Potty training can be one of the most challenging skills to teach a dog or puppy. And as fate would have it, we usually have to teach potty training when we first get our dog or puppy.
Doing so can be tricky and seem downright impossible at times, but eventually it clicks and your pup only does his or her business outside.
Once we finally get our pups potty trained, we usually expect that to be the end of things. Sometimes this is true, but at other times, dogs who were previously house trained can suddenly or randomly start pooping inside again.
This can be really frustrating or even alarming to owners. Is it a deliberate choice? Is your dog just being an obstinate jerk?
The answer, of course, is no!
There are many factors that can lead potty-trained dogs to poop indoors, some behavioral, some medical, and some training related (AKA, the human side).
In this article we’ll discuss the ins and outs of potty training, and help you and your four footer get on the right track for success! Read on to learn more!
Key Takeaways: My Dog Poops and Pees Inside After Walking!
- Start by identifying the cause of the problem. Some of the most common reasons doggos poop or pee inside after walking include medical issues, substrate preferences, and poor potty-training at the outset.
- Go easy on your dog. House-trained dogs commonly have accidents due to stress, a change in environment, or illness. So don’t get upset with them – chances are they are as upset about the accident as you are!
Why Do Potty-Trained Dogs Poop and Pee Inside?
The first question you will need to ask yourself is “why?”
Why is your dog going to the bathroom inside, even after potty walks? Once you’ve determined the why, then you can proceed to the “how.” In this case, the “how” is: “How I am going to help my dog stop pooping inside?”
Below, we’ll identify some of the most common reasons potty-trained doggos may poop or pee inside after walks.
1. Medical Problems May Cause Elimination Problems
The first thing I always ask when addressing sudden potty training challenges, is “is the problem a medical issue?”
There are a lot of medical factors that can cause potty issues. Some of the common ones include:
- Urinary tract infections
- Kidney issues
- Hormonal conditions, such as Addison’s disease or Cushing’s disease
- Hookworms or other internal parasites
- Assorted gastrointestinal problems
The pain associated with joint degeneration or injury can also cause elimination difficulties. After all, if it literally hurts to squat, your dog might not want to go until he really, really, REALLY has to go.
Some medications can cause incontinence as well. If your dog’s problems start occurring after beginning a new medication regimen, consult your vet. He or she may be able to alter your dog’s prescription to solve the problem.
But no matter the cause, the takeaway is the same: Visit your vet anytime your dog starts exhibiting a problem out of the blue. That’s your first step.
Once you’ve ruled out a medical (or medication) problem, you can look at training.
2. Your Dog Isn’t Entirely Potty-Trained Yet
Another reason your dog may be having poop and pee problems is that you’re expecting your dog to be too responsible, too soon.
Or, what dog trainers call “your dog isn’t actually potty trained yet — oops!”
This means that sometimes owners simply think their dog is potty trained and start granting too much unsupervised alone time in the house. But then, he suddenly starts going to the bathroom in the house. Darn!
And because the owner thinks Fido is already potty-trained, they struggle to rectify the situation.
So, you’ll want to make sure your dog is actually potty trained before living your life as though he were. Generally, I don’t consider a dog potty trained until he has zero accidents in the house for at least six months.
More often than not, when I tell owners this, they realize that their dog isn’t actually potty trained yet and needs more structure, guidance, and supervision to reach that goal.
Think of potty training as a long term training goal. We aren’t going to reach it this week, or next week, or the month after that. Potty training is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you are struggling with the basics of potty training, try taking your dog out on leash, every hour. When he does go, praise him and toss the cutie a treat.
If he doesn’t go, bring him back inside, still on his leash, and keep him with you so he cannot wander off to have an accident. Then, try another potty break in 20 minutes or so. Lather, rinse, and repeat as necessary.
Slowly but surely you will build up the amount of time between potty breaks.
3. Fido Isn’t Staying Focused: There’s Too Much to Sniff, No Time to Poop!
Sometimes, being outside on a walk or in the yard is simply too exciting for four-footers. Who can think about pooping when there are leaves and squirrels and butterflies to chase and contemplate?
In my experience, dogs who are overstimulated or easily distracted in the yard need extra time to fully empty their bladders and bowels.
These dogs often will do a single poop in the beginning of the potty break, but turns out it wasn’t the whole deal. You know?
Then, instead of finishing his business, Fido gets distracted by reading his “pee-mail” or making sure that good for nuthin’ squirrel stays up in his tree.
It’s not until you get back inside that Fido realizes he had other business he needed to attend to on the walk.
For easily distracted dogs, I usually train them to go pee and poop in a designated potty spot. This means when we go to the potty location, all we are doing is pottying. You can do this by taking him out (while on his leash) to the same spot every time.
Walk around the designated area, while being super boring. I tend to walk in small circles so there isn’t much exploration encouraged. When he does go, I have a PUPPY POTTY PARTY!!
A puppy potty party, or PPP if you will, is when I get really excited about the potty happening. I praise, I dole out treats, and then I let Fido off the leash (where applicable, I traditionally train potty locations in my yard, where it’s safely fenced in). Going potty in the potty location lets Fido earn his free yard sniff time.
And by making him earn some off leash time, I ensure that my dog isn’t distracted by having access to the whole yard.
By visiting the same boring spot day after day, my dog can focus on our goal (pottying), rather than all the exciting things to do in the yard.
4. Your Dog May Be Nervous or Distracted: Squirrels and Lawn Mowers and Windchimes, Oh My!
On the other side of the coin, you may just have a nervous or anxious yard dog. While many doggos are thrilled to check out the yard, anxious or nervous dogs feel worried when exploring the yard.
When encountering these dogs, you will see dog body language that is reflective of their states of arousal (in these cases, the dogs appear anxious).
These dogs will look around constantly and vigilantly. They will have hunched shoulders or backs, low tails, low ears, or pricked ears that are swiveling diligently to keep everything on their radar.
A nervous or anxious dog might be hesitant or scared to go outside at all. He may pant while outside or struggle on the leash, trying to return inside as quickly as possible, whether or not puppy potty duties have occurred.
For these dogs, the journey to potty-training perfection will be a bit longer. Your first step will be to desensitize your doggo to the backyard so that it becomes a safe place to be in, and consequently, go to the bathroom in.
After all, going potty puts you in a vulnerable position. I probably wouldn’t go if I was scared that a bear was watching me.
And even if the yard doesn’t seem to strike that level of concern within you, the fear is real for Fido. They may just be windchimes to you, but to Fido they’re a potential threat.
Some dogs don’t have an issue with the outdoor specifically, but rather, being on a leash. This is a common issue for rescue dogs who have never been leashes up before. Some dogs won’t pee while on a leash, no matter how hard you plead. They are just too terrified! This requires slow and gentle desensitization to the leash.
Just understand that desensitization training is a slow process. The rules you need to remember when desensitizing your dog to an area is that the pooch must be the one dictating if it is fun or enjoyable — not you.
Start slowly and gently when addressing these types of problems. Walk into the back yard, then enjoy a cookie or a toy, or maybe just some compliments and petting. Then go back inside.
The key is, nothing bad or upsetting happens while you’re in the back yard.
Keep these sessions incredibly short and sweet. If each and every time you go into the backyard, you can ensure your dog has as good a time as possible, you’ll slowly build up your dog’s confidence in the yard, and his ability to navigate the yard will grow.
Sooner or later your dog will start being able to go out for longer stretches of time, or even start really enjoying the yard. Once he’s not stressed, he’ll likely be able to go to the bathroom.
Just note that if your dog is truly concerned about going potty outside, you will need to ensure there isn’t something in the space that is making it too challenging for him.
Do you have a neighbor dog that fence runs and barks aggressively? Does the yard art you thought was pretty cute actually look like a mountain lion to your four-footer?
Look around your space and try to see it through your dog’s eyes. Could something as simple as taking away the giant Halloween blow up thingy ease his mind? (Side note: Halloween and Winter Holiday inflatable yard decorations weird out a lot of dogs — and people — too.)
Address any such frightening stimuli and you’ll likely see your dog become more comfortable in the backyard.
5. Consider Your Dog’s Substrate Preferences: Ew! I’m Not Going There!
Substrate preference is a dog’s innate or learned, preference for the texture or footing he goes to the bathroom on.
For example, dogs often prefer relieving themselves on dirt, grass, or similar surfaces. These surfaces will absorb the odors of feces or urine, thus making marking territory all that more effective.
That is often why dogs will have accidents on carpeted areas or bathmats. It feels like the right surface to them.
It’s not uncommon for dogs who lived in puppy mills or shelters to unlearn their initial substrate preference and begin preferring to relieve themselves somewhere else.
Most kennels have concrete floors, or wire mesh floors above a pan that the human can pull out and clean without having to move the dog.
These dogs will often go to the bathroom on hard/slick surfaces like tile floors, concrete (inside or outside), or just “anywhere” because their original preference has been altered or trained to be ignored.
The solution however is fairly straightforward: Recognize your dog’s personal surface preference and accommodate it. If your dog really only wants to potty on grass and you’re on a walk, find a nice grassy patch.
Conversely, if he really wants to go on concrete, that’s fine too!
By knowing what your dog’s natural preference is, you can help ensure he feels comfortable enough to go.
6. Weather Can Be a Factor: It’s Hard to Make Yellow Snow
Inclement weather can also make dogs reluctant to relieve themselves outdoors.
For example, some dogs just don’t like to get their feet wet! Of my personal dogs, Sadie, a 3-pound-and-change poodle mix, will go out on wet grass, snow, mud, sticker burrs, lava — you get the idea.
My boys on the other hand…
Hank, the 43-pound lab-pointer-mix dreads getting his footies wet. Chico the Chihuahua shares this trait, while adding the additional drama of looking miserable when I insist he potty outside.
The guilt is real, guys.
Just remember that some dogs don’t like going outside to poop or pee during bad weather. That’s okay — it’s up to their humans to figure out ways to work around this (in other words, keep an eye on the weather and plan accordingly).
If you live in a place prone to poor weather, you might want to reinforce that pottying must still happen in inclement weather from a young age.
7. Premature Praise Can Cause Potty Problems: I Made a Tinkle, Where Is My Cookie?
Prematurely praising your pooch may distract him and preclude him from “downloading” everything he needs to.
You’re so excited that your pooch is pottying outside, you start your PPP too early! Mid pee, your puppy looks up, elated that you’re elated, and stops going to the bathroom so he can join the party.
Now your puppy has a half empty bladder and a mouth full of cookie. It’s not until he’s back inside that he realizes he still needs to finish the job.
If you’ve found yourself with a four legger who doesn’t fully empty himself when outside, but always comes back to you super excited that he did anything at all, you might be a premature treat deliverer.
If you’re realizing you fall into this category, don’t despair. Simply start waiting for your pup to fully finish the job before praising him.
If he stops mid-bathroom break and looks up at you expectantly, smile but don’t praise or give treats. Wait until he potties again and then celebrate.
Your potty training routine will need to reflect this knowledge, and you’ll want to instill a new rule of “two poops” or “two pees” before reinforcement happens.
With a few weeks practice, your pooch should start going all the way the first time.
8. Lingering Odors: If It Smells Like a Bathroom…
Poop and pee odors sometimes linger. And that’s not a coincidence; in the wild, these poop and pee odors help keep a dog’s territory marked.
These odors will hang on through rain storms and hot summer days, and dogs can smell them for a long, long time. And this odor tells them where they should go.
It’s a honing device and a smell fence all at once.
If you’ve had accidents in the house (or rather, your dog has), and you’ve cleaned them up but he keeps going to the bathroom in that area, you might have an odor problem.
Not all household cleaners are effective at eliminating these types of odors. Not all laundry detergent does either.
So if you’re having difficulty with your dog going to the bathroom in the same area of the house repeatedly, you might need to tweak your cleaning routine and use a heavy-duty carpet cleaner designed for dog urine.
Once you eliminate the odor of urine or feces from your carpets and floors, you’ll likely find it easier to restore order and get your pooch to start going outside again.
9. Lifestyle and Home Changes Can Cause Elimination Problems: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
I’m pretty sure David Bowie was thinking about potty training challenges when he wrote Changes.
Many types of changes can throw off your dogs normal potty routines. From a change in his schedule, to a change in the household (guests, new pets, etc.), to changes in his diet, disruption can cause poopin’ problems.
Whatever the change may be, if you see a sudden change in your dog’s potty habits, he may need your help adjusting to the new norm.
If at all possible, and you know a change is coming, start slowly transitioning to the new routine before it’s actually happened.
For instance, you might be getting a new job, or restarting school. Before, your dog was getting a potty break at 3:00 PM, but now you’re not going to get home until 5:00 PM.
So, before you start the job or school, start pushing out the afternoon potty break back little by little. On the first day, wait till 3:15. The next, wait until 3:30. So on and so forth.
This way your dog can adjust more slowly and not suddenly have to hold it for an extra two hours.
If a change in diet is necessary, do your best to slowly acclimate your dog to the new food.
Say your dog eats one cup of food for breakfast, and one cup for dinner. Day one, I’ll feed ¾ cup old food, ¼ cup new food. I’ll do that for a few days, then switch to ⅔ cup old, ⅓ new. Keep going until your dog is getting a bowl that only contains the new food.
As for guests or new pets, it’s a bit trickier. If it’s a new pet who is going to live in the house permanently, then introduce the new pet and older dog slowly and in a low-key manner.
Have them spend time together outside, on walks, in a quiet room, and also give them some separate time. Don’t just throw them both together and hope it works out. After all, not all of us are social butterflies.
There is a reason I didn’t have roommates in college!
For houseguests or visitors, I’d suggest reverting back to a previous potty training schedule. This means lowering your expectations for your dog’s potty training and providing him with more guidance and supervision.
And if he’s really having trouble because people are over, you may want to consider adopting a desensitization protocol while you’re at it.
10. Scolding Your Dog Can Lead to Elimination Anxiety: Stay Positive!
Scolding your dog after an accident usually just teaches your dog not to poop in front of you.
Which, of course, can actually make things even worse because it might cause him to stop pooping outside if you’re there with him.
Dogs who have been scolded or punished for going to the bathroom inside often have a habit of “sneaking off” to go to the bathroom.
I’ll then have clients say “You know he knows that he isn’t supposed to go inside because he sneaks off! And he looks guilty too!”
To which I say, “Actually…” and smile.
Dogs don’t feel “guilt.” At least, not the way people do.
Instead, they display appeasement behavior.
This means that your dog sees you being mad or upset, and then tries to appease you. It has nothing to do with his behavior being “right” or “wrong,” or him feeling guilty. It is about trying to make you feel or behave better.
And the reason he’s sneaking off? Because he has learned you tend to lose your dang mind when he poops in front of you! Better to just avoid all that drama and poop behind the sofa.
The first thing you need to do to turn this around, is to start praising any outside potties. And give him plenty of treats for doing so.
The second thing you need to do is vow to never reprimand your dog for going to the bathroom inside. Ever.
I personally view any accidents inside as my own failure, not the dogs. After all, why did I leave the dog who is struggling with potty training alone, unattended?
11. Age Can Change Your Dog’s Bathroom Needs: When You’re My age, You Get Up a Lot in the Middle of the Night.
This is something we’ve all heard from grandparents, aunts, parents, and random strangers who like to disclose their nighttime bathroom routines.
But it’s true! As you grow older, your need to go often increases, and your ability to hold it decreases.
This is true for your dog as well. Whenever I’m faced with a dog who’s having potty training problems, I always consider his age.
Is he too young to control his urges? Is he getting older and struggling with age-related incontinence?
Sadly, there isn’t some magic training solution for this one. If your dog simply needs more potty breaks, you have to provide them in order to avoid accidents.
But once you identify that this is what is going on, you can accommodate and adjust your schedule so the potties aren’t happening inside anymore.
So that’s something.
It can certainly be frustrating to deal with a doggo who likes to relieve himself after coming back inside the house. But rest assured, this is something you can fix.
Just start by figuring out the reason the problem is happening. Is your pooch frightened of the backyard? Is he suffering from a medical problem? Does your carpet still smell like pee from a previous accident?
Once you figure out the reason he’s pooping or peeing inside, you can implement some of the strategies discussed above.
With a little effort and patience (and maybe a fresh round of potty-training practice), you’ll likely be able to put an end to the problem.
If you’ve had any experiences or questions about pups pooping or peeing inside, let us know in the comments below!