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Potty training is arguably one of the most difficult things to teach a puppy, and it can sometimes be a long and frustrating process. When your puppy is finally fully house-trained, you feel a sense of relief!
It makes sense that once you accomplish that big training milestone, it’s incredibly frustrating when your dog suddenly poops in the house.
So the question is – why is your dog suddenly pooping in the house?
Anytime a pet has a new problem they didn’t experience before, it could be a sign of a medical issue. If your dog is suddenly pooping in the house, this could be caused by stress, changes in the environment, or other lifestyle factors. It could also be caused by an underlying medical condition.
As a dedicated pet owner, you probably have your pet on a routine schedule for feeding, exercise, and potty breaks. If your pet is suddenly doing something they don’t usually do, that can cause concern. In many cases, you’ll need to make an appointment with your vet to rule out medical reasons.
Let’s discuss some of the common reasons that your dog may be suddenly pooping in the house.
Why is My Dog Having Accidents All of a Sudden?
Unfortunately, our dogs can’t tell us exactly how they’re feeling. We have to pay attention to their body language, behavior, and other signs to determine whether they’re acting normally or not.
Dogs are pretty consistent animals that thrive on routine and schedules, so if your dog is doing something suddenly that is out of the normal, it’s likely a sign that something isn’t quite right.
Fully house-trained dogs that suddenly start going to the bathroom indoors are most likely doing so for some underlying medical reason, which can range from innocent reasons to serious reasons that are very concerning and even a medical emergency. Anytime your pet does something suddenly that is out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking with your vet.
Reason 1: Potty Training Regression
Anytime you bring home a new dog, one of the first things you work on is potty training. Establishing a clear and consistent routine of house-training your dog to go to the bathroom outside is one of the most important things you’ll want to work on with your new dog. Making sure your dog knows not to go to the bathroom inside is one of the most important things you can establish to set your lives up together for success.
Typically, most dogs are fully house-trained by 4-6 months of age. However, many dogs experience regression in their potty training around 8 months to one year due to their adolescent brain changes. Similar to humans, sometimes the adolescent brain just does weird things!
If your dog has suddenly started having accidents inside and is around the 8 month to one year age, then it’s likely that it could be a simple potty training regression issue. In these cases, you should rule out any underlying medical reasons with a trip to the vet, but once your dog has been given the all clear, you should go back to basics and reinforce the house training schedule you had when you first started training your dog.
Reason 1: Food Allergy/Intolerance
Just like with people, dogs can have food allergies and intolerances. The most common food allergies in dogs are from proteins, so this can include beef, chicken, eggs, and soy.
Most dogs with food allergies exhibit signs of inflamed skin, like itchy skin, paws, and ears. In more extreme cases, dogs will experience gastrointestinal upset, like vomiting and diarrhea.
If your dog suddenly begins pooping in the house after a recent change in diet, it could be due to a food allergy. In many cases, it can take up to twelve weeks on a new diet for your dog to display signs of a food allergy, but some very sensitive dogs may display signs sooner than that.
If your dog is experiencing gastrointestinal distress from food allergies, he may forget his house-training skills and just begin to poop in your house to get some relief.
Reason 2: Dietary Indiscretion
There’s no denying that some dogs are absolute chow hounds. They’ll do whatever it takes to grab a dropped piece of food. Sometimes, they may even sneak some food out of the food dish of any other pets in the house. Some dogs are even trash divers and may steal old food and trash out of the trashcan when you aren’t looking.
All of these scenarios are examples of dietary indiscretion, which just means that your dog has eaten something outside of their normal diet. In most cases, the symptoms are mild and will be self-limiting, but there are times when this can result in severe symptoms, even requiring hospitalization.
Dietary indiscretion is similar to food poisoning in humans, and it can be very uncomfortable and painful. If your dog recently ate something they shouldn’t, that’s likely the cause for the sudden pooping inside your home.
Most dogs with dietary indiscretion will have diarrhea and possibly even some vomiting. If the dietary indiscretion causes your dog to have diarrhea or feel the urge to go immediately, he may resort to pooping inside the house instead of waiting for you to take him out.
Reason 3: Illness
Just like people, dogs can suffer from illnesses that make them not feel well. This can range from having a slightly upset stomach to having a severe medical issue. Dogs are at risk of getting things like the flu, intestinal parasites, and bacterial or viral infections from being exposed in public places, like a dog park or store.
All of these issues can cause inflammation in your dog’s intestines. If your dog suddenly feels the urge to go the bathroom due to this gastrointestinal upset, he may just poop on the floor instead of giving you the normal signal that he needs to go outside.
Reason 4: An Aging Dog
As dogs age, they can begin suddenly having new problems, which can include losing control of their bowels. This can be due to a couple of reasons – weakening of the intestinal muscles with age or a more serious mental medical condition like canine cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to Alzheimer’s in humans.
Reason 5: Change in Routine
Dogs thrive on consistency and a regular schedule. They begin to understand their daily routine and know when to expect to be fed, let outside, and go on walks. If you’ve had a change in your schedule that affects your dog, like a new work schedule, your dog’s digestive system may not be used to the new schedule yet.
A change in your dog’s daily routine could cause him to suddenly poop in the house. If he doesn’t know what to expect in his daily schedule and when he’ll be let outside, he may resort to pooping on the floor to relieve himself.
Reason 6: Stress
Dogs are susceptible to stress, just like humans. Most people think of their dogs being stressed over large events that happen in life, like travel or a new family member in the house. Dogs can be stressed by little things too! Sometimes a loud noise outside or even re-arranging the living room furniture can stress a dog out.
If you’ve noticed your dog suddenly pooping in the house but have recently done anything your dog could perceive as stressful, the sudden pooping is likely just caused by that stress. Once your dog has adjusted to the new circumstances and becomes more relaxed, he should return to his normal outdoor bathroom routine.
Reason 6: Separation Anxiety
Did you know that 20-40% of dogs have separation anxiety? Separation anxiety is a common problem in dogs that causes dogs to experience severe destructive and distressful behaviors, such as chewing on things, pooping in the house, and vocalizing.
Dogs with separation anxiety become distraught when they’re separated from their people. Many dogs with separation anxiety will chew or rip things up, but many will also suddenly have accidents inside on the floor.
Separation anxiety takes a toll on a dog’s mental wellbeing and causes them to essentially panic. A dog in that frame of mind is going to do unusual and sudden things, which may include pooping on the floor. In these situations, your dog is frantic, so they just want to relieve themselves instead of waiting for you to come home and let them outside.
Reason 7: Being Distracted
Have you ever let your dog outside to use the bathroom, but then they walk right back inside and immediately poop on the floor? Perhaps one of the most innocent reasons that your dog has suddenly pooped on the floor is that they’re simply distracted!
Younger dogs especially have short attention spans, and they can easily get distracted by interesting sights, sounds, and smells in the backyard. Even though your dog was outside with the specific intent to use the bathroom, those interesting things can distract your dog enough to make them forget about that. Then, when they get indoors and are no longer distracted, they suddenly feel the urge to go the bathroom and may do so on the floor.
Do dogs poop in the house when they are stressed?
As we mentioned above, dogs do get stressed, and sometimes they are stressed out by seemingly small things we would never think of, like new furniture placement. Just like with people, stress can take a toll on a dog and make them act differently both physically and behaviorally.
When dogs are stressed, they can feel the sudden urge to go to the bathroom. In those cases, your dog is likely going to go wherever he is standing, so that may be on your floor.
In some cases, your dog may actually be stressed out by the outdoor environment. If there are stressful noises or things happening outside, your dog may actually be suddenly pooping in the house on the floor because that’s where they feel most comfortable. Dogs can be stressed out by things like rain, skateboards, dogs barking, and other loud noises.
How To Stop a Dog From Pooping in the House
As annoying as it is for your dog to be pooping in your house, your dog isn’t doing it to spite you. You’ll need to determine the underlying reason causing your dog to suddenly poop in the house so that you can resolve it.
In addition to practicing good house-training skills, these tips will help your dog understand where and where not to go to the bathroom. Once you determine the underlying cause that is making your dog uncomfortable and want to poop suddenly, you can work to find a solution.
Tip 1: Schedule an Appointment with your Vet
Anytime your dog has a sudden change in behavior in any way, you should always start with a trip to your vet to rule out any medical conditions. If your dog happens to have an underlying medical condition, it will be necessary to treat to help them go back to their usual self.
Some medical conditions like intestinal parasites can be easily diagnosed and treated. For other more complicated medical conditions or food allergies, you’ll need to work with your vet to diagnose the issue and treat it appropriately. In most cases, once your pet has been properly treated for any illness, they’ll return to their normal self quickly.
Tip 2: Keep Your Dog on a Consistent Schedule
As we’ve already mentioned, dogs thrive on consistency and routine. It’s important to keep your dog on a regular schedule so he can know when to expect to go to the bathroom. Keeping your dog on a set schedule will help keep a regular bathroom schedule to prevent him from pooping in the house.
Tip 3: Gradually Change Food and Prevent Dietary Indiscretion
Anytime you change your dog’s food, you should do so gradually. It should be done for at least one week and involves slowly incorporating the new food into the old food. If you have a dog with an extra sensitive stomach, this transition could be done even more slowly and last about two weeks.
When a dog is fed one food for some time, their stomach and intestines become used to it. Abruptly switching to a new food could cause vomiting, diarrhea, and even constipation. Instead, it’s important to transition to ensure as minimal stomach upset as possible gradually.
Similarly, it’s important to prevent dietary indiscretion as much as possible. Anytime your dog gets into the trash, or even another pet’s food, this throws their stomach off and can cause stomach upset. Anytime your dog’s stomach is upset, they may suddenly feel the urge to go to the bathroom wherever they are, including inside your home.
Tip 4: Practice Good House-Training Skills
House-training a new dog is one of the most important things you’ll ever do with your dog since those skills will allow your dog to live with you for the duration of his life with as few accidents in your home as possible.
It’s important to be consistent with your potty training, which involves taking your dog outside on a set schedule and rewarding him heavily when he does potty outside. If you’re worried that your dog is suddenly pooping in the house because he may be regressing in his potty-training skills, you can return to basics and re-establish those skills to retrain him.
Tip 5: Consult a Professional for Stress and Anxiety
Separation anxiety is a severe issue in dogs, and it’s important to work with a professional dog trainer who is equipped to handle these cases. In some extreme cases, working with a veterinary behaviorist may be recommended. This is a veterinarian with extensive knowledge and experience in canine behavior, so they can assist you with a training plan while also prescribing medication to ease your dog’s underlying anxiety.
Dogs with separation anxiety will need to essentially be re-trained to be calm and relaxed when left home. This is a gradual process involving leaving them for short periods and gradually working up to the time you’re away from them. It’s important to work with an experienced professional because you don’t want to risk your dog panicking while you’re going during the training process.
Sometimes, your vet or trainer may recommend calming pheromones, like Adaptil. These are odorless plug-ins that release pheromones similar to the ones that a mother dog would release when she has puppies. These are meant to calm and relax your dog and don’t have harmful side effects.
Tip 6: Seek Age-Related Recommendations.
Approximately 14-35% of dogs will develop canine cognitive dysfunction. If you have an older dog who has suddenly started pooping in the house, it’s important to be aware that he may suffer from the doggie equivalent of Alzheimer’s.
Canine cognitive dysfunction is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as general confusion, anxiety, decreased interaction with owners, altered sleep schedule, and aimless wandering or restlessness.
It’s important to work with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may be dealing with this. There are medications and other supplements that can be used to help support a senior dog’s mental cognition.
It’s incredibly stressful when your dog poops in the house, but it’s important to understand and realize that it’s probably caused by an underlying issue your dog is struggling with. Once you determine the underlying cause and work with your vet when needed, your dog will likely return to his regular outdoor bathroom routine.