Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
Why Is My Dog Eliminating in the Home After Moving?
If you have recently moved and your dog has started having accidents in the house, you may be wondering what is going on. Rest assured, you are not alone; many dogs behave this way and even some cats do the same. It is quite normal for a dog to be stressed by a recent move. While dogs seem to be more attached to their owner rather than the home, moving disrupts your dog's routines, exposing him to new stimuli, sights, sounds, smells, and turning his life a bit upside down.
Moving is even stressful for humans if you think about it! Raise your hand if moving hasn't caused you to sleep less, have concerns and a sensation that you couldn't wait for your move to be over. While Rover cares less about switching utilities, filling out an address-change form or driving across states, rest assured the move will still be stressful. Why? Well, for starters, it's very likely they have picked up some of your anxious energy. You may be moving quickly, talk fast and do lots of things all at once. Rover may also see luggage, moving trucks, and lots of furniture moved around. Not to mention that his feeding and elimination schedules may change as you move to a different time zone, provide him new areas to potty and possibly change his feeding schedule.
Here is the scoop: dogs are not great in generalizing. If your dog has been used to eliminate for years in a specific spot in the yard, now he may have difficulty adjusting to a new area. There is no longer his smell, there are distracting noises and he no longer knows where to go to tell you he wants to be taken outside. Is it the front door, the side door or the back door? Poor Rover has no clue how to behave in this new place, some noises are frightening, there are no more familiar smells and there are new neighbors and new dogs barking around the corner. So much going on!
How to Help Your Dog After a Move
So why is Rover now having accidents in house after moving? Well, we know he may be stressed, he may have trouble generalizing and getting used to his new potty, area, and last but not least, he may have a medical problem.
As a general rule of thumb, anytime unexplained bladder or bowel problems take place in a previously house trained dog; it would be appropriate to assume that this may not stem from a possible behavioral problem because there are many medical causes for accidents in the house. For instance, if you are mostly seeing inappropriate urination, you may be dealing with a dog urinary tract infection, decreased muscle tone of the urethral sphincter, bladder stones, and much more. If you are seeing inappropriate defecation, you may be dealing with parasites, bowel disorders, and more.
As much as you may find it odd for Rover to develop a medical condition right now, keep in mind that stress does make a dog much more vulnerable to illnesses. As the saying goes, "a healthy mind in a healthy body" applies to dogs as well.
After seeing your vet and ruling out medical problems, you can then approach the inappropriate elimination by treating it is a behavioral problem. Stress can be a contributing factor for both urinary and bowel changes in a dog.
For instance, some dogs when stressed may start "marking" in the home. These outputs of urine are often targeted to objects that are the source of stress such as the bed where new guests have been sleeping, luggage, and other areas frequented by "new" people. The purpose of this form of urination is the dog's desire to make things 'smell familiar again". In the same way, stress can cause inappropriate defecation. It is not unusual for a well house-trained dog to have an accident in a new home briefly after moving. Scolding the dog for these accidents will only worsen the anxiety the dog feels. So how to deal with this problem? Here are a few tips:
Management: in this case, this entails supervising your dog as much as possible and preventing rehearsal of the unwanted soiling behavior. In other words, keep them on leash and manage the issue since you are better capable of monitoring them. Feeding them at the same time each day will also help since this makes their bowel movement more predictable and "on schedule." Watching your dog for pre-potty signs (sniffing, whining, circling, appearing distracted) will also help you get a bit of advanced notice so you can take her promptly out as needed.
Invest in a DAP diffuser. These can be found in your local pet store. DAP diffusers contain the synthetic version of a naturally occurring pheromone known as "Dog Appeasing Pheromone." which is meant to induce feelings of well-being and comfort. French veterinarian Patrick Pageat felt the use of such pheromones might help calm stressed adult dogs. You can find DAP under the form of sprays, diffusers, and collars.
Find out if there are noises that are stressing your dog. If your dog is reactive towards a certain noise, you can try putting your dog in a room where the noise is less intense (desensitization) and feed a treat every time your dog hears the noise (counterconditioning)
Also, consider that some dogs tend to "regress" in their housetraining habits when they move to a new home. This occurs because dogs are not the best animals in generalizing. We saw this before, but it is worth repeating. If your dog was used to going potty in a special place before and now there is a new place, she may have difficulty adjusting. Make sure you offer plenty of opportunities for going potty successfully outside. When she does, immediately throw a party, praise and give her a treat. A great way to help a dog generalize potty areas is to put the act of going potty on cue. To learn more about this, read my article "Training your dog to go potty on command."
If you clean up a mess inside, make sure you use a good odor neutralizer such as Nature's Miracle or any product with enzymes. These products remove traces of odor. If your dog smells areas on your carpet where they previously soiled, these areas are reminding them that those are the right place to go. Soon a vicious circle forms and she will continue to use those areas because they smell like "bathroom." Investing in a black light may be helpful in this case: the black light will identify soiled areas on the carpet, so you clean them properly.
It's a good idea to provide a good exercise regimen to help take the edge off and calm your dog down a bit.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli
Sara on April 06, 2019:
My dog gets lazy and pees in the house everytime we change routine. Whether it's something big like a move or as small as daylight savings. We have to re-potty train him every few months. We've had him for 5 years and this has been consistant. This Feb. we had family move out of our spare room and now if we forget to shut the door he uses it as his personal facilities even if he has been outside recently. Any thoughts on what he is thinking and how to stop it?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 14, 2018:
This sounds like stress. Stressed dogs pee in new places to make them smell "familiar again." Clean messes with en enzyme-based cleaner such as Nature's Miracle and use a black light to make sure you cleaned it all. Close the bedroom door if he pees on the bed. Use a DAP diffuser plug-in, Adaptil collar to reduce stress. Let him stick to a routine and give him time to adjust. Don't scold him for the messes, that will just add to the stress. If there are new noises, keep the TV or radio on to cover them up. A Furbo dog camera may help him feel less lonely.
mricque on November 13, 2018:
I recently moved from KC to SC for work. I moved into a house, so my 5 year old Border Collie would have a yard. He's a nervous sort anyway, but since the move he's been unbelievably clingy. He has been sleeping inthe bed with me for a couple of years now and that has continued since the move. He did poop in the house when we were packing up to move, so I let that go. Then when we moved in he peed and pooped in the house but again, I chalked that up to moving. He is potty trained BTW and had a full vet check up the week after we got here. I hired a lovely dog walker to come wlk him mid-day every day because that's what he had in KC. Today I came home from work, 4 hours (after his mile walk with the dog walker who reported all good and peed and pooped on walk) to find he had peed in my bed. Soooooo, what do I do here. I don't want to make him worse by making him crate at night but I also can't have him peeing in my bed. Last night in bed he was trembling (for no apparent reason) so I hugged him close and he settled and went to sleep. I feel like he is having extreme separation anxiety since we moved - scared all of the time and acting super clingy and weirder than normal;) I'm sort of at a loss. Any advice?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 17, 2018:
Alex,well good to hear! I wonder if your former home was bigger, maybe with this downgrade they have easier access to the yard and make it on time?
Alex on March 09, 2018:
See I can't find anything on this anywhere; but for us it was the opposite. They had a lot of accidents inside and no matter what we tried how we cleaned they just kept having them- but after a move they stopped and only go outside EVERY time now; not one inside accident since.
Here is the the thing though, the move was more of a down grade; with less space for them- but they are not showing any signs of stress; if anything they seem happier than ever and I am so confused.
Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on November 16, 2012:
Wonderful advice. Sometimes we expect out pets to just follow us and we are not aware that we are also giving them our stress.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 16, 2012:
Giblingirl, we have moved many times and each time it does stress the dogs a bit in some way or another.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 16, 2012:
Cathy, thanks for stopping by, I am happy you found my article on dogs having accidents after moving interesting! Kind regards!
GiblinGirl from New Jersey on November 16, 2012:
Very interesting. Fortunately I won't be moving any time soon, but it's good to know anyway.
Ms. Immortal from NJ on November 16, 2012:
Thanks, very informative and something I didn't think about.