What could be more frustrating than getting ready for a good night’s sleep only to discover your dog has peed on your bed? Peeing on beds is a rather uncommon behavior in dogs, according to veterinary behaviorist Valarie Tynes, DVM, Dipl. ACVB, Dipl. ACAW., shelter veterinary behaviorist at SPCA of Texas, who sees many more cases of cats peeing on beds than dogs.
“This is highly unlikely to be something that happens because the dog is mad at you or trying to get back at you for something,” she says. “We know that animals share many of the same emotions that humans do, but there is minimal if any evidence to suggest that four-legged animals act out of spite or vengeance.”
Dogs can start peeing on beds for a variety of reasons, both medical and behavioral. Read on to find out what causes this behavior and get tips for how to best address the issue and clean up the mess.
Why Does My Dog Pee on My Bed?
“Dogs pee in the house for a variety of different reasons, ranging from separation anxiety to a fear of going outside to just never having been well housetrained,” Dr. Tynes says.
In order to stop your dog from peeing on your bed, you must understand why they are doing it. Before assuming your dog’s bed peeing is behavioral, it’s vital to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian to rule out a medical problem.
Some medical conditions in dogs that can cause peeing on things inside the house include:
- Bladder stones
- Cushing’s disease
- Kidney disease
- Spinal problems/nerve damage
- Urinary tract infections
“If an adult dog over the age of about 5 to 7 years suddenly starts peeing on the bed, I am going to lean more heavily toward the likelihood of an underlying medical problem, such as a urinary tract problem,” Dr. Tynes says. “If the behavior first occurs in a 2- to 3-year-old dog, I still want to rule out urinary tract disease, but the problem is more likely to be a primary behavior condition.”
Sometimes, you might think your dog is purposely peeing on your bed when what’s actually happening is out of their control. If your old dog is peeing on the bed or your dog pees on the bed at night, it could be involuntary urine leakage.
“If a dog sleeps in the bed with you and is elderly and becomes incontinent, they could begin leaving urine on the bed because they leak urine while they sleep,” Dr. Tynes says. “Leaking urine while sleeping is a problem that is more common in female dogs.”
Senior dogs are also more likely to develop medical conditions that lead to increased urine output, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and Cushing’s disease. These conditions may make it more difficult for your senior dog to avoid urinating in bed. Other conditions, such as bladder stones, urinary tract tumors, and infections, may also be more common in senior dogs, for a variety of reasons.
In addition to medical causes, peeing on the bed can be a behavioral issue. Some behavioral conditions that can cause peeing on things inside the house include:
- Fear of going outside
- Poor housetraining
- Separation anxiety
- Urine marking
In a senior dog, cognitive dysfunction (dementia) can also lead to changes in urinary habits.
The reasons why a dog might choose to specifically pee on a bed versus elsewhere in the house can be tricky to reveal. Dr. Tynes says that dogs who have been punished in the past for having accidents in the house might be afraid to eliminate in the presence of their owner and instead search for a nice safe place to hide and do their business.
“Many dogs will avoid urinating on a hard surface and try to find something absorbent instead,” she says. “This could be beds, rugs, clothing on the floor, or even furniture.”
Dog Peeing on Bed: How to Stop It
The first thing to do if your dog starts peeing on your bed is to schedule a visit with your veterinarian. A veterinary visit is especially essential in senior dogs, due to the likelihood of underlying medical conditions related to urinary changes. Your vet can check your dog over to look for a medical cause for the bed peeing. If the issue is due to a urinary tract infection, incontinence or another medical concern, your vet will prescribe medications to help your dog.
If you or your vet suspect the behavior is due to urine marking, spaying or neutering your dog might help stop it. Urine marking, which is driven by hormones, is more common in unneutered male dogs. However, spayed or neutered dogs can also urine mark, something that is not related to territory marking or mating, but is believed to be associated with anxiety.
“Sites for urine marking are usually chosen because they are in a location that an animal feels is necessary to mark so that their own feelings of safety and security are increased,” Dr. Tynes says. “The anxiety might be due to changes in the composition of the home—new people, new animals, new items—that worry the pet and lead to the animal feeling the need to mark items in the home with their own scent.”
If your vet gives your dog a clean bill of health, your next step is to contact a qualified veterinary behaviorist who can attempt to determine the underlying cause of the urination in the house, whether that’s anxiety, fear, inadequate house training, or another cause.
To shed some light on what’s driving the bed peeing behavior, the behaviorist will ask you about other behaviors your dog might be exhibiting at home.
“A dog with separation anxiety is likely to also be destructive,” Dr. Tynes says. “If an owner will set up a camera and capture some video of the dog while alone, you should also be able to see that the dog is acting anxious or distressed. Dogs with separation anxiety may also act distressed the moment they see their owner preparing to leave.”
In cases of inadequate housetraining or urine marking, you might notice your dog peeing in other places inside the house in addition to your bed. “It would be uncommon for them to only pee on the bed,” Dr. Tynes says.
There are some basic principles that can be applied to changing any unwanted behavior in dogs, Dr. Tynes says, including peeing on the bed. The first step is preventing the behavior from occurring by avoiding the situation that allows the behavior to occur.
“In the case of peeing on the bed, close doors to the bedroom or keep the dog near you either by tethering or the use of some type of containment, such as an ex-pen or crate,” she says. “Second, reinforce the dog for the behavior you want to be repeated. In this case, take the dog outside frequently, wait for it to urinate, and then praise and reward the dog with a tiny treat.”
It can take some time to resolve inappropriate urination, so work closely with your behaviorist and pack your patience. With diligence, you can address the underlying cause and stop your dog from peeing on your bed.
Cleaning Up After Your Dog Pees on the Bed
While you are working on resolving the behavior, it’s important to clean up properly when accidents happen. Using odor eliminating products to remove all traces of pee scent is a crucial step to prevent a dog from wanting to return to that spot to go again.
If your dog is peeing on your bedding, including blankets, sheets and comforter, wash these following the directions on the tag. If the pee has seeped into the mattress, you’ll want to clean that carefully as well.
“With urinary accidents, soak or blot the urine to get as much of the liquid out as possible,” Dr. Tynes says. “Clean with plain soap and water if safe for the surface. Some people have success with enzymatic cleaners for pet accidents.”
Remember: It’s Not Personal
People often think their dog is peeing on the bed on purpose to send a message of some kind. Try to remember that dogs don’t do things out of spite. Your dog is peeing on the bed for a reason, but it’s unlikely because they are mad at you. Instead, your dog’s peeing on the bed is likely an indication that something is wrong, and it’s up to you to work with your veterinarian to find and solve the problem.
“People often take an animal peeing on their bed or clothing as a personal affront,” Dr. Tyne says. “Most often, the animal chooses a site for elimination because it is a quiet, out-of-the-way spot where they feel safe and has a substrate under their feet that they like.”