Why Does My Dog Keep Peeing on the Carpet?

dog pee outside instead of on carpet

Potty training can be a total drag. It seems like our dogs and puppies learn all the wrong lessons at first! With young puppies, we can chalk this up to lack of bladder control. But what about with an adult dog?

It’s pretty common for dogs and puppies to pee on the carpet, even after a bathroom break. In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, we’re tackling this problem.

I live in an apartment and [my two-year-old retired show dog] is in a playpen with food, bed, and toys. There is also a puppy pad for her. She only goes potty when she’s on the carpet. [I praise her when] she pees and poos in the playpen and gives treats when she’s inside but she still comes out and pees shortly after she’s been let out. 

– Pom Mommy

If you’re struggling with potty training problems, check out our archive of articles on the topic. You’ll get more help there!

It’s always a bit surprising to me how many adult rescue, shelter, or purchased dogs are still not potty trained. In Pom Mommy’s case, she purchased a two-year-old retired show dog, only to find out that her new Pomeranian isn’t potty trained.

Pom Mommy is finding that her new dog will pee on the carpet, even if her dog has potty pads accessible.

Why is this happening?

Why Your Dog Keeps Peeing on the Carpet

In this case, it’s likely that Pom Mommy’s dog was never potty trained in the first place. 

Perhaps the dog was raised in a kennel environment or outdoors. It’s hard to say – but apparently the potty training lessons didn’t take hold.

If your dog is peeing indoors, it’s probably because she was never fully potty trained in the first place.

This is especially true for puppies or dogs with unknown histories.

If your dog was previously housetrained, be sure to take her into the vet to ensure that it’s not a UTI, medical condition, or stress-based response.

Peeing on the carpet is common because, to a dog, it seems totally sensible. Carpet is absorbent, helping avoid getting your dog’s paws wet. It’s also outside of your dog’s crate/den/play pen area, so it’s a great place to go!

That’s probably why you notice that your dog holds her pee and then pees outside – she doesn’t want to pee where she sleeps!

Praise alone isn’t cutting it for this little dog. While some dogs can learn new skills in response to praise, most dogs need to be paid a bit better.

We can relate – most of us prefer to get a paycheck instead of just a “thank-you” (especially from a boss)!

How to Teach Your Dog to Pee Outside, Not on the Carpet

Potty training a dog is labor intensive, there’s no real way around it. The thing is, right now Pom Mommy’s dog probably doesn’t know that she can cash her pee in for food! The dog also probably doesn’t know that peeing on the carpet is a problem.

It’s generally best to start potty training all over again from scratch. This will help us start off on the right paw and fix all of our problems.

Here’s what Pom Mommy (or you, if you have this problem too) should do next:

1. Take Your Dog Outside Regularly. Reward Heavily.

Set a timer if you need to. I recommend starting with every hour, on the hour.

If your dog pees outside, give her a treat (I really like the Blue Bits from Blue Buffalo because you can split the hearts in half for little dogs).

Reward heavily. If you want your dog to use potty pads as well, you also need to reward your dog with treats every time she pees on the potty pads.

2. No Playtime for “Full” Dogs. Use Confinement Wisely.

If your dog is not “empty,” your dog cannot be unsupervised.

So if your dog hasn’t peed recently, she needs to be inside of a playpen, inside her crate, or on a leash.

Use the umbilical training method or a playpen for the rest of the time.

If your dog isn’t empty or being directly supervised, your dog needs to be contained.

I use a training tether (see below) to tie my dog to the couch, doors, or my chair. Everywhere I go, she goes. That’s the umbilical method – it helps you keep a close eye on your dog.

If you’d rather not do that, use an exercise pen instead (see below).

3. Supervise, Supervise, Supervise!

Watch your dog. If she starts to circle, sniff, or squat (or lift a leg, for boy dogs), scoop her up and carry her outside or to the potty pad.

Try not to make this scary! You don’t want to teach your dog that peeing in front of you is scary.

If she pees outside or on the potty pad, reward her heavily.

4. Be patient. View Mistakes as Learning Opportunities.

If there’s a slip-up and your dog pees on the carpet, try not to get angry. Don’t scold, swat, or show your dog what she did wrong.

Instead, learn from your mistake. You’re the one with the big brain and the thumbs.

What happened that allowed your dog to have an accident? Then try to fix that!

5. Super-Clean.

Be sure to super-clean the areas with something made specifically for dog urine. Your household cleaners might clean up the sight and smell of your dog’s pee to YOU, but you need something that will break down the enzymes so your dog doesn’t smell your carpet as a bathroom! I use Nature’s Miracle Carpet Shampoo for my foster dogs and puppies.

Unfortunately, potty pads are pretty tricky for many dogs. It’s just not obvious to most dogs that a potty pad is all that different from carpet, newspaper, or other common household items.

Instead, I recommend using a puppy litter box (see below). Even better, teach your dog to pee outside! Again, the difference between a puppy pad and the carpet is just not obvious to most dogs.

Potty training can be a chore – but it’s worth it not to have to clean up dog pee indoors all the time!

With patience, consistency, and a few treats, you’ll get there.

Comments 19

  1. My 9 year old dog has started peeing on the rug, at some point during the day when I am home. She has always had separation anxiety issues and had accidents while we were gone. But since we moved into our new house in February, she’s been having trouble adjusting and acting out. Ive been working from home the past 5 weeks and have found pee at least two separate times. I put her out at least 3 times during the day and take her for a daily walk. I’m not sure when she’s doing this and why let alone how to stop it!

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      Author

      Hi Kelsey – I think we might need to address the separation issues to help deal with this problem. You can check out our separation anxiety offerings to get help.

  2. We moved to a new home that had carpet downstairs in November 2019. Our 5 year old Beagle has been constantly peeing on the carpet since we moved in. Our last house did not have carpet. She goes out side often, is in the kennel when we leave and we have recently had to start putting her in the kennel over night. We use a spray when we find the pee, and use our carpet cleaner about once a month. I don’t know what to do to get her to stop peeing!! It smells like a barn downstairs ?

    1. My dog is 9yrs old. A shih Tzu. We bought brothers. This one is smarter and more stubborn. I put his nose in it. He does this on and off. He has ruined more than one rug. I put him in his crate now and he claws and will not stop barking. I have it. Sometime he will not go in the crate and runs around the house and snaps if i put him in. He is usually a very sweet dog and is mostly close to me. If I didn’t love him, I would not keep him. PLEASE HELP, Linda

  3. I am actively trying to reward potty pad or outside peeing. My puppy hasn’t done either yet and is only peeing inside on the carpet. I took her outside for hours and supervised after giving her water. I still have no results. Any advice? I am considering trying the umbilical method but she is not leash trained yet. I figure it might take her a while.

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  4. If I put a rug at the front door my dog will pee on it. If I don’t put a rug there she has no pee in the house issue. What’s up with that?

    1. Same here! If I try to have any type of rug, my dog pees on it. But if there isn’t a rug in sight, then no pee. It’s very frustrating and I’m at my ends. She’s been potty trained and goes at least three times a day and is over two years old. We’ve been cleared for UTI and have been told she will “grow out of it” but I’m still waiting. I’ve run out of ideas on what to use the get rid of the pee scent so she doesn’t think it’s a spot for her to let loose on. Help!

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        Author

        Would you like to schedule a consult to see if I can help you problem-solve? Just hover over the 1-on-1 training tab on the menu of the site to see your options. I’ve got so many questions and suggestions for you! And be sure you’re using the tips already laid out in this article.

  5. I am having the same exact issue. I rescued my dog in February. She is a little over a yr old and I don’t know her back history. She’s pees and poops outside and is a great dog. If I put any carpet on the floor she will pee on it. If there is no carpet she doesn’t pee. She has been doing this ever since I got her. She goes for several walks a day and we have a yard. No sure what else to do except not have any carpets which is very frustrating. I’m washing rugs daily. Please help.

    1. Post
      Author

      Would you like to schedule a consult to see if I can help you problem-solve? Just hover over the 1-on-1 training tab on the menu of the site to see your options. I’ve got so many questions and suggestions for you! And be sure you’re using the tips already laid out in this article.

  6. My dog is a 7 year old male. He recently had a bad experience at the vet & was apparently trying to bite them. So was sedated for his hair cut & bath needle etc. it wasn’t our usual vet & we’ve had no trouble before with hair cut. First time he’s had a bath away from home. I usually do it & will be doing so again from now on. I know it was a very traumatic time for him. When we come home he was very lethargic & sleeping a lot virtually took about 3 days to wake up properly was licking between his toes flat out to the point it was really annoying then I noticed some blood in between his toes. ( I’m sure he had too much anaesthetic) took him back to vet has had a course of antibiotics for inflammation between his toes & cream to put between his toes once a day which are healed up now & has finished he’s tablets. But Is now peeing inside on the carpet 1/2 times every second day or so. Have growled at him. He knows as soon as I find it he’s done wrong & cringes at the door to go out. I hate that he’s cringing from me. He sleeps with me & usually wakes me if he wants to go out & is usually a very obedient cuddly boy. But now is waking me after he’s wet on the carpet. What should I do I don’t want to take him back there. & because of COVID & border closure i can’t really go anywhere else

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      Author

      Diane, that’s a really tough situation. Unfortunately, I can’t really address the medical concerns since I’m not a vet. That said, for the potty issues it’s worth just going back to the beginning of positive-reinforcement potty training (we’e got some articles on that here). I do think another vet consult might be needed to ensure that there’s not a medical reason for the potty training regression. Maybe you can get a telemedicine appointment?

  7. Hi!
    My almost 5 year old German shepherd mix has recently been having accident in our home. Every once in a while she’ll have accidents on the one rug in our living room. For the most part she’s usually good. I’ve been working from home and have noticed more accidents when myself and husband have to leave to go somewhere. Tonight while we were getting ready to eat dinner, my husband sat in our living and she started to pee right in front of him on the rug. I’m not sure why she would do this and we’re both stumped. Any feedback would be appreciated.

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  8. Hi,

    I have a 6 year old mix that we rescued when she was about a year and a half. She was house trained when we got her and in general don’t have an issue with her doing pees inside unless there are extenuating circumstances. What we do have a problem with is she pees in her bed and snuggles into it at night. It’s almost like it’s a comfort thing to her. Is there any way we can retrain her?

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  9. I have a 5 month old teacup yorkie, our house has carpet only in the bedrooms, and we always keep the bedroom doors closed. She’s good at using the doggie door and going out to go pee but as soon as a bedroom door opens she runs in and pee’s on the carpet. How do I get her to stop peeing on carpet? I hate taking her to anyone’s house that has carpet, I’m afraid she’ll pee all over, please help

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      Author

      Hi Kimberly, can you try putting her on leash and letting her into the room just an inch, then taking her out again, and rewarding her? This should help teach her to go in without peeing but you have to use a leash to prevent her from getting away from you!

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