If peeing the carpet is cool consider her Miles Davis
September 15, 2017 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me figure out why my dog isn't housebroken anymore, and what I can do about it?

In the past year, starting a few months after we moved to a new city, my 11-year-old dog has started having indoor accidents. She's been housebroken for literally the entire decade before this past year, with no accidents. She only has accidents when I'm gone (except for one time at a friend's house, when she peed on her dog's bed in front of us). It doesn't seem to matter how long I'm gone or how long of a walk she's gotten beforehand.

My hypotheses about why this is happening:
*Marking. I'm in a mostly-carpeted apartment that's older and very dog friendly, so there are probably some smells in the carpet. Now that she's had enough accidents, that's added to it. Supporting this theory, her accidents are usually in similarish regions of the carpet. HOWEVER...I extensively treated the carpet with Nature's Miracle, and even rented a Rug Doctor last week, and she's already had 2 accidents since on an area that I KNOW I treated really well. So if this is the issue, I don't know how to address it.
*Unlearned housebreaking/age-related cognitive issues. This was my vet's theory. She had a legit accident early on (I was kept late at work and she wasn't feeling well, and had diarrhea) so maybe that led her to decide this is a thing she can do now. It's still a little weird that she doesn't do it when I'm there, though, and it definitely makes it hard to retrain.
*Boredom. This is definitely a possibility, although she's a pretty lazy dog, and has always just laid around all day. She has toys and big windows to look out of. I ordered her a new puzzle toy to see if this helps, and am going to start taking her on much longer morning walks before I leave.

Hypotheses I've mostly ruled out:
*UTIs/age-related incontinence. When I went to the vet a few months ago, she said there's nothing physically wrong with her (based on a few hundred dollars worth of tests), and she might just be experiencing some cognitive issues. She's able to hold it when I'm home, and since it's sometimes poop too, it seems unlikely to be a medical issue.
*Can't hold it as long as she used to. On our morning walk before I leave for work, I make sure she pees at least twice and poops, and sometimes she'll have had an accident if I come back a few hours later. It doesn't seem to matter how long I've been gone for. She can hold it for 8 or more hours if I'm there.
*Separation anxiety. She howls nonstop when she has separation anxiety, and hasn't had it since she adjusted to the new place. She's never peed from separation anxiety.

I do have a crate for her, and I realize that this is going to be what a lot of people will suggest, and I get that. I crated her for the first few years of her life and I'm not anti-crate. But I would like to see if I can figure something else out before I crate her- my work day is 9 hours long and I don't love the thought of keeping her cooped up that long. Making sure she has a great quality of life in her golden years is important to me. I can't afford to hire a dogwalker. We will be moving next summer.
posted by quiet coyote to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
If you put down pee pads in her primary pee spots, weighted down on with permeable astroturf over or whatever it takes, could she use it and everybody be generally okay with it? When I had a large dog in this situation, I had to make a grid of pads and weight them so he wouldn't kick them out of place, but it worked.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:06 PM on September 15, 2017

It's probably that she was house-broken to your old place, but not this new one. Instead of a crate, can she be confined to a smaller room, preferably without carpeting? A bathroom or the kitchen? The dog doesn't need a whole house to roam in.
posted by hydra77 at 11:07 PM on September 15, 2017

My now 11 yr old dog did this when we moved. I put big cloth pads down in the spot that every dog who has ever lived in this house has decided is the potty spot. Sometimes he uses them and other times he holds it. I don't know why he does it. I just try to mitigate the mess. He does faithfully use the pad and I just rewash them and put it back down. I wish I had a better answer.
posted by cairnoflore at 2:14 AM on September 16, 2017

I had a dog who did this, and it turned out she had lost control of these functions because of age and illness. It took us almost six months of frustration to figure it out with the vet.. This was a very good dog, and looking back I think she felt awful about it too.
posted by chocolatetiara at 4:56 AM on September 16, 2017

Is there a neighbor or nearby friend who can take her out midday, especially when you'll be working late? Even if it's not possible to do this long-term, a week or so of regular walks during the day would at least provide another data point for you.

Back when I had a female dog, it was a *thing* that the sphincter around the bladder would loosen with age, resulting in some inadvertent dribbling. But the fact that it's occasionally poop as well would seem to argue against that explanation. Unless the unwanted peeing and pooping are unrelated issues in this case?
posted by DrGail at 7:45 AM on September 16, 2017

In addition to other things above, try some re-training. When you go out, put a handful of treats in your pocket for instant rewards for peeing and pooping outside. My dog is about 9, sometimes he poops in the house. We're working on pooping outside with treats as well as pooping in the furnace room if he must go indoors. Dude, carpet's no fun to clean, cement's okay-ish.
posted by theora55 at 10:46 AM on September 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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