Dogs are habitually clean animals and do not like to poop or pee where they sleep and eat. A dog pooping in the crate is therefore a valid cause for concern. Pooping or peeing in the crate could be a result of a variety of factors including anxiety, a health problem, or just lack of training.
Regardless of the reason, it is an issue that needs to be resolved for all concerned. Dogs and puppies are loved family members, and this can result in a stressful and questionable time for any dog owner.
There are steps to be taken to prevent these pooping or peeing occurrences – some may require a visit to the veterinarian – others may be a change in habits and routines.
Some may be obvious and easy to fix, whilst others may be a complete mystery, and facing the reality of finding a solution may seem like an impossible and daunting task. When a puppy first comes home, or when we first introduce the dog to the crate scenario, we expect the odd ‘accident’ and the potty training starts.
But when we have our beloved pets suddenly changing their habits, there must be an underlying reason… and that is where we come unstuck!
Your dog may become anxious if being in a crate is new to him and he feels trapped being in the confined space. If he is not used to being in a crate, or if the crate is too small, this could be an issue.
He may suffer from separation anxiety. It is common to put your dog in a crate when you are leaving him, so as well as perhaps barking, howling, and trying to escape, pooping is another sign of a distraught dog. A clue here is if your dog only poops or pees when you are absent.
These can vary tremendously, causing pooping or peeing in the crate. An infection or disease can cause digestive problems which then lead to diarrhea.
Sometimes the dog will also suffer other symptoms such as vomiting and weight loss, bloating, and blood in the poop. It is quite common for elderly dogs to suffer from incontinence.
If the dog is on medication, this can also be a reason for his untimely toiletry actions. Pooping in the crate can, by itself, cause him to become anxious. If you are having any concern around any possible health issue, then a visit to the veterinarian is advisable.
If the dog has been involved in an accident and suffered an injury, or if there is a tumor near the rectum, this could affect the dog’s ability to control his toiletry habits.
Incorrect Crate Size
The crate needs to be the right size to suit the dog… and made bigger when the dog grows. If the crate is too big, then he may not feel that this is just for his sleeping or resting area but also room for other activities!
If the crate is too small, he may feel too cramped or confined therefore causing him to fret.
Adjustment in Routine
Dogs, like children, can find adjusting to new situations or routines, rather disruptive and sometimes scary. These adjustments could be moving house, even moving the crate to a new room, a different person in the home, a new pet – another dog! A change in routine can cause unease.
Dogs are creatures of habit and having a routine means they know what to expect and when to expect this. Any disruption to their routine can make a dog uncomfortable and an uncomfortable dog is an unhappy dog.
The routine could be something we consider benign like the timing of his meal, the timing of his walk, or length of time outside of the crate. A change in what he is eating may also cause him to feel perturbed.
A dog or puppy who is unfamiliar with the crate may just need some training to get into the habit of pooping and peeing outdoors before he goes into the crate. This can sometimes be a big learning curve for the owners too.
How do I stop my dog pooping in his crate?
It is important in the first instance, to determine whether the pooping inside is a result of a medical condition or a behavioral issue. Do not punish the dog.
Rule out any Health problems
A dog who has had no recent changes in his life and never had pooping issues before may suggest this could possibly be a medical issue.
How often is your dog peeing or pooping in the crate? Are there any unusual odors? Does the pee seem darker than usual, or bloody? Have you changed the dog’s diet recently?
Any new medications or supplements been given? It is recommended to obtain advice from a Veterinarian who will undertake an examination.
It is possible they may require you to take in a sample of the poop, so comprehensive tests can be carried out. Once any medical issue or trauma is ruled out, then although that is a good thing, that will be when the work begins. Behavior issues require time, consistency, and patience to correct.
If your dog barks, whines, or obviously becomes irritated when you prepare to leave the house, then he may suffer from separation anxiety or isolation distress. Solutions for this situation include adding another dog (or another companion), to the family, so he is not left completely alone.
One issue with this, however, and quite a major one, is that you could then end up with two dogs with the same problem! Some people may propose the use of medication for such behavior, but not all will agree with this option.
Systematic desensitization is a therapeutic strategy that has been shown to be effective in minimizing or removing dog behavior issues associated with separation. This strategy is similar to that used in humans for the treatment of phobias. How this works is the dog is exposed to very short periods of being alone, only a few seconds, then when the owner re-enters the house or the room, they praise the dog.
The length of separation is to be progressively increased over time, so the dog then becomes used to it and knows the owner will return. Systematic desensitization demands motivation and commitment of the dog owner, as can be time-consuming.
Using this technique simultaneously with counter conditioning has proved to provide more effective results. Counter conditioning, or stimulus substitution, is the training of the dog to partake in another activity, such as eating when he would usually start to become anxious.
Leaving the dog with some food, or a favorite toy, therefore, will allow him to associate good things with being in his crate. Feeding your dog in the crate can help. Dogs do not like to poop where they eat.
All dogs are different, and this includes their toileting habits. Some can hold on for longer than others. If you are finding your dog is pooping or peeing in the crate after a period of time, maybe he is being left in there for too long and is just unable to hold on any longer.
This one is an easy solution – let him outside more often. If your dog is a small breed or puppy and you work long hours, he just may not be physically able to hold on for as long as you are gone.
Some dogs require more exercise too, so perhaps an extra walk in the morning or evening will tire them out. Walk times need to be consistently creating a routine.
Letting him outside before bedtime – generally just providing him more opportunities to do the right thing. Praising a dog when he has done right can never be underrated.
If he is only a puppy in a large crate, use a divider for the crate, so his area is more restricted to just his bed, so he knows this is where he sleeps, and there is no far corner as a comfortable place to poop! If the crate looks too small and he seems to be uncomfortable in it, then he probably is.
Invest in the right size crate for your dog right from the start. Once a dog creates a habit, it is harder to make any changes to his behavior. The dog should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down with legs straight.
Interestingly, dogs prefer their space to be cozy, rather than spacious. Puppies need to be potty trained and this is done by regularly taking the puppy outside and praising him and giving him a treat when he poops or pees in the right place. Take him to the same place so he gets into a routine.
Put his bedding in the crate and leave the crate open when you are round, so he knows that it is his safe and happy place and not a place of punishment. A puppy or dog should be introduced to his crate gradually before he can be left alone in the crate safely.
If you find the dog is pooping under the bedding, then remove the bedding. Chances are he will not be wanting to lie in it.
The use of negative reinforcement can help just as much as the positive praising, but this must be immediately and not after the event. If you see your dog getting ready to poop in his crate, clap your hands and say ‘no’.
Then take him outside so he can poop out there – and then praise him immediately. Using a crate is a popular way to potty train your new puppy, however, it is not uncommon to struggle with this method.
If you have tried the above options and nothing seems to be working, then perhaps an alternative could be considered. These could include getting a dog-walker to walk your dog during the day.
Or a Doggie Daycare? If you have room, you could have a pen set up with a potty pad in one part of it and train the dog to pee on the pad and still having space to sleep and play.
This will not stop the dog from peeing or pooping but will surely be easier for you to clean up when you get home! The key things to remember are to be immediate with your reactions toward your dog, be patient, and be consistent.