Why is My Puppy Hiding to Poop and Pee?
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."
For further reading
- The Importance of Taking your Puppy to Puppy Classes
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- How to Train a Dog to Go Potty on Command
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- Why Does my Puppy Pee After Going Outside?
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- Understanding Puppy Teeth Stages
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- Secret Strategies for Potty Training your Puppy
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- The Pros and Cons of Using a Puppy Apartment for Pot...
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