3 Reasons Why My Puppy Hides to Poop and Pee
If your puppy is hiding to pee or poop, you may be wondering what makes him behave in such a 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 all day, 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!
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.
Did You Know?
A large amount of dogs are surrendered in shelters due to housetraining issues.
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.
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."
Questions & Answers
© 2014 Adrienne Janet Farricelli