NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.
Whether it is an eight-week-old puppy or an adult rescue dog, one of the foundations of acclimating a new dog to your home is training them to poop and pee outside. Some people are blessed with dogs that pick up on pooping outside easily, while other dogs take a lot more work and management to learn the correct behavior.
However, you should take the same training approach whether your dog is easy or difficult to housebreak. Nothing is worse than cleaning a pile of poop off your carpet and it is easy to get frustrated and punish your dog for pooping in the house.
But should you punish your dog for pooping in the house?
You should not punish your dog for pooping in the house, but rather use positive reinforcement to reward them when they poop outside. If you punish your dog for pooping in the house, they might be too scared to poop in front of you, making it difficult to train the correct behavior.
So let’s not only discuss the specific reasons your dog might be pooping in the house, but why it could be detrimental for your dog to punish them. We will also discuss better solutions than punishment to help your dog learn the correct behavior and not poop inside.
Reasons Your Dog Might Be Pooping In The House (And Why You Should Not Punish Them!)
Before you think about punishing your dog for pooping in the house, or more efficiently, training them to use the bathroom outside, you need to figure out why they are pooping in the house.
You need to rule out any health concerns before you start your training plan, but if your dog or puppy simply is confused about the proper behavior that can be solved with a strict schedule and reward-based training.
They Are Not Properly House-Trained
Dogs and puppies are not born house-trained! Whether you are bringing home a puppy or adopting an adult dog, you have to teach them the proper place to use the bathroom. Punishing them for pooping in the house might make them scared to poop in front of you. Instead, use positive reinforcement to teach them the proper place to use the bathroom.
Dogs usually will instinctively not go where they sleep, but that does not mean the rest of your house is off-limits if you do not condition them to poop outside rather than in the house.
This means a crate is a handy tool for potty training, but just because dogs do not like to poop where they sleep does not mean that you can leave them in their crate all day. Whining in the crate can be a signal that they have to use the bathroom, and if you ignore them or leave them in too long so they have an accident, it could be seen as a punishment.
Whether it is your puppy still pooping in their crate at night, or your old dog pooping in a new house after a stressful move, potty-training regression happens! The reasons for potty-training regression can range from general puppy adolescence, to stress, to old age.
Even the confusion caused by your working a new schedule and going to work an hour early can cause your dog to suddenly poop in the house. Remember when your routine changes, your dog’s routine changes as well so you have to adapt your new schedules together. Never punish your dog for pooping in the house, but work on adapting them to your routine.
They Do Not Want To Go Outside
While it is perfectly fine to walk your dog outside in the rain or cold, that does not mean every dog will enjoy it. My husky mix will stay outside all day in the rain and below-freezing temperatures, but my chihuahua has to be bundled up if there is a slight breeze.
If you punish them for pooping in the house because of inclement weather, they will be more uncomfortable going outside and pooping in front of you.
Does this German Shorthair Point look happy out in the rain? They will need extra encouragement to poop outside so they do not poop intside.
Another reason a dog might not want to go outside is fear and anxiety. If they are not very well socialized or have had bad experiences outside, they are less likely to do something vulnerable like poop outside.
This makes not punishing your dog for pooping in the house more important. You do not want to make them too nervous to poop in front of you or they might instead hide their accidents.
They Are Not Feeling Well
Sometimes accidents happen, and if your perfectly house-trained dog has a sudden pooping accident in the middle of the night, they might not be feeling well and could not help it.
Diarrhea could be caused by several ailments, including old age, anxiety, eating something bad (maybe they got into the trash), parasite, allergies, or gastrointestinal illnesses. If you feel like your dog is having accidents inside because they are sick, get a wellness check with your veterinarian instead of punishing them.
Should You Scold A Dog For Pooping In The House?
Once you have properly identified the reason your dog is pooping in the house and ruled out any health concerns, you can start trying to fix the problem.
Punishing or scolding your dog for pooping in the house will not help fix the problem. If you yell at your dog, spank them, or rub their face in their excrement, it will frighten your dog. Next time they might try to hide their poop from you because they are afraid of facing punishment. Avoiding punishment does not mean they understand the correct behavior.
Not only is your dog avoiding punishment, but if you yell, scold, spank, or rub their nose in it, you are actively creating a negative connotation between you and your dog. Punishing your dog for pooping inside like this might weaken your bond with your dog and make house training more difficult, especially with more sensitive dogs.
Instead, you clean it up with an odor-killing cleaning solution and reward your dog when they do go outside. As Heather Hoffman, DMV says, “successful potty training is based on positive reinforcement instead of punishment.”
What Should You Do Instead Of Punishing Your Dog?
So what should you do instead of punishing your dog for pooping in the house? Use positive reinforcement to train your dog to poop outside! The basics for potty-training a puppy or an adult dog are similar, with fewer midnight potty breaks for adult dogs.
Step 1: Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement means you are rewarding the behavior you want your dog to understand. In this situation, we are rewarding our dog when they poop outside and ignoring our dog when they poop inside. When you punish your dog for pooping inside, they are not learning the correct behavior; instead, they are learning to avoid pooping in front of you.
Always use positive reinforcement when training your dog to poop outside. You do not have to make a huge deal about it, verbal praise works for most dogs. Sometimes you can use treats if you have an extra sensitive or stubborn dog, but make sure you phase out the treats so that you are not reliant on them forever.
Never punish them when they poop in the house. If you happen to catch them in the act inside, do not make a big deal out of it. Gently interrupt them verbally, then praise them when they finish outside.
I still verbally praise my dogs on occasion when they poop outside, especially if we are in a new place. There is no harm in it, and it reinforces the idea that they have to poop outside no matter where we are.
Step 2: Create A Schedule
Whether you have a new dog or puppy or you need to acclimate your current dog to your new routine (like a new home or new work hours), a toileting schedule is going to condition your dog to understand the when and the where of pooping.
A newly adopted puppy or dog should be taken out hourly during the day, tapering off as you both figure out each other’s schedules. While you should not use the crate exclusivity for potty training, a crate training schedule can be a handy tool for your puppy or dog.
Feeding them on a set schedule will also make sure they have predictable poops. Always take your dog outside or for a walk 30 minutes after they eat so they have plenty of time for digestion! Creating a schedule helps set your dog up for success, making training them to poop outside easier.
Step 3: Take Your Time
Leave your dog outside for a longer amount of time or take them on a slightly longer walk to get things moving. While some dogs might go right after eating, others need more time.
If you have punished your dog in the past for pooping in the house, they might be reluctant to go in front of you. Give them extra time outside so they relax and make sure these dogs get extra praise when they finally poop outside!
Lastly, your dog might need a longer potty walk because they have a certain place they like to go. Some dogs have an aversion to grass, while others will only go on dirt and avoid all concrete.
I have a dog that will only go on clean grass, which makes dog sport competitions tricky if they are only one potty spot for 100 dogs. Figure out where your dog likes to go poop outside and reward them with treats and praise so they become efficient with their poop breaks!
Step 4: Have Appropriate Gear For Your Dog
I can speak from personal experience that if there is a major snowstorm, my chihuahua is more likely to poop in the house. He spends less time outside and wants to focus on getting back into his cozy bed.
I also bundle him in a coat and booties. If you have a dog that does not like to poop in the rain, snow, or cold, make sure you get them the right gear so they are more comfortable going outside. They also might need to go outside for shorter, but more frequent pooping breaks. Remember to tell them what a good dog they are when they finally poop outside so next time they learn to poop more efficiently.
This dog obviously does not mind the cold like some smaller or shorter haired dogs.
Step 5: Know Your Dog’s Signals
I have five different dogs, all of who have different signals to let me know they need to go outside! My husky mix whines, my heeler mix paces, my schnauzer mix barks, my chihuahua stares at me, and my border collie will randomly become extremely affectionate!
So figure out how your dog is letting you know they need to go outside so you can take them out to poop and prevent them from pooping inside. And do not forget to praise them for letting you know it is time to go outside!
Some people even train their dog to ring a bell to let them know they want to go outside. Here is a great “how-to” video from Zak George.
Whatever reason your dog may be pooping in the house, never punish them! Instead, take it as a training opportunity to help them learn the proper behavior which is going outside.
Using positive reinforcement to condition your dog to understand the proper place to poop gives them the clearest picture of the behavior you want. When you punish them for pooping in the house and on your belongings, it does not train the behavior you want, instead, it frightens your dog and trains them to avoid you when they poop.
So keep your house clean, and help build a relationship based on trust by using positive reinforcement over punishment when teaching your dog not to poop in the house!