How embarrassing! Have you ever brought your fully potty-trained dog to your friend’s house a long time ago, only to let them pee or poop in the house?
This is what I have experienced with Matilda, she is well out of the puppy stage.
About two years ago, when she was about five or six years old, she had a car accident at someone else’s house.
It occurred to me that I don’t take my dog to see people very often, and when I do, we’re in a completely different environment, full of new distractions, smells, and sounds.
Now I realize it makes perfect sense for my dog to have an accident at someone else’s house and we haven’t had those awkward moments since.
Does Your Dog Know What “Outside” Really Means?
When you potty train your dog, you’re probably teaching her that it’s okay to poop anywhere outside, and that all areas indoors are off limits. Unless, of course, she also uses a potty pad or other indoor potty system.
Dogs use visual, smell, and texture cues to decide whether an area is suitable for urinating or pooping. Most likely, your dog will pee or poop in a grassy park, even if they have never been to that park before.
But in someone else’s home, it may be carpeted instead of hardwood floors. Even if the new environment has a lot in common with your own home, our dogs will always be different, and scent cues picked up from outside, even from a pet accident a long time ago, can show our dog that it is suitable elimination there.
How does your dog communicate the need to go outside?
The potty bell or Paws2Go potty button enables Matilda to notify me when she needs to go out. But when we’re visiting someone for an afternoon, we’re less likely to bring these things with us.
Matilda has other ways for her to communicate with me, and I tend to take her out on a regular schedule so she doesn’t need to ask as often.
In someone else’s house, our dog may have a harder time getting our attention. Or they may not be able to enter the usual doors they usually need to scratch or wait when they go out. They may not generalize the different doors in someone’s home the way you would normally let them through.
Accident prevention on arrival
When you come to someone’s house with your dog, before you walk in for the first time, take some time to walk the dog outside or in their backyard. This way, your dog will have time to urinate or poop if needed. If she doesn’t, she’ll at least be familiar with the designated outdoor potty area.
That alone will do the trick, but you need to treat your already trained dog like a puppy during your visit to avoid any mishaps.
Aside from being semi-random, another thing I come across when visiting my dog is making sure all her needs are taken care of. My social anxiety makes it hard for me to ask for a bowl of water, or interrupt an activity to feed her dinner on time. Those unmet needs and schedule changes will definitely make my dog feel like she can’t rely on me to take her out- All my important factors finally helped.
Mark someone else’s home
Sometimes an accident isn’t an accident at all.
Dogs prone to tagging may see unfamiliar homes as territories waiting to be claimed.
If your dog is marked, chances are you know the difference between a mark and an accident. A dog that is marking will usually raise its leg (although some dogs will squat to mark) and urinate a little, usually on a vertical surface such as a wall, chair, or table legs.
Marked dogs may do so even if they are already outside and have no “must” go.
If you watch them carefully, you may catch and break your dog, as marking is usually done after a strong sniff of an attractive markable surface.
For men, a “wrap” may be required in someone else’s home, even if they never marked your own.
For bitches, diapers and even redesigned baby onesies can work in a pinch to hold a few drops.
What to do with your dog during the visit
Depending on where I am, I may be visiting someone with my dog on a leash. Even if I’m not worried about an accident, there may be hidden household hazards such as worm baits, medication stored on a low table, pills that roll under the sofa, or anything we might take for granted. No pet-verified home.
Things their pets can’t reach, if anything, your pets probably can’t reach either.
If I do get my dog off the leash, I’ll call her back to me as soon as she starts to get out of my sight. This is usually enough to catch any clues she needs to be out.
Take a walk while you’re at someone else’s house
Tracking a dog can be difficult while you’re talking to or otherwise engaging with someone you’re visiting.
I try to be mindful of the time and take my dog out every two to three hours. If she doesn’t urinate or poop when she arrives, I’ll probably give her a walk about thirty minutes after the visit.
What to do if your dog has an accident at someone else’s home
It’s not uncommon for you to feel uncomfortable when your dog misbehaves in front of other people.
They might judge us to have a “bad” dog, or refuse to punish that dog harshly.
Of course, a dog that is in an accident or even intentionally tagged is not a “bad dog.”
It’s just a natural consequence when we don’t communicate with them clearly enough, or when we misjudge their abilities.
This behavior can be interrupted and your dog is ready to go out immediately, while letting your friends know you’ll be back later to clean up the mess.
Or, you can leave and never come back out of sheer embarrassment. The temptation is real.
But most people realize that good dogs make mistakes, and a good person will help them overcome their potty problems so they’ll be welcome in the home again.