Why Puppies Poop In Their Crate At Night (And How To Fix It)

Why Puppies Poop In Their Crate At Night (And How To Fix It)

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It’s difficult to get a good night’s sleep with a puppy. Like a newborn baby, they’ll wake you up crying for attention or potty breaks.

If you do manage to sleep peacefully, chances are you’ll awaken to find an accident in the morning.

So how can you stop your puppy from pooping in the crate at night? 

Unfortunately, the best answer is to wake up a few times in the middle of the night to give your puppy a potty break. While it’s a lot of work, it will set your puppy up for long-term potty training success and save you from cleaning up a mess in the morning. 

The number of times you have to take your puppy out at night will depend on their age. Keep in mind that your puppy also needs to pee and they have an even harder time holding that in. Most puppies can hold their bladder for roughly one hour for every month of age. That means a two-month puppy only has two hours before they need a potty break! 

Your Puppy Is Still Learning and Accidents Happen

The first thing to remember is that your puppy is still learning! Your puppy has a lot to figure out and potty training is just part of the bigger picture. Realize that it will eventually “click” but in the meantime, you must stay calm and fair.

Don’t lose your temper, and never punish your puppy or rub their nose in their poop. Punishments are not only ineffective, but they can also weaken the bond you’re trying to form with your new puppy. 

With that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at everything you should consider when you’ve got a night pooping puppy and what you can do about it.

1. Make Sure Your Puppy Is Healthy

Your puppy could be pooping in their crate at night because of a medical issue, most often internal parasites or infections like giardia, tapeworms, or coccidia. While these are all a little different, they can all cause diarrhea or loose stools which will make it harder for your puppy to hold it in overnight.

These types of internal parasites are also more likely to occur in puppies, or according to one study any dog that’s under 12 months old. You should always make sure your puppy has received the appropriate dewormers and it’s a standard part of any new puppy veterinary protocol.

Of course, accidents are going to happy with any puppy but if you notice that your puppy has suddenly started pooping in their crate after being previously potty trained then a parasite could be at play. This is even more true if you notice that your puppy’s poop is soft, or loose.

If you’re not sure what loose poop looks like, you can check out this fecal scoring chart from Purina which is commonly used by veterinarians. Just be aware, that is a chart of poop so make sure you know what you’re clicking! If your puppy’s poop looks like they have a score of six or seven then it’s definitely time to see the veterinarian.

2. Is Your Crate Too Big For Your Puppy?

Dogs are naturally inclined to sleep in certain areas and use the bathroom in others (at least when they can help it). If a puppy’s crate is too big, they might establish a “potty corner” where they poop or urinate, and then sleep on the other side of the crate.

Your puppy should be able to stand up completely straight and turn around comfortably inside their crate, but they shouldn’t have a ton of excess space to stroll around. 

The big crate problem is extremely common when new pup parents decide to buy a crate that their dog can grow into. While it might be the perfect size for your dog when they’re fully grown, as a puppy it gives them enough room to establish a “poop corner” which is just as gross as it sounds.

That doesn’t mean you have to buy a dozen crates and change them out as your puppy grows, instead, you’ll want to look for a crate that comes with a divider or make your own. There are dozens of DIY options but just make sure it’s safe and your puppy can’t injure themselves on whatever you come up with.

You can also buy crates with premade dividers that are perfect for puppies and this one from MidWest Homes on Amazon is also easy on the budget. Just make sure you pay close attention to how your puppy handles any new crate as accidents can happen if they try to escape.

With dividers limiting their crate space, puppies will be much less likely to establish a bathroom area and make more efforts to hold it throughout the night.

3. Do You Have A Consistent Feeding Schedule?

Not to be crude, but that poop is coming from somewhere!

If you can get your puppy on a regular eating schedule then you can start to predict when they’ll need a bathroom break. In most cases, it takes dogs around 6 to 10 hours to fully digest their food and then have a bowel movement. You probably know that it seems to be a lot faster for puppies but in case you weren’t sure, there have also been studies to confirm that puppies have a shorter gastrointestinal transit time.

If you’re consistently feeding your puppy later in the day, then you’re setting them up to need a potty break in the middle of the night. If you go to bed at 10 PM, make sure you’re taking your puppy out before you sleep and feeding them early enough in the day so that their feed has had time to digest.

In other words, if feedings are random, your pup’s bowel movements will be too. Get them on a schedule that not only works for you but also sets them up for potty-training success. 

4. Is The Bedding A Problem?

Bedding is a bit of a complicated issue in the world of pooping puppies. Of course, we want our puppies to be comfortable but a bored puppy might end up eating their bedding which can lead to major problems and require surgery in some cases.

But that’s not the only risk bedding presents. Some puppies may be more likely to poop in their crate at night if they have bedding to cover it up. This allows them to maintain their natural instinct of not pooping where they sleep since they’ve been able to “clean up” their sleeping area.

On the other hand,  adding extra bedding and blankets can actually stop some puppies from pooping since they’ll be more likely to associate the bedding as a no-poop zone.

It’s really going to depend on your individual puppy but it’s worth adjusting the bedding to find what works best for your puppy at night.

5. Is Your Puppy Pooping In The Crate At The Same Time Every Night?

While a consistent feeding schedule will help your puppy stay regular, and allow you to time your potty breaks, there are many factors that could impact when your puppy goes.

But if you can figure out what time of night your puppy is pooping then you’ve got a better chance of timing it right to prevent it. While it’s going to require some sleepless nights,  if you’re waking up to take out your puppy often you can likely narrow it down to within a few hours’ time.

For instance, if they’re pooping sometime between their potty breaks at two and four in the morning, set an alarm for three o’clock, take your puppy out to poop, and see if this fixes the problem. If your puppy has already pooped at three, you can try an alarm for two-thirty instead…and so on. 

When you have the time narrowed down, you can begin to wake up before your puppy usually poops and bring them outside for a potty break. Not only will this reinforce the positive potty break behavior but it will also save you the stress of cleaning up in the morning. 

Once you’ve got a routine down, just make sure not to change anything major, like their feeding schedule, or you may disrupt the routine.

6. Are You Waking Up Regularly?

When they’re young, puppies have little to no control over their bladder and bowel habits. If they have to go, they’re going to go. They just don’t know better, and likely couldn’t help it even if they did.

We’ve already discussed that puppies can only hold their bladders for approximately an hour per month of age. So if you have a new two-month-old puppy, you should be bringing them outside to go potty at least three times every night, or every two hours.

It may seem annoying to wake up so often, but it’s just a part of owning a puppy but remember that this will only last for a few months, and soon your puppy will be fully potty-trained and sleeping through the night. This usually happens at around 4-6 months.

You might even find yourself missing the good old days. For every time you wake up in the middle of the night, there’s something else about your puppy that’s absolutely wonderful, like the cute little quirks and habits they’ll one day grow out of.

7. Can You Hear Your Puppy?

Most puppies don’t like pooping in their crate. 

It’s likely your puppy will cry or try to get your attention before they poop. If you’re a deep sleeper or your puppy is too far away from your bed, you might not hear this.

Try your best to find a setup that allows you to hear your puppy at night. This way, they’ll wake you up when they have to go and you won’t have to deal with poop in the crate. It also trains your puppy to communicate when they need to use the bathroom, which will be useful as they grow up too. 

The simplest solution is to try moving the crate into the bedroom or at least somewhere closer to your room. You can also try a baby monitor so that you can hear your puppy from across the room.

You can get some very high-tech baby monitors for your dog (some even shoot out kibble as a reward) but all you need a super simple audio monitor like this one on Amazon. That will allow you to hear your puppy and rush in for a potty break before an accident happens.

8. Is Your Puppy Getting Enough Exercise and Mental Stimulation?

A tired puppy is a well-behaving puppy!

And a puppy that’s full of energy is more likely to be destructive! If you think pooping isn’t a destructive puppy behavior then you must not be the one cleaning it up after a long night!

Bored or anxious puppies are generally more likely to poop and by making sure your pup is getting plenty of exercise you can give them a better chance of successfully sleeping through the night.

9. Is The Crate A Happy Place For Your Pup?

Make sure your puppy enjoys going into their crate and that it’s always a place of happiness and never a punishment.

Toys are a great way to do this and introducing a Kong toy with a little peanut butter (but not too much to upset the feeding schedule) can go a long way to making the crate the happiest place on earth. If you don’t already have a Kong toy, check it out on Amazon. Those toys are almost impossible to destroy and most certainly puppy-approved.

But the simplest thing to do is just make sure your puppy is being crated through the day as well. If they only associate the crate with nighttime separation it’s going to be hard to make it a fun place.

Crate training is a lot more complex than it might seem at first but this video has some great guidelines along with more tips for making the create a happy (and poop-free) zone:

10. Is Your Dog Suffering From Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety can occur for a variety of reasons and unfortunately, the exact cause of the condition isn’t always fully understood. The symptoms can cover everything from vocalizations, chewing, digging, and of course, pooping.

But it does occur much more frequently in situations where you’re actually leaving the house. But if you’re crating your puppy at night and it’s not obvious to them that you’re simply sleeping somewhere else in the house then separation anxiety could occur. It can be hard to figure identify separation anxiety as different from normal puppy behavior like having accidents and crying but over time it will become more clear.

Separation anxiety is a complex condition to treat but when it comes to nighttime crating, you can try moving the crate into your room so your puppy understands that you haven’t actually gone anywhere.

Don’t Let It Continue Too Long

While it’s easy to say that pooping in the crate is just normal puppy behavior, if it goes on too long it could eventually become “normal” adult dog behavior, too.

That’s because your puppy is constantly learning new behavior and your job is to reinforce the good ones and discourage the bad ones. By waking up at night, even though it’s tough, you’re giving your puppy a chance to reinforce positive behaviors like not pooping in their crate.

But if you let your puppy consistently poop in their crate at night, they may get used to this habit and consider it the norm. That means it’s going to be a much harder habit to break in the future.

When To Consult A Professional

If you’ve tried everything on this list, including a visit to your veterinarian, and your puppy is still pooping in their crate at night then it might be time to consult a professional trainer.

While I’ve got decades of experience with puppies and positive reinforcement, all the advice in this article is still general. By hiring a local professional, you can get an expert set of eyes on your specific situation and puppy.

Make sure you go with a certified trainer and while there are several organizations that certify dog trainers, I recommend the CCPDT which you can learn more about here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Puppies Pooping At Night

Okay, we’ve covered the major factors to consider when troubleshooting a pup that’s pooping their crate but let’s look at a few of the more common, and some not common, questions that may help out some folks.

How Long Can A Puppy Hold Their Poop At Night?

The exact time will depend on the age and size of the puppy, but most puppies fully digest their food after about 6 to 8 hours. That means they’re going to need to go after about 6 hours and many won’t be able to hold it much longer than that.

However, puppies can only hold their bladder for about one hour per month of age. So a three-month-old puppy has roughly 3 hours of bladder control.

What Time Should A Puppies Last Meal Be?

You should feed your puppy early enough in the day so that they have at least 6 hours to digest their food and get a bathroom break. That means their last meal should be given roughly 6 hours before you go to bed so you can give them their last potty break of the day.

What Should I Do If My Dog Is Eating Their Poop?

As gross as this sounds, it does happen.

In fact, one study found that 16 to 23% of adult dogs showed poop-eating behavior or as it’s more scientifically called coprophagia. The causes of coprophagia are pretty wide but it’s often related to nutritional deficiencies which is why it’s a good idea to talk to your veterinarian.

When it comes to puppies, our 9 steps above still apply but you’ll want to be extra vigilant so this behavior doesn’t become a habit.

Closing Thoughts

Raising a puppy isn’t easy…and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Puppies have a lot to learn from figuring out what they can bite to where they can poop! Accidents will of course happen and it’s fairly common for puppies to poop in their crate at night. But with some patience, perseverance, and training you can slowly rule out possible problems and help your puppy learn about proper potty breaks!