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Why do Dogs Sneak Away to Pee and Poop?

Why some dogs won’t eliminate in front of you, and what to do about it.

By
Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #125

Now you settle in to checking your Facebook page, with your puppy hanging out nearby. My, what scandalous friends you have! How hilarious are these YouTube videos, anyway? (You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned a crate or pen. Or any poop happening on that trip outdoors.) 

Meanwhile, Baby D. feels that special fullness in her back end. Off she goes, as far as she can get from her hangout spot near you – remember how dogs prefer to eliminate away from places where they eat and rest. She finds her way into another room. She’s only small so this other room might as well be the Australian Outback, as far as she’s concerned. Or, suppose you live in the Australian Outback, the other room is downtown Chicago, Illinois to her. In any case, she’s well away from home base. She relieves herself and comes trundling back to you.

Some minutes later, your feeble human nose alerts you to what’s happened. Naughty puppy! She sneaked off to poop! But that characterization isn’t fair. What happened was this. Without your supervision and guidance, she did a completely normal doggy thing: she created a toilet spot at a distance from what she considers home base. It’s not her fault she doesn’t yet perceive your entire dwelling that way. 

Solution 

Go back to Housetraining 101. Supervise Baby Dogalini more carefully from now on, confine her when you can’t supervise, and make sure she gets outside as often as she needs to go. Introduce her to your home one room at a time, till she figures out it’s all her home too.

Reason #2: Dogs Sneak Away Because They’re Afraid to Pee and Poop in Front of You

Old-school housetraining tips routinely included the advice to spank puppies, scold them, or smack them with a rolled-up newspaper. And for sheer disgust, nothing tops the idea that you should rub a puppy’s nose in his urine or feces if he makes a mistake. 

Unfortunately, if you happened to look in the wrong places, you may have gotten exactly this advice. Or maybe Zippy’s former guardian got the bad advice. Either way, punishing a puppy for housetraining mistakes is a good way to teach him just the wrong lesson. Dogs have simple little brains and they make simple little connections. If you smack Zippy when he pees in front of you, he may conclude it’s dangerous to pee in front of you. And if you rub his nose in his feces, obviously feces makes you go nuts, so you and feces should never be in the same room together. (Or be invited to the same parties.) Best to pee where you can’t see him; best to leave poop behind the couch, where you can’t see it.

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About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).