What’s With Little Dogs Who Pee in the House?

I’ve never had a little dog of my own. But when I hear about them acting like a$$holes, I assume it’s their person’s fault.

After all, they’re dogs. They’re “god” spelled backwards. They couldn’t possibly be Satanic hellspawn who constantly yap, bite, and jump. At least not if their people bother to train and exercise them.

But as for soiling the house? I’m starting to wonder. Maybe it’s not always the person’s fault when little dogs pee in the house.

The face of a cute Yorkie.

I’m glad you find me so cute. By the way, I pooped in your purse while you were getting your coffee.


Do Little Dogs Always Pee in the House?

I’ve heard the rumors.

“Dachshunds are hard to house train.” A chihuahua forum member asked other users, “How many of you have found poop in your shoes?” And every third (hilarious) video on Dexter’s Ruff Life has the starring Yorkie pooping or peeing indoors.

I’ve never fostered or pet sat a small dog without having at least a few accidents in the house. Why?

I’ve made a list of possible reasons little dogs pee in the house. Let’s see if any of them make sense:

To save their breed

If little dogs didn’t pee in the house, everyone would want one and puppy mill owners would exploit them even more.

To give us something to do

Everyone needs a purpose in life. There are worse things to do than following a Maltese around your apartment with a bottle of Nature’s Miracle. Just ask any reality tv star.

To give them something to do

One reason people get small dogs is because they need less exercise (ha!). So if you’re not getting regular walks, why not make up some dog sports of your own? Competitive pee aiming anyone?

To help the economy

The only time I buy paper towels is when I’m fostering a puppy or small dog. Multiply that by all the small dogs and puppies in the world and you’ve made a major economic impact.

To save the world

Maybe little dogs are so brilliant that if they weren’t peeing all over the house and pooping in shoes, they’d be conducting nuclear experiments and putting the entire planet at risk.

I’m not convinced. There must be another reason little dogs pee in the house. It’s time to look within.

Little dog pees on a stump.

Good boy!


Why Little Dogs Pee in My House

I’ve read some articles by veterinarians and trainers who insist that little dogs aren’t harder to house train. And if they pee in the house, it’s because of how they were raised.

  • Instead of teaching them to walk to their pee spot, people constantly carry little dogs and they never develop the habit.
  • People don’t sweat a volume of pee so small it won’t fill an eye dropper and poops the size of peanuts.
  • Small dog breeders don’t provide large enough whelping boxes for puppies to relieve themselves far from where they eat and sleep.
  • It’s harder to supervise the house training of little dogs because they can sneak off behind furniture more easily than big dogs. Once they have the habit of going in the house, it’s harder to break.

You know what? That makes sense. At least more sense than a Yorkie with a junior chemistry set working on nuclear fission.

That could explain why the small dogs I’ve fostered and pet sat aren’t 100% house trained.

But what can I do about it now?

Honey the Golden Retriever looks up after peeing.

Look at me. I watered the lawn.


Keeping Little Dogs From Peeing in My House

I don’t find schlepping a bottle of Nature’s Miracle around my house meaningful. I hate buying paper towels. And don’t get me started on the problems of storing nuclear waste.

I’m going to work harder on house training when I have a little dog staying in my house.

  • Supervise them like they’re puppies, no matter how old they are, because they’re acting like puppies.
  • Stop assuming they’ll tell me they need to go out and institute a schedule of outside breaks at regular times.
  • Cut the grass. Maybe little dogs who get used to peeing on pee pads on kitchen and bathroom floors don’t like walking in tall grass. That would explain why so many of them pee on the sidewalk and other hard surface.

Hopefully, if I’m vigilant, the little dogs who stay with me will leave my house with better house training than they came to it.

And I’ll continue to find little dogs feisty, athletic, and adorableโ€”assuming that if they pee in the house, it’s all my fault.

Your Turn: Are small dogs harder to house train? Or are the vets and trainers right that it’s all our fault?
photo credits: (Yorkie) tanakawho via photopin cc, (peeing dog) jondoeforty1 via photopin cc

  1. Excellent post! We have wondered why little dogs are always having “accidents” too. Even my friend Buddy is not to be trusted so Mom is always taking him out to do his poddy business. We read about it all the time on social media too and just assumed it is a small dog thing. On the other hand, when a 10 lb dog pees, the mess isn’t quite the same as a 100 lb dog. Nevertheless, no excuses, peeing in the house is not allowed at our place!

    • Okay, your concerns are legitimate. First of all, the age of the ‘little’dog is important. Dogs want to please us, one of the problems is, they don’t know what you want. If it’s new to your household, that is another thing to factor in. After the little one has been fed, wait 15 to 20 minutes, then take him outside. Give him a chance to pick a spot, if he goes, make a big deal out of it and reward him. Something like “good boy”, maybe clap your hands then bring him inside. If you see him sniffing around and circling, take him outside immediately. Make sure your voice is “happy”. Youngsters are very sensitive to voice tones.

      Your dog’s not going to do what you want him to do unless he knows what you want. Dogs who have been kept outside most of their young lives do not understand why they can’t come in the house and be part of the family. Unfortunately they end up in a shelter, or given away to someone who is clueless or might want to turn him into a fighting dog, or worse, bait for fighting dogs.
      Remember “We are their voice”. Getting over the ‘hump’ of potting training is well worth what you get in return.


  2. Great post! I grew up with miniature poodles — not exactly small, but nowhere near as big as Callie and Shadow — and the ONLY time I remember any of them peering or pooping in the house was when they were sick and no one was home to let them out in the yard. I had a harder time house training Callie and Shadow — but I didn’t do it right either. Thankfully, Callie did most of her own self-training once she was old enough to be outside during the day. And, then helped me train Shadow. Now, the only time they “go” in the house is — like my poodles — when they’re sick and I’m not home. At 24.5 pounds, I don’t consider Ducky a small dog but next to her sisters, she is. She was already 7 months old when we adopted her, so she was pretty much crate trained already. And, once we lealrned the difference between her play barks and her “I gotta go out NOW” bark, she was house trained in a few days. So, I definitely have to agree with the vets who say it’s NOT the dog, or the size of the dog, it’s the owner/guardian.

  3. I’m a big dog person. I’ve known a few small dogs that I actually liked, but for the most part, I have found them to be less than charming. I just assumed it was how they were made. The ones who I have liked belonged to people who held the little dogs to the same expectation as big dogs with respect to potty breaks. So, maybe you are on to something when you suggest it is up to the people. Now when I see obnoxious yappy bitey annoying little dogs, I’m just going to look at their owners and think “Poor little dog”. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • If YouTube is any indicator, lots of people think little dogs being obnoxious (biting, snarling, peeing in the house) are cute.

      But here on blogville, I know lots of small dog people who exercise and train their dogs to be delightful companions.

      I’m betting big time that the humans mess up dogs. It’s true for big dogs. Why wouldn’t it be true for small ones?

      That said, some breeds, like terriers, are bred to be feisty. So if you don’t want a dog with big personality and a fighting spirit, you might want to skip the terriers. No matter how cute they are. Or find them a really involving hobby to channel their energy.:)

  4. Ha ha that’s hilarious. My take on Dachshunds thhatvpee in the house? I wrote about it on my post House Breaking. Wiener dogs are truly different. Attitude.

  5. I think another thing to remember with the really small dogs, say 10lbs and under, is that their bladders are teeny tiny! They need to be given the opportunity to go much more often than a large dog.(Just the same way small children can’t hold it as long as adults.) I have a feeling their owners don’t take them outside as often as they need.

  6. The only time I have trouble with Roxy peeing in the house is if it’s hot, she drank a ton of water, and I left her longer than her giant bladder can cope with. This RARELY happens. She can go for hours and hours, then go outside and pee lake Roxy. I’m not sure why people let small dogs get away with stuff a big dog never could. They are not any harder to train. Crate training as a puppy is by far the best solution for a tiny 2 pound puppy though.

  7. I cannot stand little, tiny, obnoxious dogs. We have one in our neighborhood who is super-duper obnoxious, but I don’t think he pees in his house. I have a dear friend who has a Yorkie who loves to poop in the house, but I don’t think she pees. I have another neighbor who is a dear friend with a perfectly (mostly, he IS a Dachshund, but he does his all his business outside!) behaved Dachshund, and we share babysitting duties. MY personal problem, is my very large, beautiful, super-pain-in-the-butt George Weasley greyhound that pees in the house when he’s in a cantankerous mood, which is almost daily. What’s up with THAT?!?

  8. I’m a big dog person, like Sherri says above, so I have little experience with small dogs. It seems almost every person I meet who has a small dog also has problems with potty training them. So I’ve always assumed it was something to be expected from most small dogs. But what you said makes sense. What Taryn and Roxy said in the comments above does too. BTW, that caption for the cute little puppy pooping in the purse is HILARIOUS! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. This is MUCH nicer than an article I read the other day… anyways, this is pretty interesting. When I was working, I noticed most people did carry their small dogs. They even brought them into the clinic in pet carriers, which I just didn’t understand usually. I always thought, they’re dogs let them walk on the leash! It’s probably the human’s fault. Or maybe it’s the way they’re built? Smaller dogs have smaller bladders? lol I’m not sure.

  10. Great post! I don’t have a little dog – well, Dakota the Corgi isn’t very tall, but she’s like a big dog standing in water. Never had any problems with any of my corgis until Rosie became incontinent due to the ravages of Degenerative Myelopathy, and Monty would “drop one” occasionally on his way out the doggie door, but he was almost 14. I cut them both some slack. Love your reasons and solutions!

  11. Well, apart from physiology – smaller dog, smaller bladder, I think a dog is a dog is a dog. So any size dog should be equally house-trainable, regarding their size. So I’d have to agree that yes, it is our fault. Well, not mine, we don’t have little dogs ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I have a cairn who was house trained as a puppy and since been fully house trained. I can’t remember the last time he peed inside and we took the time to properly train him, socialise him and ensure he grew up into a well behaved dog. I have since moved in with my other halves collie, who is also fully house trained, however due to where he lived was trained to go ‘off lead’ (always picked up) and so when only having limited time it is my cairn and not the collie who is easier to take out for a quick pee.

    We do occasionally pick him up my cairn and I can only wish my collie was as light, you have no idea how many times I have nearly given myself a hernia lifting my collie over a style because the farmers have left no way for him to get through (different rant) and the times my cairn has been attacked I have always lifted him into my arms to get him away from the other dog, something that I can’t do with my collie.

    I do always carry my cairn into a vets office, and will sit him on my lap until he is carried through to the room to be seen, again I wish I could do this with my collie. If a dog is in the Vets it could be because it is ill and so I would hate for something to be passed to either of my dogs which is why I sit as far away from other people and refuse to let my dogs socialise in this situation.

    Pamela, I love your blog it always makes me think, however this time i had to comment!

    • Lauranne, I’m so glad you did comment. First, because I’m really nosy about my readers. Only a small percentage comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

      And second, because I had hoped to hear from more small dog people. You have the great perspective of living with both a small and large dog.

      As a pet foster family, we clean up a lot of accidents–mostly the puppies. But a few times I’ve pet sat for small dogs that come from great homes and are perfectly nice in every way except for peeing in the house. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on.

      I see the advantages of a small dog for several of the scenarios you mentioned. And I’m starting to wonder if I’m exclusively a big dog person. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Your idea of being exclusively been a big dog person really has me intrigued. I wonder if maybe I am more small dog?! BD (my collie) has fear aggression, and there are many times I would give anything to be able to shrink him in size as when ever Mity (my cairn) is in trouble I pick him up to get him out of the other dogs way, but with BD I have to stay calm and try to get to him. I am not one for letting dogs sort it out amongst themselves, and in hindsight probably rather stupidly, once took on a German Shepherd that having quite happily decided to play with Mity for a while suddenly decided he was a chew toy and tried to cause him serious harm.
        It would also be easier if BD was smaller, as he is a very large collie and I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to carry him over styles, nearly resulting in injury, as we have set off along public footpaths to discover a style to cross without any way through for a dog. (Another rant for another time, I think)
        And it would be my large collie that thinks the best place to be in the world is curled up on top of me on the sofa – but I’m not complaining about that one!!

  13. I had one that no matter what, it wasn’t going to let you know it had to pee, it just went and took a pee when it felt like it. All I could do was let it out often but if you forgot for a while you better have some paper towels. I have had many house dogs but this one just wasn’t trainable.

  14. Frankie came to me house-trained and the only time he peed in the house was when he first became diabetic and drank vast quantities of water. Even though he is quite confused about most things, he still makes it clear to me that he likes to go outside.

    Maybe I’m just in a mood today but I find all these anti-small dog comments closed minded and irritating. I am not likely to get a large dog because I would prefer to have the option of taking a pet on the plane (not that it worked out all that well with Frankie but that’s another story). That doesn’t mean I don’t like large dogs — or judge them by owners who have more of a tendency to punch them than than people do small dogs.

  15. When we first brought Penny (our Dachshund) home she went everywhere in the house! But I think it was due to the fact that she was newly adopted, was scared out of her mind, wasn’t used to her surroundings, and was trying to establish herself as ‘the bigger dog’ with Luna – our Golden. Now obviously she is fine, and lets us know when she needs to go out side.

    Didn’t know you had so many small dog haters on here ๐Ÿ™

  16. When I was a kid we had tiny rat terriers (5-10 lbs). My grandparents raised them too. We NEVER had to deal with pee or poo in the house after the puppy stage. They all learned to ask to go out very quickly.
    Our 10 lb terrier mutt never soiled the house either!. It leaves me wondering about other breeds…

  17. Our smaller beagle Cricket took much longer to house train than the larger beagle and our goldens. We used the same routine to train her as the others. I always assumed it was because her bladder was smaller. She really only had accidents during our 8 hour work days, or occasionally on a rainy day when I was probably being slack about letting them out (and that never happens now). She now can hold it all day, but she still oftentimes gets up in the night to go pee….but she always wakes us up so we can take her out.

  18. We have Dachshunds, and ours never go in the house. We let them out on a regular basis and they take care of business outside. They are rescues, and we didn’t have them as puppies, so I can’t say what they were like to housetrain as puppies.
    The first Dachshund my husband and I adopted together (not my first Dox – I grew up with them)… we adopted him from our local SPCA and we didn’t know how things would be with him. We lived in an apartment back then and we were prepared that we would have to housetrain him. Nope. He knew from day one what to do and never (literally never) had an accident in the apartment. We took him out on a regular basis and he knew how to ask to go out when he needed to. After moving to a home, and further adoptions… it was pretty much the same. Our 2nd had a few accidents only RIGHT after being here in the beginning… after that, not a single accident in the house since. She was came from a Dachshund rescue and was in foster care before she came to us. Our third came from a Humane Society in a neighboring town and was also in foster care with many other dogs. They had a dog door so he was trained to that. He had a few accidents while getting accustomed to not being able to run outside at his leisure. We let them out often and he is now totally used to going when he’s let out.
    So yeah… in defense of Dachshunds, they don’t all use the restroom in the house. Ours don’t.
    As a P.S. People who like Dachshunds tend to also like larger dogs. I know we do! My “someday dogs” are Greyhounds or Dobermans. I love Goldens, too… but I full well admit to not being able to manage a longer-haired breed. We are not “small dog people” except for our profound and absolute love for Dachshunds. They are the only small breed that we’d have. Nothing against Yorkies, Maltese, Pomeranians, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, etc. – they’re just not for us. I have no idea whether they’re difficult to housetrain or not because I don’t have any personal experience caring for them.

  19. “volume of pee so small it wonโ€™t fill an eye dropper and poops the size of peanuts”…pfft…you are certainly not talking about Dachshunds. They think they are big dogs, bark like big dogs and pee as much as big dogs! Dachshunds ARE notoriously hard to potty train. Chester I don’t know why. As you imagined, a regular potty break has helped. I put them outside to potty every 2 – 3 hours whether they ask or not. When I am not home they stay in a crate because won’t potty where they sleep. I very rarely have accidents at my house anymore.

  20. Well, we have a big dog and a little dog. They were already bonded, and so we adopted them together – both about a year old, neither one potty trained. Having never had small dogs, we approached training the chihuahua exactly like the pibble mix. They were crate trained, put on a potty schedule, and the chi went outside with her big sister – rain or shine. I never even considered pee pads. (ew!) They are both now house trained, well behaved, and never potty in the house. People always comment that our chihuahua is so calm – they think she is an atypical chi. I happen to think she just has been treated like any other dog, and so has fewer annoying habits. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Mummy’s friend has a chihuahua who pees inside. He’s 2 now and they have training pads everywhere. Its crazy that mummy’s friends doesn’t seem to mind, but I think alot of the reasons you’ve suggested are true for them. I’d like to think that all dogs, big or small can be house trained.

  22. When we adopted my Chihuahua, he was 4 months old. He pottied in the house one time, I showed it to him and said, “That’s a no-no” before taking him outside. That’s all it took for him.

    The three we have trouble with, two are older dogs (11 and 4 or 5 years old). They aren’t peeing to relieve themselves, but to mark territory and/or add their scent to the pack. It’s slower going with them, but we’re getting there.

    Number 3 is a Teacup Chihuahua. The best we’ve managed with him thus far: He potties in the bathroom instead of the living, dining, or hall. He goes outside with everyone else (about every hour, when we’re home), but I don’t know. He takes longer to get around to doing his business outside.

    I’d rather clean up after him from tile than carpet, but we’re still working with him.

  23. I never know if my dogs count as small dogs or not. They are the smallest dogs I’ve ever owned, but at 25 and 35lbs, there are plenty of dogs smaller.
    I don’t think it depends on size, but more on personality of both the dog and the owner. Larry is my smaller dog and once we got past the learning stage after we adopted him, there’s never been a problem in the house.
    Junebug, on the other hand, will sometimes decide not to ask to go out. She doesn’t poop in the house (unless she’s sick), and we do look for signs that peeing in the house might mean a bladder infection, but for the most part it happens in the evenings when we don’t pay attention to how long it has been since her last out. Once we started paying attention to when it was happening (and it was pretty consistent) we got ourselves on a schedule to prevent it. Within 30 minutes of her eating her dinner, she gets an after dinner out. There need to be 3 more outs after that before bed. We can get away with 2, but that means she’ll be waking me up somewhere around 3am to go out. Luckily, she does not want to pee in our room, so she does make it known she needs out in the middle of the night.
    For me, it’s not a small dog thing. It might be a Beagle thing, but more than likely, it’s a Junebug thing.

    However, I have noticed that both dogs like going out less when the grass needs to be mowed (real issue in the spring in the PNW), but Smokey (65lbs) and Moree (55lbs) didn’t like really tall grass either.
    The other thing I’ve noticed is that the dogs don’t like it when it’s been too long between yard clean ups (which I struggle with in the winter). And it could be that lots of smaller dog owners have smaller yards and don’t do clean up as often as they should.

  24. As a professional trainer, I’ve found that smaller dogs aren’t any more difficult to house train than larger dogs. Now…there’s a caveat (or several) that you alluded to in your post. The first is that *people* treat little dogs differently.

    Maybe it’s because there’s only a thimble-full of pee or that the poops look like Tootsie Rolls and are really easy to clean.

    Maybe it’s because it’s so easy to sling a tiny dog up over your shoulder that they’re treated more like dolls than they are dogs.

    I’m not sure of the reasons why, but I don’t think people are as vigilant with the littles as they are with the bigs. I KNOW that I’m getting that Great Dane out every 90 minutes because I don’t want to clean up a Great Dane sized mess! So I err on the side of caution.

    “Hmm, wonder if he’s got to go out?”
    “Just take him, the alternative isn’t pleasant.”

    So we spend some quality time outside together every hour and a half or so. Or at least we did when he was just a pup. Now that he’s almost 9-months old, he’s capable of holding it longer and I’m more easily noticing his subtle signaling.

  25. Well, small dog = small bladder = frequent potty breaks. Pepper (a 14 pound Pomeranian) is my medical service dog, and is potty trained on multiple surfaces, on command. I am lucky that (at home) she does bark when she needs to go out. When we are not home, I make sure to take her out at least every 4 hours. I always give her a potty minute before we enter any building. I have noticed that she will go on pavement if the grass is too long. I guess it tickles small dogs. I had studied books about Pomeranians before I got her as a puppy. She was 2 months old when I got her. I took her out every hour (even at night – alarm clock set hourly) for the first month. She was crated at night until she was potty trained (before she was 4 months old). As a puppy, I also took her out after a nap, after a meal, after playing, anytime I saw her “circling”. If she pottied outside, she got a treat and was allowed 30 minutes play time, if she didn’t then she went back in the crate for 30 minutes. Once she was 3 months old, it was every 2 hours, at 4 months is was every 3 hours, as an adult – 4 hours when we are not home (when she barks at home). I as disabled, so I am always with her. I think potty training a small breed puppy would be difficult and take longer if the humans had to leave for work. I maintained a very strict potty routine the first 2 months. I do leave a pad by the door in the event she needs out and I can’t open the door fast enough. Pee pads make great door mats. BOL!! I can’t remember the last time she used a pad indoors. Usually she uses them in the garage (she isn’t allowed outside at night).

    As some of the others mentioned, I do pick her up when I think it is safer, but I also let her walk on her own paws when possible.

    Pepper (dog) & Mom (human)

  26. I’m happy to say that Tavish has peed in my house only two times in the year since we adopted him. The first time was the very first day we brought him home, when he tried to mark a table leg. (I was a bit concerned at that point, but then I took constant vigilance to a whole new level.) The only other time was one night when I left a water bowl down in the bedroom, he drank far too much, and I didn’t wake up when he tried to get my attention. Now he’s mastered the art of waking me up when he needs to go out, and we haven’t had any problems since. I took him to visit my in-laws, and he never tried to go in their house either. Needless to say, I’m pretty proud of the little guy – but I think he might be atypical in a lot of ways – he generally hates being carried, and we go on tons of walks because it’s his favorite activity. ๐Ÿ™‚