Is your pooch suddenly pooping indoors when you leave them alone? Even housetrained dogs can have accidents for various reasons, but if it happens once in a blue moon, it’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if it has become a frequent occurrence, then it’s definitely something that warrants a closer look.
Not only is it frustrating to come home to a soiled floor or carpet, but there could also be something else going on with your best friend. Since our canine companions can’t talk to us to tell us what’s wrong, it’s up to us to figure out what they’re trying to communicate through their behavior.
The Root of the Behavior
There are a few possible reasons why your dog poops when you leave the room or house. And no, they’re not doing it out of spite or revenge—that’s a human concept. Canines don’t consider poop gross like we do, and the fact that your furry friend is having accidents is more likely to be a sign of distress, particularly separation anxiety.
Dogs with separation anxiety become upset when they’re apart from the people they’re attached to. In addition to defecating or urinating indoors, they may bark, howl, destroy or chew objects, or dig at exit points like doors and windows. They will also become agitated when they see their humans getting ready to leave. If your pup displays any of the above behaviors when they are left alone, then they likely have separation anxiety. However, if their house soiling occurs in your presence, then it is probably due to something else.Other things that may cause your dog to poop inside the house are changes in their schedule, not getting enough potty breaks, boredom, old age, incomplete housetraining, certain medications, and medical issues. When it comes to medical problems, two of the most common are inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and intestinal parasites.
Encouraging the Behavior
Encouraging your dog to only poop outdoors can be tricky, especially when anxiety is involved, but reinforcing their housetraining with lots of treats and positive reinforcement can work in some cases. Mild separation anxiety can be reduced or resolved with counterconditioning, but it’s important to rule out any medical or behavioral problems first. If your dog does have separation anxiety that is causing them to have accidents when you leave, here’s what you can do.
Essentially, you want to teach your pup to enjoy or at least tolerate being left alone. You can achieve this by building an association between being alone with something really good, such as tasty food. Every time you leave the room or house, give your pooch a puzzle toy stuffed with treats and/or food. Ideally, it should take them at least 20 to 30 minutes to get everything out. You can freeze the toy to make it more challenging and use it to feed all of your pup’s daily meals. If you have a bigger dog, you’ll probably need more than one toy to fit all of their food. Be sure to remove the toy as soon as you get back so that your dog only has access to it when they’re alone.
Unfortunately, this approach won’t work for dogs with moderate or severe separation anxiety, since they typically won’t eat when their humans aren’t around. For more difficult cases, it’s best to seek the help of a professional such as a certified animal behaviorist or a certified dog trainer.
Another tactic is to use an anxiety wrap, which is a vest that hugs your dog and gives them a sense of security during anxious moments, as if you were there keeping them close. You'll want to start getting your pup used to the wrap by putting it on for a few minutes each time while you are home. Then, lengthen the time your dog has it on while doing normal daily things with you. Once they can get to an hour and feel relaxed with it on, you can start to use it while you are away.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Never punish your pup for having an accident. Doing so doesn’t make them understand that they shouldn’t be eliminating indoors, but it could lead them to associate pooping in your presence with a negative experience. This might result in a fearful dog who will look for a secret spot to go potty so that you won’t see them.
Keep in mind that dogs who have separation anxiety are already dealing with a lot of stress when they’re left alone; scolding or punishing them for pooping indoors will only make things worse.