Is This Dog Pooping in Protest?

Dear Woof,

I have a question on behalf of a friend who has moved to the US from Belgium approximately one year ago. Their dog moved along with them, she is about 5 years old, has always been house and crate trained. Even though she has been crate trained, she has had the run of the house for the past couple of years in Belgium, and the last 8 months here in the US. Since a week or two however, she started to poop on the carpet, always in the same spot and only when her owners are out of the house (even if only for half an hour or so). To test, we have brought Neo (my dog) for a visit a few times, and once we knew they got along great, we left them together for half an hour and went out. Chanel (my friend's dog) didn't poop.

Is she 'protesting' to being alone, or is there another issue? Can it be solved without crate training her all over again?

Thanks for your help!

Sylvie

Hi Sylvie!

First, given the age of this dog and that she's suddenly had a loss of housetraining, I'd suggest a visit the veterinarian pronto, to rule out any possible physical cause for this.

Although she's only having the problem while she's alone, the fact that she's been housebroken for 6 years, and is suddenly regressing, it's best to start with a veterinary examination, including a fecal check, to rule out any illness.

In the meantime, make sure that the dog is prevented from going in that spot on the carpet. For whatever reason she's started defacating there, she is attracted back to the area by the scent from the previous deposit. Using a good cleaning agent (try Nature's Miracle) will help get rid of the scent, but a habit has already started in that spot, so preventing her access to the area entirely is important.

While this could possibly be separation related, I'm not convinced - since for nearly a year's time in the new home, she's been completely fine, and you don't mention any other behavior from her that would indicate that she's stressed while alone. Having said that, sudden changes within the home, i.e., a sudden change in the family's schedule, a family member moving out of the home, or even into the home, could be causing some stress on her. Again, I don't really feel that stress is the culprit, but wanted to give some food for thought anyway.

Although she has not been crated for several years, the crate may be helpful in getting the problem resolved - but again, I think it's best to start with the veterinarian, before going to that step. If she checks out alright, introducing the crate slowly, including some brief practice departures to help her re-acclimate to the crate, especially when alone, would be a good idea.

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if you have other questions or need more help!

Take Care,
Lisa Patrona, Dip. CBST, CPDT-KA, ACDBC, AABP-CDT