Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
If your puppy is hiding to pee or poop, you may be wondering what makes him behave this way. It's easy to get frustrated, but you should never assume that your dog is doing it on purpose just to get on your nerves. When owners come to me with this problem, they often think that their puppy eliminates secretly and on purpose just to make them mad. I've also heard people say that their puppy defecates out of spite when he doesn't get what he wants. These are incorrect assumptions. Dogs do not experience the emotion of spite because they do not have the cognitive capabilities to "get back at you."
The behavior is definitely not caused by shame either. This is another emotion that dogs cannot experience. An owner once told me, "My pup is ashamed of pooping in front of me." We are talking about animals who sniff butts, urine mark, lick their private areas, and couldn't care less about useless human social etiquettes. There are other dynamics at play, and a sense of shame is not one of them.
So let's take a look at the triggers for this behavior. You'll be surprised to learn that your own behavior might have something to do with it!
Top 3 Reasons Dogs Hide to Eliminate
- He was punished in the past.
- He senses your frustration and anger.
- He is following his instincts.
3 Reasons My Dog Hides When He Goes Potty
1. He Was Punished in the Past
The top reason is triggered by fear due to punishment. Let's look at the exact dynamics.
You get a new puppy and bring him home. After exploring your home on the first night, he drinks a lot of water. Then, suddenly, without even realizing it, he has a terrible urge to potty, so he just squats.
So what do you do? You get upset. "Noo!" you say, in a frantic tone of voice, as you move towards the puppy. You may even clap and stomp your feet, or rub the dog's nose near the mess and yell, "Bad dog!" The puppy gets startled by the loud voice and the fast movement.
When your reaction to his mess is repeated over a period of time, your puppy will be ingrained with the understanding that pooping and peeing is bad, and that it will be met with anger. But he definitely cannot suppress his biological needs, so he decides to eliminate secretly. By doing this, your dog is trying to avoid instant ramifications.
You may get upset a few days later when you find stains, but your puppy is unlikely able to make the connection to what he did days earlier. If you show anger, your puppy will react in fear and become submissive. He'll likely pull his ears back, become as small as possible, and/or flop on his belly. Sometimes, he will even urinate submissively, which creates a vicious cycle and may even compel the owner to give away the dog. Sadly, this all could have been avoided if the owner knew how to potty train his pet and had better communication.
2. He Senses Your Frustration and Anger
If you have never smacked your puppy with a newspaper or shoved his face in a pile of poop, then you may be wondering why he is eliminating in fear. Many dogs are extra sensitive, and even though you weren't particularly harsh, your puppy was able to sense frustration or anger through your tone of voice and body language. In fact, dogs are masters at reading our body language.
Even if you weren't physical, you likely scared your pup by clapping, stomping, or yelling when he was showing pre-potty signs (sniffing, pacing, or circling). The end result? Your puppy learns to suppress these pre-potty signs.
Scaring a dog when he is about to go is counterproductive because it forces him to hide his pre-potty signs, and these are the clues that you need in order to housetrain him. Would you startle a toddler who walks around without a diaper and tells you he needs to go potty? Or, would you listen to him and take him by the hand to the closest toilet? You should show your dog that you appreciate pre-potty signs so that you can help him eliminate in the correct place.
3. Normal Doggy Instinct
Dogs do not like to soil in areas where they eat, drink, play, or sleep. This is a good instinct that keeps them clean and their living areas hygienic. So if your puppy spends most of his day with you in the living room where he sleeps, plays, and eats, he will instinctively trot away when nature calls to soil in another room.
Dogs are also creatures of habit, so they like to defecate in the same areas over and over again. When they sniff previously soiled areas, they immediately think, "Yup, this is my bathroom." This is why it's important to thoroughly clean up accidents that take place in inappropriate areas to prevent your dog from soiling there again.
How to Stop Your Puppy from Hiding to Pee or Poop
1. Train Your Puppy to Follow You Outside
- Walk towards the door and, in an enthusiastic voice, say something like, "Let's go outside!" If you walk swiftly and act enthusiastically, your puppy will follow you voluntarily.
- Once you're both out in the yard, stick close to him, and if he goes potty, praise him by saying, "Good boy!" followed by a treat.
- Do this every day until he can go potty outside by himself.
- It's a good idea to always have a treat pouch on you so you are always equipped. You don't want to be without them when you need them the most!
2. Stay in a Room in Plain View
If your dog was punished or startled for going potty in the house in the past, he may look for places to hide.
From now on, remove all furniture and hiding spots, so your puppy is always in plain view. I used to train a puppy who would potty inside the agility tunnel. I knew that she must have been punished for going potty at home. So, I removed the tunnel, and, from that day on, used clear communication and positive reinforcement. Her potty training progressed tremendously.
Tip: A room can be very big to a small puppy. If feasible, make his living area smaller by putting up a barrier. This will make it easier for you to monitor him and quickly take him outside when he shows pre-potty signs.
3. Praise for Giving Signs
Instead of startling your puppy when he shows clues that he is about to go, acknowledge the signs and praise them. This may be the opposite of what you feel like doing or what you may have heard in the past.
You want him to give you signs so that you can take action. So, if your puppy starts circling, instead of startling or punishing him, say, "Good boy!" and then immediately use your cue ("Let's go outside!") and walk out of the door. Your puppy should follow you out immediately. When he goes potty, praise him lavishly and give him a treat.
4. Monitor As Much as You Can
We often blame puppies for going potty indoors, but what about our involvement? Dr. Ian Dunbar says that dog owners should use newspapers when potty training, but not for hitting the puppy. Rather, dog owners should use it to hit themselves on the head and say, "Bad owner, bad owner! I should have taken my puppy outside in time!"
As owners, it's our responsibility to potty train our puppies and teach them that they should go outside. They don't come programmed with this training, so we need to be extra patient and understanding!
Extra Tips for Potty Training Your Dog
- Always clean previous accidents with an enzyme-based cleaner that removes traces of odor, so your puppy is less likely to soil in the same area.
- Put your puppy on a feeding and elimination schedule, so he will eliminate at the same times each day.
- If you have punished your puppy in the past, he may be fearful in your presence when you take him outside to potty. You should ignore him by turning your back. When he finishes eliminating, reward him in a calm manner (don't go bonkers with enthusiasm). If you are overly excited, he may mistake your praise for scolding. Just say "good boy" in a calm tone and toss him a cookie.
Reinforce Relief Positively
When you improve communication and embrace positive methods, your puppy will learn at a faster pace. Remember that the action of going potty is reinforcing on its own. We all feel relief when we empty our bladders and bowels. So if you use harsh methods, your puppy will seek two forms of relief: relief from the urge to potty and relief from your wrath. Fear makes the training process much more difficult because it indicates that your dog has a negative impression of you. This will only lead to him engaging in other unwanted behaviors out of your sight. Instead, you want him to trust you and be comfortable with you enough to show pre-potty signs so that you can take action and guide him through the process!
For more on housebreaking, read "Secret Strategies for Potty Training Your Puppy."
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
Question: Why does my dog chase his tail when he gets anxious? Is he in pain, or is it anxiety?
Answer: Tail biting in dogs may be due to many underlying causes. It would be important to rule out medical disorders. You can read a detailed article on tail biting here:https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Stop-a-Dog-From...
© 2014 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on June 13, 2020:
Emerald, contrary to what it looks, dogs who show guilty body language are simply reacting to our body language and mood denoting frustration. Google "dog guilty look". Even saying "no"can trigger a dog to hide to poop. If your dog poops, wait for him to move away and clean it up, next make sure to lower the chances for this mishap to occur again. Clear your home of obstacles (temporarily) so that you have a clear view of where your dog always is, keep an eye on your dog when in a room with you, stick to a room where the door to outside is close and easy to access quickly, praise and reward your dog for going potty outside, clean messes with an enzyme-based cleaner, recognize signs your dog has to go potty, when you cannot watch your dog, keep her in a place where she is allowed to potty, train your dog to go potty on command.
Emerald on June 02, 2020:
I have a 9 week old chihuahua had her since 3 weeks! She pees on the pad but hides to poop ! Ive been very patient but she shows such a tendancy almost a preference for hiding her poop she knows shes wrong because when i say no and move her to the pad she looks super guilty is there any solution thats not passively aggressively related to blaming myself for her pooping out there ? Ive been seeing alot of content from animal enthusiasts who seem to put their own lives beneath that of their pets
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 27, 2018:
This can be a challenge. Crating her at night and when you are out may help prevent her from having accidents, but you will need to work on acclimating her to the crate to make it a pleasant place to be. Most dogs have to potty first thing in the morning, so take her out if time permits and wait for her to go and praise and give her a treat for going the moment she goes. Practice also on weekends and when you are home. Clean up messes inside the home with enzyme-based cleaners so that the areas won't smell like her "bathroom." If you make going outside extra rewarding and a habit, with time she may go more and more outside.
Aksana Hanna on December 27, 2018:
I got a rescue dog thats been living in a shelter for the past year and the half. She is refusing to pee in front of me at home only. There are always accidents when it s night or we go out. I have the feeling she s been punished. I never get the chance to correct the behavior at home. How can I potty train her?
Ms. J on May 31, 2018:
To David S: Do you know that you can report abuse of an animal? Please find out where to go in your area and report the abuse. I hope you'v already done so.
David s on January 03, 2018:
I personally know someone who does this and this is what has led me to this article.They recently got a puppy and expect it to automatically be house trained at nine weeks olds.Because she's pottys in the house she is spanked by her 250lb.owner and I'm sickened by it.The pup is expected to hold itself over night and then come morning wait for her owner to pee,get dressed,fiddle around then by the time he's done it's to late and the cycle continues.scontinues.same as chewing,the pup has not one toy and chews on everything and is scolded.The puppy holds his ears down and turns on his side when owner comes near and even cries out when picked up by him to go out.ive heard him spanked so hard he cries out for a good 60 seconds.im sick of this and not sure who to turn to,I scared he's gonna actually hurt him.its gotta stop!! I must stop this
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on April 19, 2017:
This is so useful, especially the part about the enzyme based cleaner. Puppies are really sensitive to their human's behavior, but it was interesting to know that not only are they sensitive to their human's voice, but even their body language. They are great readers of people:).
Shyron E Shenko from Texas on April 18, 2017:
Adrienne, thank you for the tips, we got our pup in February Chipper was three months old. He lets me know when he has to go potty from day one. He did pee on the newspaper tat hubby laid on the floor.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 15, 2016:
Your dog is showing normal dog behavior. Dogs are inquisitive and attracted to other animal scent. They want to sniff and they may also mark to show the boundaries of their territories and leave their business cards (pee, poop) for other animals to sniff. If you want to avoid some areas, train a smacking sound that tells her she should go to you for her treat. Give the treat when she comes to you upon hearing the smacking sound. Alternatively, you can train a leave it cue to tell her to avoid the spider areas.
L on December 12, 2016:
My dog is a 4 year old lab. She was potty trained when she was young by my keeping and eye on her and taking her out when she looked like she was needing to go. I used positive reinforcement, such as praising and giving her treats when she did it right. She goes out on a leash when she has to go because there are no fences here and we have on occasion seen coyotes and have had deer kills on our yard. I suspect that at least one of those may have been a mountain lion. She used to just go in the grass but lately, she has been going deep into shrubs and bushes. It is strange behavior for her. Could it be that she smells a predator around? She also used to go in the backyard but now wants to go out in the front yard. Today she jumped into some heavy shrubs to go. They are full of spiders and I don't want her to go in there but I didn't expect it and before you know it, she was in the middle of them going to potty. Should I be concerned?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 10, 2016:
Thanks so much DDE, thanks for the votes up for this article on why puppies sneak away to pee and poop.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on July 23, 2014:
Guilty look and s o true of your facts here voted up, useful interesting and always an informative topic from you
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 21, 2014:
Oh, no Grey Temple! No need to apologize and you are always welcome to comment on any of my hubs! I had a feeling that you probably read the initial part and assumed that I was recommending certain approaches, when I was really trying to show mistakes some dog owners make in potty training their pups. The bottom of the article shows some positive approaches to help pups victims of scare tactics. I love Rotties and own two of them! Congrats for raising so many of them and being so successful in potty training them! Kind regards, Adrienne
Grey Temples on July 21, 2014:
Alexandry - well accept my apologies I may have read your article in the 'wrong light'. I have hand raised more than 80 Rottweiler puppies (I am no longer a breeder and haven't been for many, many years) and they were all house broken by the time they were 8 weeks old with positive reinforcement. Yes, I have seen dogs hide when they defecate and it is pitifully sad and usually because they are afraid of their owners. My apologies I will never comment on another one of your articles, I promise.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 21, 2014:
Excellent analysis and advice. We have experienced all these from our dogs. However, if we were dog trainers, Cesar Milan would fire us, so we let two of them wear diapers, and they have learned to adjust. One dog Mocha Barney stopped when she had access to our new screen door, but now that the screen door is sealed, she wears diapers again. It's okay with the and us. But your advice is so much better. Being a dog alpha takes talent, I ain't got it but if I did, I'd do it your way.
Lana Adler from California on July 20, 2014:
Very interesting! Our adult dog has a habit of hiding when he poops, like getting behind a bush, or running off to do his business if he's off the leash. We always appreciated his discretion: like he's sort of self-aware like a human. But I remember my husband told me that he used scare tactics when he was potty-training him, so that must be what makes him seek "hiding spots" ever since! Voted up.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 20, 2014:
Actually, several puppies that come to me for board and training are scared of pottying in front of their owner and when I inquire about the owner's training methods, they have a history of putting the nose in their poop or using harsh methods. And NONE of these are puppy mill dogs. I don't agree on training a puppy a week, these fake promises create frustration it takes much longer than that, especially considering the fact that pups do not attain full sphincter muscle control until they are at least 12 weeks! Crates per se' are not negative reinforcement, if you train dogs to correctly like them and keep the door frequently open with goodies inside they can be a source of positive associations. I have dogs who love their crates and play pens and seek them out on their own. The crate per se cannot be negative reinforcement. It's an object. It's like saying that a leash is negative reinforcement which is incorrect as it depends on what you do with it (actions) Are you praising your dog for walking on a loose leash? Or are you delivering leash pops until the dog heels? It sounds like crates are being used incorrectly from the way you portray them. If the dog dreads it, yes, it can assume negative connotations. Of course, I don't agree on the whole crate/den thing as that's outdated info, but I agree though that people should not have puppies if they do not want to do their homework. I no longer rely much on crates for potty training, but I advocate all my clients to teach their dogs to like their crates. They may need them when they travel or in other situations life throws at them. You say you totally disagree, but then you seem to repeat things I claim in the article and seem to agree with, so I am slightly confused...You have never seen dogs hiding to do their business because you likely have potty trained the correct way, same goes with me, all my dogs were never hiding, but the purpose of this article is to outline wrong training methods and show the implications of harsh techniques.
Grey Temples on July 20, 2014:
I am sorry, I have to totally disagree with your post. The behavior you are mentioning generally comes from puppies that are coming from puppy mills as they are kept in kennels all of their lives. As soon as someone brings home their brand new puppy they should put the puppy in the yard first before bringing it inside so the puppy potties outside and not in the house. Never, never rub a dogs nose in their feces or urine because usually you find the mess after the fact and the dog does not know what they are being punished for. After they wake up immediately take them outside, after a good play take them outside, after a nap take them outside. It is very simple to teach a puppy potty training within one week if the new puppy owner really wants the new puppy.
It takes work and positive reinforcement. Putting a puppy in a crate is negative reinforcement and will only cause a puppy to withdrawl, potty in it's crate and chew everything in site when it is left out of the crate.
If a person has not done their homework on getting a new puppy then they should not get one. I have been a dog trainer and have rescued dogs for over 30 years and I have never had one problem with potty training or a dog hiding to do their business. Hiding to do their business just means they are petrified of their owner because their owner is abusive.