Potty accidents: When you’re a pet parent, they’re sometimes a part of life. If your dog has an accident inside the house, cleaning up the mess as soon as possible is essential. It’s not only hygienic (no one wants dog urine on the carpet), but it encourages your dog not to repeat the behavior. Whether your pup is house soiling because they’re overly anxious or simply so excited to see you, we chatted with cleaning experts to bring you these tips to remove pee stains and keep your surfaces smelling fresh and clean.
In This Guide
How To Get Rid of Dog Pee Smell: Step-By-Step Instructions
If untreated, dog urine stains can leave behind unpleasant smells. Jay Kellis, a chemist with BISSELL, recommends the following steps to remove pee stains and eliminate urine odors from any surface:
1Track down the source of the smell.
2Remove the dog pee with a paper towel.
3Saturate the stain with an enzymatic cleaner.
Use a spray bottle to spray the urine stain thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner. Don’t be afraid to spray the area surrounding the stain, too, and make sure it is thoroughly saturated with cleaner. After thoroughly spraying the affected area, blot the urine stain with a clean towel. Then, respray the enzymatic cleaner. Cover the affected area with a damp towel and allow it to set. The instructions on your cleaner will tell you how long it needs to set.
Why use an enzymatic cleaner? Because it is both a stain remover and an odor eliminator. According to Kellis, the enzymes found in these cleaners are like the healthy probiotics in some types of yogurt. They help “eat” the microscopic particles that make up the pee stain and cause urine smells.
4Extract the liquid with a vacuum.
After the enzymatic cleaner has set for 24 hours, use a vacuum to remove any excess liquid from the surface. Make sure you use a wet-dry vacuum designed for cleaning carpets and upholstery to suck out all the remaining liquid. Kellis recommends making two “wet” passes with your carpet cleaning vacuum. That means you hold down the spray button on the machine and move the vacuum forward and backward. Follow that by two “dry” passes. In other words, you suck up liquid but don’t press the spray button. Keep working with your vacuum until the stain is completely gone.
If you don’t own a wet-dry vacuum, you can rent a carpet cleaner or a wet vac (commonly referred to as a shop vac) at some home improvement stores. If that’s not an option, you can also use a clean towel or paper towel to thoroughly soak up the liquid. Keep in mind, a vacuum is the best method for removing liquid, especially from carpets and upholstery. That’s because any remaining moisture in the fabric can cause mold. Excess cleaning solution you leave behind can discolor your surfaces over time, too.
5Rinse the surface (optional).
Getting Rid of Dog Odor in Your Carpet
Using an enzymatic cleaner is still the best way to eliminate urine stains (and the pet odors that come with carpet stains). It will also discourage your dog from marking the carpet again.
If your pet has occasional accidents, having a small portable carpet cleaning vacuum for spot cleaning can be helpful. You may want to invest in an upright carpet cleaner if you’re dealing with more extensive or multiple stains. This will allow you to clean a larger surface more quickly. You can also contact a professional cleaning service for rooms with multiple prominent pet urine stains.
Getting Rid of Dog Odor on Hard Flooring
Cleaning dog pee off of tile or hardwood floors can be reasonably simple. Usually, you can just wipe up any puddles of dog pee with a cloth or paper towel. However, if you don’t take care of dog urine stains right away, they can cause damage to hardwood flooring. After wiping up any accidents, you should use a pet-safe cleaning solution with a sanitizing formula.
Getting Rid of Dog Odor in Your Furniture or Mattress
Before cleaning any furniture or mattress, always check the manufacturer’s tag for specific instructions. On upholstery, this is called the manufacturer’s cleanability code tag. Kellis says that if the fabric is coded “WS” or “W,” it’s safe to clean. If your tag is coded “X” or “S,” the fabric it’s made from is unsafe to clean.
Even if you believe your furniture fabric is safe, it’s essential to test your cleaning products or neutralizer on a small hidden area of the fabric. That way, you can be sure you won’t cause any damage before covering your furniture in your cleaning products.
Getting Rid of Dog Odor on Your Clothes or Bedsheets
No one wants to smell like their dog—especially when it’s the dog pee smell! Luckily, it’s pretty simple to remove urine odors from clothes or bedsheets. Most items can be run through the laundry with white vinegar. You might also consider adding an oxy-based pretreatment that works as a stain remover. Just be sure to check the manufacturer’s tag for specific instructions before you place your items inside the washing machine. This advice also goes for washing machine-safe dog beds!
Why Do Dogs Pee Inside the House?
When you get a new puppy or rescue dog, it can take time to house-train them to use the bathroom outside, so accidents are part of the process. It can be much more frustrating for pet parents when a dog who’s been house-trained pees inside.
According to Dr. Kate Anderson, DVM, a veterinarian and veterinary behaviorist in Ithaca, New York, dogs pee for the same reason humans pee—they’ve got to go! Whether dealing with a medical issue or reacting to a change in their environment, dogs aren’t trying to be mischievous or malicious when they leave pet stains inside the house.
Sometimes, pet parents will even tolerate accidents inside the house until something changes—a new roommate moves in or the family installs a new carpet. Those changes are confusing for your dog. Remember, the longer you allow a behavior to go on, the harder it will be for your dog to change it later, so it’s much better to catch the behavior early and address its root cause.
Many old dogs develop incontinence as they age. If your senior pup has started having accidents, consult your veterinarian, and find out more about how to help your dog.
How To Prevent Future Dog Pee Accidents
Studies show that dogs who urinate in the house weekly are two to four times more likely to be relinquished to a shelter. So, house soiling is more than just a mess. It can also disrupt the bond between you and your dog. What steps can pet parents take to prevent peeing in the house?
Check in with your vet to rule out health concerns.
Typically, the first thing you see with a medical problem is a change in behavior—like peeing in the house. If your dog has a single accident, it’s probably not a cause for concern. But if a previously house-trained dog starts regularly peeing in the house, contact your veterinarian. Some common health problems that can cause house soiling include urinary tract infections, diabetes and kidney infections.
Revisit the steps of potty training.
If your dog was previously house-trained and is having accidents, you may need to review the steps of house-training with them again. That includes helping them manage their environment, and may require temporarily confining them in a smaller space that will be easier to keep neat and clean. You should also reinforce the behavior you want to see. In other words, repeatedly reward your dog when they use the bathroom outside. Finally, don’t ever punish your dog.
Dr. Anderson emphasizes that pet parents should avoid punishment when their dog pees inside the house. A common misconception is that you should rub your pet’s nose in dog urine to keep them from repeating the behavior. This is not effective at stopping the behavior. “Any form of punishment will just teach your dog to go pee when you’re not looking,” she says.
Provide pee pads around the home.
Training your dog to use pee pads can be a good solution if you have an older dog or don’t have easy access to outdoor spaces. According to Dr. Anderson, puppies can develop a substrate preference (aka a preference for a specific type of surface or material, such as grass or a pee pad, to pee or poop on) at around 9 weeks old, so it is crucial to provide the right products to use when it’s time to go.
Train your dog to go to the bathroom on your command.
Let’s face it; dogs can get distracted when it’s time to go to the bathroom. Dr. Anderson recommends training your dog to use the bathroom on cue to ensure they go when you take them out. When you are outside, start saying a consistent phrase (such as “Go potty!” or “Get busy!”) before your dog does their business. It may take a while, but once your dog associates this phrase with potty time, it will help them stay focused.
Keep careful track of your dog’s behavior.
If you’re trying to determine the source of your dog’s change in bathroom behavior, you can keep a diary or log (no pun intended!). Use our potty training chart to make a note every time your dog pees or poops inside the house. Is it only when you’re away? Your dog might have an issue with separation anxiety. Do you only notice urine stains when new people are around? Maybe strangers give your dog anxiety. You can also set up cameras inside your house to see what your dog is up to when you’re not home.
Once your home smells clean and your surfaces are stain-free, you’ll want to keep it that way. If you’re on the go and need dog house-training tips, check out our article featuring 9 Potty Training Tips for Busy Pet Parents.
Expert input for this story was provided by: Jay Kellis, Chemist, Consumables Development at BISSELL; and Dr. Kate Anderson, DVM, Assistant Clinical Professor at the Cornell Duffield Institute for Animal Behavior in Ithaca, New York.
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