Why Does My Dog Poop In Bushes? (Veterinarian Reviewed Answer)

dog in bushes during a bathroom break
Picture of <a href="https://notabully.org/author/dr-nita-patel" target="_blank" rel="noopener">     <span style="font-size: 21px; color: black;">Fact Checked & Reviewed By: </span>     <strong style="font-size: 20px; color: black;">Dr. Nita Vasudevan Patel, DVM, MS</strong> </a>

Dr. Patel is a Florida-based veterinarian with over half a decade of experience.

Picture of <a href="https://notabully.org/author/dr-nita-patel" target="_blank" rel="noopener">     <span style="font-size: 19px; color: black;">Fact Checked & Reviewed By: </span>     <strong style="font-size: 19px; color: black;">Dr. Nita Vasudevan Patel, DVM, MS</strong> </a>
Fact Checked & Reviewed By: Dr. Nita Vasudevan Patel, DVM, MS

Dr. Patel is a Florida-based veterinarian with over half a decade of experience.

Successfully house training your dog is one of the most important goals new owners set for their dogs. No one wants their dogs pooping in the house. Luckily, most dogs are very successful at learning to use the bathroom outside as long as their owners are consistent and use positive reinforcement.

However, just because your dog is house-trained does not mean they will not develop weird habits when using the bathroom outside. Examples include pooping on concrete or rocks or in multiple spots. I even have a dog that likes to pee in creeks and poop in tall grass and bushes so I know all too well how frustrating it is to pick up your dog’s poop in bushes! Shifting through thorny branches and trying to pick up every bit while not tearing the poop bag is a huge pain. 

So why does your dog do this?

While dogs might poop in bushes because of convenience or a bathroom emergency, they are most likely marking their territory. However, a stressed or scared dog might be pooping in bushes to hide. It is okay to give your dog a refresher on house training if pooping in bushes becomes a problem. 

Though you will not need to worry about stepping in it, it is annoying to clean up after your dog when they poop in bushes. It also might not be a good choice environmentally.

So, let’s determine why your dog prefers to poop in bushes and if there is anything you can do to change that bad habit.

Why Does My Dog Poop In Bushes?

Puppies tend to poop a lot more often because of their developing digestive systems, but the average adult dog poops about once or twice a day.

The protein source and fiber of the diet and activity level certainly affect their bathroom schedule, but unless your dog is having constant loose stools and waking you up in the middle of every night for emergencies, you probably do not have to worry about your dog’s pooping routine.

Knowing that your dog is healthy does not make cleaning their poop out of the bushes any less annoying. Are they purposely pooping in bushes to make your day more difficult? Let’s find out.

Reason 1. Middening

Pooping on top of things like bushes is known as middening. Middening is a common way of communication in the animal world. By creating extravagant dung piles, dogs and other animals are marking their territory, signaling to a potential mate, or looking for food. 

Check out this video about rhinos using middens to mark their territory in the wild.

 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. Middening by pooping on top of bushes is a great way to increase the scent radius.

Most of the time dogs mark either by urinating or pooping on higher places like bushes to mark their territory. However, some dogs mark to demonstrate that they are stressed or anxious.

New things, like stressful changes at home or a bush they have never encountered before, are especially triggering for dogs and they are more likely to mark.

Males usually mark more frequently than female dogs, but girls still like to occasionally mark their territory, especially if they are going into heat.

Reason 2. Convenience

With the right gear, any dog can go for a walk in the rain. However, I cannot promise that every dog will enjoy it.

While normally known for their energy, this high-energy German Short Hair Pointer looks pretty miserable in the rain.

For a dog like this, pooping in the bushes might be a choice based on convenience. They have to poop and they want to poop quickly so they can get back inside. The first thing they come to might be a bush, so they end up pooping in bushes.

Besides a rainy day, a dog might quickly poop in bushes for convenience because of cold weather, hot weather, having an upset stomach, or when they are scared of something. One of my dogs normally loves to hang out in the yard, but if it is dumping snow he will do his business in the most convenient area to get back inside as soon as possible.

Finally, there might be something outside that is scaring your dog and making them want to poop as fast and conveniently as possible. Many dogs are petrified of loud noises like fireworks and might not even go outside to poop.

Reason 3. Your Dog Is Hiding

Pooping can be a stressful business for dogs and sensitive dogs who only poop in bushes and avoid open grassy areas might be trying to hide while they poop.

We talked to Veterinarian Dr. Nita Patel who explained to us that “defecation or urination is also a very vulnerable time for a pet. It’s a time when they are not as alert or able to guard and protect themselves. So they might tend to find shelter even as a means for self-protection.”

So, your dog might also look to you for safety and comfort while they poop in bushes, trusting that you will keep them safe.

Besides trying to hide in the bushes to poop, dogs who are anxious outside might tremble, hide, pant excessively, and whine or bark at strange people and dogs, pull on the leash to get home as well as cower and tuck their tail.

Some dogs have a hard time going outside to do their business during fireworks, hunting season, or if they hear a lot of traffic. Hiding and pooping in the bushes helps them feel safer.

For dogs like this, you might have to adjust their feeding and exercise schedule to get them outside during less busy parts of the day. Otherwise, your stressed canine friend might poop in bushes, on the bed, furniture, or even you.

However, with lots of positive reinforcement, treats, and proper training techniques many dogs can adjust if they walk with someone they trust.

Reason 4. You Need To Retrain Their Pooping Behavior

If pooping in the bushes is becoming a huge problem, your dog has not learned the exact behavior that you are expecting. This means it is time to go back to house-training basics.

Pooping in the bushes is clearly not the behavior you are looking for, and your dog does not understand that. While you should never punish your dog for pooping in the house or in bushes, it is okay to ignore the behavior and instead reward them when they poop somewhere else.

I’ve found that taking your dog out on a leash is helpful for this activity. That way you can physically control where they are going and not allow them to get close enough to the bushes to poop. Once they poop somewhere else, reward them.

In the dog training world, this is called capturing the behavior with positive reinforcement. You are not luring or shaping, but instead rewarding your dog when they independently offer the behavior you are looking for.

Dogs are very smart and pick up on patterns very easily, so once they realize they only get a treat when they do not poop in bushes, the problem behavior will begin to disappear. Once they understand the new behavior, you can begin to fade the reward.

Should I Be Worried About My Dog?

A dog who prefers to poop in bushes because they are marking, it is convenient, or they are nervous, probably has nothing physically wrong with them. It is probably simply an annoying behavior that you can easily retrain with positive reinforcement.

It is not necessarily pooping in bushes that should be worrying, but if your dog seems to be pooping excessively or having loose stool.

Dr. Nita Patel explained that loose stool and diarrhea can be caused by a stomach disorder, a foreign body, or ingesting a toxin. So, make sure to check your dog’s poop, even if it’s in the bushes.

In the best-case scenario, it is a 24-hour virus. But if they have diarrhea for more than a day you need to take them to the veterinarian.

Loose stools along with vomiting, lethargy, and loss of appetite could be a sign of a more serious condition. Common stomach issues dogs get include viruses, infections, parasites, bloat, colitis, or a tumor.

Should I Be Worried About The Bushes?

While you do not want your dog peeing or pooping in your garden, especially plants that you will be eating, we usually do not think too much when our dogs poop in bushes. But is okay for dogs to poop on plants or in bushes?

Besides the general “ick” factor of not picking up your dog’s poop, there is a really important reason to clean up after your dog.

Two major pollutants in dog poop are bad for the environment: nutrients and pathogens. Once it washes into local water supplies, the nutrients feed algae and weeds, making the water murky and smelly. Meanwhile, the pathogens (diseases and bacteria) make water un-swimmable and unsafe.

Additionally leaving fecal matter in the environment poses the risk of spreading fecal parasites to other animals as well.

We love adventuring outside with our canine best friends and part of being a responsible dog owner is taking care of our environment. Always clean up after your dog whether they poop in bushes, on the grass, or the sidewalk!

Final Thoughts

When it comes to pooping, many dogs have their little ritual. Some dogs like to poop in multiple spots, leaving a trail for your to pick up. Others have to spin circles or get the zoomies to get their digestion system moving.

My favorite ritual is when the dogs walk outside and immediately do their business, especially when the weather is terrible. Unfortunately, my dogs don’t always favor this simple and effective ritual.

One of the more annoying choices is pooping in bushes. It is such a pain to clean up!

Your dog might poop in the bushes to mark their territory because they are hiding, it is convenient, or they do not know better. Keeping your dog leashed, away from bushes, and rewarding when they poop somewhere else might help reshape this unwanted behavior.

Regardless of how your dog likes to poop, as a responsible dog owner you need to always clean up. Even if you have to get into the bushes, it is good for the environment and other animals and respectful to your neighbors.

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