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My Border Collie puppy has jumped up on my bed and urinated on my sheets and covers several times. Any chance she gets, she'll jump up there and pee on the bed. She has never defecated there. I thought dogs weren't supposed to do this where they or other pack members sleep. Since she sleeps on the bed sometimes, I'm confused. Why does she do this?


Bedwetting is not one of those easy behaviors that can be explained by typical behavioral norms. There is no real good conventional wisdom on why dogs will do this. It actually goes counter to a lot of normalized dog behavior, particularly for those dogs that will sleep on the bed. I have yet to come up with, or have I seen in the literature, a sufficiently reasonable explanation for this. There are several out there but in light of other normal dog behavior, they do not hold up. This is the very long way of saying "I don't know".

I do know however that almost all Border Collie puppies, given the opportunity, will do this. Every last pup that I have ever had come through here has done it. I hear it countless numbers of times from other Border Collie owners. I don't hear it as much from other breed owners but it does occur with enough frequency to be noticeable.

A couple of common things with this behavior -

1) Its onset is usually concurrent with the ability to jump up on the bed. Until they are 4-5 months old, they just aren't capable of getting up there to relieve themselves, even if they want to. That's when most people start complaining about it.

2) It almost always goes away as the puppy matures into adulthood. Once they hit about a year, they become trustworthy on the bed again.

3) Any cases of this in adulthood are usually accompanied by a stress-related incident - i.e. divorce, death in the family, a big fight, physical punishment of the dog, kids leaving for college or school, moving, etc. Once the stressor is relieved, the dog almost always stops "relieving his stress" on the bed.

4) It is almost always on the bed. Rarely is it done on the couch or other such furniture, even though the smell of their humans is most likely equally strong on those items. Generally it is done on the houseowner's bed (mom and dad), less often on the kid's beds - though they will do so if prevented from accessing the master bedroom.

Theories/explanations:

1) Marking territory: I find this one weak, as it is not a generalized problem but normally a localized one (just on the bed - no marking in the rest of the house). Males and females seem equally likely to do this. And 4 month old pups are not known for their "marking" behavior anyway. Even more confusing, dogs will do this even if they are allowed to sleep on the bed with their owners. Marking this location makes very little sense - dogs will almost never defecate or urinate in their sleeping quarters (unless forced to do so). It's very unnatural.

2) Weak bladders: some of it may be this but it again seems to make little sense because it is localized, not generalized. Puppies that cannot "hold it" will go wherever they are standing, be it on the bed, the floor, the couch, the bathroom tile, etc. Additionally, they will go on the bed, you can remove the sheets, put new ones on, and 30 seconds later they'll go on there again. Once they've relieved themselves, that should be it. This however, seems personal.

3) Substrate attachment: Many dogs like to urinate on soft surfaces. Since the bed is a very soft surface, there may be a hint of a reason in there but again, there are often equally soft and easily accessible surfaces such as a plush carpet, towels on the floor, etc.

4) Bladder infections: again this would make sense if the behavior was generalized not localized. It would also be bizarre to assume every last stinking Border Collie pup that I have ever known had a bladder infection and proceeded to relieve themselves on the bed.

5) Dominance: pups have much better ways of establishing dominance. Oftentimes there are a myriad of other signs that should accompany this behavior but are absent. Even the most submissive of dogs that I have known have done this.

So as I said, I don't really have a good answer for this behavior. The solution however, is very simple. Prevent your dog from ever having access to your bed. At my house that means whenever a pup is around, a babygate is up in front of my bedroom door. By the time they are old enough to jump over the gate, they have usually outgrown this behavior. For older dogs, relieve the stress factors and prevent the dog from having access.

Good luck.

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Page last updated June 16, 1997. All material Copyright 2004 Border Collie Rescue, Inc. and Dr. Nicholas B. Carter
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