TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. – Hi Carla,
My friend has a good natured 1-year-old chihuahua dachshund mix named Sparky that she has had since he was 4-months-old. He is completely housebroken. Sparky knows me well and has played with my dog a few times. Last week he came to my house for the first time to spend the day. When Sparky arrived, he immediately pooped on the carpet. I picked it up and didn’t punish him. Later I saw him lift his leg and told him no before he peed. An hour or so later, I found he had peed on a magazine. A few hours later he pooped again in the house. This time I brought him to the poop and firmly told him no. He had access to the outside world via a dog door he used and knew about. Also, he did poop a few times in his own house when his owner returned from a 2-week-vacation. Why would a potty-trained dog do this?
Though it may be hard to believe, a simple change in routine can cause a dog to start peeing and pooping indoors. Changes like an unfamiliar guest in the house, a new piece of furniture or a change in your sleeping habits can cause some dogs to pee / poo indoors. Even though Sparky has met both you and your dog, the fact that he was visiting your home for the first time likely made him feel nervous and insecure.
The biggest misconception about this behavior is that the dog is doing it out of spite or revenge.
This is not the case! If a dog starts to defecate in their own home and there have been not changes, it could be a medical problem and a veterinarian should evaluate the dog. In Sparky’s case, there had been environmental and routine changes at your home and in his own following his owner’s absence.
To deal with this situation, do not punish the dog. As tempting as it may be, punishment will only increase his stress and make the situation worse.
The best approach is to contain the dog in a small area or crate and take him out at very regular intervals. If containment doesn’t work, try tethering him to you. When he does go outside, praise him. If a dog is visiting your home, adhere to a strict feeding and exercise schedule. You want to make his life as predictable as possible. It often takes a few days for a dog to adapt to a new environment and routine.
Environmental reasons causing dogs to pee / poo indoors are just as real as medical ones. Often, recognizing the environmental cause along with some simple remedial training utilizing positive reinforcement is enough to re-establish good potty habits.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.