Dogs have many complex behaviours that are difficult for humans to understand. However, the worst of all for many pet owners is when your dog poops indoors. You may feel disappointed, and wonder why they do this to you. It’s common to get angry and feel like you need to punish your dog. But this is the worst thing you can do!
It’s time to learn that dogs behave like this due to a wide variety of reasons. If you get to the root of the problem, you can start a treatment plan to fix it.
One of the reasons for inappropriate toileting is a lack of training, for which we owners are responsible. Though dogs rarely soil their sleeping den (i.e. their own bed), they won’t necessarily see the whole house as their den unless you teach them that this is the case. Some dogs have accidents only at night or when they are elderly. Young puppies and newly adopted rescue dogs need to go through the house training process when they arrive in your home. This could take some time, so be prepared to be patient and show a lot of understanding.
Training is not everything when it comes to this particular topic. Your dog could be suffering from a medical issue or even from anxiety. Ask your vet first, as they can check your dog’s health, and refer you to a behaviourist if needed. Fortunately, there are many different methods which are quite efficient at stopping your dog from pooping indoors.
Why is your dog pooping in the house?
When trying to understand this issue, you must ask yourself a couple of questions:
How old is your dog?
A dog's age can have a lot to do with the way he is eliminating. If you have a puppy pooping in the house, be aware that he may not be accustomed to your house rules yet. Potty training is key! To add to this, his bladder and bowels are much smaller than an adult dog’s, and he won’t be able to hold it all in for as long. Young pups tend to pee or poop indoors but, although annoying, it is completely normal. Work on house training, making sure your puppy is given lots of opportunity to go outside to toilet. Puppies don’t always like the cold or wet weather, so you may need to give them extra encouragement. Always reward your puppy for toileting outdoors - a tasty food treat can really help motivate them to ask to go outside to toilet in future.
Contrarily, senior dogs can have trouble with inappropriate toileting too. Elderly dogs may lose control of their bowel movements as they age, or they may simply forget to let you know they want to go out. There’s not much that can be done about this, but check with your vet first as your dog may need medical or behavioural treatment which will help as much as possible. You can put pads around the house and limit your dog’s access to certain rooms if you’d like to keep them clean. Diapers (or nappies) are an option for some, but you should discuss this with your vet or a registered behaviourist before you purchase them. Some dogs can find them extremely uncomfortable, and as a result, will try to hold it in until the diapers are off. This can be harmful to their health and well-being.
How long has it been since you adopted your dog?
If your newly adopted dog is pooping inside the house, it may just be as a result of stress and having to get used to a new routine. Moving to a new house with a new family can be very overwhelming, and just as it happens to us humans, stress can easily trigger toileting issues! Just be patient and give your dog the chance to settle in. Your dog will learn a brand new ‘poop schedule’ allowing them to remember how to get outside, which way to go, who to ask. Some experts say it can take up to three months for a newly adopted dog to feel at home with his new family.
Did it happen all of a sudden?
If your dog is house-trained but he recently started pooping indoors, even after previously going outside to use the bathroom, it may be that he is suffering from a medical issue. If you fear that this could be the case, you should see a vet for a check up.
Has there been any change in your dog's life?
Major changes to a dog’s daily routine (e.g. moving to a new house, introducing a new pet or a new baby to the family) can induce stress and can cause your dog's pooping habits to change as well. Similarly, if something scared your dog whilst he was out doing his business (e.g. a loud motorbike passing close to your garden while he was defecating), this may prevent him from wanting to eliminate in that same place again. You'll need to go back to basics and encourage your dog to use that spot again by praising him and giving him a treat when he does.
How to stop a dog pooping in the house?
If you’re not too sure what’s causing your dog’s inappropriate toileting, make sure you check the following off your list:
See a vet
The first thing you need to do is rule out the possibility that your dog may be sick. Dogs who urinate or defecate inappropriately may be suffering from inflammatory bowel syndrome, a parasite, a food allergy, or muscle atrophy, for example. Your vet can perform a full examination of your pet - including blood samples, faecal samples, and x-rays, if he deems it necessary - and will treat any medical issues present. Once the medical problem is resolved, then your pet’s inappropriate behaviour should disappear too. However, if your pet gets the all-clear from the vet and continues to defecate inside the house, then you'll need to start focusing on behavioural modification methods to treat his inappropriate toileting. Your vet can refer you to a registered clinical behaviourist, so do ask.
House-train your dog
If you have a puppy or newly adopted adult dog, make sure you walk him often and regularly. Start with a walk or garden visit at least once every 2 hours (more for peeing!), especially after play, training, naps, and meals. If your dog is fearful, be aware he’ll be more comfortable eliminating in a quieter area that is not too busy. Dogs can also have substrate preferences depending on where they come from. For instance, a puppy from a breeder may have been eliminating on newspaper for the first few weeks of his life, so it may feel weird for him to suddenly go on grass. You could provide it in the garden too, or help him by bringing a piece of newspaper out when you walk your dog, giving him a chance to recognise the familiar surface even when out.
As time goes on, you can lengthen the amount of time between each walk/garden visit. Try to be as regular as possible with your dog’s meal and walk times. This will allow him to get used to a routine in his eliminating behaviour. Don’t forget to use positive reinforcement when training: every time you see him pooping outside, reward him with praise or even a small treat.
Punishing your dog for toileting in the house will only make him more anxious and therefore more likely to do it again, especially if the cause of his inappropriate elimination is stress. Moreover, if you punish your dog, he might start to avoid pooping in front of you, even during walks, because he is scared of your punishment. Then the only option he has left is to poop once he comes back home, all the while trying to hide from you. If you find that he has pooped after being outside, simply clear it up, clean the area with a pet-safe odour remover, and set your clock timer to remind yourself to take him out more regularly in future. This is up to you to help your dog learn, and getting angry or scaring your dog is not the way to do it.
Treat separation anxiety
It could be that your dog is soiling inappropriately because he is suffering from separation anxiety when you leave the house. You must gradually train your dog to be on his own, as this will not come naturally to such a social animal. Start by leaving the house for just a few seconds, then returning, and lengthening the amount of time you are out over time. You can use pheromone plug-ins recommended by your vet to keep your pet calm while you are out. You can also give him a treat dispensing toy before you leave so as to make sure he is kept busy for some time.
There are a variety of soothing dog-music soundtracks available online if you would like to leave your dog with some white noise in the house. This may help to soothe your dog, but mostly help to block out external loud noises and other disturbance.
Avoid sudden contrast with you being present, then away from the house, as your dog will notice this huge difference. Pay less attention to your dog sometimes, so that they can settle by themselves even when you are around at first.
If your dog is still very anxious when you are gone, ask your vet to refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist who can help. You may need to find a professional dog sitter or doggy daycare to take care of your dog while you are at work too, whilst you work on the issue.
Clean up the affected area properly
You can obtain specific enzyme products that will help clean up the area where your dog has toileted. Their odours will help break down the scent of his excrement and can help prevent him from wanting to soil the same area again.
How to stop a dog pooping in a certain area?
If your dog continually poops in the same area, you need to ask yourself why. Remember that the location your dog chooses to toilet is also part of the learning process. If he regularly toilets in the same place, make a note of it and block this area off, aiming to take him out more often in future.
How to keep your dog from pooping on the carpet?
As above, a specific area can become a favourite, but this could be due to it being a hiding place, safe from other pets or angry humans (such as behind the sofa) but it could also be to do with the surface itself. Carpet, or mats, are absorbent surfaces and often attract toileting accidents. It could be that your dog can still smell something from a previous time, or could be that it is similar to what they learned on as puppies. If it’s a mat by the door, it’s possible that your dog tried to go out, but you didn’t notice in time. Set a timer so that you take your dog out more frequently, reward your dog when they do toilet outside, and block off areas that may be damaged in the meantime.
Remember to ask yourself the questions previously mentioned. Sometimes, inappropriate elimination is a sign of a much deeper issue. However, when it comes to training, the only way is to be calm and patient! Follow the tips above and you should have a well-behaved pooch in no time. A dog pooping in the house can be incredibly frustrating - but with time and understanding on your part, you’ll get there in the end.