My Cocker Spaniel Is No longer Housetrained
What Can I Do?

Toilet Training Problems 

Question by: Gina

I need help. My cocker spaniel is no longer housetrained. He has suddenly began peeing and pooping in my home!  

Let me start from the beginning.

We adopted a 3 year old male almost 6 months ago, after the passing of our 11 year old. The cocker rescue location was hesitant to adopt him out because he had some aggression issues (fear based not alpha based). 

Wet golden cocker spaniel enjoying the beachTime for another swim Mom?

He was well house trained and we felt that we could handle him and, to date, we have.

In six months he now allows us in his space, can be clipped and bathed without a muzzle, is civil with cats, and no longer resource guards. 

HOWEVER, within the last two weeks, he has started urinating and defecating in our living room or the boys' bedroom. 

He exhibits no stomach upset or illness that would cause this. Nor has he had a change in diet.

We take him outside and he stands or plays where he used to do his business. It's like all of a sudden he's forgotten that the potty is outside and instead thinks it has moved to the living room. 

This dog has made HUGE strides in social behaviour. I just can't understand what is causing this issue now. 

Thanks, Gina

My Cocker Spaniel Is No Longer housetrained!

By: Pauline (Website Owner)

Hello Gina,

Your cocker spaniel is no longer housetrained? Oh dear, this is not good, is it?

If you're confident that he doesn't have any health problems, such as kidney or urinary, we can safely say that this is a behavioural problem.

Possible Triggers

In order to tackle this problem, it's necessary to understand what may have triggered this new behaviour so that it can either be removed or alleviated.

Have there been any changes that could have triggered your dog's new behaviour?

Is it possible that some event or 'trauma' could be causing your dog to suddenly behave in this way? For example, has there been any significant changes in the household; have you recently moved home, got a new pet, someone left home, someone joined the household, a new baby...? 

Or has he been left on his own for longer than normal? Could this be his form of 'protest'?

Changes in domestic circumstances can easily cause upset in our pets and result in behavioural problems. If you can pin it down to environmental changes, then you're in luck because, with a little bit of understanding and TLC, the problem will right itself.

It may be that your pet's toilet training has simply lapsed and he needs a reminder of the rules. I recommend you begin house-training him all over again. Keep an eye on him and let him know that you won't tolerate his new 'misbehaviour'.

Has your Cocker been neutered? Is it possible he's marking his territory? It's interesting that he's urinating in the boys' bedroom and no other bedroom.

Remove All Traces Of His Scent

Don't forget to make sure you remove all traces of his pee and poop by using a proper enzyme cleaner as normal cleaning products will simply mask the smell from humans. Your dog will still be able to smell his scent which will encourage him to go there again. 

You can buy a good urine cleanser from any good pet store. Once you've done this, keep the boys' bedroom door (in fact, all bedroom doors) firmly closed.

Alpha Dog Behavior?

It's not impossible, although unlikely with a 'fearful' dog, that your pet is trying to assume the role of the alpha male...but you never know.

I don't have any experience of your dog, so it's difficult to tell. Personally, from what you've said, I don't think this is the case, but you know your dog. Is it possible? (Just in case it is, here's a link to advice about how to re-establish the ground-rules in your home.)

Crate Training Can Help

I'd also recommend you crate him when you're unable to supervise him as dogs very rarely toilet in their own 'den'. You'll find advice and information on crate training your dog here.

Summary: Housetraining Issues

My cocker spaniel is no longer housetrained - what to do:

  • Try to determine what has changed to trigger this new behavior.

  • Take him outside every hour and encourage him to 'do the business'.

  • Watch him like a hawk at all times when he's indoors.

  • Crate him while you're busy - don't give him the opportunity to get into mischief.

  • If you think he may be competing for the position of top dog, then concentrate on re-establishing your position as alpha male. It's surprising how much his behaviour may change by reinforcing your alpha position. 

Best of luck!

Visitor Comments:
My Cocker Spaniel Is No Longer Housetrained

My Cocker Spaniel is no longer housetrained
Comment by: Suzette 

I agree with everything Pauline said. Also, what I found with my Cocker Spaniel is that she responds to a specific sound to help her go to the bathroom. 

I can't whistle, but I say 'weeeeee' a couple of times in different pitches. Importantly, I have a word , ie 'home' which indicates to her we are going inside, and I find that she then knows to do whatever she needs before we enter the building. 

So decide on a routine, and stick to it - your dog will fit in. I find my Sally will sit right in front of me when she needs the bathroom with a distinctive look in her eyes.

Pay attention and you will learn to recognise the 'look'.

Hope this helps!