You have just told your dog to get off the furniture or you have been away for a little bit longer than usual and now he has gifted you with poop on the floor or expensive carpet.
Can we consider this act as our dogs revenge pooping and can dogs be spiteful in general?
The logical human explanation for this behavior might sound a bit like this: “great, now he is taking revenge” or “he is being so spiteful out of nowhere”.
Your dog has probably been housetrained for years so there must be a reason for his sudden “revenge” poop and there is.
Can Dogs Be Spiteful?
When you are labeling your dog as spiteful, you are attributing human traits, characteristics,
This process is called anthropomorphism and can be extremely fatal when it comes to dog training. It actually diminishes them and their evolutionary histories.
Spite is an act that has the intent of malice. To plan to take action against somebody with the purpose to cause them emotional stress or harm in retribution for a perceived wrong previously done takes significant cognitive abilities.KD Mathews
In the case of your dog being spiteful, you are accusing your dog of purposeful actions that he intently performs to cause you distress and anger.
Dogs aren’t able to predict a certain set of actions that are the most annoying to their owners.
Reflecting such complex emotions on a dog is understandable as we see them as our family member and sometimes it’s harder to remind ourselves that they are not like us.
A dog’s brain simply does not work like a human brain.
They are straight-forward beings and are capable of neither spiteful behavior nor guilt.
Being spiteful is not
A dog is one of the purest beings out there that has no bad intentions. Calling a dog spiteful is the result of a lack of knowledge and miscommunication on our side.
Do Dogs Poop for Revenge?
No, dogs do not poop out of revenge either. The fact that they are not capable of such emotions makes dog training so much easier.
You can always look at the behavior with a clear and rational mind unlike you would do with children or other people.
Pooping and peeing in the house always have a reason and it’s probably not for the reason you are thinking.
To get a bigger picture, you will first have to understand the perception that a dog has of pooping or peeing on a floor surface.
While we may find it embarrassing and unethical to do our business on the new carpet, dogs think very differently about it.
A dog is not disgusted by the smell of poop, it’s actually very interesting to them. The scent reveals a lot of information for the dog which would be necessary to survive in the wild.
Your dog will never understand why it is wrong to do his business inside the house, he will just accept that it is and adapt to learned patterns.
That’s why potty training is fairly simple.
Instead of showing your dog all the spots where he shouldn’t go potty, you just lead him to the one spot you would like him to use, reinforced by a reward.
The Myth of the “Guilty Look”
You just came home from a long working day, step into your bedroom and you see a little gift on the floor.
Your dog is sitting beside it with a grinning smile, laid back ears, puppy eyes and a nervous tail wag – the “guilty” look.
Well because he is displaying all of these expressions, he must know what he has done wrong, right?
Dogs are reacting to what we are emoting. They are particularly apt at sensing our emotions.
When you come in angry and yelling, he will be displaying a fearful and uncomfortable body language that he has learned to show.
A study from 2009 confirmed this correlation.
During the study, the dogs were left alone with a treat that they were not supposed to eat and this was the result:
Whether the dogs’ demeanor included elements of the “guilty look” had little to do with whether the dogs had actually eaten the forbidden treat or not.
Dogs looked most “guilty” if they were admonished by their owners for eating the treat. In fact, dogs that had been obedient and had not eaten the treat, but were scolded by their (misinformed) owners, looked more “guilty” than those that had, in fact, eaten the treat.
Thus the dog’s guilty look is a response to the owner’s behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any appreciation of its own misdeeds.Elsevier. “What Really Prompts The Dog’s ‘Guilty Look’.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2009.
Dogs are only connecting the reaction to an action within 3 seconds. Any longer and he will have no clue what you are talking about.
That’s why it is so important to catch a dog right in the act in order to correct a behavior.
If you repeatedly punish your dog for things he did two hours ago, you will see the “guilty face” more and more often because he will connect the pattern of:
You coming home = angry owner (not pooping inside the house.)
When you are coming home and your dog is welcoming you with an uncomfortable face you may think: “oh what has he done today? let’s look and find it”.
But this is a sign that you have really overdone it and your dog is fearing your arrival every day.
Don’t be discouraged now! You can definitely change that connection by simply counterconditioning your dog to your home arrival.
It’s always best to walk calmly into your house and ignore your dog for the first few minutes.
Now, this might sound cruel but it’s showing your dog another behavior that is calm and friendly.
Coming home all excited and giving pets and kisses could push your dog the other way and those well-meant affections may lead to separation anxiety.
If your dog is calm himself and neither scared nor excited, you can stroke him or give him a few treats which will help to associate your arrival with something positive.
You can also work on the bond with your dog daily and spend quality time together, going on adventures or learning new things.
Why Is My Dog Pooping in the House Suddenly?
One reason for your dog to suddenly poop inside the house is the change of weather.
Cold winters or rainy days may prevent your dog from being able to eliminate himself outside.
When he walks into his warm and comfortable home, he feels relieved and… relieves himself.
This is why I had so many problems housebreaking my puppy in the beginning because it happened in the middle of December and the snow was just too strange and too cold for her.
Your dog might also be a nervous pooper. Sudden changes in schedule or the loss of a loved one can quickly throw off any dog.
Even though your dog is potty trained, digestive issues cannot be held back.
Before you label anything on him, schedule a visit with the vet to rule out any underlying diseases.
A dog pooping inside the house can also be a form of marking territory, even though marking with urine is more common.
Think about how you have reacted to your dog in the past.
If you are yelling at him or just getting very angry every time he does something wrong, it will make him anxious and scared which could cause a fearful poop.
Remind yourself that it is not the dog’s fault and he is not doing this on purpose.
Every time you see an accident on the floor, wipe it up and clean it properly with the Rocco & Roxie Supply Professional Strength Stain and Odor Eliminator to get rid of any smell.
If your dog is always eliminating in the same spot, that might be an indicator that a bit of odor is still left.
A bored dog might also start pooping inside the house.
Excessive energy is another possible cause so make sure that you are providing your dog with sufficient daily physical exercise and mental stimulation.
How to Stop a Dog From Pooping in the House
Pooping inside the house when you are away is a classic sign of separation anxiety.
Watch out for any other symptoms like barking, pacing, destructive chewing or digging.
Separation anxiety means that your dog is in severe distress when being left alone which means that the symptoms should not occur when you are with him.
Severe cases can cause your dog to risk his life escaping from the house by jumping through windows
You can read more about the different solutions in my complete guide to dog separation anxiety.
Fixing the anxiety will eventually stop the unwanted eliminating and it should be in your best interest that your dog is not becoming a maniac just because you went outside for 10 minutes.