Potty training is one of the first fundamentals most people teach when they bring home a new dog or puppy. No one wants their dog pooping in their house or on their things. Puppies tend to poop a lot more than adult dogs, but the average dog poops 1-3 times a day, depending on diet, breed, age, and activity level.
While some dogs and puppies pick up on potty training quicker than others, it still takes a lot of consistent work to properly potty train your dog to poop outside. No one wants their dog to have accidents in the house or their crate. Once you have put in the hard work and your dog is pooping consistently outside, are they doing weird things like pooping on top of things?
Even the smallest dogs can find the strangest places to poop on top of, like fences, rocks, trash, or even walls. This can be a very frustrating habit if your dog is pooping on top of things in your house as well.
So why do dogs poop on top of things?
Dogs will poop on top of things to mark their territory or communicate something to other dogs. Other dogs prefer to poop somewhere secure and might end up pooping on top of things as a result. A bathroom emergency or a dog with uncomfortable anal glands could mean anywhere is fair game for pooping.
Let’s take a look at the reasons your dog could be pooping on top of things. Whether it is on a walk or in the house, it can make clean-up harder and being with your dog less enjoyable. Usually, your dog is simply marking their territory or wants a secure place to do their business, but it could also be a sign there is a medical issue.
So, what can you do to manage the behavior and when do you know it is time to go to a veterinarian?
Why Do Dogs Poop On Top of Things?
Pooping on top of things, or middening, is a common way of communication in the animal world. A wide array of animals poop in high places or poop in the same place to make extravagant dung piles to mark their territory, signal to mates, or even look for food.
Check out this video about rhinos using middens to mark their territory in the wild.
While some dogs might be more discrete with their pooping habits, many dogs like to poop on top of things for the same reasons wild animals midden.
Since dogs have such powerful noses, middening is a great way for them to communicate with each other. A dog’s nose is more than 10,000 times more powerful than ours so they can detect a lot of information from poop that is on top of things. They can tell how long the poop has been there, as well as the gender and age of the dog that left it.
Reason 1: Your Dog Is Marking Their Territory
Dogs will poop on top of things to mark their territory. Whether it is random spots or the same spot, they are trying to let other dogs know that they are laying claim to that area. Your dog might not even just poop on top of things outside. If they poop on top of things inside, especially in a new place, they likely letting other dogs know that this now is their territory.
The vision that usually comes to mind when thinking of a dog marking their territory is a male dog lifting their leg. However, male and female dogs like to label their territory and they do not only pee to mark. Some will poop on top of things instead.
Dogs mark their territory by leaving their scent on things, with urine, defecating, or scratching. Pooping on top of things is especially effective because it is out in the open and more dogs will be able to smell it. If you are struggling with a dog pooping on top of things in the house, do not punish them for pooping, instead go back to their potty training basics.
Reason 2: Your Dog Trying To Say Something
Since dogs cannot use language the way we can, they have to use other ways to communicate. Pooping on top of things is a common way for dogs to communicate with each other and with you, their owner.
Most of the time dogs are simply trying to mark their territory when they poop on top of things. However, dogs also display this behavior to communicate they are anxious or they are looking for a mate.
Marking and anxiety are closely related to dog behavior. Being in a new place can be stressful, but they also want to mark the territory at the same time. Your dog might stress mark or poop on top of things. It is a stinky way to let you know they are stressed.
Lastly, dogs can learn if another dog is in heat or looking for a mate by pooping or peeing. When dogs poop, they can release pheromones that can be picked up by other dogs’ noses very far away. Dog noses are powerful enough to detect people’s fertility cycle, and obviously, they are even more attuned to dogs’ cycles.
Male dogs can easily smell a female dog during their estrus cycle and will begin marking their territory with either urine or by pooping on things to lay their claim.
Reason 3: Your Dog Is Pooping Somewhere Secure
Pooping can be a stressful business for dogs. They are a lot more vulnerable in the crouching position and could not run away from danger as easily. This is why dogs often look to you when they are pooping, for safety and protection.
If your dog is pooping on top of things like a wall or fence, they could be using these barriers as an extra defense instead of relying entirely on you to protect them. Dogs that seem stressed when pooping outside might need a feeding and walking schedule that allows them to enjoy your neighborhood during a quieter part of the day.
If they are pooping on top of things in the house, it could also be a security thing. Has something scary happened outside lately? Many dogs have a hard time using the bathroom outside with loud noises like fireworks or during hunting season.
They might poop on your bed or pile of clothes, or in some cases they might even poop on you because they are too stressed to go outside and do their business like normal.
Reason 4: Your Dog Is Having An Emergency
When they have to go they have to go! If your dog is having a pooping emergency, either in the day or the middle of the night, they might be more likely to poop on top of things.
Dogs that are having sudden bowel movements do not have the typical luxury of taking their time to pick the perfect poop spot. Their emergency might lead them to poop on top of things in the house like clothes, furniture, or even your bed. Outside they might poop on stairs, on your deck, or top of curbs in their rush and discomfort.
There are several reasons your dog might have a bathroom emergency that could cause them to poop on top of things. Dogs who do not like to go outside in bad weather might hold it all day, they could be older and losing control or have eaten something that did not agree with their stomach.
If your dog has constant diarrhea and accidents where they are pooping on things, they might be stressed, have an infection, have parasites, or could have food allergies. Too much diarrhea can severely deplete a dog’s electrolytes and cause dehydration and malnutrition and you should always go see your veterinarian for help.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Pooping On Things?
So your dog is perfectly potty-trained in the house but they still like to poop on things outside. It might sound redundant, but try going back to potty-training basics and start shaping the way they poop. For example, dogs that are not used to grass might not like walking and pooping on grass and will instead choose to poop on top of things.
Reward them and play with them on the grass to get them comfortable with that location. Then when they poop in a normal squatting position in the appropriate place you would like them to poop, you can also reward them. You can start with a food reward but verbal praise is good enough in the long run.
Rewarding your dog’s pooping outside in normal places and not on top of things will also help take the stress off of defecating for your dog. You are using positive reinforcement and conditioning them to be calm and happy during bathroom breaks.
If the issue of your dog pooping on things stems from marking their territory or trying to find a mate, be aware that spaying or neutering your dog can reduce territorial marking (peeing and pooping on things) by up to 50%.
Unless you are planning on responsibly breeding your dog, discuss with your veterinarian a plan to spay or neuter your dog.
Should I Be Worried?
There is another reason your dog might be pooping on things. Their anal glands could be agitated. Dogs try to release the pressure of swollen anal glands by scooting on the floor and rubbing against walls or fences, sometimes ending up pooping on these things.
Normally when a dog poops, their anal glands naturally squeeze out. However, some dogs need a little extra help. Anal glands that get impacted can be expressed by either you or your veterinarian.
Anal glands can get infected making it very uncomfortable and smelly when your dog poops. Besides scooting and rubbing on top of things, they might also lick or bite their anus area to help soothe the pressure of swollen anal glands.
Do not worry, usually a round of antibiotics and routine expression is enough to clear up an anal gland infection and keep your dog happy and their poops normal and not on top of things.
Whether your dog is pooping on top of things on walks or in the house, it is frustrating. It makes it hard to clean up and is simply a strange behavior. You might feel like everyone is gawking at your when your dog poops on top of the curb or on top of that pile of rocks.
Dogs are not so easily embarrassed by the stares they might be getting when they poop on top of things. They are likely pooping on top of things for everyone to see and smell. They want to mark their territory and communicate to other dogs that they might be looking for a mate.
And if your dog’s pooping style is timider and their hidden spots lead them to poop on things like walls, fence posts, and bushes, they could just be insecure poopers. Dogs look to us to protect them, and some anxious dogs like to smoosh up against barriers for more privacy and security when pooping.
Pooping on top of things outside is not necessarily bad behavior, but you can easily shape a new behavior with a bit of consistent work and positive reinforcement. Pooping on top of things inside takes more management. You might have to go back to potty training basics like crate training or taking your dog to the veterinarian to eliminate any health concerns like parasites or impacted anal glands.
However, know there are other problems even if you have trained your dog to poop in the perfect place. You can accidentally step in it and have to learn how to get dog poop off your shoe!