Have you ever experienced coming home or waking up to a big mess in the house, whether it be pee or poo? I’m not talking about when you are housebreaking your pet. This is when your well trained pet is peeing or pooping in the house. When they have had ample opportunity to go outside and they have been house trained. We’ve come across this before, and of course it’s upsetting. And we all know there’s no use punishing a pet for going potty in the house, especially if you don’t see it happening.
One of our PAWsome walkers recently had this experience with her pups. Read on to see what happened with Pam and her pups and how to interpret it.
I have no problem with my dogs sleeping in bed with me during the night. I’ve come to tune out my dogs licking noises but unfortunately my boyfriend can’t. Bless my boyfriend for trying, but it wasn’t working out. He’s a really light sleeper and has bionic hearing skills so to have a dog licking himself in the middle of the night was not conducive to a good nights sleep. We make the decision to have the two dogs sleep out in the living room, Bambi (chihuahua/min pin mix) on her bed and Chewie (Lhasa Apso) on the couch. We didn’t hear any scratching at the door or whining so we thought all went well. When we woke up the next morning, they both had pooped twice on the carpet! I could understand Bambi pooping (she’s small and has been prone to more accidents) but not my Chewie!! Twice!? In the 4 years of having him this is probably his 3rd accident. So we naturally thought they were mad at us and showed their disapproval of being kicked out of the room by pooping everywhere. “They’re getting back at us” we claimed, so sure of ourselves. I felt horrible, like they were upset with us and were showing us their disapproval.
This prompted me to research Revenge Peeing/Pooping in dogs and I was amazed that we were totally wrong! Turns out revenge peeing/pooping isn’t real and it’s another way in which we assign human characteristics to our dogs behavior. Attributing human characteristics or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena is called anthropomorphism (1).
While it’s cute to think that my pups were plotting their revenge on us in the middle of the night, this is simply not the case. Their actions aren’t triggered from an urge to get back at us, it was more than likely because they were anxious over the change in sleeping quarters. Their behavior had nothing to do with us personally, and everything to do with them and their state. This is how anthropomorphism could actually backfire on us, we believe our dog’s behavior is due to revenge and anger but in reality they were just anxious. Anthropomorphism could lead us to misread dog behavior and as the dog’s guardians, it’s our responsibility to understand where they are coming from.
“There is plenty of evidence for what scientists refer to as primary emotions – happiness and fear, for example – in animals. But empirical evidence for secondary emotions like jealousy, pride, and guilt, is extremely rare in the animal cognition literature.” (2)
While dogs have emotional sensitivity, luckily for us, revenge isn’t one of them.
So what may trigger unwanted peeing/pooping? Assuming they are potty trained, if not, this would be the 1st step! Anxiety, boredom, excess physical energy (3), claiming new smells, or there could be a medical issue.
It’s good to make sure that the peeing/pooping isn’t due to a medical issue. If a house-trained adult dog starts to have accidents in the home, see a vet, there could be a medical component like a urinary tract infection or the onset of canine cognitive dysfunction (1) to blame.
It could be an environmental thing, which is what I believe happened in our case. Going from sleeping in the bed right next to us, to sleeping on their own in the living room could have stressed them out.
Instead of assigning malicious intent ask yourself: Has there been a change to their routine? Has there been more people coming and going? Has their diet changed? These are but a few things that may trigger your dog to feel more anxious than usual. Stress and anxiety can play a big role in these accidents!
How long are you gone from the house? Maybe your dog is being asked to hold it in for far too long. Most will hold their bladder for 4-5 hours but YOU try holding it in for 8+ hours! That’s where CanineCompanionLA or a neighbor can come in to help take the dogs out for potty breaks.
Dogs don’t think poop is gross, they love to smell it as it provides a wealth of information! So to believe that dogs will use their poop to get back at us because they know WE don’t like it, is a bit farfetched. Punishing a dog for peeing/pooping isn’t a guarantee that it won’t happen in the future. Physically rubbing the nose of dog in their poop, hitting, and yelling is never a solution. Instead of teaching the dog not to do this in the house, you teach them that humans are unsafe and it may cause them fear to go to the bathroom in your presence (1).
Please! It’s imperative that we begin to view our dogs as dogs and not just fur babies, as dogs they have special needs that we must address. Take the human perception out of their behavior and really find out what is going on!! Labeling dog behavior with human ones isn’t always to the dogs benefit. As always make sure they are getting enough walks and potty breaks to ensure they are taking care of their needs outside. And if you feel like you need help in this area Canine Companion LA is here to help!
- @C_Companion. “Was It Out of Spite? Think Again.” Conscious Companion. N.p., 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. <https://consciouscompanion2012.com/2013/08/05/was-it-for-spite-think-again/>.
- Goldman, Jason G. “Do Dogs Feel Guilty?” Scientific American Blog Network. N.p., 06 Aug. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2016. <https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/thoughtful-animal/do-dogs-feel-guilty/>.
- Anthony. “Revenge Peeing: Fact or Fiction?” Calm Energy Dog Training. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2016. <http://calmenergydogtraining.com/2012/10/revenge-peeing-fact-or-fiction/>.