Does your dog have poor potty manners?

No matter how well-behaved your pet is, chances are that your pet has inappropriately urinated at least once in its life.

But before blaming Fido or Fluffy for bad behavior, ask yourself how often you are taking your pet outside. Inappropriate urination may just be an “accident,” especially if your pet’s potty breaks aren’t frequent.

If your pet gets plenty of potty breaks and still inappropriately urinates, your pet may have a behavioral problem or a medical condition. All underlying medical conditions should first be considered before assuming there might be a behavioral problem.

Dr. Carly Patterson, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said these health conditions include infections in the urinary tract, weakness in the urethral muscle, urinary tract stones, or inherited congenital/anatomic abnormalities. Additionally, pets with neurological disorders may urinate inappropriately.

If you’re worried that Fido or Fluffy’s inappropriate urination is caused by a health condition, try watching their behavior the next time they urinate.

“Dogs with underlying health conditions affecting the urinary tract may strain to urinate, display an increased urination frequency, or have blood in their urine,” Patterson said. “Dogs, in particular, may dribble urine continuously or intermittently, depending on the nature of the disorder.”

If your veterinarian rules out health conditions as the cause of your pet’s inappropriate urination, then it might be time to consider potential behavioral problems.

“Incomplete house training may result in inappropriate urination behaviors,”

Patterson said. “For example, some dogs may urinate in the house due to submission or excitement; it is important to discuss all observed behaviors with your veterinarian so that you can develop a plan of action together.”

A plan of action may include a trainer or a visit to a veterinary behaviorist, Patterson said. The plan will depend on the specific behavior and background of the pet and owner.

Your pet’s poor potty manners may even be caused by their natural instinct to mark their territory. This instinct is especially common in intact male dogs. In this case, spaying or neutering may help reduce inappropriate urine marking behavior, Patterson said.

However, older dogs who have been marking for a long period of time may not respond to spaying or neutering.

The bottom line is before assuming that your pet is trying to make your life harder—or wetter—be sure to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing your pet’s inappropriate urination.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.