Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Case Study: Clean Adult Dogs Suddenly Have Accidents in House


case-study_-clean-adult-dogs-suddenly-have-accidents-in-houseWhen clean adult dogs suddenly start having accidents in house, I become curious. Dogs don’t “suddenly” start having accidents unless something has changed. Normally, my first suggestion is to get right to the vet for a check up but since two dogs started this at the same time medical causes seem much less likely. That being the case, the questions begin.

The obvious bit is the family had just moved to a new home. Many dogs need some help transitioning to a new house, neighborhood and yard. Some extra crating and supervision for the first few weeks are often more than enough. But here’s the problem with that theory: while yes, they did have some accidents those first couple of weeks they had been clean for almost a month and then things had gotten much worse. Both dogs were now marking in the house, not typical for either, and one had even hopped up on the couch and gone right next to a family member. That’s never good and was made worse by it being a brand new lovely sectional (by which I mean expensive) couch.

So why the improvement and then fall back?

So this started again a couple of weeks ago?” I asked. “What changed a couple of weeks ago?
The woman thought. “Well, the basement flooded. We’ve had to redo everything.
Sorry to hear that,” I responded, “Does that means workmen have been here?

She nodded. Apparently workmen have been there every day. And there we have it. One of these dogs, in particular, is upset by strangers and can download that upset onto the smaller dog. Both dogs were crated right next to the stairs down to the basement. Dozens of times a day strangers were walking within a foot or two of these dogs. So, the less social one reacted over and over again and then probably threaten the smaller one; my guess is that neither dog ever felt relaxed or safe all…day…long.

And my other thought is that it’s a lot to ask any one to have dogs barking at them nonstop for an entire workday for weeks on end. Eventually someone is bound to get tired of it and scold the dogs or bark back or have some other frustrated/tired human reaction. I have no proof of that but it would not surprise me for someone on the crew to lose patience and that would send these dogs into complete emotional chaos.

So, my assessment: Physical exhaustion plus extreme emotional upset.


  • Move the crates out of sight of the stairs back into another part of the house. (For situations like this I prefer plastic crates, which as more protected on all sides than open crates, or crate covers, if wire crates are used.)
  • Let the dogs outside to potty more often when the family is home.
  • Structure the dogs more by having them sit or come or down for attention, treats and toys.

Hopefully that combination of things will get things back on course quickly and that will improve everyone’s life.

UPDATE: February 2, 2017 – Yup, that was it. Problems ceased immediately after crates were moved away from the steady traffic of strangers.

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