Q. Recently my family began allowing our 9-year-old female Australian Shepherd to come up to the second floor of our home, an area she was never allowed to visit before. However, she has urinated in the upstairs area several times. She never has accidents downstairs, and it is not a health issue.
She is allowed to relieve herself outside every few hours, but she holds it for a shorter period of time when she is upstairs than she does when she is restricted to the first floor. Is it common for dogs to break housetraining if they are introduced to a new area of the house? What can we do to fix this problem?
A. Yes, when allowed into a new part of the house (or when the family moves to a new house), sometimes dogs are more apt to make housetraining mistakes. This can happen if (at new house) they’re not sure where their “approved toilet” place is, or in your dog’s case, being upstairs, not sure how to get back to the right area when they need to eliminate.
Also, your dog may be a little nervous about being upstairs, since she’s lived her whole life before this time with the upstairs being off-limits for her. Add to that, maybe, some punishment or emotional disapproval of her when she’s had potty accidents upstairs – she could easily be a bit anxious, and that could cause her to eliminate more frequently.
Navigating stairs can be scary for dogs, too, especially if the treads are a little slippery. She may be worried about going down these unfamiliar stairs when she needs to potty. This might cause her to potty upstairs, even though she probably knows she shouldn’t, but can’t hold it and is worried about navigating the stairs.
She’s new at this upstairs-living thing – so think of her as “inexperienced” and keep an eye on her when she’s upstairs with you. If she leaves the room you’re in or gives any other indication she might need to go out, accompany her down the stairs to the door and praise her for doing her business where you approve. And, of course, close off her access to the upstairs when you’re not going to be up there with her.