Why Do Puppies Poop in the House?

Adrienne Farricelli

Puppies poop in the house often because they aren't yet fully potty trained. Just like babies, it takes some time for them to attain sufficient bladder and bowel control to be considered fully potty trained. On top of this, there are several other potential reasons why puppies poop in the house, so you may need to put your investigative hat on and consider several potential differentials, possibly with the help of your veterinarian.

Lack of Potty Training 

One of the most common reasons puppies poop in the house is because they don't have much bowel control. This is something that comes with maturity as puppies learn better voluntary control of their anal sphincters. 

What happens with these young fellows is that the interval between the urge and the act of defecation is very brief. One moment the puppy thinks he has to poop, the next the poop has already been expelled! Tada!

Unless you are there to actively supervise and take the puppy outside upon noticing the most subtle signs your puppy has to potty, to your dismay, your puppy will very likely eliminate on your carpet and floor. 

Fortunately, as puppies mature, they attain better bladder and bowel control. In general, things start to improve when pups are 4 to 5 months old and most puppies are completely potty trained (or very close to it!) by the time they are 6 to 9 months of age.

Ignoring The Gastrocolic Reflex

One thing to keep in mind is that puppies are physiologically inclined  to what's known as the "gastrocolic reflex." No, this is not a disease, it's just a natural phenomenon all puppies are subjected to. 

What happens here is that immediately after your puppy eats a meal, the gastrocolic reflex triggers increased motility of the puppy's colon and rectum. Soon, the rectum fills up with stool leading to relaxation of the smooth muscle of the internal anal sphincter along with the striated muscle of the external anal sphincter, explains veterinarian Dr. Katherine A. Houpt in the book: "Domestic Animal Behavior for Veterinarians and Animal Scientists."

If the puppy isn't taken out right a meal, there are therefore good chances that an accident in the house will take place, courtesy of this reflex. 

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The yard can be multi-faceted with distracting stimuli

Exposure to Distractions 

When puppies are taken outside, it could happen that there may be too many distractions going on and the puppy gets carried away. Maybe the puppy starts chasing a butterfly, or perhaps his nose captures an intriguing smell. Maybe he even starts playing with the neighbor dog!

Regardless of the type of distraction, chances are, your pup may forget all about the urge to potty once outside only to remember once he's back inside where things get dull and boring again.

This often leads to frustrated puppy owners considering that the puppy often poops right in front of them upon coming back inside. "Really? With all the time you spent outside, you had to poop inside right on mom's favorite rug? Bad puppy!"

A Matter of Fear   

Sometimes, more than distractions, fearful stimuli or situations are the main culprit. Perhaps your puppy doesn't feel safe outside so he tries to hold it as much as he can, only to poop indoors where he feels more safe.

This can happen because of the presence of noises in the yard that are perceived as frightening. If you live near a railroad, perhaps the passage of the train startled your puppy or perhaps he's scared of the neighbor dog barking. 

Sometimes, dog owners who use invisible fences fail to understand that these fences can cause negative associations with being in the yard leading to dogs who decide to poop on the porch or even inside because it's safer. 

In some cases, the puppy may even refuse to poop because the owner is out with them. This can happen when puppy owners punish their puppies for pooping inside the house.  Affected puppies soon learn to fear going potty in front of their owners and therefore will poop only once back inside leading to puppies hiding to pee or poop secretly behind sofas and under beds. 

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Medical problems may contribute to puppy messes in the house

Something Medically Going On

 Some medical conditions may cause a sense of urgency leading to puppies being unable to hold it. Medical conditions that may lead to inappropriate defecation include diarrhea, presence of intestinal parasites, maldigestion, malabsorption and colitis, to just name a few. 

Even diet can play a role. A recent abrupt dietary change can lead to soft stools and diarrhea and so can feeding table scraps. 

The content of the food fed can also be a contributing factor.  According to veterinarian Dr. Wayne L. Hunthausen, high fiber diets can contribute to inappropriate defecation in the home because they cause increased volume of feces and a need to defecate more frequently. 

Now That You Know...

As seen, there are many different reasons why puppies may poop in the home. If you are wondering what you can do about it, consider these tips and ideas. 

  • Take your puppy out first thing in the morning and at several intervals throughout the day. Don't forget to take him outside after eating considering the gastro-colic reflex.
  • Feed your puppy on a schedule. What is fed at a certain time is likely to predictably come out as well at a specific time. 
  • Don't allow your pup the full run of the house. For a small puppy, your whole home is like mansion and it will be challenging for him to find his way to the door or his designated potty area. 
  • When you can't supervise your puppy, make sure he goes potty first and then keep him in a crate, but not for longer than he can hold it. If you need to leave for longer than he can hold it, keep your puppy in a longer-confinement area such as inside an exercise pen with pee pads on one side and his bed/opened crate in the opposite side. 
  • Remove odors of feces in soiled areas with an effective product that neutralizes odors such as Nature's Miracle. Olfactory traces of previous accidents may cause puppies to soil the same areas over and over.
  • If your puppy poops in the same area, despite cleaning the area well, consider blocking access to the area by placing furniture or other bulky things on top. 
  • Avoid using punishment-based techniques when your puppy has an accident. This may lead to puppies afraid to potty in your presence.
  • Reinforce outdoor elimination with praise and tasty treats.
  • Teach your puppy to pee and poop on cue. This can help expedite the potty training process and can come handy when your pup is an adult. 
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