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Potty training is one of those parts of dog ownership that most of us would rather avoid. I love training dogs, but potty training? No, thank you!
In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, we’re tackling the problem of a new pup who never pees in the house – but poops in the house every night. So what gives?
Our reader asked,
We just adopted a 7-month old male terrier mix and he NEVER pees in the house, but every night he poops in the house. We walk him before bedtime and in the morning. He rarely pees or poops otherwise. What can we do to get the pooping under control?
- Sincerely, Party Pooper
If you’re struggling with a similar problem, you might find these other articles helpful:
- Why Does My Dog Keep Peeing on the Carpet?
- Why Does My Puppy Prefer to Pee in His Crate?
- The Best Cleaner for Puppy Owners
Fixing Nighttime Potty Training Troubles
At seven months old, this puppy should be able to “hold it” through the night. There are probably one (or more) of three problems going on:
- Training. Your puppy doesn’t know he’s supposed to hold it!
- Medical. Something’s wrong with your puppy’s tummy (or something else), so he really can’t hold it the way he should be able to.
- Habit. Because your puppy is used to being let out in the middle of the night, he’s simply not in the habit of holding it all night.
It’s important to figure out which problem is the root of our troubles before tearing out our hair trying to solve this problem.
Let’s rule out medical issues first.
Here are some things that would make me suspect this issue is medical:
- Your dog’s excrement is oddly colored, soft, or odorous.
- Your dog seems to need to defecate frequenty during the day.
- Your dog’s diet or excrement seems “off” in any other way.
If this issue is medical (giardia, diabetes, worms, etc), you need to get that fixed first!
Now let’s look at training and habit formation.
Our reader stated that the previous foster family didn’t have this problem. The fosters took the puppy out at 5:30am, though.
I think that’s the solution in this case. I’d fix this the same way as how I fixed the problem of a dog that begged for breakfast super early: we’d set an alarm for 5:30 to take the puppy out for a few days. We’d reward the puppy for pooping outside then (to make it extra clear that it’s worth saving up poo to trade for treats).
Then we’d move the alarm to 5:45am. Then 6:00. And so on – but not moving the clock forward until the puppy hasn’t had an accident for 3 days in a row.
This approach will also solve habit formation.
Note: if your puppy is pooping in one corner of the house and sleeping in another, consider having him sleep in a smaller area to encourage him to hold it!
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.
I have adopted a stray dog .it poops in house at midnight only .he never poop outside when taken for a walk 6:00am and pm both.We live in apartments top floor.and had no potty training.
Hi Richie, have you been able to implement the training strategies outlined in the blog here?
Hi Kayla, great article – thank you.
We have two Husky puppies, 7 months old, who pee and poo in their room almost every night. They have both been treated for giardia and we need to do follow up fecal exam to see if treaty was successful.
We have been partially successful with night time potty, and used to wake up at 2am to take them out. As they became older, they stay to be able to hold it for longer, and we started to postpone the night time potty visit. We stopped getting up at night once the puppies could hold it until 5.30am.
So now it seems we have taken a few steps back.
Do I go back to waking up in the middle of the night and reward them for doing their business outside?
They sleep in their separate crates in their own room, which is gated, but we always leave their crate doors open, which means they invariably sleep outside of the crates.
Do you recommend we crate train them properly at this point, i.e., locking the crate door at night?
Hi Jose! I would suggest going back a step to take them out in the middle of the night for now. I would also want to double-check on their health, and consider closing them in. Are they consistently going in a specific area? Are they going often during the day as well? Do they have diarrhea? Lots more questions!
Thanks for this. My puppy is six months old and still goes at night in the house. He has his last feed about 17.00 – 17.30, maybe some little snacks but he also poops before we go to bed, which is between 21.00 – 22.00.
I was getting up with him at night but he just wouldn’t go and once he learned not to go in the house during the day (something he very, very rarely does anymore) I thought that we’d cracked it. There was a short period when there was nothing at night but now it’s all the time again.
Thanks so much!
Hi Alix, what have you tried so far based on the article?
Hi thanks for the article, I have a 4 month old dachshund and she doesn’t poop at all in the day but does it all through the night in the house. I’ve tried walking her late at night and not feeding her past 5pm but nothings working, it’s like she’s got into a routine of only pooping at night, any help?
Hi Hayley – that’s quite odd, not one I’ve heard of before. Is her stool normal, or soft? Is she in the crate at night or loose?
I would like to know the answer to Hayley’s question. My 5month Cockapoo poo’s 2-3 -times during the night but only once in the day. Last meal is 5-6pm and he is walked in the morning arround 9.30pm. He rarely poo’s outside. How do I stop the night poo”s?
I would start with medical checks. How is his stool? Is he shy/nervous? Perhaps it’s too noisy/loud outside during the day and he doesn’t feel comfortable pooping then yet.
His poos are normal and he is healthy, Have a night camera and it would seem he goes 4-6 am. Hoping to now try walking later at night 10pm (initially 8pm) after being fed at 5pm (initially 6pm) and 6-6.30am (initially 7-8am) in the morning before breakfast at 7am and around 1.30 – 1pm before lunch – is this a good idea – somewhat regretting using puppy pads which we praised for in the early days as we now have to train for the outside. Yes he is nervous outside and will not poo if anyone is around so it can be hit or miss sometimes (not great if its at night). We do not leave puppy pads around in the day (unless we go out for some time) is this a good idea or not also?
Hi Cheryl, that sounds like a good start. The puppy pad answer is kind of “it depends,” I’d be happy to talk through it more with you if you’d like to schedule a call to talk in-depth!
We have recently adopted a 7 month old labradoodle. Had him about a month but while he goes outside perfectly during the day, he’s pooped at least 3-4 times in the rooms upstairs. He sleeps in our room and does nothing but does this sneak pooping when we’re otherwise engaged. Could he be afraid of the dark? We have a very large yard.
Hi Judith – it’s unlikely that he’s scared of the dark. When do these accidents happen? Only at night?