Why is My Dog so Picky About Where He Poops?

Updated on October 2, 2016
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Adrienne is a former veterinary hospital assistant, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

So why are dogs so picky about where they poop? Why do they have to spend so much time contemplating a good spot and then go in circles sniffing before they finally pick a spot and relieve themselves? If you are owner of such a dog, I can literally hear you sighing as your dog finally squats down signaling that you can finally go home. I think I can also hear you swearing on these frigid winter days when it's pouring rain and 50 miles winds make your umbrella a useless gadget.

If you feel like your dog deserves an applause or a standing ovation after pooping, you know you have a picky pooper that may be driving you crazy. It almost looks as if pooping required the concentration of an airline pilot trying to land a plane in high winds or a pianist sweating over the keyboard as he frenetically plays a complex piece of music. Yet, pooping seems so easy for other dogs, all they have to do is squeeze and they're done. So what gives?

This is a case, where we would be blessed if dogs could talk. Wouldn't it be great if Rover could simply tells us "look I only like to poop in this x spot and on this surface". Things would be much easier that way as we would try our best to accommodate the dog's wishes. Instead, we're often left with most of the guesswork. And that's what we'll be going over in the next paragraphs as we can only make assumptions on what is really going on in Rover's mind.

Why is my dog picky about where he must poop?
Why is my dog picky about where he must poop? | Source

Why is My Dog Picky on Where he Poops?

Well, for starters let's consider that the world from Rover's perspective is quite different from ours. Pooping in dogs has much more functionality than just eliminating his earlier meals. When humans do their business, it's just that, but from a dog's mindset pooping entails much more than that. Let's take a look what pooping must feel like from a dog's perspective.

The Canine's Form of Tweeting

Just as you use Twitter and other social networks to leave a message for others to read, in the doggy world, pooping is a less romantic way to communicate. "Rover was here" is what a dog may be saying when he leaves some stool in a strategic location. Blessed with more than 220 million olfactory receptors in its noses, other dogs will surely be interested in your doggy's daily headlines. Yes, dogs can mark with their poop other than with their pee. So if your dog is taking a long time to poop, it may just likely he is looking for the perfect location where his poop can be noticed, and yes, it must also "smell right." Your dog may be also looking for some leftover scent of another dog so he can happily mark over it and leave his message.

Ever wondered why some dogs go around in circles before pooping? This behavior is often seen also before a dog is about to lay down and is an instinctual behavior to crush tall grass to make a soft bed and scare away any unwanted critters such as bugs or snakes. In the case of pooping, this may be so the poop becomes more evident (and isn't hidden by the grass), so nasty critters stay away when a dog is in such a vulnerable position, but it could also be so the scent of the fresh crushed grass works as a bonus attractant. This instinct is so ingrained, dogs keep on doing this even if there is no grass, as seen in dogs who religiously turn around several times before lying down.

Not Time to Go Yet

Some times, the dog is not being picky, but he simply doesn't have to go. When your dog is fed on a predictable schedule, his poop may come out predictably at the same times every day as well. This is why it's so important for young puppies to adhere to a strict puppy feeding schedule so you can predict when you can take your puppy out to eliminate. So if you take your dog out at the same time every day and he doesn't go, perhaps you want to try taking him out a bit later, when his need is a bit more urgent and he is less likely of making you lose time. In such a case though, make sure you gradually increase the time and keep an eye on your dog if he isn't housebroken yet; he may anticipate you and leave a little present on your favorite Oriental rug.

An Underlying Medical Problem

If your dog takes quite a while to poop, you must evaluate if your dog perhaps has some form of a medical problem. It's not uncommon for some dogs to take a lot to poop because they are constipated dogs, have painful anal glands or even have something as serious as an intestinal blockage. In some cases, dogs affected by diarrhea, may feel like they need to poop and will strain inconclusively,-- the medical term for this is tenesmus. In this case, the dog may have a bout of colitis. See your vet if your dog seems to have difficulty pooping, is straining, moaning as he poops or seems in any pain. So make sure you keep a watchful eye on your dog and report anything abnormal to your vet.

Not Feeling Safe

It takes some touch of confidence for a dog to decide to poop. In other words, when a dog is nervous about his surroundings, he may inhibit his need to eliminate. For instance, placing a dog scared of noises in a balcony where construction workers across the street and causing a cachophony of loud noises, will likely cause the dog to hide or at least feel uncomfortable. Elimination won't just happen in this case! Make sure your dog has a safe, quiet place to eliminate where he feels safe. If your dog refuses to poop in your yard, but then poops the moment he comes in the house, evaluate if there's something in your yard that worries him. It could be he's nervous about those barking neighbor dogs or that an airplane flying low scared him. It's not unheard of for dogs kept in yards with electronic fences to be scared of eliminating in the "mean yard" and to eliminate in the home instead. In this case, the dog is not being "picky" but is scared.

Sticking to Old Habits

Dogs don't like changes too much and dogs aren't great in generalizing . If your dog is picky, it may be he is looking for a certain type of surface or for an area where he has previously soiled. It's a good idea to pay attention to your dog's preferences, especially in a newly adopted dog. If you just got a new puppy and he was paper trained, he may not like to use grass. Try to bring some paper and put it on some grass.

As seen, there are many possible causes for your dog to be picky where he poops. Always rule out medical problems if you are unsure and pay extra attention to where he prefers to soil. The next paragraph will offer some tips to make your dog poop faster.

How to Deal with a Dog Picky About Where he Poops

So you're tired of waiting and waiting and waiting for your dog to poop? Dogs after all aren't that different than humans some times. Raise your hand if you ever enjoyed reading the newspaper while sitting on the toilet. In the same way, your dog may like to read the "canine tweets and headlines" left from other dogs on walks. Yet, if you want to speed up the pooping process here are a few tips:

1) Try to figure out at what time your dog is faster to poop. As mentioned, if you take your dog out every day at 5 to walk, and he poops at the end of the walk at say 5: 45, try taking him out the next day at 5:20, then at 5;30 and then at 5:45. Keep a chart on his progress so you can track his progress.

2) Walk your dog. If you take your dog every day to the same potty area in your yard, your dog may not want to poop because in nature dogs are used to walk a lot and walking stimulates elimination. Walking your dog may encourage your dog to poop and will also meet his exercise and mental stimulation needs.

3) Reward your dog for pooping by using high-value treats. Treat after treat, your dog learns that great things happen when he poops so he'll be eager to get that poop going just to get the treat. Make sure you keep your treats hidden in a pocket though, as the sight of a treat may distract. Wait for him to finish pooping and then say "good boy" and give the treat.

4) Train your dog to potty on command. This can be really a great way to expedite the process and will help dogs generalize the potty area. I have taught my dogs to go potty on command and this has helped tremendously when we traveled and the dogs had to poop in unfamiliar areas. The familiar command can do wonders in such a case and to make things faster.

5) Install a pheromone-treated stake and place it in a certain area and see if this helps your dog to reliably poop there. Alternatively, if your dog poops in the home, try taking his mess and placing in a precise spot in the yard so your dog knows that that's his new bathroom area.

These tips should help your dog become less picky and poop more reliably. As mentioned, always see your vet first is something doesn't look right and then once your dog has received a clean bill of health, start assessing the other possibilities and try some options.

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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 8 weeks ago from USA

      You would have to tackle this from several perspectives. Is your dog scared of something outside? Has he always been this way? What is there in the fall to make this behavior happen? Are there wildlife outside? Here are a few tips; feed at the same times each day so that you can predict at what time he's more likely to potty. If the accidents happen around the same time each day, do not let him inside until he relieves himself. Stay out with him and when he does, praise and give a treat. If he doesn't go potty and yo need to go back inside, keep him on a leash with you nearby the door so that the moment you notice he is about to go, you can quickly escort him outside.

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      Paul H. 8 weeks ago

      I let my dog out to poop and all he dose is walk the fence sniffing and will not go out in yard, we let him out several times a day and he won't poop then he comes in and poops in the house. This only seems it only starts in the fall. Please help. Ty.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 13 months ago from USA

      Monet, you'll be surprised, but many service dogs are trained to poop on cue. My dogs were trained since puppies, and as soon as they're taken out, they go potty. Nobody forces them to, all we say is "go potty" and they just go as they associate the word with going. If they don't need to, it's OK,, they'll let us know and we'll take them out again later.

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      Monet 14 months ago

      I have 2 shih tzu's one is very regular and not picky at all for pooping.

      However, the girl takes sometimes forever. I have learned some of her signs.

      When she is ready to try to poop, she gives a good full body shake beginning with her nose to her tail.

      We do live on 50 acres, but we only use the area around the house.

      We have had a cougar and a black bear on the property but not in the last 2 years.

      I wanted to say, that we need to remember, can YOU poop on command? I certainly can not.

      We have to learn to be more patient, sometimes they simply do not have to go poop!

      So we bring them back inside, and take them out after the next feeding...

      They also have specific signs if they need to go outside. So you have to be aware. They are not a book that you put back on the shelf...

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      I am sorry to hear you're not happy. To precise, I am not just an avid dog owner, please see my biography or Google my name. I deal with picky poopers on a daily basis because of my business. If you are looking for studies on this, there's scarce information as this is something that is not being researched much. If you need specific help with anything, just ask if this article was not helpful to you. I'll be more than happy to provide you with some insight.

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      anonymous 2 years ago

      No factual data or studies just an avid dog owner who is basing all assumptions on intuition and feelings. Does not help

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Both my dogs used to get really picky when monsoon season was around the corner. Since it's dry almost year-round, they used to not want to poop on the wet grass.

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      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      I am reading this as Zeus is refusing to go outside even though the thunderstorm has already passed our area. Great timing! It is funny how we worry about our dog's elimination habits just like we worry about our babies.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Barbara, I used to get soaked wet during monsoon season in Arizona when my dogs refused to potty in the rain, here was my ordeal:


    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      Hi Wetnose, dogs are funny in many ways. I was one of the owners who used to wait hours for my dogs to poop, luckily now they pee an poop on command at the same hours each day.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 4 years ago from USA

      I've felt impatient before. Now I know why the dogs do the weird things they do.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

      Got some chuckles out of this, but also learned a few things about the furry friends.

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