“What the heck is that smell?! Did someone forget to flush the toilet?”
Then it daunts on you.
Right on the floor, you see a big pile of poop. Your house-trained dog caught you by surprise.
“But why? What’s going on? I thought we had this covered.”
There are some common reasons why this happens.
Read on to discover:
- 17 easy tips to prevent this unwanted behavior.
- Whether dogs pooping out of spite is a myth or reality.
- 3 dangers of disciplining your dog to not poop indoors.
- 9 medical conditions that could be causing your dog’s sudden pooping in the house.
- The reasons why you shouldn’t startle your dog if you see they’re getting ready to poop inside.
- What the methods researchers recommend using when training your dog are and why (check out tip #3).
- And much much more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog suddenly poop in the house?
If your dog suddenly started pooping in the house, the most likely reason is a medical issue. It could also be that your dog is getting old and their bladder can’t hold it anymore. Or because they’re stressed out due to a drastic life change. Another possibility is them having separation anxiety.
Pooping out of spite
Before we move on to the reasons I want to make something clear. So I’ll start with busting a myth you’ve most probably heard about. I’m talking about dogs pooping out of spite.
If you think this is the reason for your dog’s sudden indoor pooping, you’re not even remotely close to solving the issue. Because that’s simply not it.
Besides that, it wouldn’t help to accumulate tension towards your dog. Dogs are sensitive and smart creatures so they’ll pick up on your emotions. And they’ll become tense around you.
Which will not solve the problem and can even magnify it.
Something else to consider…
Some people think that if their dog pees or poops indoors and looks at them, it’s an act of disobedience.
Or getting back at them.
One word. NO. No, no, and no. Dogs look you in the eye when they eliminate (whether indoors or outdoors) because they’re looking for your support.
After all, dogs are pack animals. They survive by looking out for each other. When a dog is squatting, they’re in a vulnerable position and look at you for a sense of security.
Last but not least, your dog has absolutely no idea how grossed out you might be from their poop. It’s not like dogs are born with common knowledge about bacteria.
They’re also not burdened by thoughts such as “Oh, shoot! Now I have to clean this…” Dogs answer nature’s call. That’s all.
So before you start getting angry at your dog and take it personally, I invite you to get to know the real reasons behind the behavior. Because something’s bothering your dog.
With that being said, I present you…
9 reasons why your dog randomly pooped in the house (again)
#1: Distraction in action
Does your dog get easily distracted?
If so, that could be what’s keeping them from doing their business.
Research has found out that dogs easily get distracted from eating while there are people in the same room.
Instead, the dogs focus on the staff and the activities the humans are performing. Hence, dogs don’t ingest as much food as they would if they’re focused only on eating.
I can relate. Especially when it’s potty time.
Then my dog-Lissa would sniff the surroundings. And just as she’s preparing to squat, something would get her attention.
She’d freeze, looking in the direction the sound is coming from. And she’d forget what she was about to do…
This is particularly unpleasant during winter and freezing temperatures. But it happens.
Mainly if the pooch in question needs more time outside. But during the cold months, it’s not easy to take big long walks.
Sure, your dog needs them. But unless you have a breed that tolerates cold weather, your pooch will likely want to go back home as soon as possible.
Then they’ll lack enough time outside. And as soon as they go out again, their mind will be all over the place.
If they could speak, they’d probably tell you “Oh, look! A squirrel.” Or “Hey, what’s this person up to?”
That’s precisely how intrigued Lissa looks at times.
#2: Fear and/or anxiety
First, let’s briefly clarify the difference between these 2 terms.
According to Verywell Mind:
“Fear relates to a known or understood threat, whereas anxiety follows from an unknown, expected, or poorly defined threat.
Fear and anxiety both produce a similar stress response.”
Here’s how the dog’s body reacts to danger:
- Short breath.
- Tensed muscles.
- Faster heart rate.
If your dog experiences fear or anxiety, they won’t be at ease to poop.
And did you know that fear can cause anxiety?
According to the AKC:
“Fear-related anxiety can be caused by loud noises, strange people or animals, visual stimuli like hats or umbrellas, new or strange environments, specific situations — like the vet’s office or car rides — or surfaces like grass or wood floors. Although some dogs may only have brief reactions to these kind of stimuli, they may affect anxious dogs more consequentially.”
Consider whether one of the abovementioned triggers could have made your dog fearful or anxious. If your dog is scared due to such reasons, they’ll hold it until they feel safe again.
Another stress factor for dogs with access to a yard could be an electric fence. If they have once touched it and experienced an electric shock, they might be anxious in this type of environment.
#3: Medical conditions
Medical conditions that can make your dog poop in the house include:
- Stomach flu.
- Bowel cancer.
- Muscle atrophy.
- Food poisoning.
- Pain or arthritis.
- Food intolerance and allergies.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
- Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD).
- Parasites and viral infections (roundworms, hookworms, giardia).
Warning: In case intestinal parasites are the cause of this issue, your dog is likely to have diarrhea. If you notice this, waste no time and get in touch with your vet.
Young dogs and those with weak immune systems have a bigger chance of getting an infection.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
What parasites and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have in common is loose stools or diarrhea. A dog with IBD could be unable to absorb nutrients and digest food.
It’s not yet known what the cause of IBD is.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)
As the brain ages, dogs start losing their cognitive function. This is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in people.
- House soiling.
- Signs of fear and anxiety.
- Changed way of interacting with humans and other pets.
Although this condition could affect any dog, it’s mostly seen in older ones. The muscles could become weaker due to your dog’s general health condition.
#4: Life changes
If there’s one thing you should know about dogs, it’s that they like routine. When rash changes happen in a dog’s life, your dog might get stressed.
To better understand what your dog is going through…
Imagine you’re working at a job for years on end. You know at what time you should be there, your targets, how you can reach them, and how much money you will get.
The routine is so ingrained in you that you could do all of this with your eyes closed.
But one day… everything changes. And it’s too early to say whether for better or worse…
The location of your office is switched. You have a new boss. The targets have been changed. And there are new requirements to reach them. Plus, there’s uncertainty about the salary you’ll get.
O.K, I know it sounds extreme. But these things do happen. Even if not (thankfully) all at once. But try to picture how you’d feel if they did.
That’s what dogs experience whenever there’s a drastic change in their life. In one word: stress.
Dogs could become stressed when:
- You move houses.
- A family member leaves or dies.
- They have suffered abandonment.
- There’s a new addition to the family.
- Construction changes in your house.
- The schedule of the daily walks has changed.
#5: You have a rescue dog
Taking in a rescue dog is a noble and wonderful thing to do. But it poses some challenges.
Depending on the individual dog’s story, they’ll have to overcome some fears. And they’ll also have to learn new things.
Some shelter dogs’ sad reality is that they have been there since puppies. And therefore, may lack socialization skills and have separation anxiety.
You can’t expect that every rescue dog has potty habits.
Dogs in shelters live in small rooms with two doors. One door leads to a small confined area just outside the cage. The other to the inside of the shelter.
Sometimes, if the dog has to go, they will potty in their small room. Not because they want to but because they have no choice.
Note: A healthy dog would normally never pee or poop where they sleep. Dogs hate doing that as they’ll have to lay where the mess is.
#6: Separation anxiety
Dogs who are left alone for longer than 4 hours and whose schedule has changed may develop separation anxiety. But it could also occur as a genetic predisposition.
You’ll know that your dog has separation anxiety if they:
- Soil the house.
And this happens all when you’re away. So when you come back home you find a surprise.
Marking with fecesa is rare. But it can happen in the house if there’s a new person or animal in the household. Because your dog might perceive the newcomer as a threat.
#8: Substrate preference
Having a substrate preference is an inborn or learned behavior. It means the dog prefers one texture where to poop over another.
Substrate preference is more common in dogs
#9: A change in diet
Putting your dog on a different diet can speed up the need to poo. This usually happens when the change isn’t gradual.
For example, if until yesterday they’ve eaten one kind of food. And today you give an entirely different one.
The digestive system will react to this as it’s not used to the new kind of food yet.
Another thing to keep in mind is that cheap supermarket dog food contains fillers and grains. This can cause frequent elimination. That’s why it’s better to opt-in for high-quality food.
17 Tips To Stop Your House-Trained Dog/Puppy From Pooping Inside The House
#1: Rule out whether it’s a medical or a behavioral issue
Determining the reason for sudden pooping in the house can be tricky. That’s why you could use some help from your vet.
The sooner you have your dog checked out, the better. This way you can prevent an arising medical problem from turning into a severe condition.
Once you have more clarity on the matter, you’d know what steps to take in the right direction.
If the issue is medical-related, your vet will propose a suitable treatment. But if it’s behavioral, you should turn to a licensed dog trainer or behaviorist.
#2: Make pooping a priority
Not kidding. Your dog’s first job when they go out should be pooping.
If some distractions such as other dogs or people come along the way, avoid them like the plague.
In case you’re worried that might come off as rude, kindly explain what you’re trying to do. And that you should let your dog poo before chit-chat.
This works for me and my dog-Lissa. She has several places outside where she prefers pooping. And luckily, there aren’t many people or canines there.
So as soon as we reach the place, Lissa would squat. Then she’d start circling around and finally…drop the load.
I’d then let a sigh out of relief. And we’d happily continue our worry-free walk.
This being said, avoid playing with your dog before poop time is over.
More importantly, don’t come home until your pooch has pooed.
#3: Throw a party for your dog as soon as they poop outside
Wouldn’t you just love it when you do something right and you get rewarded for it?
While we don’t always get ovations when we do something well, I’m sure you won’t be against it if it happens now and then.
And what do you know? Dogs function by the same principles.
Take, for example, this study. It emphasizes the importance and effectiveness of positive reinforcement in dog training.
The thing is that throughout history, people trained domesticated dogs mostly by using negative reinforcement.
But in recent years, positive reinforcement has started gaining more popularity. It is characterized by rewarding the dog anytime they exhibit the behavior you want them to.
But back to the study. Scientists asked 364 dog parents what training methods they use for 7 basic tasks.
Here’s what the researchers found out:
- 60% praised their dogs.
- 12% used physical punishment.
- 66% of the people used vocal punishment.
- 11% rewarded the dogs by playing with them.
- 51% rewarded their dogs by giving them food.
Dogs who were trained with negative reinforcement methods exhibited more problematic behaviors. The dogs’ behavioral issues can stem from or lead to separation anxiety.
Plus, negative reinforcement techniques didn’t prove to increase obedience in dogs. That’s why the researchers concluded positive training might have more benefits for both dogs and their humans.
What’s more, according to the NCPPSP Regional Shelter Study the #1 reason for pet dogs ending in shelters was behavioral problems.
Now you know. That’s why my appeal to you is to use positive training methods with your puppy or adult dog.
This is one easy way to train your doggo. And you’ll both have fun.
Trust me, this is much more enjoyable than acting impulsively-raising your tone of voice, or coming up with punishments.
What you need to do
Always keep some treats with you when going on a walk. As soon as your dog poops, start praising them with “Good boy/girl!”. Then hand a treat.
If you do this immediately after your dog poops, they’ll connect the reward to the action. And with enough repetition, they’ll get used to pooping outside and enjoying the rewards that come with it.
Note: It’s best to use a high-value treat that you wouldn’t give your dog on any other occasion. This makes the dog eager to work for the treat and earn it by doing what you want of them.
#4: Make your dog feel safe
Give your dog some peace and quiet. Whether you have a pup or an adult rescue dog, this principle applies to both.
For them to poop, they need to focus. But they can only do that if there are no distractions. And by that, I also mean stress triggers.
The latter could be the garbage truck passing by, some renovation going on in the streets, or simply walking your dog at a peak hour.
Try taking your dog out in quiet areas. And compare whether the pooping process goes smoother.
#5: Desensitize your dog
Your dog might have some emotional traumas from the past.
The dog doesn’t have to come from a shelter to have such a problem. Though issues like that are more common in rescue dogs.
Now, about desensitization. It aims to change the dog’s perspective of the stress trigger.
The dog should be exposed to the trigger in question gradually.
This way, the stressor will appear less scary. And eventually, the dog will learn to pay little or no attention to it at all.
You can turn to a professional dog trainer or behaviorist for more information and a specifically tailored plan.
#6: Make and stick to a consistent feeding and potty schedule
Or in other words, benefit from the fact that dogs are fans of routines.
Yep, what many people find boring, is beneficial and recommended for dogs.
Routines equal predictability. And they make your dog feel safe and sound.
If you have a puppy, they’ll likely poo several minutes after they had their meal. This helps you know what to expect. Or rather, when to expect it.
But to be extra sure, set specific feeding times. And stick to them. This will increase the likelihood of your dog pooping soon after they’ve eaten.
Note: Remove any uneaten food 20 minutes after you’ve served it. And wait until the next scheduled meal before offering your dog food again.
Consult with your vet on how much food to give to your dog according to their age, weight, and overall health condition.
Now, about walks. Best practices include taking your dog potty early in the morning, in the middle of the day, and in the evening. But you could also do a walk just before bedtime.
From personal experience, I can say that this practice works just fine. The first walk of my dog Lissa starts at 7:15 a.m. The second is between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. And the 3rd one at 09:00 p.m.
Both of us are used to the routine and like it. And I know that Lissa feels comfortable in the intervals between the walks.
How am I so sure?
Well, Lissa tends to alert me if she needs to go urgently. She’d start pacing around, look through the window of the terrace door. And she’d paw at the wall and on the bathroom’s door.
When I see her do that I make sure I fly out of the house like a rocket.
It all comes down to reading the signs your dog gives you.
#7: Clean the poop spot at home with an enzyme-based cleaner
If your dog has chosen a particular poop spot in the house, there’s one thing you should do. Clean it thoroughly by using an enzymatic cleaner.
One I’d recommend is Nature’s Miracle. By getting it, you can kill two birds with one stone. It removes odor and stains.
Note: Make sure to not leave any traces behind as the scent of poop can draw your dog back to the place. And they might do it again.
Here’s how to clean poop traces effectively:
- Put on latex gloves.
- Pick up solid poop with paper towels or with a plastic bag.
- Apply an odor-neutralizing enzymatic or bio-based cleaner.
#8: Don’t discipline your dog for pooping in the house
You must refrain from disciplining your dog when they poop in the house.
Because it could backfire.
When dogs are yelled at or being scolded, there’s often this particular look on their faces.
Many people think the dog’s facial expression shows guilt. But they’re wrong.
Dogs who give you this look are scared. They sense you’re upset and they’re afraid of what might follow next. This is the case if your tone of voice and body language are threatening.
Here’s an example. Some people would put their dog’s face in the dog’s poop. If you do it, you risk teaching your dog that pooping is unacceptable.
And I don’t mean just in the house but in general. When you’re around. You see, your dog will link disciplining to the act of pooping itself. Not to pooping in one particular place.
As a result, your dog will perceive pooping as something bad. And they will start holding their poop instead of relieving themselves when they have to go. Plus, your dog will become anxious around you.
What’s more, the dog can begin associating their room with punishment. And this is the opposite of what you want. The room should be a safe place for them.
As you can see, this won’t solve the problem. But it can make it worse.
Instead of preventing the dog from pooping in the house, this method could make your dog poop when you’re not around. Meaning, again indoors.
And your dog might even try to hide their feces to avoid punishment.
But that’s not all.
Your dog might start avoiding you. Which will make housetraining harder. You then won’t be able to teach your dog to poop on command.
#9: Don’t startle your dog if you see they’re about to poop in the house
I know a lot of dog parents who were advised to startle their pooch if they catch them in the act.
While this might seem harmless and useful, it could negatively affect the dog.
Because your dog could stop showing you the signs. This won’t stop their need to poo. But it will cover it up. And that’s not good for anyone.
This way, you won’t be able to recognize your dog might need medical attention unless it’s too late.
Instead, you want to be able to read your dog. And with the cues they’re giving you, it’s easier than you think.
Here’s an alternative to starling your dog.
Reward them for showing you what they need to do. Yes, you’ve read right.
Immediately after you see your dog pacing, sniffing, and circling, say “Good boy/girl!” enthusiastically. Praise your dog and take them outside.
Look at tip #3 for more info on what to do outside.
#10: Teach your dog the word “walk”
I have taught Lissa this simple word. So now she’s aware of what’s going to happen every time I say, “Want to go for a walk?”. Or “How about a walk?”.
And she’s looking forward to it. She looks me in the eye, she emits a bark. And she spins. But most importantly, she goes to the door by herself.
By teaching your dog a verbal cue like that, you’ll make them an active participant in the action you’re taking. You won’t have to convince your dog to come to you.
Instead, they’ll be running to the door. With much eagerness to go on that walk.
#11: Train your dog to potty on command
Training your dog to potty on command will help prevent smelly accidents in the house. Plus, it’ll be useful during winter, when every minute outside feels like an eternity.
Also, when you’re on the road. You won’t have much time to take your dogchild out for half an hour. You’ll need them to do their business and hop in the car again.
By teaching your dog to potty on command, they will overcome their hesitance of pooing in unfamiliar places. And you’ll save yourself a lot of worry and frustration.
To set your dog up for success, follow these steps:
- Start the lessons in the morning.
- When you see your dog in the process of pooping, say “poop”.
- After your dog is done, reward them with praises and a treat.
How it works
By voicing out the action your dog is doing, they start to associate the word with it. After a while, you’ll be able to say the word, and your dog will act on it.
Note: You should say “poop” while your dog is pooping. But you shouldn’t start praising them or getting treats out before your dog has finished their business. Otherwise, you’ll interrupt their flow.
#12: Put scented pads in the room
This is to prevent your dog from pooping directly on the wooden floor, carpet, or tiles. Plus, with the help of the puppy pads, you’ll clean the mess in no time.
Now, I’m not suggesting that this is the ultimate solution. But it’s an important step towards it.
You can view it as the bridge between having a dog with no potty habits to a fully house-trained pooch.
After your dog begins pooping only on the puppy pads, you can move these closer to the front door.
Note: If you use this technique for potty training your dog, it may take longer.
#13: Use the benefit of poop attraction
In short, your dog will be attracted to the place they last pooped at. Or the place where their poo is.
Meaning, once your dog poops in the house, you can take the poo and place it somewhere where you’d like them to poop. Like the yard for example.
This will direct your dog where to poop next time.
Note: Don’t forget to clean the place your dog soiled indoors immediately. Timing is key in preventing future accidents in the same place. Look at tip #7 for more info on that.
If your dog gets the message and poops outside, you can remove the old poo and leave the fresh one. This will increase the likelihood of your dog pooping there again.
#14: Big Brother your dog
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean installing cameras in every room.
What I’m saying is that you should closely monitor your dog. And try to prevent a mess. If you keep seeing accidents, it means you should watch your dog better.
When you notice pre-pooping signs such as sniffing, circling, or squatting, you should take your dog out asap. In case you have a dog you can carry, do that and bring them to the door.
Even if you have a fenced yard where your dog can roam free, you need to go out with them. This will allow you to praise and reward them once they do the job.
Note: Do not interact with your dog until they have done the deed. See tip #3 for more on that.
#15: Introduce new food to your dog gradually
As mentioned in reason #9, sudden food changes can upset your dog’s stomach. To change your dog’s food the right way, you should mix the old diet with the new one.
The AKC recommends following these proportions:
|New food||Old food|
#16: Treat separation anxiety
By now you know that your dog is terrified when left home alone. But to train them, you’ll need to leave them on their own.
With the difference that you’ll be gone for just a few minutes. Be patient, as you’re going to hear a lot of whining and barking.
But if you start going out of the house for 5 minutes several times a day, you’ll dog will get used to it.
When your dog starts reacting less, increase the period of time to 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and so on.
Something else you can do in the meantime is to leave a soundtrack for dog ears on. This will soothe your dog while you’re not there.
If the case of separation anxiety seems severe for you to handle on your own, get in touch with your vet. And ask them to refer you to a clinical behaviorist.
#17: If there’s a newcomer in the family, make it rain
I’m talking about treats.
Your dog can benefit greatly from this simple treat trick method.
Whenever the newcomer enters the room the dog is in, start showering your dog with attention and treats. As soon as the newcomer exists, stop interacting with the dog.
This way, your dog will start associating the new person or animal with good things. And good things only.
Provided the newcomer is not a baby or another pet, you can let them give treats to your dog too.