribute to their reluctance to go outside to pee as it may simply be too far or too painful to walk out into the yard.

Arthritis is one of the leading causes of joint pain in canines, which can be affected by the cold or damp weather, making the warm carpet a much more appealing proposition when it is time to pee.

Diabetes or Kidney Problems

Both diabetes and issues with your dog’s kidneys can increase their need to pee as can an increased water intake. And as a result, sometimes your dog may be caught out as they need to urgently pee and can’t get to the yard in time.

Take a look at our guides on the Best Dog Food for Kidney Disease and Best Food for Diabetic Dogs.

Cognitive decline

As your dog gets to its senior years, their cognitive function will inevitably start to decline and for some pooches this can become more of a serious problem.

A condition called cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to dementia in humans – can leave your dog confused and forgetful, impacting on their ability to perform their usual routines.

And this may mean they forget what they have been taught when it comes to housetraining, and simply pee where they are.

Scared to Go Potty Outside

Your pupper may have simply developed a fear of going outside or finds the outdoors a source of stress and anxiety. From a bad experience – eg, a firework or a car backfiring as they are outdoors doing potty – to fear of an unfamiliar territory or being left alone outside for too long, your dog may be finding the outdoor toilet experience too stressful and seeks the comfort of the indoors when it comes to pee time.

Or the weather is simply too unpleasant and makes doing their business outdoors an anxious time your pup would rather avoid.

Their Size or Breed

While it is possible to train all dogs to pee outside, for some breeds it may be more of a challenge compared to peeing in the comfort of their own homes.

Smaller or short-legged breeds in particular can find going outside a challenging experience due to their proximity to the ground and a reduced ability to navigate stairs and obstacles.

Shorter or reduced coat breeds can also be less tolerant of the cold and winter weather, preferring to pee where it is warmer, ie. inside your home.

How to Get Your Dog to Pee Outside

Once you have got to the bottom of why your dog may be reluctant or refusing to pee outside and you have had any underlying health issues such as urinary tract infections ruled out, it is time to get your dog back following the rules of its outdoor pee break program.

Here are our top tips to getting your dog out of the house and happily peeing outside once more:

Revisit Their Potty Training

Your adult dog may be inadequately toilet trained and so may well need a refresher. And for puppies, getting their bathroom habits right as soon as you can, will stand them in good stead as they get older. In either case, you will need to start at the beginning and re-instill the potty-training basics.

  • Be patient and positive. You won’t get perfect results overnight but by taking your time and making it a positive experience for your dog, they will be more willing to get the hang of what is expected of them. Seek advice from a dog trainer before you start if you are unsure what to do.
  • Show your dogs what you want them to do by taking them out into the yard on a leash and keep them focused on the business at hand. Take them consistently to the spot where they should go potty and give them plenty of praise when they pee and poop where they should do.
  • Learn to recognize the signs that your dog, particularly if they are a puppy, is wanting to pee and take them straight outside to their potty spot so they can do their business.
  • If housetraining a puppy, supervise them at all times and get into a habit during the early days of taking them outside regularly, typically every two hours so they can get tuned in to their toilet schedule using their outdoor bathroom area.
  • Whatever you do, avoid shouting or punishing your dog if they get their potty location wrong or pee inside the house. Instead, place your focus on when they get it right, and praise and give reward treats for their good behavior.

Check out our blog and learn how to potty train your dog in no time.

Teach Your Dog to Ask to be Let Out

Another good trick for owners is to teach your dog to actually ‘ask’ to be let out, especially if they don’t have access to a dog flap or dog door. A dog trainer can also help you and with a little patience, you can train most dogs to ring a doggie doorbell, which you locate by their door to the outside, when they want to pee on command.

Remove Any Distracting Indoor Smells

Dogs will often pee inside the home to mark their territory and then develop a habit of repeat peeing where they have already been. And this can also impact on another dog you bring into your home, such as a rescue dog, who may also pick upon the scent and start mirroring the peeing indoors behavior.

To discourage your dog from the possibility of peeing in the same spot, it is important that you eliminate any existing odors. Enzymatic sprays and carpet cleaners do work and are a good way to switch off those old pee and poop odors that are attracting your pooch.

Check out our guides on Pet Odor Neutralizer and Carpet Cleaners for Dog Urine.

If the Outside Isn’t Always Accessible

In some cases, it is not always possible to leave an open access for your dog to get to their outdoor yard. You may live in an apartment with no attached outdoor space, or you are at work and so can’t leave your home unsecured while you are out of the home.

In these cases, to avoid giving your pup no other choice than to pee on the kitchen floor or your carpet you could:

  • Consider crate training: Unless your dog has a health issue that affects their ability to control their pee, he won’t want to pee in his dog bed so it is worth getting them crate trained for when you leave them home alone for short periods of time. The idea is that as a dog won’t soil their own sleeping area, they will come to recognize the crate as their own personal space and will do what they can to keep it clean. And if they do accidentally soil their crate, it will help you to minimize and contain the mess, which can then more easily be cleaned. However, a dog crate won’t stop your dog’s natural body functions and so they should not be left inside the crate without access to their outdoor dog potty space for too long, normally two hours max.
  • Use pee pads: Especially if you live in an apartment or have a smaller breed of dog, pee pads do have their uses and can help protect your home if your dog is unable to get outside. Training your pup to use a pee pad from an early age, and only putting them out when you actually want your dog to use them can ensure they don’t get used to always peeing on the floor indoors.
  • Get them used to peeing on their daily walks: This does take commitment on your behalf as you need to stick to a consistent schedule that your dog is used to but timing his daily exercise to allow for pee and poop breaks can be a good way to get your dog to associate their toilet needs with the outdoors and make the connection. Whether it is in local dog park or a longer walk around the block, giving them the time to complete their business before you set off back for home, and positively praising and rewarding them for a job well done can help to create a more manageable daily toilet routine.

Click here for the best pooper scoopers.

Small white dog cocks its leg on a mossy tree

When to Get Help

As with any dog training, you will need plenty of patience and time to get your errant dog’s peeing habits back on track. By understanding why they may be refusing to go outside, getting any health issues or medical cause ruled out, and putting a plan in place, which may involve re-visiting your dog’s housetraining, you should soon see your pup happily peeing outside once more.

But if you find despite your best efforts, things are not going quite to plan, or your dog’s indoor peeing behavior is getting worse, then it is important for you, your dog, and your home that you seek professional help.

Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a certified professional dog trainer who should be able to get to the root of the problem and reintroduce your dog to freedom of doing their potty outside.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

A former Special Forces Canine Handler, Destin Benoit has extensive knowledge and experience with military canine training. He has worked with multiple military dogs in the most stressful places and situations in the world. Currently, Destin is a SOC Canine Handler, aiding in the protection of US diplomats abroad.

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