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 is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, as a private dog trainer, and with working detection K9s. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her border collie Barley.