Dog poop in the house! Ack!
April 12, 2012 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Why is my dog pooping in the house?

My boyfriend and I have three dogs. We just moved to a new house in February. We have a huge fenced-in yard, and we keep the sliding glass door open to the yard while we're home. I work full time and let the dogs out before I go to work, on my lunch break, and then when I get home they have free access to the yard. My boyfriend is a flight attendant, so three days a week it's just me, but the rest of the week he's here with the canines all day.

We are unpacked, the house is clean, and by all appearances, the dogs know it's home. I have seen all three of them poop and pee outside (and they have all been housetrained for a loooong time). I am positive that at least two of the dogs have pooped on the living room rug, though I have not caught them in the act.

I haven't disciplined them at all because there's so much conflicting info (lots of people say to stick their nose in it, lots say that just confuses them), and I haven't caught them in the act.

Today I stayed home sick, and my boyfriend is home to take care of the dogs. They've been in and out all day, and when I got out of bed there was poop on the rug! Aaaaggghhhh!!!

I wish I was one of those people who was like, "Oh well, dogs will be dogs!" but man I spent a ton of money decorating my house all nice, and to have the money I spent get shit on is making me really crazy. But I promise, I haven't yelled at the dogs; I've just picked up the poo and gone about my life.

The dogs are all in good health. I am pretty sure this is more of a behavioral thing; maybe because of the move. But it seems odd that they'd start this after we've lived here a while, as opposed to when the house was brand new.

You are not my vet, etc. But did this happen to you? How did you fix it? Am I just going to have to put spike strips around the rug? (kidding! Mostly!)
posted by masquesoporfavor to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am pretty sure you need to use some kind of enzymatic rug cleaner to remove the lingering poop aura lest they be tempted to desecrate your rug again.
posted by elizardbits at 9:24 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dogs always have had accidents when we've just moved. You need to be taking them on walks, not just giving them access to the yard. Do not bring them inside until they have done their business. We usually give our dogs 3 walks per day, but for the first few weeks after a move, we bump it up to 5 or more, depending on how they seem to be doing.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:31 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Enzymatic cleaner and regular, business-required walks are the sure cure.
posted by batmonkey at 9:34 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Despite a number of unknowns, my first suggestion would be to spend more time with the dogs, and interact with them more. Walk them more.

My second suggestion is "defense-in-depth": don't let the dogs near anything dear while you are not at home, or if you are going to be unavailable for more than 10 minutes.

When we went out and could not bring our dog, we used to shut our dog into the entry hall; at night, we shut the door to the living room and other rooms.

Some questions:

It seems like something you might want to mention to your boyfriend. Awkward question, but are you guys essentially in a long-term relationship? Is he a constant and consistent presence in the dogs' lives, and has be connected with the dogs (I personally don't believe in the dominance theory of dog ownership - it's all about relationships)?

If you're working and your boyfriend is away on work, how much attention are the dogs getting? How much exercise?

How can they crap on the rug if your boyfriend is in the same room? If he's not in the same room, where was he? How long was he away from the dogs?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:34 AM on April 12, 2012

Have you changed their food recently?
posted by desjardins at 9:36 AM on April 12, 2012

Why did it start happening? Probably because it's a new place, and it's not just like the old place so it seems like maybe the old rules don't apply here. So one of them tries out the rug, and it poops just fine. Plus, now it smells like a place for pooping so it's even better the next time the urge is felt.

1. Clean really thoroughly with Nature's Miracle or one of its competitors.

2. Make sure they don't make any mistakes for a while. This might mean crating them, or walking a lot more, or whatever, but the point is to keep the habit from getting entrenched.
posted by jon1270 at 9:40 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

KokuRyu--Yes, we've been together 5 years (the entire time, monogamous, no breaks). The dogs definitely know he's family. He loves the dogs very much, as do I. Not to pull out that old chestnut, but they're like our children. They get constant attention--we talk to them, sing them songs, feed them at consistent times, and snuggle with them (though they are not allowed on our bed, they are allowed everywhere else). Maybe we treat them TOO much like family and not enough like dogs? As far as exercise, they don't get regular walks often. One dog is quite senior and walks are difficult for him (oddly enough he's not one of the poop-insiders), one is very small and slips away on walks, and I have an injury that makes it hard for me to walk very long. When the most recent accident happened, he was working in the yard. Also this house is over twice the size as our previous house, so it is entirely possible to be inside, but far away from dogs/people.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:41 AM on April 12, 2012

Our dog started doing this recently and it was incredibly frustrating. I would let him out, he'd do his business and come in, then I'd go to the garage for a few minutes to change the laundry and when I came back upstairs there would be poop on the kitchen floor. I love him to pieces but I wanted to strangle him! What we did is remove all opportunity for accidents for a few months. What that meant is that instead of getting run of the house all day he was always in the same room as me or my husband and when we left him alone he was crated. He has more freedom when we're home now (although I like to know where he is) but we have continued crating him when we leave.
posted by lubujackson at 9:47 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, also: (lots of people say to stick their nose in it...

Punishment is always a problematic way of changing behavior, but it can have a useful effect IF it happens basically instantly after the undesirable behavior, so that the negative experience is associated with the behavior. So if you're a dog and you're pooping on the rug and all seems right with the world, but then out of nowhere it's AIIIIIGH, BAD THING HAPPENING TO ME, that's a case where the unpleasant experience gets associated with the behavior, and things might change. On the other hand, if you're a dog and you poop on the rug and then go about your business, get a drink of water and lie down in a sunbeam with your favorite rope bone, and then someone comes in from the garden, starts shouting, grabs you by the collar, drags you over to a pile of poop and rubs your nose in it, you might decide that that person is friggin' dangerous, or that lying in the sun with your rope bone is a bad thing to do, but you're definitely not going to associate that unpleasantness with the act of pooping in the house. 'Cause you're a dog, and you're simply not that bright. Heck, a lot of humans aren't that bright either.

The thing is, if you do catch them in time for punishment to be effective, then punishment is unnecessary anyhow. Just a shout of alarm and an insistent hurrying outside will get the message across just as well, without all the trauma.
posted by jon1270 at 9:55 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you have green carpets?
posted by biffa at 9:57 AM on April 12, 2012

As in the color green? No. Just an area rug--it's black, white and gray. As in recycled--no.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:59 AM on April 12, 2012

If you know which dog is the cause of the poops, when it's time to go outside to do their business, but that dog on a lead and take him for a nice long walk, he will eventually have to poop outside, the second he does praise him to the skies, like he has just pooped gold. Once you have his timing schedule set (usually first thing in the morning or after their evening meal) start taking him out the back on the lead and walking him around until he poops, then repeat the praise thing eventually he will get the hang of this is the pooping place and the rug isn't.

Dogs suck at generalization and don't really learn that inside and outside as concepts in general and some need to be retaught where it's OK to poop when you move.

If they are still peeing outside it might just be as simple as making sure the dogs are getting a nice long time outside so they stop sniffing all the sniffs and playing and get down to pooping while they are out there.

I am not a huge fan of punishing a dog for pooping in the house from personal experience I have learnt the hard way it can backfire and lead to the dogs hiding when they poop and that made it harder to find the poop to clean up and to catch the dog doing to take them outside i the first place. The taking the dog for a walk until it had to poop, keeping him to a poop schedule and praising him when he did go method worked for us in the end and our completely unhousebroken when we got him rescue dog is now about 99% housebroken.

I can't believe I typed the word poop that many times in one reply.
posted by wwax at 10:09 AM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, also: (lots of people say to stick their nose in it...

Punishment is always a problematic way of changing behavior, but it can have a useful effect IF it happens basically instantly after the undesirable behavior, so that the negative experience is associated with the behavior. So if you're a dog and you're pooping on the rug and all seems right with the world, but then out of nowhere it's AIIIIIGH, BAD THING HAPPENING TO ME, that's a case where the unpleasant experience gets associated with the behavior, and things might change.

i would not ever advocate sticking your dog's nose in their poop, even if, as jon1270 seems to believe, you might do it when you catch them in the act. this does not correct the behavior. this will only cause your dog to make sure you are not around to see him do it the next time.

as others have said, you are in a new home. we sometimes don't realize how stressful it can be for our pets to move—far more than it is for us—because they are no longer around things that are and smell familiar to them. it may take them a bit to adjust—and as others have said, you just need to being more strict with them until they've demonstrated that they can have the run of the house again with no accidents.
posted by violetk at 11:04 AM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The previous owners' animals may have pooped there, and left some smells. My dogs poops in the bathroom at my friend's house because of the cat litter box. Hey, this is a room I'm allowed to poop in - Great!
posted by theora55 at 11:49 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am pretty sure this is more of a behavioral thing; maybe because of the move. But it seems odd that they'd start this after we've lived here a while, as opposed to when the house was brand new.

Could be pure dumb luck. They come into the new place and lack awareness of where is and isn't okay to poop. Maybe it's just taken till now till they happened to feel the urge strike and were in that place.

Can you roll up the carpets for a while? We're in the final stretch of housetraining our new pup and it's carpets and bath mats that seem to be the most confusing to him. I presume because they're more like grass than our hardwood.

I suspect you're also going to have to get involved with their business for a while; be there when they take care of it outside and praise them and give them treats so you can reinforce that THAT is where business happens.
posted by phearlez at 11:52 AM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing please don't ever rub a dog’s nose in urine or feces, or punish a dog for an “accident.” This will teach your dog to fear you, and he may hide when he has to “go.”

You said they have the run of the yard - are you seeing them poop and pee when you let them outside? I ask because when my dog stays at my parents' (who have a big fenced yard) he can run in and out as he pleases and it turned out that he often wasn't pooping when he was outside. Maybe he didn't have to go right then and because the door was open he was under the impression that he could just go outside whenever he needed to go potty. Obviously dogs don't have those kinds of complex thought processes, but my point is that at my house when I take him out on the leash he knows it's POTTY TIME. Sometimes he gets added bonus of WALK but as I don't have a fenced yard, we always have a purpose when we go outside and he knows this. So at my parents' house, he would just laze around in the yard for hours, go in and out as he pleased, not feeling like he needed to go potty at that moment and suddenly DOOR SHUTS and he can't go out. We would just assume that as the door had been open all day he would have gone at some point (so didn't need to go again for awhile), but he hadn't and then he would poop in the house.

So I guess what I would do is watch them when you first open the door to see if they potty so you know what time they went last. Or make sure their outside time is more structured (someone keeping an eye on them, no constant unmonitered access) until you feel confident that they know that the yard is where they go. I would also do what someone mentioned above and go through some of the basic potty training stuff again - keeping an eye on them at all times when they're inside, crating them when you're away etc) until you're confident they know where to go.

If you are seeing them poop outside and then they come right in and poop again (when they never did this at your old house), I would probably put it down to the stress of moving and go back to always supervising/crating them until I felt comfortable with leaving them unsupervised.

I also have a second dog that, while I think he is mostly potty trained, still has the occasional accident. So when I am gone he is in his kennel and when I'm home he is tethered to me as per the umbilical cord method. Doing this consistently is a 100% guarantee that he will not poop in the house as he won't poop in the same room as me and he won't poop in his kennel. After I feel a little more comfortable with him understanding potty time and place I will gradually work up to letting him be unsupervised for short periods of time.

Good luck!
posted by triggerfinger at 5:49 PM on April 12, 2012

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