Why Do Dogs Become Unpotty Trained

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Whether you adopted your dog when they were older or got him as a puppy, potty training is one of the first things you’ll normally do. You want to keep your home free from accidents, and help your pets feel comfortable letting you know when they’ve gotta go! While that initial potty training might go well, and you might even experience years of accident-free bathroom trips, there are some triggers that can cause your pet to regress. If you’ve noticed that your dog is having unexpected accidents, not letting you know they’ve got to go out, or peeing in specific places, read on – we are going to talk about the reasons this may be happening. 

The Root of the Behavior

While there are some perfectly normal reasons why a dog might begin having accidents, many reasons for your pet regressing on their potty training behavior can be cause for concern. One of the common reasons for pets losing control of their bowels or bladder is age. Both adolescent dogs and older dogs can have trouble controlling their urges until they get outside, regardless of training. If you have an “adolescent” dog (ranging from 4 months to 3 years old, depending on breed), their hormones are raging; your dog will likely become easily distracted and forgetful of trained behaviors. This isn’t a cause for concern; just reinstate potty training and be strict with house rules and your dog will generally get back on track within a few weeks.

For older dogs, there can potentially be both physical and mental reasons why they may not be able to control their bathroom urges. One condition, called canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD), is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans; this can cause your dog to simply forget their training and how to behave. They may also simply be physically weaker, and therefore have less muscle available to hold their bladder until they can get outside. They can also have potential nerve issues that cause them to lose control of their bowels. However, for an otherwise normal dog, losing control of their bladder can be cause for concern. Your dog may be experiencing an illness, may be under stress, or may also be having a negative reaction to a change of food or scenery. If you have kept your dog’s routine the same and they are still having accidents, you should make a trip to the vet to make sure that they aren’t sick. Kidney infections, bladder infections, or diseases like Cushing’s can cause loss of bladder control, but can be treated if you get your furry friend to the vet on time!

Encouraging the Behavior

Or rather, discouraging the behavior – you certainly don’t want your dog peeing on your carpet! As stated above, some dogs simply need a reiteration of their training. Whether you’ve used the “bell method” (training your dog to ring a bell when they need to go outside) or some other method of potty training, you need to reinforce that training by restarting the process and encouraging your dog to remember the rules. If re-training your dog doesn’t seem to work, or your dog’s accidents seem to be triggered by specific stimuli, you may want to take a closer look at your dog’s surroundings. If you’ve recently switched their food or introduced a new person into their lives, it’s possible that your dog is having accidents due to nerves or discomfort.

And, as we spoke about, if your dog’s surroundings have remained the same and they’re not either in adolescence or old age but are still having accidents, it may be time for a vet visit. Even minor infections can cause your furry friend to forget their potty training due to discomfort! Once that issue is resolved with medication, your dog will usually go right back to their normal routine. After all, they likely don’t enjoy losing control of their bowels, and would much prefer going outside or getting to go on a walk with you!

Other Solutions and Considerations

It is important to understand the difference between a dog who is forgetting their potty training and a dog who hasn’t yet fully understood potty training. Some rescue dogs may have trauma in their backgrounds that make potty training a bit more difficult and some breeds simply take longer to get the routine down. Be patient with your pet, and you’ll find that this issue can usually be resolved. As a tip: if your dog has gone to the bathroom inside, using an enzymatic cleaner can help remove all traces of their scent. This will help discourage the habit of peeing inside by removing their marker from your carpets or furniture.


While there are a few “normal” reasons your dog may forget their potty training and regress, having accidents inside, most of the time a trip to the vet is in order. Keep your dog’s routine similar, keep them on a standard feeding schedule, and be patient with them, and you will hopefully be able to minimize the instances of your favorite friend becoming unpotty trained!