Poor Toilet Habits When Alone - Understanding root cause and training tips

Poor Toilet habits when Leaving Your Dogs Alone?


This article aims to help you understand why your dog is peeing and pooping at home when you are not around. We will take you through several possible reasons for house soiling when they are left alone. The idea is to help pet parents prepare the next steps to resolve the house soiling issues and re-establish an unbreakable bond with your furry companion.

Understanding your dog’s bathroom habits

Most dogs inherently prefer to poop outdoors, avoiding soiling their living spaces. When a dog acts differently, it’s often a deviation from the norm seen in other dogs. If you’ve noticed an abrupt change in your house-trained dog’s behavior, such as starting to pee and poo indoors when you’re not around, it could signal something more than just a lapse in their bathroom habits. This sudden change can be indicative of an underlying medical problems or emotional distress. Conditions like anxiety or separation anxiety may lead dogs to break their usual potty routines. If your dog begins to poop and pee inside, it’s crucial to closely monitor these signals as these may be due to an underlying issue that should be

Identifying Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Often, when dogs are stressed or anxious, especially in cases of separation anxiety, they may express these feelings through unwanted behaviors like urinating or defecating indoors. These actions are not done out of spite or disobedience. Instead, these are actually signs of distress, indicating the stress they endure when their owner is absent. Recognizing these behaviours as manifestations of emotional distress is the first step in addressing the issue.

Separation anxiety in dogs is a distressing condition characterized by immense stress experienced by a dog when left alone without their owner, even for just a few minutes. During the absence of the owner, the dog experiences immense stress, leading to undesirable behaviors such as house soiling.

In addition to house soiling, there are several other distress behaviors to watch for, signaling that your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety. These include excessive barking, where a dog with separation anxiety may begin barking incessantly soon after their owner leaves. Other common signs or common symptoms of separation anxiety includes inappropriate chewing and destructive behaviour towards furniture, door frames, or personal items are strong indicators. If your dog displays a combination of these signals especially when left alone, it is possible that your dog suffers from separation anxiety.

In severe cases of separation anxiety, dogs can exhibit behaviors that not only cause destruction to their surroundings but also pose significant harm to themselves. When dogs feel anxious and are overwhelmed with the distress of being alone, they may attempt extreme measures to escape or alleviate their anxiety. This can lead to severe separation anxiety scenarios where dogs might jump out of windows, chew through barriers until their teeth break, resulting in broken teeth, or engage in other self-harming behaviors. These actions are indicative of the extreme stress and anxiety dogs with severe separation anxiety endure. It’s crucial to recognize these signs early, as they point toward a profound emotional disturbance requiring immediate intervention. Dogs develop separation anxiety for various reasons, and understanding these can be key in providing the necessary support and care to mitigate such harmful behaviors.

If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety, it is crucial to seek assistance from professional trainers, especially those certified in handling dogs with separation anxiety. Dogs with separation anxiety suffers from immense stress when left alone. Certified separation anxiety trainers possess the knowledge and experience to accurately assess your dog’s condition and recommend the most effective behaviour modification protocols. Working alongside these professionals, you will be guided through a personalized plan designed to address and treat your dog’s anxiety.

Other potential reasons for house soiling

However, if your dog does not display multiple distress behaviours and the occurrence of house soiling is not confined to periods of your absence, it’s possible that there are other causes that results in this behaviour.

We have listed several common causes of house soiling below.

Incomplete House Potty Training

Incomplete house training occurs when a dog has not fully learned the appropriate place to eliminate, leading to incidents where the dog poops indoors. This often results from unclear guidance or unfinished training sessions, where the dog never fully grasps that eliminating indoors is not acceptable. Common pitfalls in incomplete house training include inconsistent schedules, lack of clear communication, and insufficient positive reinforcement when the dog eliminates in the correct location. Without explicit, consistent training that helps a dog learn where and when it’s appropriate to go, they might see any indoor space as suitable for elimination, just like any outdoor spot.

For additional details regarding how to potty train your dog to pee and poop indoors, kindly refer to this article!

Addressing Medical Issues Leading to House Soiling

Sometimes the reason your dog begins to poop inside the house is not behavioral but rather due to a medical condition that may be affecting their control and comfort. Various medical issues, ranging from intestinal parasites to fecal incontinence, can disrupt your dog’s normal potty habits, leading them to have accidents indoors. It’s essential to consider these possibilities when your dog suddenly changes their toileting behaviors. Consulting a veterinarian can help identify any underlying health problems your dog might be facing, thereby offering a route to treatment and hopefully resolving the house soiling issue.

Intestinal Parasites

Intestinal parasites are a common cause that might lead a dog to poop inside the house. Dogs can pick up these unwanted guests in several ways, such as through ingesting infected soil, water, or feces, or by coming into contact with infected fleas during grooming. Even well-cared-for pets are at risk, especially those who have access to outdoor areas where other animals may visit. In mild cases, the presence of intestinal parasites can cause discomfort and might lead to your dog pooping indoors due to an inability to control bowel movements. To treat intestinal parasites, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian who can prescribe the appropriate medications. Deworming treatments are typically effective, but prevention and ongoing management will also be key in ensuring your dog doesn’t suffer a recurrence. Regular fecal examinations as part of your dog’s health check-ups can help in early detection and treatment.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance in dogs is another significant factor that influences a dog’s diet and can lead to issues such as the dog pooping indoors. Unlike intestinal parasites, food intolerance arises when a dog’s digestive system is unable to properly break down certain ingredients found in their food. This can result in discomfort, diarrhea, or even constipation, leading to unexpected incidents of dog poop inside the house. Symptoms of food intolerance may include not only gastrointestinal upset but also skin irritation and ear infections. Prevention and treatment involve identifying the offending ingredients and eliminating them from the dog’s diet. This often requires a process of trial and error with different foods under the guidance of a veterinarian. A diet that is specially formulated or limited-ingredient may be recommended to avoid the components that cause intolerance, ensuring a happier and healthier life for the dog without the distress of inappropriate elimination.

canine cognitive dysfunction

Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is a condition akin to dementia in humans and primarily affects older dogs. This condition can lead to a range of behavioral changes, including confusion, disorientation, and a noticeable decline in house-training habits, such as soiling indoors. Managing CCD involves creating a safe and comfortable environment for the affected dog. This may include using a baby gate to restrict access to certain parts of the house, particularly near exit points, to prevent the dog from wandering off and getting lost. Additionally, addressing any concurrent medical conditions is crucial in managing CCD effectively. Regular veterinary check-ups can help monitor the dog’s health, adjust medications as necessary, and provide advice on specific care needs. By taking these steps, owners can help improve the quality of life for their older dogs suffering from cognitive dysfunction.

Next Steps: Systematic Investigation

Pinpointing the exact reason behind your dog’s indoor behavior requires a methodical approach, patience, and potentially professional intervention.

Step 1: Reinforce Basic Training

Reinforce basic potty training by revisiting learned behaviors. Always use positive reinforcement, avoiding any scolding. See our article for a step-by-step guide on how to potty train your dog indoors!

Meanwhile, be proactive by regularly taking your dog outside for bathroom breaks, particularly before leaving them for long periods. This helps prevent your dog from needing to potty inside, meets their needs, and reduces anxiety.

Step 2: Check for Medical Conditions

Get a veterinary opinion. Rule out medical causes before proceeding with behavior-based solutions.

Step 3: Investigate Environmental Factors

It’s important to monitor the occurrences that lead to your dog having accidents inside. This could include the presence of other dogs, including both male dogs and female dogs nearby, which might make your dog anxious or too preoccupied to ask to go outside.. Loud noises can also scare your dog, causing them to potty inside. Keep track of these events to understand what disrupts your dog’s routine and comfort.

Step 4: Behavior Modification Techniques

For suspected separation anxiety, it’s crucial to develop a behavior modification plan specifically tailored to the individual dog’s needs. This plan often involves a gradual acclimation to departing procedures, aimed at reducing the anxiety triggered by cues indicating an owner’s departure. Alongside, a fear-based desensitisation protocol is integral, where the dog is gradually exposed to these anxiety-inducing cues at a low level, then slowly increasing in intensity. This helps the dog learn that these cues do not always result in negative outcomes, thus having a calming effect over time.

In addition, counter-conditioning is employed to change the dog’s emotional response to being alone, often by associating the departure cues with something positive, such as a favorite toy or treat. This method helps in creating a safe space for the dog, where it feels secure even in the owner’s absence, reducing incidents like potty inside due to stress.

Consistency and patience are key in these methods, as they require time for the dog to learn and adjust. Collaboration with a veterinary behaviorist or a certified separation anxiety trainer can provide a structured approach, ensuring the techniques are applied correctly and effectively, tailored to the dog’s specific needs and progress. This professional guidance ensures that the dog learns coping mechanisms in a supportive and controlled environment, leading to a more successful outcome in managing separation anxiety.

Step 5: Monitoring and Adaptation

Be aware that your initial approach may not be the perfect fit for your furry friend. Observing your dog’s reactions is key, and adjusting your methods accordingly is crucial. It’s a process of trial and error, requiring patience and understanding that it’s all in the best interest of your dog’s life. Progress in preventing your dogs from wanting to potty inside may be gradual, but each small improvement is a significant step towards better behavior. Remember, dogs love patience and consistency, which ultimately enhances their well-being.

Thank you!

Dealing with a dog that hasn’t been house trained can feel like a big deal, especially when your dog poops or pees inside while you’re away. It’s understandable to be worried, but remember, these actions are a call for help, not spite. By gradually increasing your understanding and adjusting your approach to meet the unique needs of your dog and household, you can confidently address and solve these issues. Each incident not only offers insight into what might be amiss but also serves as a chance to strengthen your bond with your dog. Thank you for reading, and I wish you all the best on this journey towards a happier, well-trained companion.

Picture of Webster Cheong, BA, IAABC-ADT, CPDT-KA

Webster Cheong, BA, IAABC-ADT, CPDT-KA

Webster has trained various species in zoos, rehabilitated companion animals, and championed animal welfare standards. He represented Singapore in the Amphibian Taxon Advisory Group, focusing on amphibian care and conservation. Now, his main focus is in canine fitness and conditioning as well as essential canine skills.

Picture of Qiai Chong, MSc, CSAT, CSB-D, CPDT-KSA

Qiai Chong, MSc, CSAT, CSB-D, CPDT-KSA

With over a decade of study in the animal behaviour and welfare sciences, Qiai earned her Masters from the University of Edinburgh and has since devoted herself to the welfare and behaviour of pets. She has worked as an animal behaviourist since, and her expertise lies in addressing pet behavioural issues such as fears, phobias, anxiety and aggression.

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