Why Your House-Trained Dog Starts Pooping in the House and How to Stop It
If your dog is pooping inside the house after being outside, you may be wondering what is going on in his head. The issue can surely be frustrating, especially when you spend a lot of time outside waiting for your dog to potty only to come back inside and witness Rover having an accident right after coming through the door.
Dr. Amanda Nascimento, DMV, MVSc, PhD explains, "Dogs can’t talk to us to tell us what’s wrong, so we have to look at their behavior and other signals that may alert us. Often these signals are in the form of changing their routine or doing something that is not at all in their character. If a dog is suddenly pooping in the house, he may be signaling that something isn’t right. This can be stress-related or related to other health issues."
In order to better understand the dynamics taking place, it helps to put yourself in Rover's shoes. There are many things that could be causing this behavior, both behavioral and physical, and therefore, you may need to do some investigative work in order to figure out the exact trigger.
Following are some potential causes for dogs pooping or peeing after coming inside.
Why Is My Dog Suddenly Pooping in the House?
Dogs that are fully housetrained may suddenly start soiling in the house due to medical conditions or due to stress and anxiety. If medical conditions are ruled out, examine whether you have recently moved, changed schedules, or are leaving your dog at home for a longer period of time than he is accustomed to.
Dogs poop and pee through loss of control when they feel scared or extremely stressed out. Identifying and removing environmental stressors will eliminate this behavior.
1. Overstimulation During Potty Time
In many cases, the problem of a dog peeing or pooping after coming inside may stem from the environment outside the house. The area designated to go potty may be too over-stimulating or distracting to the dog.
After all, how many times has it happened to you that you were outside among company or having a blast shopping that you felt an irresistible urge to go only once you insert the keys and turn the door knob? Dogs can be similar.
Why Does This Happen?
Dogs who don't get enough time outdoors will get distracted once they are let out. After being enclosed in the home for most of the day, they can't wait to sniff around and romp to get rid of pent-up energy.
With all this sensory overload and excitement to stretch their legs, they get distracted to the point of forgetting that they need to go potty. Only once they're back inside do they realize the urgency and have an accident right on the spot. This can be often seen with puppies.
How to Deal With It:
Make it a routine for your dog to potty first thing outside before playing. Avoid talking and interacting with your dog when he is sent out to potty, let him concentrate on sniffing around. If you play in the yard with your dog, play after he has gone potty. If feasible, take your puppy or dog out when it's quiet. If your dog gets distracted by neighbors, wait for the neighbors to be inside.
Don't let your puppy back inside unless he goes potty. Once he goes potty, calmly praise (making sure you don't interrupt him) and reward him and let him spend sometime in the yard, playing and exploring before going back inside.
2. Fear and Anxiety
If your dog is scared of something in the yard or something he encounters during walks, he may not feel comfortable enough to do his business. Perhaps there are too many noises or perhaps other dogs and people make him feel on edge. When dogs are not comfortable, they will hold it in until they are relaxed again. When a dog is over threshold, going potty is the last thing he thinks about because he may be fearing for his life.
At times, dogs who live in yards surrounded by invisible fences, also known as electric fences, may get so fearful of the shock, they are terrified of being outside near the perimeters, so they'll just stick to porch area with a worried look on their face. These dogs are often referred to as "porch sitters."
Why Does This Happen?
Going potty puts a dog in a vulnerable position. First of all, it takes time, which can make a difference when every second counts. A dog who senses danger will typically want to be on all his four legs ready to spring into action.
On top of that, dogs who pee or poop leave traces of themselves behind, which can put them in a vulnerable position if they feel threatened by something.
Fearful dogs want to hide as much as they can, becoming small and almost invisible, and therefore, they may not want to leave traces behind (their urine or feces) that may attract predators. Of course, nowadays, there are no predator animals hunting them down as it happened in the past, but those instincts may still prevail.
How to Deal With It:
If you have recently rescued a fearful dog, it may be worth it to temporarily train him/her to use pads inside until he/she has adjusted to the changes and has more confidence.
Take your dog outside when things are quiet, if feasible (e.g. avoid going out when the trash truck is around). With the help of a professional, you may want to work on desensitizing your dog to whatever he fears.
If you own an electric fence, you may want to take it down and invest in a true fence or walk your dog on leash to potty. It may take some time to undo the emotional damage. Be patient and use high-value treats.
3. Changes in Their Schedules
Dogs are creatures of habit and they may be used to going potty at certain times of the day and they love their routines. Puppies tend to naturally go potty a few minutes after eating and drinking, playing, or napping. Adult dogs tend to go first thing in the morning, at mid-day, early evening, and right before going to bed.
Why Does This Happen?
Have you ever felt the need to go to the bathroom right before an interview or an exam? A sudden change in their lives can cause anxiety, which may result in relieving oneself. Dogs are no different...except they are unable to talk. If your dog's schedule suddenly changes, it may cause your dog to relieve himself as a reaction to anxiety.
A change in schedule might also mean eat and drinking at odd times, which makes the bowel movement unpredictable. Without 24/7 access to the outside, a dog has no choice but to poop when he feels the unpredictable urge to go.
How to Deal With It:
Feeding puppies and dogs at established times of the day and keeping their routine the same translates to predictable "outings." This means that it's easier to predict when a puppy or dog will need to poop since he or she is being fed at specific times of the day.
You should also establish scheduled "potty times." This means taking your dog outside first thing in the morning, right after meals, and once before bed. Make it clear to your dog that he should do his business first before playing. Keep this schedule consistent, and you'll likely see an improvement right away.
4. A Poor Diet
Feeding cheap foods from your supermarket may yield more frequent and bulkier bowel movements. For this reason, a premium dog food, even though it is more expensive, is preferable since more nutrients are absorbed and there is less waste as a result. This means smaller stools and on a less-frequent basis.
Sudden diet changes may also cause an upset stomach and a sense of urgency, especially if you have switched to a lower-grade food with lots of fillers and grains.
What to Feed Your Dog:
Dogs prefer eating real food, and if you have the time to make homemade food, try making easy healthy homemade dog food recipes that are vet-approved.
If you are feeding kibbles, be sure to educate yourself on how to select high-quality dog foods by reading the labels. As a rule of thumb, go with natural, organic brands whenever possible. Most commercial brands contain fillers, meat or fish by-products, animal fat, liver meal, BHA, BHT, and other chemicals and additives. Stay away from these!
5. Not Cleaning Up Accidents Thoroughly
Dogs have a natural instinct to relieve themselves where they have done it before, so if your pup can smell his urine/poop, he will recognize the area as an acceptable potty area and will relieve himself there again.
How to Clean Up Dog Urine or Poop Smell for Good
- Spray the soiled area with distilled white vinegar.
- If the area is carpeted, wear latex gloves and work the vinegar deep into the carpet fibers.
- Blot up excess liquid with a paper towel.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the area, making sure to cover the entire area. Again, if the area is carpeted, work the baking soda into the carpet fibers with your fingers.
- Let the baking soda sit for at least 1 hour.
- Vacuum the area to remove all traces of baking soda.
- Follow with a commercial dog stain and odor cleanser if necessary.
Alternatively, Nature's Miracle is a wonderful product known for eliminating traces of odors courtesy of its enzymes.
6. Substrate Preference
This is a little-known fact, but puppies tend to form a substrate preference by the time they are 8.5 weeks old. This simply means that puppies develop a preference for a surface to use as their potty and become so accustomed to a certain surface area that they have a hard time eliminating on new surfaces.
Why Does This Happen?
So if a puppy was trained to pee on paper indoors and then is adopted in a new home where the puppy is expected to pee on grass outdoors, the puppy may seek out surfaces other than grass. This means the puppy will hold it while outdoors and then use the carpet once back indoors.
The same goes for older dogs. If your dog is used to eliminating in a kennel or somewhere enclosed, it will take some time for her to get used to using soil or grass during potty time.
How to Deal With It
It's a good idea when adopting a puppy from a pet store, rescue, or breeder, to ask exactly what surface was used to let the puppy go potty. If the puppy was trained to use pads or newspaper, you can gradually transition the puppy to grass by taking a piece of newspaper or pad outside and encourage the puppy to use it. You can then gradually remove the newspaper or pad or reduce its size so more grass is available. Do this repeatedly until the puppy learns to potty exclusively on grass.
7. Suffers From Separation Anxiety
Some dogs do not do well when they are left alone, but most dogs do not do well being left alone for long periods of time (4 hours or more). Consider your dog a separation anxiety candidate if you come home from work and find messes around the home. To confirm your case, record your dog's behavior when he is left alone. Signs of anxiety and distress include whining, pacing, barking, howling, panting, digging, and pooping.
Why Does This Happen?
Dogs are social animals. When they are left alone, they may feel abandoned and don't understand the reason why. This causes nervousness, which leads to urinating or defecating. Some dogs may even suffer from coprophagia, which is when they eat their excrement in order to hide the evidence. Obvious signs of this are bad breath and possible traces of poop left on the floor.
How to Deal With It
Try not to leave your dog alone for more than half a day. If it can't be helped, have a neighbor, family member, or friend visit during the day to feed and walk the dog. You can also use a service like Wag Walking where you hire someone to visit your house during the day to take your dog on a walk.
Be sure that when you are at home with your dog that you give her plenty of exercise and mental stimulation in the form of games and outdoor play. You can also try leaving your dog a yummy bone to chew or hide treats around the house so that she has something to occupy her while your away. Check out this additional tips for helping dogs with separation anxiety.
8. Dog Is Too Old
Some dogs as they age develop a condition known as ''canine cognitive dysfunction,'' the dog version of Alzheimer's disease. Effected dogs may have a hard time in several tasks, and potty training is one of them. Your dog may forget how to go outside or give you signs he needs to go.
Some dogs may not have cognitive dysfunction, but may not be able to hold it in.
How to Deal With It
- Limit your dog to only a few areas of the house. If you can limit her to an uncarpeted area, that would be preferable.
- Cover the areas where your dog has access with pads.
- Don't punish or yell at your dog. She can't help it. You will need to have patience and give her support. Clean-ups are a must at this stage of her life, and you shouldn't expect her to do better.
- Use doggy diapers if it's a serious problem, but ask your vet before you purchase diapers. Some dogs may find it so uncomfortable that they hold it in when they have to go, which is harmful to their health.
Did You Know?
60% of dogs between the ages of 11 and 16 will have some signs of cognitive dysfunction according to one study.
9. Recent Changes, New Pets, or New Family Members
Anything stressful added to a dog's environment may cause a regress in house training. It is not unusual for a well house-trained dog to have an accident in a new home briefly after moving. A dog may even be upset if a new dog is added to a home or if there are guests or a new baby.
How to Deal With It
Scolding the dog for these accidents will only worsen the anxiety the dog feels. The best thing to do is to set a routine after something new is introduced. Feed your dog at regular times every day and take him outdoors to potty before or after each meal. She will soon get used the routine, and the accidents will stop.
Also, make sure to give your dog time to adjust to changes. Pheromones plug-ins, Bach flowers, and other calming aids can help during transitions. If your dog hates going out to potty when it rains, you may find this article helpful:
10. Being Inside for Too Long
This may be obvious, but it is certainly worth mentioning. If you are at work all day and make it late, it is not your dog's fault for soiling in the home. Dogs should not be left at home for too long, and if this is your case, you are better off hiring a pet sitter or a dog walker so your dog is free to go outside as needed.
If your dog is well house-trained, he will have tried to keep it in as long as he could but just couldn't keep it any longer because you were away for too long. He is the last to be blamed in such a scenario.
Never scold your well house-trained dog for soiling in your home.
Is Your Dog Revenge Pooping?
Dogs don't think poop is yucky, and they don't understand that humans dislike cleaning up after them. So the concept of pooping out of revenge is a human concept. Dogs are pure.
Rather than taking it personally, examine reasons why your dog may be more comfortable relieving herself in the house. Often times it's as simple as not wanting to go outside during a rainy/snowy day or during a thunderstorm.
11. Medical Conditions
There are some disorders that can cause an increase in bowel movements. Some intestinal disorders may cause a sense of urgency with frequent stools, making it hard for your dog to hold it in. Intestinal worms are also a cause for more frequent bowel movements and something that should be ruled out. All dog owners should have their dogs' stools checked for parasites at least once a year.
Possible Medical Causes:
- Intestinal worms
- Pain squatting
- Pain lifting leg
- Bladder infection
- Kidney stones
- Kidney failure
- Liver diseases
- Cushing's syndrome
- Addison's disease
- Dietary allergies or reactions
What to Do
If you suspect a medical problem, see your vet right away to rule out medical causes.
- Debra Horwitz & Gary Landsberg, "Dog Behavior Problems - House Soiling." VCA Hospitals. 2013. Accessed February 11, 2019.
- Niki Wardoll, "Is Your Dog Revenge Pooping?" InterMountain Pet Hospital. December 1, 2016. Accessed March 12, 2019.
- Lisa Rayburn, "Where Is the Bathroom?" Mid-Atlantic Border Collie Rescue. Accessed April 8, 2019.
- "Separation Anxiety," ASPCA. Accessed April 8, 2019.
- Mara Bovsun, What To Do When Your Old Dog Forgets Her House Training, AKC. May 15, 2015. Accessed April 8, 2019.
- "House Soiling (Marking) by Dogs," PetMD. Accessed April 9, 2019.
- Lindsay Pevny, "Is Your Dog Pooping In The House On Purpose?" Little Dog Tips. January 19, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2019.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
My dog is almost three and recently he has started pooping in the same spot some time during the night after his last walk, why?
If your dog has been perfectly housebroken until now, you should consider medical reasons. Increased motility can cause accidents as it happens with diarrhea and some other digestive disorders. Other things that come to mind is that he might be stressed or perhaps he isn't pooping during the day as he normally should. Clean up the spot with an enzyme based cleaner and perhaps see whether placing some object over that spot (chair, furniture, large box) may prevent him from pooping there, but first things first, a vet visit may be in order.Helpful 95
My two-year-old dog recently started going to the bathroom whenever he has to, no matter where he is. The door will be wide open, and he will go pee in the living room. We moved into this house and gained another dog at the same time, but that was five months ago; this behavior just started about a week ago. I work from home. I'm going to make him an appointment with the vet tomorrow. What might be his reasons for doing this?
You are doing the right thing by seeing the vet to help rule out medical problems. Behavior-wise, several things may be going on: it could be that something in the yard has scared him or he doesn't want to pee or poop in the same areas your other dog goes, or he has associated the yard with something unpleasant. Some dogs may pee and poop in the home suddenly out of stress, or they may see that it brings the owner's attention and the dog may be craving that.Helpful 60
I have a Great Dane. He is six years old. Why would he start pooping in the house?
If your Great Dane was always remarkable in the potty training department, and now is having accidents, it may be that there's a medical problem at play. Six years old is considered senior age for a dog. Maybe he has joint pain or some digestive issue. Are there any changes in his surroundings? He could be scared of something outside, or he could not want to go outside due to unusual weather.Helpful 25
We have recently adopted a dog, she is lovely and seems to love it here. About a month in, she started pooping in the house; usually in my daughter's room or my office. We take her out often, and she will be outside with us for a good long time and then still come in and go poop. How do I stop this behavior?
There are chances that she may feel somewhat uncomfortable outside, or perhaps there are too many distractions going on, and she can't seem to focus enough to relax and poop. Pooping in dogs requires them to be a bit in a vulnerable position, and it requires a bit of concentration. It could be she wasn't well housetrained in her previous home too.
In any, case, it's important to make sure she has ample of opportunities to poop outside. Taking her on a walk may help as motion helps trigger dogs to have a bowel movement. It also helps to feed her on a strict schedule so that she poops predictably at a certain time and you can take her out at that time.
If she fails to poop outside, make sure you keep her nearby the door in an unobstructed view area so she can't sneak in a bedroom or behind some furniture to poop. Keep an eagle eye on her. This way you can promptly escort her out as soon as you notice some pre-potty signs (circling, sniffing, lowering her bottom).
It may help, if she has an accident, to collect the poop and place it in the designated area, you want her to poop outside. This way she can smell her poop there and hopefully help her recognize where her new "bathroom" is.
Also, never punish a dog for pooping inside the home. This only leads to dogs associating pooping in front of the owner as punishment. This means the dog will always sneak in a secretive spot to poop so that the owner won't see them poop. This may also interfere with pooping outside in front of the owner.Helpful 34
My dog has a doggie door; he can basically go in and out whenever he wants. Why has he started pooping in the house?
There may be several possibilities. For instance, perhaps something in the yard startled him enough to make him not feel comfortable going out. Is your dog a senior? If so, consider a potential beginning of cognitive dysfunction. At times, there may be medical reasons. Are there any new diet changes? Is there any chance he got worms? Anything that may cause an increase in motility/diarrhea can cause accidents. Can it be the doggy door malfunctioned and he got caught? Where is the poop exactly? If it's near the door, there may be chances he made an "attempt" to go out but was unable to which may point to a medical problem.Helpful 15
© 2011 Adrienne Farricelli