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Troubleshooting Common Potty Training Issues: Q&A

If you’ve already gone through our Guide to Puppy Potty Training and followed the program to the letter, but your dog still keeps peeing in the house, you may be experiencing a potty training roadblock.

There are many reasons a dog might potty in the house, and today we’re going to cover some of the most common potty training issues at fault. 

But before we dive into behavioral issues, it’s important to note that the first step when struggling with potty problems should be a trip to the vet. You’ll want to rule out any physical issues (such as a UTI) that could be causing the problem.

Submissive and Excitement Urination

Does your dog pee when they greet someone? This is the most common sign of submissive or excitement urination – two common potty training issues. Let’s take a look at the difference.

What Do Submissive and Excitement Urination Look Like?

Submissive Urination: Does your dog move slowly toward a new person, tuck their tail, or avert their eyes while they approach to greet? These are signs that your dog may be submissive or fearful. 

Excitement Urination: Does your dog appear happy, loose, and relaxed but still pees when visitors come over? This is called excitement urination.

You can see this behavior in other scenarios, as well. Excitement urinators will often pee during play, while a submissive urinator will pee when suddenly scared or frightened (i.e., loud noises, movements, etc.)

Comparison of Submissive Urination VS Excitement Urination (Common Potty Training Issues)

What Is Submissive and Excitement Urination?

This behavior is a physical response to a highly emotional situation and two very common potty training issues.

Have you ever felt so scared that you almost peed your pants? People often say, “I nearly wet myself,” while scared or excited. This is precisely what your dog is experiencing.

How to Address Submissive and Excitement Urination

How do you change a behavior the dog does not know it is doing? You have to change the emotion behind the behavior.

A submissive dog is fearful; therefore, their submissive behaviors are appeasement gestures. In the case of excitement urination, the dog is just too wound up.

And while some may advise you that this is a “phase” that your dog will grow out of, sharing that it is very common (especially for puppies), that is never a sure bet.

The first step to addressing Submissive or Excitement Urination is to avoid putting your dog into situations where they exhibit this behavior.

For instance, if a greeting from a new friend or neighbor causes your dog to pee, greetings must become a more low-key experience.

For starters, ask visitors to ignore your dog completely when they first enter your home. 

How to Address Submissive/Excitement Urination (Common Potty Training Issues)

Likewise, if your dog pees during play, you must make sure play ends before they get so wound up.

Instead, to prevent them from returning to play, give them some time in a quiet area (such as a crate or bed) with a favorite chew toy.

Or scatter some food on the ground so that they will slow down to sniff and eat.

“I grew up with a dog that would pee when excited. My friends still remember my mom’s greeting when they came to our house. She would exclaim, “Don’t look at the dog! She’ll pee! She’ll pee!” We still laugh about it, but there is wisdom to those words. Direct eye contact and excited greetings trigger most excitement/submissive urinators. So removing these things was the easiest fix.”

If this is a behavior you are dealing with, watch this video to learn about the emotions that trigger this behavior and some great ideas on how to approach things differently.


A dog that marks most often pees on a vertical surface, like a wall or fence – but they can pee on the floor too. And while marking is usually attributed to male dogs, females will mark too. Let’s take a look at this common potty training issue.

What Does Marking Look Like?

Marking has nothing to do with the need to have to pee. Instead, because dogs want to leave their scent on things, they will pee in multiple areas and on various objects.

However, this is also a sign of a Urinary Tract Infection, so if the behavior is new, be sure to get that checked out first.

Some dogs that mark will even choose favorite “spots” they will pee on repeatedly (i.e., a mailbox, fence post, stop sign, etc.)

What Is Marking?

Marking spreads scents and pheromones that are used for communication. This behavior is normal to some extent but will likely be much more frequent if your dog is overwhelmed or stressed. 

Facts About Marking (A Common Potty Training Issue)

How to Address Marking Behavior In The House

Management is the key to interrupting this behavior and stopping a habit from forming (or breaking an existing pattern). And while marking is much different than a dog peeing in the house due to fear or excitement, the solution is nearly the same.

If your dog has a favorite spot to mark in the house, restrict access to that area. If your dog is marking everywhere, you must follow a basic house training protocol.

And because marking is used to spread scents, urine must be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle.

Because a dog is more likely to mark when aroused, be diligent and aware when you bring your dog into new situations to avoid this common potty training issue.

Be Cautious When Bringing Your Dog Into A New Situation

“I had a dog that never marked at home, but when I brought him to a relative’s home, he would mark within minutes of entering the home. I started keeping him leashed to me when we would visit people so I did not miss signs that he was about to mark, then I would distract him, usually with a chew toy. Once he relaxed in the home, I could give him more freedom.”

If you need additional help with marking,  check out this video that goes more in-depth.

Other Common Potty Training Issues

"Why Is My Potty-Trained Dog Regressing?"

Potty regression is not unusual. Here are three of the main culprits to this change in your dog’s behavior:

1. A Physical Issue First and foremost, you’ll want to rule out any physical issues, such as a Urinary Tract Infection, that could make it impossible for your dog to hold their urine.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware that certain medications (like steroids) can cause increased thirst and urination, which may coincide with a change in your dog’s potty habits.

In that case, you’ll want to check in with your vet for possible solutions.

2. Your Dog Was Left Alone Too Long If this is the situation, your dog might have needed to relieve himself at some point, finding comfort in the process (which is reinforcing). As a result, a habit forms.

3. Something Scared Your Dog OutsideWe often see this response to rain, thunder, or snow. But it could be anything scary that your dog associates with being outside.

Is there a dog that barks at them outside? Did they get scared at the noise of the garage truck passing by? From your dog’s perspective, these things can be seen as punishers for going outside. 

If your dog is regressing, your first call should be to the veterinarian. If they have a clean bill of health, management and training can help you work through the other issues listed.

And because these problems can be individualized, you should also consider working one-on-one with a dog trainer.

"Help - My Elderly Dog Is Pooping in the House!"

If your senior dog has suddenly started pottying in the house, your first call should be to the veterinarian, as several health-related issues might be at play.

Senior Dogs Pottying In The House - Common Potty Training Issues

1. Arthritis – Like humans, your dog’s joints will show signs of wear and tear as they age. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis seen in dogs. 

Joint pain can make it hard for a dog to move or even get up, so they may go wherever they are. Talk to your veterinarian for options for pain relief.

2. Canine Cognitive Disorder – Often referred to as “Doggy Dementia,” CCD is a neurological dysfunction seen in many aging dogs.

A dog with CCD will often act disoriented. Sleep patterns will change. Anxiety will increase. Disorientation and anxiety make it more likely for a dog to soil in the home.  

Dogs living with CCD often forget things they were trained to do, such as asking to go outside to eliminate. Fortunately, there are several therapies for CCD that your vet can recommend. 

To learn more about Canine Cognitive Disorders, watch this video.

3. Incontinence – Incontinence is a lack of physical control of either (or both) urination and defecation.

The most common first sign is a dog that pees or poops while lying down or sleeping. When a dog is incontinent, they are unaware they are releasing their bladder (or bowels).

There are many reasons why a dog becomes incontinent, from a urinary tract infection to bladder stones to cancer. In older dogs, it could be a weakening of the urethral muscles as their muscles age. 

A visit to the veterinarian is your first step in building a plan for your incontinent dog.

In Conclusion

While the road to house training your dog may be simple in theory, it is not necessarily easy – and certainly not for the faint of heart! You may need to take some detours based on your dog and their needs. If you find housetraining a struggle, your first call should be to your veterinarian. Once your dog is cleared by the vet, if there are still issues, a skilled trainer can help save your house training plan and your sanity! 


  • Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

    Devene obtained a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University and spent several years working in marketing. However, when she adopted her first greyhound (who came with some behavior challenges), she began researching ways to modify her problem behavior and found help with a local dog trainer. She became a volunteer assistant to learn more, and eventually started teaching classes and conducting private lessons. She currently trains puppies full-time to become scent detection dogs. Devene lives in Michigan with her husband and kids, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise.

  • Morgan Messick

    Morgan Messick is a content creator for Dog Training Newbie, a website that is all about dog training tips, techniques, news, and more. Morgan has two dogs, three cats, and a lovely wife who support her passion for writing. Morgan loves reading murder mystery novels and listening to true crime podcasts in her spare time. She is also passionate about supporting small businesses by creating dynamic content that customers want to see.

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