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Why is My Puppy Hiding to Poop and Pee?

Updated on July 20, 2014
alexadry profile image

Adrienne Farricelli is a former veterinary hospital assistant and now a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, and author of dog books.

That guilty face is mostly a reaction to your threatening body language!


About Dogs Hiding to Pee or Poop

If your puppy is hiding to pee or poop, you may be wondering what makes him behave in such a way. The behavior is quite crystal clear: the moment you leave the room or turn around, your puppy squats and leaves a little surprise for you to clean up. Other puppies may choose instead to pee or poop when they are out of sight from you such as beneath a couch or in behind a wall.

It's easy for you to get frustrated with these pups. You may think your dog is being sneaky and is doing it on purpose just to get on your nerves. I have heard dog owners tell me various explanations for these behaviors and from their explanations and tones of voice, I could easily deduce anger and frustration. Some people tell me: "my puppy eliminates secretly on purpose just to make me mad" or "my puppy eliminates in spite when he doesn't get what he wants."

Truth is, dogs do not experience the emotion of spite as they do not have the cognitive capabilities to "get back at you." To eliminate in spite, your dog would have think in a complex way such as "My owner didn't act in the way I wanted him to, so when I have the chance, and my owner is not looking, I will eliminate just to make him angry." Instead, dogs hide to eliminate for different reasons, and getting all angry at them when they do will only make problems much much worse! Let's take a look at what could trigger a dog to hide to pee or poop. You'll be surprised to learn that for a good part, it may be ultimately caused by your behavior!

So Why is my Puppy Hiding to Poop or Pee?

It's definitely not from pudor, another emotion dogs do not experience. A dog owner once told me: "my dog is ashamed of pooping in front of me." There is no such thing, we are talking about dogs who sniff butts, urine mark all day, lick their private areas and care less about useless human social etiquettes. Yes, a dog may not want to eliminate in plain view, but there are other dynamics at play and a sense of shame is not one of them. So let's look at what is really happening.

Reason 1) Your Dog was Punished in the Past

The number one, top reason I see dogs who hide to pee or poop is triggered by punishment. Let's look at the exact dynamics. You get a new puppy and bring him home. You let him explore your home the first night. Your puppy drank a lot earlier because he was thirsty from the car ride from the breeder to your home. Now, he is eagerly exploring his new home when suddenly without even realizing it, he has this terrible urge to potty. So he just squats and soon a puddle is left on the new owner's precious white carpet. What does the new owner do? He gets upset with the puppy. "NOOOOOO!" he says in a frantic tone of voice as he moves towards the puppy trying to move him away. The puppy startles from his voice and fast movement directed towards him.

Fast forward the morning after. The puppy has just eaten a big meal and his belly is slightly bloated from the generous meal. He starts playing with a squeaky toy and is having the fun of his life. Then that urge comes again. He takes a few steps away and then squats for a bowel movement. "NOOOOOO!" goes the new dog owner again, now even more upset. The new dog owner, moves quickly towards the puppy and stomps his feet and claps his hands. Then he gets the puppy and says "you bad puppy!". He may even decide to roughly place the puppy's nose near the mess and say "no, no, no!" in a severe tone of voice. Next, the puppy sees his owner grabbing a bunch of paper towels and a spray as he nervously cleans up the mess. The same practice takes place over and over the next few days which only confirms to the puppy one big lesson: Pooping and Peeing is bad, bad ,bad! So what does the poor puppy do? He definitely cannot suppress his biological needs, so he decides to do eliminate secretly.

When the puppy has a chance and the owner is out of sight, he sneaks under the couch when he has the urge. He quickly eliminates. He comes out and wheewww...sigh or relief.. nothing happens. His owner is not aware of it and the puppy feels safe. Yes, the owner may get upset days later when he moves the couch and finds a stain, but the puppy very unlikely connects his anger with the fact happened days ago. So when the owner finds the stain and tells the puppy "you sneaky, bad puppy!" the puppy becomes all submissive and offers appeasement gestures that in puppy language mean "please don't hurt me." He'll likely pull his ears back, become as small as possible and may even flop on his belly in response to the owner's anger. The owner senses the puppy's response as a sign of guilt and starts thinking that the puppy knows well he shouldn't poop, nut decides to do it anyway just out of spite." If he gets even more angry, the puppy may even urinate submissively,(an instinctual way puppies manifest their innocence as other dogs smell their urine and may grant them a puppy license) which often makes things even worse, creating a vicious cycle that may even make the owner feel compelled to even want to give away the puppy. Sadly, there are many cases as such which could have been completely avoided with a little more knowledge on how to potty train puppies and better communication. Indeed, did you know that sadly a great amount of dogs are surrendered in shelters due to a housetraining issue?

Reason number 2) Your dog has seen displeasure

OK, you may say " but I have never smacked my puppy with a newspaper or shoved his face in a pile of poop, so why is my puppy still hiding to pee or poop?" Truth is, many dogs are extra sensitive and even though you weren't particularly harsh, your puppy may have deduced a sense of frustration or anger through your tone of voice and body language. Truth is, dogs are masters in reading our body language. You can talk to them softly but they can deduce if you are upset as your body language speaks volumes to them.

So what's left to do? It's really hard for you, the dog owner, to stay composed if your puppy is eliminating right in front of your eyes! Most likely, if you notice your puppy is giving you pre-potty signs, (these are signs he's about to go such as sniffing, pacing and circling) you may clap your hands, stomp your feet and try to startle him to stop him in his tracks. If your puppy is sensitive though, these actions may scare him. The end result? Your puppy learns to suppress these pre-potty signs and may try to keep it for as long as he can until he decides he cannot take it anymore and may decide to hide to pee or poop.

It's a shame though that all those pre-potty signs are what you really need to teach your dog to potty! After all, would you startle a toddler who is walking around without a diaper and is telling you "mommy I need to go potty?" or would you listen to him and take him by the hand to the closet toilette? You really want to hear those magic words! Read on to find effective ways to potty train your puppy and communicate to him that you appreciate pre-potty signs and look forward to seeing them more and more!

Reason number 3: Normal Doggy Instinct

If you are knowledgeable about crate training, most likely you know its principle is based on the fact that dogs do not like to soil in areas where they eat, drink, play or sleep. This is a good instinct that keeps dogs clean and their living areas hygienic. So if your puppy spends most of his day with you in the living room where he sleeps, play and eats, he will likely instinctively trot away when nature calls to soil in the farthest corner or even in another room. Now dogs are creatures of habit, so they like to eliminate in the same areas over and over. You'll literally see them sniff previously soiled areas and a lightbulb lightens in their head: "Yup, this is is my bathroom, indeed I still smell the remnants of my previous eliminations!."

How to Stop Your Puppy from Hiding to Pee or Poop

So we now know that punishing your puppy for going potty in the home is a big no-no. This triggers a puppy to hide to secretly eliminate and it makes him fearful of you. It also encourages submissive body language, when you want your puppy to learn to be confident and trust you. We also know now that suppressing pre-potty signs through startling actions may go against us in the potty training process and interfere with clear communication which is essential in the potty training process. Following are some tips for making the process easier.

  • Train your puppy to follow you outside

Every day, take a few minutes to train your puppy to follow a cue that encourages him to follow you outside. Walk towards the door saying in an enthusiastic tone of voice something like: "let's go outside!" If you walk swiftly and act enthusiastic about it, your puppy will follow you voluntarily. Once out in the yard, stick closeby and if he goes potty, tell him :good boy!" and give him a treat. It's a good idea to always have a treat pouch on you so you are always equipped with treats, you don't want to be without them when you need them the most!"

  • Stay in a Room in Plain View

If your dog was punished or startled for going potty in the home in the past, he may look for places to hide to do his deed. From now on, remove all furniture and hiding spots, so your puppy is always in plain view. I knew a puppy I was boarding was possibly startled/scared in the past for pooping in the home, when he decided to potty inside the agility tunnel. I removed it and from that day on, using clear communication and positive reinforcement, her potty training progressed tremendously. A good tip: a room can be very big to a small puppy! If feasible, make it smaller by putting a barrier that makes the room smaller and the door closer. it will be far easier to monitor the pup and take him out swiftly.

  • Praise for Giving Signs

Instead of startling your puppy when he gives you signs of about to go potty, acknowledge the signs and praise them. This may be the opposite of what you feel like doing or of what you may have heard in the past, but it's very worthy to do this. The number one reason is that you want your puppy to give you signs so you can take action. So if your puppy starts circling, instead of startling or punishing him, say "good boy!" and then immediately use your cue: "let's go outside!" and walk out of the door. Your puppy should follow you out immediately. When he goes potty then again, praise lavishly and give him a treat.

  • Monitor As Much as You Can

We often blame puppies for going potty in the home, but what about our involvement? Ian Dunbar has said that dog owners should use newspapers when potty training a puppy, but not for hitting the puppy; rather, dog owners should use it to hit themselves on the head with it saying something like "Bad owner, bad owner, I should have taken my puppy outside in time!" As dog owners, it's our responsibility to potty train puppies and teach them that they should go outside. They don't come programmed with this training, so we need to be extra patient and understanding!

More tips: always clean previous accidents with an enzyme-based cleaner that removes traces of odor, so your puppy is less likely to repeatedly soil in the same area. Put your puppy on a feeding and elimination schedule and your puppy will also be likely to eliminate at the same times each day. If you have punished your puppy in the past, he may also be wary of your presence when you take him outside. ignore him and even turn your back to your puppy. When he goes potty, make your rewarding low key (don't go bonkers with enthusiasm) or your dog may think you are scolding him instead of praising him. Just say "good boy" in a calm tone and toss him a cookie.

As seen, by improving communication with your puppy and embracing positive methods, your puppy can learn as a faster pace. Let's remember that the action of going potty is reinforcing on its own. We all feel relief when we empty our bladders and bowels. So when training your puppy to not potty in the house using harsh methods, your puppy attains two forms of relief: relief from the urge to potty, and relief from hiding in an area where he cannot be caught in the act. This makes the potty training process much more difficult and you don't want your puppy to feel relief when you are not around since this is a sign that you have assumed negative connotations. Soon, you dog will start engaging in other unwanted behaviors out of sight. Instead, you want your puppy to be comfortable being around you and happy to manifest pre-potty signs to you so you can take action and guide him through the process!

For more on potty training puppies, read my article "secret strategies for potty training your puppy."


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    • profile image

      Grey Temples 2 years ago

      I am sorry, I have to totally disagree with your post. The behavior you are mentioning generally comes from puppies that are coming from puppy mills as they are kept in kennels all of their lives. As soon as someone brings home their brand new puppy they should put the puppy in the yard first before bringing it inside so the puppy potties outside and not in the house. Never, never rub a dogs nose in their feces or urine because usually you find the mess after the fact and the dog does not know what they are being punished for. After they wake up immediately take them outside, after a good play take them outside, after a nap take them outside. It is very simple to teach a puppy potty training within one week if the new puppy owner really wants the new puppy.

      It takes work and positive reinforcement. Putting a puppy in a crate is negative reinforcement and will only cause a puppy to withdrawl, potty in it's crate and chew everything in site when it is left out of the crate.

      If a person has not done their homework on getting a new puppy then they should not get one. I have been a dog trainer and have rescued dogs for over 30 years and I have never had one problem with potty training or a dog hiding to do their business. Hiding to do their business just means they are petrified of their owner because their owner is abusive.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Actually, several puppies that come to me for board and training are scared of pottying in front of their owner and when I inquire about the owner's training methods, they have a history of putting the nose in their poop or using harsh methods. And NONE of these are puppy mill dogs. I don't agree on training a puppy a week, these fake promises create frustration it takes much longer than that, especially considering the fact that pups do not attain full sphincter muscle control until they are at least 12 weeks! Crates per se' are not negative reinforcement, if you train dogs to correctly like them and keep the door frequently open with goodies inside they can be a source of positive associations. I have dogs who love their crates and play pens and seek them out on their own. The crate per se cannot be negative reinforcement. It's an object. It's like saying that a leash is negative reinforcement which is incorrect as it depends on what you do with it (actions) Are you praising your dog for walking on a loose leash? Or are you delivering leash pops until the dog heels? It sounds like crates are being used incorrectly from the way you portray them. If the dog dreads it, yes, it can assume negative connotations. Of course, I don't agree on the whole crate/den thing as that's outdated info, but I agree though that people should not have puppies if they do not want to do their homework. I no longer rely much on crates for potty training, but I advocate all my clients to teach their dogs to like their crates. They may need them when they travel or in other situations life throws at them. You say you totally disagree, but then you seem to repeat things I claim in the article and seem to agree with, so I am slightly confused...You have never seen dogs hiding to do their business because you likely have potty trained the correct way, same goes with me, all my dogs were never hiding, but the purpose of this article is to outline wrong training methods and show the implications of harsh techniques.

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana Zakinov 2 years ago from California

      Very interesting! Our adult dog has a habit of hiding when he poops, like getting behind a bush, or running off to do his business if he's off the leash. We always appreciated his discretion: like he's sort of self-aware like a human. But I remember my husband told me that he used scare tactics when he was potty-training him, so that must be what makes him seek "hiding spots" ever since! Voted up.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 years ago from Philippines

      Excellent analysis and advice. We have experienced all these from our dogs. However, if we were dog trainers, Cesar Milan would fire us, so we let two of them wear diapers, and they have learned to adjust. One dog Mocha Barney stopped when she had access to our new screen door, but now that the screen door is sealed, she wears diapers again. It's okay with the and us. But your advice is so much better. Being a dog alpha takes talent, I ain't got it but if I did, I'd do it your way.

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      Grey Temples 2 years ago

      Alexandry - well accept my apologies I may have read your article in the 'wrong light'. I have hand raised more than 80 Rottweiler puppies (I am no longer a breeder and haven't been for many, many years) and they were all house broken by the time they were 8 weeks old with positive reinforcement. Yes, I have seen dogs hide when they defecate and it is pitifully sad and usually because they are afraid of their owners. My apologies I will never comment on another one of your articles, I promise.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      Oh, no Grey Temple! No need to apologize and you are always welcome to comment on any of my hubs! I had a feeling that you probably read the initial part and assumed that I was recommending certain approaches, when I was really trying to show mistakes some dog owners make in potty training their pups. The bottom of the article shows some positive approaches to help pups victims of scare tactics. I love Rotties and own two of them! Congrats for raising so many of them and being so successful in potty training them! Kind regards, Adrienne

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Guilty look and s o true of your facts here voted up, useful interesting and always an informative topic from you

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 16 months ago from USA

      Thanks so much DDE, thanks for the votes up for this article on why puppies sneak away to pee and poop.

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      5 months ago

      My dog is a 4 year old lab. She was potty trained when she was young by my keeping and eye on her and taking her out when she looked like she was needing to go. I used positive reinforcement, such as praising and giving her treats when she did it right. She goes out on a leash when she has to go because there are no fences here and we have on occasion seen coyotes and have had deer kills on our yard. I suspect that at least one of those may have been a mountain lion. She used to just go in the grass but lately, she has been going deep into shrubs and bushes. It is strange behavior for her. Could it be that she smells a predator around? She also used to go in the backyard but now wants to go out in the front yard. Today she jumped into some heavy shrubs to go. They are full of spiders and I don't want her to go in there but I didn't expect it and before you know it, she was in the middle of them going to potty. Should I be concerned?

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 months ago from USA

      Your dog is showing normal dog behavior. Dogs are inquisitive and attracted to other animal scent. They want to sniff and they may also mark to show the boundaries of their territories and leave their business cards (pee, poop) for other animals to sniff. If you want to avoid some areas, train a smacking sound that tells her she should go to you for her treat. Give the treat when she comes to you upon hearing the smacking sound. Alternatively, you can train a leave it cue to tell her to avoid the spider areas.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 5 weeks ago from Texas

      Adrienne, thank you for the tips, we got our pup in February Chipper was three months old. He lets me know when he has to go potty from day one. He did pee on the newspaper tat hubby laid on the floor.


    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 5 weeks ago from Philippines

      This is so useful, especially the part about the enzyme based cleaner. Puppies are really sensitive to their human's behavior, but it was interesting to know that not only are they sensitive to their human's voice, but even their body language. They are great readers of people:).

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