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Cleaning Up After Peeing Dog

Bad Dog!

By Amalah

Hi Amy:

I have enjoyed reading your blog for several years now, and most recently the zero to forty pregnancy column (we are expecting our first in May – a little boy)! Like you, we have a little dog. Actually, we have two of them. Ceiba’s antics are so funny to read about because our dogs do many of the same things, the least enjoyable being the pee pee accidents on our expensive rugs. I know these “accidents” will increase when the little one arrives because the dogs are used to being the center of attention. Most likely on the new rug in the baby’s room. So my question to you is: what is your tried and true remedy to clean your rugs? I have tried many products on the market over the years and have not been impressed with any one in particular. I had our rugs professional cleaned last year, but that’s too expensive to do all the time. Help!


Number of rugs we owned before getting a dog: Five, at least, plus a carpeted basement
Number of cleaning products we tried to clean said rugs: Dozens, easily
Number of cleaning products we liked: Two, KIND OF (see below)
Number of times we had area rugs professionally cleaned: Two
Number of times we had basement carpet professionally cleaned: Five (about twice a year)

Number of rugs we currently own: Zero, plus brand spanking-new laminate in the basement

I wish I could help you. I really, really wish I could. But this is a war I’m embarrassed to admit that WE HAVE LOST. No matter what we did — more house-breaking efforts, more training and books, more baby gates and barricades, more scrubbing and shampooing — our beloved, stupid, pain-in-the-freaking-butt dog would eventually seek out our rugs and pee on them. About half of time the accidents were weather-related. She’s an obnoxious little princess who doesn’t like peeing outside in the rain or wet or snow, but is also incredibly prone to straight-up Revenge Peeing whenever she’s annoyed at us. (LIKE FOR HAVING BABIES, FOR EXAMPLE.)

Because of said babies, I was always incredibly mindful of just what kind of cleaning product I felt comfortable using on the rugs and carpet. The super-strong heavy-duty varieties worried me too much to use on areas where my babies spent so much of their time. But I wasn’t happy having them rolling and crawling around on rugs with obviously set-in urine stains, either! We did like Nature’s Miracle, and made up our own formulas using baking soda, vinegar and water. Both worked fairly well, provided you caught the stain while it was new and still wet. I had a hydrogen peroxide/ammonia mixture for heavy duty older stains (when the weather was nice and we could air the rug out for awhile), and I know we eventually got fed up enough to start trying the Big Likely Toxic Guns from the home improvement store, but didn’t think they worked any better. We had the basement carpet professionally cleaned about twice a year using an environmentally friendly firm, which actually wasn’t that expensive (compared to area rug cleaning), but still. STILL.

I just couldn’t stay on top of the stains. I’d miss an accident and discover a foul-smelling dried spot a few weeks later (our dog is tiny, thus so are her puddles, but they still back a terrible punch). I never really found anything that would get these out 110%, especially since my husband and I are both reeeeeeally sensitive to urine/pet smells already. Our basement playroom just…SMELLED SO BAD, and I was embarrassed to have anyone over, much less spend time there with the boys myself. The basement was her preferred bad-weather screw-you-guys spot, even after we installed a baby gate and barricade. (She’s got laser-radar-spider sense for that gate being left open for even a minute, I swear.) And she did indeed seem to seek out the rug in the nursery for ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD REASON, even on nice days when she had plenty of opportunities to do her business elsewhere. And the more accidents she had on a particular rug or spot, the more likely she was to return to that rug or spot and have another one, probably because we were never able to completely remove the odor of the old stains.

In short, the whole situation was making me stabby with rage…towards my dog. Who…I’m aware the problem is not entirely her fault. We obviously screwed up her training somewhere along the way. I admit that she gets let out in the backyard vs. getting taken for a walk more often, especially now that we have the kids and crazy schedules. I fully accept my role in this particular disaster. But oh my hell, I was threatening to turn her into a very small mitten on a daily basis, and I meant it at least once a week.

So we gave up. Bare hardwood floors may not be the most cushy or inviting or seem ideal for babies and toddlers, but DAMN, they are so easy to clean. And Ceiba will only have an accident on them as a very, very necessary, easily-avoided last resort, because again: Obnoxious spoiled brat who likes to pee on dry absorbent things. We rolled up the rugs and dragged the worst of them out to the curb, and stored the rest for Someday Later Maybe.

I bought some awesome FLOR tiles for the kids’ rooms, thinking they’d be easier to peel up and clean or replace as needed. This was true to a point, but alas, I went with light colors that were stained beyond repair within a year and a half. Okay, they’re cheap compared to an area rug, but not that cheap. They’re gone now, and nobody’s injured themselves on the bare floor yet (knock on hardwoods). And we finally plunked down the money to rip up the offensive basement carpet and put down a laminate floor. I’d LOVE to get some more FLOR tiles for padding and color, but unless someone in the comments comes up with a suggestion that I haven’t tried and swears it’s the best! thing! ever!…I will probably not bother, unless I see a noted lack of indoor-accidents from Ceiba for an extended period of time and feel like she’s broken the bad habits.

In the meantime, I’ve just used blankets on the floor for tummy time and the like, and only opted for MACHINE WASHABLE play mats and gyms (because oh yes, she’s revenge-peed on those too, multiple times). I actually plan to splurge on a Wozzy Softspot for baby #3 — it’s a portable water-resistant, antibacterial play mat that you can use plain or buy washable slipcovers for. That way we’ll have a soft rug-like place for the baby to play…that I can also fold up and put away when we’re not there to supervise, or wash/wipe down should that sneaky-yet-dim-witted monster manage to get her butt on it.

Seriously: We just had the laminate floor installed in the basement this week. The construction noises and general STRANGER IN MAH HOUSE hullabaloo, coupled with the fact that I’m sure she knows she’s losing her preferred revenge-pee spot, is presumably what led to me discover a pair of pee-filled Chuck Taylor sneakers in the corner of my absolutely-rug-free bedroom. Touche, hamsterdog. TOUCHE.

Published February 25, 2011. Last updated July 20, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Trish

    February 25, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    The only suggestion I have is ivory soap (bar), and small brushes. I have only ever seen it fail once: dried paint. Otherwise, works every time. Obviously a labor intense project, but works and is non toxic

  • Val

    February 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    Simple Green HD (purple one) from Home Depot. It’s not clearly a carpet stain remover, but wow, does it ever work. Dilute it as you see fit, douse your carpet (I use a watering can), scrub with a stiff brush, and suck it up with a steam cleaner if possible. No joke, it removes the stain and the smell.

    I have two huge dogs who leave HUGE puddles (though not often) and I have been through this many, many times.

  • Julie

    February 25, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I recommend getting a blacklight. Since urine is Florescent under UV light, the light will make it easier to find the pee-spots. Just want to add don’t use Resolve on the pet stains. The Optical brighteners also glow, making it impossible to tell the old spots from the new one.

    My brother had a rescue dachshund, who thankfully was incredibly sweet, because she was never fully house trained. Their solution was similar to Amalah’s, hey installed tile on the main level and baby gates on the stairs. It wasn’t perfect, but she lived a happy life until she was 16 and their house wasn’t a total wreck.

  • Robin

    February 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I’ve got the same problem with my cats. No rugs, hardwood recently installed in the playroom to replace the pee-soaked carpet. To ensure they never befoul the kids’ (4 and 1) rooms, we put automatic closers ( on their doors so the cats would never get in there in the first place. Having their doors closed all the time took some getting used to (and might change when they become teenagers) but knowing they don’t have pee-stained carpets or tumbleweeds created from my hair binding the cats’ fur together is definitely worth it.

  • Kimm

    February 26, 2011 at 11:37 am

    We got tile floors in the whole house last Sept. When we got married, I was so worried about DH’s LR carpet and my 4 dogs. They were sadly predictable, AND the grand piano legs became Mr. Fred’s fav. marking place. Even with the tile he continued to mark the piano. Now we have baby-gated the piano away from the dogs- DH says I’m just trying to fence HIM in, ha. Since then only 1 easily cleanable puddle on the tile when it was cold and rainy outside. The sad thing is, we have a doggie door! But Fred doesn’t like bad weather, like Ceiba. I would say get hardwood, laminate, vinyl tile. Everywhere.

  • Ellie

    February 27, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    I think that some training help for the dog might be helpful and more cost effective, rather than cleaning products and new floors. If your dog is acting out in this way, there is an underlying behavioral problem. Get to a good trainer and explain the problem, they can give you some good suggestions on what to do. Certainly every dog needs more than just going out in the yard to be happy, they require walks and sufficient exercise. Beyond that, though, there are ways to train a dog out of these behaviors, which are based on stress and anxiety.

  • Heather

    February 27, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    There is this stuff from Bed, Bath and Beyond that can take up ANYTHING, blood, oil, dog doings, no problem. It is called Folex, in a white bottle with purple letters. Works miracles.

  • Heather

    February 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Folex – from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Takes up ANYTHING, blood, oil, dog doings, no problem. And it is reasonably priced.

  • Olivia

    February 28, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Oh, maud. The suggestion of a black light? I think I would go certifiably nuts if I used a black light on my carpet. Our whole house is carpeted in a horrible cream colored, cheap carpet. One dog, two cats, one toddler…I admit it is gross, but there is no budget to replace it.

    We bought a carpet shampooer and use it often, but it doesn’t keep up with the mystery spots. We bought an expensive all-purpose cleaner that is concentrated from some door to door salesman. It’s non-toxic (really the guy licked it off his finger) and it can be mixed to the strength needed. Works pretty well, but nothing seems to take care of the cat vomit. I wish I could convince my husband to go with wood or laminate, but he thinks babies/toddlers need carpet. *sigh*

  • Carey

    February 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

    There’s a spray called “Anti Icky Poo” that we’ve had good luck with. Battles the urine enzymes if you catch the spot when its fresh.

  • K

    February 28, 2011 at 10:17 am

    “L.A.’s Totally Awesome Cleaner” has the world’s most ridiculous name for a cleaning product but I kid you not it will remove ANYTHING from carpets/fabrics. I have a white comforter on my bed and had a nosebleed last week in the middle of the night that would have made Dexter jump for joy. Looked like something out of CSI – it was like, a foot and a half blood splatter. My comforter is still SNOWY WHITE. You can get the cleaner at Dollar Tree.

  • Hillary

    February 28, 2011 at 11:05 am

    We have a dog who started acting up before our baby was born, and I strongly suggest TRAINING YOUR DOG (which is really training yourselves, but whatever) before you have a baby. Dogs communicate by peeing on your stuff – don’t you think it is better to try to solve their problem than just finding new ways to ignore their problem? Sure it is more work, but your dog is part of your family. Plus, seriously, if the problem your dog is having is bad enough, it could escalate into something that puts your kid at risk. I don’t want to be all doomsday, but I speak from experience. Please don’t ignore the warnings you’re observing from your dog’s current behavior.
    Oh, and if the dog always pees in the same place, try placing their food dish right on top of that spot for a little while. If you have a crate trained dog they never pee where they eat, so this may do the trick.

  • Chandra

    February 28, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Our first line of defense is the Spotbot with hot/warm water. I think for pee, copious rinsing is the key if you want to steer clear of chemicals.

    If that doesn’t work on a stain (rare) then I bring out the pour some cleansers into the spotbot.

    Our carpet mess load is frequent cat barf (like daily for our cat with crazy allergies), baby pee (potty training, oh lorrrrd), and occasional baby poop (the worst stomach flu of all time, thanks to my mom for importing that one). At least the baby loves to show me where his pee is. Without the spotbot contraption our carpets would be a disaster.

  • enginerd

    February 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    We went the dog trainer option with great results. No more cleaning pet urine, just pet vomit out of the carpets… apparently you can’t train away a sensitive stomach.
    It’s time consuming at first, but the gist is to get the dog on a schedule (regulate water and food intake so you can predict when it needs to go out, then take outside on leash so no exploring or playing in the backyard, pee first then you play). Within a month we had things resolved (and they still know that the leash in the yard means hurry up and go, which is great when none of you want to be outside or you want to prevent two muddy beasts showing up at the back door wanting to come inside).
    Our trainer also gave tips on cleaning up too 🙂 Ideally if you catch the spot early, soak up as much of the urine as possible before treating, then soak the area with the cleaner and let it sit for as long as you can (up to an hour or so) so that it has time to break down the enzymes. Then you can finish cleaning up. Skipping the soaking step is about as effective as spraying with water.

    Other random idea, my brother had really good luck with the indoor dog boxes (fake grass over a tray) to use with his smaller dogs.

  • Bethany

    February 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Contact your local shelter if you need a cheap(er) behaviorist. WHS (in dc, but will happily do appts in nearby VA and MD) just has you email them [email protected]. and then they’ll set up an appt based on your dog’s behavior issues (peeing all over the place in revenge) and work with you and your lifestyle to figure out what’s best. Maybe having a pee pad in the basement would help Ceiba on bad weather days.

    disclosure: I do volunteer with WHS and their trainers have helped my friends and myself so much that I love them and recommend them to everyone.

    Also, I have friends who have sworn by their spotbots. They seem pretty darn amazing.

  • Pinkie Bling

    March 1, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Small dogs are NOTORIOUSLY difficult to housebreak entirely, especially in cold and/or wet weather. My little chihuahua is the same way. He *knows* better, he’s just straight-up stubborn. If you ever get Ceiba completely cured of the pee pee habit, pleasepleasePLEASE share your wisdom!

  • Suzy Q

    March 1, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I have nothing to add to this except to say that K’s comment cracked me up!

  • Anne

    June 30, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    I am expecting baby in October. We have four dogs, two little ones and two big ones. The little ones insisted in being “indoor dogs” but after about a year of trying to train them to actually walk in the house and not run over my husband and barge into doors and not howl and yap at six o’clock on a Saturday morning, and to not yelp, howl, whine and cry at the door when they demand to come in with ear-splitting, stress-inducing noise … for about a year … to little predictable results … after two or three blow-outs between my husband and I, we finally said TO HELL WITH IT. Threw the little dogs out with the big dogs and ENOUGH. Let them howl, whine, cry, rant, moan, bark. Whatever. I have done everything I could, within my means (and NO I am not going to spend money on a dog trainer to put two spoiled, entitled, obnoxious, ill-bred dogs back in the house) … For once, in about 5 years … I am going to spend money on ME and MY HUSBAND. I dumped them outside with the big dogs because only two people are in control of this house, its odors and noise-level. Me and my husband. When I found out I was pregnant I upped the dog training and worked with them a lot more knowing that my time and resources would be stretched a hell of a lot thinner. We are done with it. It dawned upon me, that the time it has taken to train two little dogs, to simply walk in the house, I could have trained 5 police dogs. LOL. Na … to HELL with it and I ain’t lookin’ back. Another thing to remember, those of you with kids and dogs … 15 years from now, I will have 4 dead dogs, and a teenaged son. I want to give our dogs the best quality of life we can afford, but more than anything, I need them to not infringe on our quality of life. It is a tricky balance. Dogs, at most, live a decade and a half. If they die of natural causes, our children might live 9 decades. So the time and resources you devote to Jr will pay off, long after Fido is deceased. Stuff to keep in mind, when we decide where our money, time, nerves and energy go.