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Dog Pooping in House: Causes and How to Correct It

Whether young, old, or somewhere in between, a dog may start pooping in the house for a lot of reasons, from a change in diet to anxiety to illness.

Why is your dog pooping indoors? What can you do about it? And when should you turn to your veterinarian for help?

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Why Dogs Poop in the House

There are a lot of reasons your dog may be eliminating inappropriately, but because serious illness or injury can be a primary cause, it's always a good idea to talk to your vet about the problem before attempting any at-home treatment.

Some common reasons dogs may poop in the house include:

Illness or Medication

Many medical issues can lead to inappropriate defecation, including anal sac problems, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal upset, arthritis, intestinal parasites, and dementia. Fecal incontinence, which can be caused by tumors, injury, spinal cord damage, or previous surgery in the anal area, can also cause your dog to poop in the house.

The medication used to treat certain conditions may also be behind your dog's accidents, so if your dog is taking drugs, talk to your vet about that medication's possible side effects.

Behavioral

If your pet is still a puppy, expect more than occasional accidents in the house. When dogs are young, they're still learning how to control their bowel and bladder, a skill they don't generally master until five or six months of age.

If your puppy is having trouble learning to defecate outside or in a designated area, strive for consistency, encouragement (never punish), and make sure they get outside frequently.

Along with youth, other reasons a dog may poop in the house include separation anxiety, a preference for certain surfaces (like carpet or tile), a change in schedule or in the household, even a dislike of rainy or cold days.

Diet

A change in your dog's diet -- a new food or a change in the amount of food -- can also cause a dog to poop in the house, especially if the dietary change triggers diarrhea. Also, some dogs just need to poop soon after they eat. If yours is one of them, you may need to feed your dog only when you're home to take him outside after he has eaten. 

Talk to the vet about your dog's diet; your vet may recommend switching your pooch to a low-residue or easier-to-digest diet to help with inappropriate elimination.

5 Tips for Proper Pooping

Dogs develop habits, just like we do. With consistency and kindness, you can train your dog to not poop in the house. Tips to help you start:

  • Confine your dog to one small area of the home, where you are able to observe him easily. You want to be able to keep an eye on your pet so he doesn't eliminate out of your sight and so you can watch for behaviors that signify your dog needs to poop.
  • Take your dog outside often; well-trained adult dogs generally need to go outside four to six times a day, so strive for this many trips or more.
  • Use encouraging cue words, like "go potty," when you take your dog outside to poop.
  • If your dog doesn't pee or poop when you take him out, try again in twenty minutes.
  • Never punish your dog for inappropriate elimination. This doesn't teach your dog where you want him to go, but it can quickly teach him to hide where he eliminates to avoid making you mad.

If you have trouble breaking your dog of the habit of pooping in the house -- and your vet has ruled out medical or other treatable issues -- it might be time to talk to a certified applied animal behaviorist, one who specializes in this kind of problem.

WebMD Veterinary Reference

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on March 24, 2013

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