For many dogs, taking a ride in the car is the greatest adventure they can go on. That fun can easily be ruined when your canine friend ends up peeing in the car during the ride. When my french bulldog was a puppy, he would tinkle on the seat every time he rode in the car. It took some investigation and training, but I was able to quickly stop the behavior.
Why Does My Dog Keep Peeing in My Car?
Peeing in the car is often a behavioral issue for dogs. However, if you think your dog might have a health condition causing incontinence, you should immediately speak to your veterinarian. Typically, medical conditions will cause a dog to have accidents everywhere, not just in the car. Once you rule out a medical issue, like a urinary tract infection (UTI) or kidney disease, you can figure out what is triggering your dog to pee in the car.
Why Dogs Pee in the Car
If you think your dog has a behavioral reason for peeing in the car, you will need to narrow down why it is happening. Just like humans, dogs have a range of emotions and can react in several different ways
Fear and/or anxiety is a common reason that dogs will have accidents, in and out of the car. These emotions often manifest themselves into small amounts of pee being released during times of heightened emotions. Other signs of fear and anxiety in dogs include shaking, panting, and restlessness.
Your dog may be scared of the car for many reasons. If your dog is scared of the vet’s office or the groomers, they may begin to associate getting in the car with going to these places. Instead of being an enjoyable activity, riding in the car is now an anxiety-filled countdown to their least favorite place.
Older dogs or dogs with mobility issues may be scared of the movement of the car. It is uncomfortable to not feel steady while the vehicle is in motion. Providing a secure place for your dog to lay can help settle any discomfort from the car moving.
To help make a dog more comfortable in the car, start by breaking the association with negative places. Take your dog on a ride to the pet store to pick up treats or head to the local park. You can also work on taking short trips around your block. This will show your dog that the car does not always take them somewhere scary.
The opposite of the dog that is fearful of the car is the dog that is overjoyed and cannot contain their excitement when they get the opportunity to go for a ride. This is my dog. It makes his day if he gets to ride in the car for two minutes while I grab the mail. This may seem like a better “problem” to have, but it can result in the same result: pee on your car seats.
The excited tinkle is commonly seen in smaller dogs that have smaller bladders. This makes it easier for a little bit of pee to escape when they get too wound up. Try to keep your dog as calm as possible. Avoid hyping up the car ride with statements like “are you ready to go in the car!?”
Dogs use urine as a way to mark their territory and communicate to other dogs that this is their property. If your dog loves the car and associates it with spending time with you, they may end up marking the car.
This behavior usually looks more deliberate than an accidental tinkle. Your dog may obviously squat or lift its leg to pee in the car. Maintaining and marking territory is a more complex behavior than fear or excitement, so it can be harder to end the peeing behavior.
As stated above, if you believe your dog is suffering from a medical condition that is causing it to pee in the car, you should immediately seek veterinary advice. Most often, dogs will have accidents everywhere, not just in the car, if there is a health issue. However, it is possible that the excitement or fear of a car ride coupled with a medical condition can cause your dog to urinate during car rides.
How To Stop My Dog From Peeing in the Car
There are a few different approaches to help stop your dog from peeing in the car. Once you figure out why your dog is peeing in the car, you can use the appropriate technique for ending the behavior.
Clean Old Urine Marks
Whether your dog is peeing in the car accidentally or purposely marking its territory, you want to clean up all the old urine marks. Dogs tend to return to locations they’ve peed before and will pee or mark in the same area. The smell of its own urine can even stimulate a dog to need to pee.
If the urine has soaked into the floors or seats of the car, consider getting the car professionally cleaned. You’ll need equipment and cleaning products stronger than household options to remove the urine from each layer of fabric. Since dogs have a fantastic sense of smell, it is important to remove every last drop of pee.
Potty Break Before a Car Ride
When my dog was peeing in the car due to excitement, I found that making sure he took a potty break immediately before getting into the car stopped the problem. This is a great option regardless of why your dog is peeing in the car. If there is nothing in the tank, so to say, there will be nothing for them to urinate.
I would not recommend withholding water from your dog for extended periods. However, this is something you can do before long car rides. Just like the potty break before getting in the car, the idea is to keep the bladder empty so there is nothing to let out.
If your dog calms down during the ride and you believe the risk of them peeing in the car has gone away, you can offer them some water during the ride or at a rest stop. You don’t want to let your dog go too long without access to water.
For dogs with medical conditions or if behavioral changes don’t work, canine diapers can prevent urine from getting all over your car. You can easily find disposable dog diapers online or in pet stores. For a more environmentally-friendly option, purchase reusable diapers that can easily be cleaned in the washing machine.
Use a Crate
Just like their wolf cousins, dogs are den animals. They like to have their own space and often feel comforted when enclosed in a safe location. By giving your dog a crate in the car, you can offer them their own safe space. This will hopefully calm their anxiety around the car.
In addition to comfort, the crate becomes the dog’s sleeping area. Since dogs don’t like to pee where they sleep, this can prevent your dog from peeing in the car. For this to be effective, the crate should only be large enough for the dog to stand and turn around. Any additional space is a spot for the dog to pee and still lay comfortable on the other side.
Sometimes the simplest answers are the most effective. Bring your dog’s favorite toy or stuffed animal on the car ride with them. Additionally, you can purchase special toys that the dog only gets in the car.
Puzzle feeders and toys that you can hide treats in are excellent options for keeping your dog distracted during a car ride. They are less likely to lose interest in the toy and remember that they are in the car if they are working for their favorite treats. Happy and distracted dogs are less likely to pee in the car.