“Why does he only do it when I’m out?”

He did it again – you came back home and your dog left you a “gift” on the carpet. Why does he do that? And, why does he only do it when you’re out? He never does it when you’re home. In fact, apart from the incidents while you’re gone, he’s perfectly house-trained.

If this sounds familiar, you need to find out why your dog is soiling the house so you can put an end to this problem behaviour.

“He’s so sneaky”

If your dog soils when you’re out, it can seem like he’s being sneaky or defiant. However, neither of these are his motives. There are two main causes:

1. He’s anxious

Dogs who only soil the house when they are home alone, may be stressed by being left. If you’re certain it’s not happening at any other time, then you must rule out separation anxiety. First, check whether there are any other symptoms, such as destroying, chewing, or vocalizing. Have your neighbours complained about barking? Can you see any signs of chewing or scratching?

Second, make absolutely certain the soiling is only happening when you’re absent. Have a good look around the house, especially out-of-the-way rooms. Make sure he’s not sneaking off to potty in a quiet place away from you.

If you confirm he’s only having accidents when he’s alone, and if you suspect any of the behaviours above, then chances are your dog has separation anxiety. This blog explains more about working out if your dog has separation anxiety.

2. He doesn’t want to go in front of you

Some dogs develop what we call “reverse house-training”. They are uncomfortable going in front of you, whether that’s in the yard, on walks or at the park.

Do you take your dog out for a potty break only for nothing to happen? Or do you wait at length for them to go without success, only for him to do his business when your back is turned??

The reason for this is that your dog has decided going in front of you is a bad idea. Dogs are masters of discrimination, and experts when it comes to working out what’s safe and what’s dangerous. If, in the past, you scolded or punished him for going inside, he might have decided it’s not safe to go when you can see him. When you go out, the coast is clear, and that’s why you come back to a soiled carpet.

It's important to know whether it's a housetraining issue or whether your dog is anxious when you leave

Tightening up house-training

If the soiling is unrelated to anxiety and it’s more about him having accidents when you’re out or covert indoor peeing, you’ll need to tidy up his house-training. There’s a three-step formula you can use to do this:

1. Manage him so as to prevent accidents indoors.

2. Accompany him when he goes outside and reward generously him for going where you want him to go.

3. After steps one and two have been in place for three weeks, loosen up management and interrupt/redirect.

After a few weeks of no accidents and lots of amazing reinforcement, your dog can have more freedom. You can find out more about the three-step formula at iSpeakDog

If you have a reverse house-training issue, you’ll need to either crate or tether your dog to you with a leash. He needs constant supervision, as well as plenty of reward and praise. Your dog needs to learn going in front of you is safe, and even fun.

If your dog develops house-training issues at an older age, check with your vet as it could be a symptom of other health problems.

If you’ve ruled out all other possible causes, speak to your vet and engage a trained behaviourist to help you assess if your dog has separation anxiety. Or, book a free consultation with us. Get in touch for details!