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.
Check out this article on boredom busters for your dog or these simple dog tricks to tire your dog out mentally.
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.
Sunday 28th of August 2022
I beg to differ, my dog has spitefully pooped in my house and he waited to make eye contact with me before doing so. He’s still mad almost 3 years later because we had gotten another dog and he’s been acting out since. It’s so many different incidents that he’s revenge pooped on but I will say this one, I took them out to potty and he pooped twice and peed a million times and when we came back into the house he went halfway up the stairs and waited for me to look back at him and as soon as we made eye contact he pooped right in the middle of the stairs and then went straight to his cage before I could even respond. There was another incident where he got up on my dining room table (which he knows is a no no and of the 8 years we’ve had him he’s never got on my table) but he waited until we made eye contact once again and then he pooped on my table. I don’t know what else to do with him because if we give him all of the attention and ignore the new dog somewhat the he does good but the minute he feels like we’re giving the other dog any attention then he will do a pooping or try to pee in my home. I’ve even tried different doggy diapers and he’s learn how to take them off or make it where he could still poop or pee with the diaper hanging on him or torn. I don’t want to get rid of him but I don’t want to keep him caged up daily because it’s not fair or a way to live.
Monday 29th of August 2022
your case could be explained by your dog feeling anxiety and/or he noticed that pooping gets him attention. Dogs can feel stressed and they can feel "jealousy" to some degree. And they also notice action = reaction, even if the attention they receive is negative. It's the same with a puppy crying in the crate. If you constantly acknowledge the behavior, your pup will learn to cry so you come.
What your dog does gets him attention so why should he stop? It's not necessary out of spite, but because it provides your dog exactly what he needs. I'd suggest checking out a dog behaviorist and explain everything.
Also, it's best to rule out medical issues. Looking at you might be their way of telling you it's about to happen. But then again, it might also be a way of making sure you see the action they are about to commit, but not meant in a spiteful way.
Saturday 20th of August 2022
I have 2 Bichon Shih Tzu’s sisters Cece has separation anxiety when I leave I put them both in the same kennel when I get back I let them outside. Tonight she decided to poop on the couch after coming in from the yard. I was only away for 2 hrs. What can I do to stop this?
Saturday 20th of August 2022
Hi Joyce, it really depends on how old your dogs are. Are both house-trained (i.e. not puppies, recent rescues, etc.)? So you put her in the crate, went away for 2 hrs, and wanted to bring her to the yard to do her business? Might just be that the time window was too short and/or she was too anxious. I'd suggest to always work on separation anxiety.
Perhaps provide more time and praise a lot if she goes outside. If she is a senior, consider asking your vet if it could be a medical condition.
Friday 30th of July 2021
I believe you are wrong. Dogs do bare emotions and can act out. They cry when you leave, bark and bite when they feel threatened or territorial, and poop random places like your pillow if they feel mistreated ... dog owner for 24 years. Training can hush all of this a bit but some dogs are smarter, emotional and more vengeful than you think.
Sunday 28th of August 2022
@Dickie, I agree
Friday 30th of July 2021
It's not saying that dog's can't feel emotions, just that the types of emotions are limited. Of course dogs communicate on a daily basis and can feel anxiety, or feel threatened, or be territorial. But so many owners falsely believe that their dog is doing something for "revenge" which just hasn't been proven by science yet.
Thursday 15th of July 2021
This is completely off. My dog will only poop on the floor if he wants to go for a ride with us and he cant. Then we come home to a pile of poop in the middle of the floor and when we say is name he wont look at us. Even if we dont act mad.
Thursday 15th of July 2021
Hi Denise, dog owners take these signs as a sure way to tell whether or not it's revenge, but it's actually the opposite.
Most likely it's the following. 1) Dog was scolded for this behavior in the past and the fear is already conditioned and/or 2) the dog has separation anxiety in this circumstance and just can't hold it but knows it's wrong to poop inside the house or perhaps the physical pain of having to poop causes stomach ache or whatever and that's why you'll see him look "guilty" aka just looking not well.
Friday 19th of March 2021
I'm sorry. This is totally BS. Dogs do revenge poop. How do I know? I have experienced it first hand. We have two mini poodles. Beyond smart. They were both potty trained at a very young age. Both have revenge pooped at least once. The male was about a year old. We didn't have the female at the time. He had not pooped in the house since he was a puppy. We had a doggy door and he got used to always having access to the doggy door. He was also used to always being with us all the time. He would get really mad if we closed the door and wouldn't let him in. One morning we decided we wanted some privacy so we closed our bedroom door. He really did not like that. He scratched at the door and barked. Once we opened the door we discovered he had pooped four times right outside the bedroom door in four areas. Solid not runny. He wasn't sick. Separation anxiety? I don't think so. He knew where we were. He had access to a doggy door. He was mad. He was mad that we wouldn't let him in the room. My female had also pooped in retaliation at least twice. She has the same access to a doggy door and has been potty trained since a puppy. We have a routine were we take them to the park every morning. Two times when we weren't able to go to the park for some reason she pooped in front of the front door. We were home. So separation anxiety? I don't think so. It was solid so she wasn't sick. And she had access to a doggy door. Again, she was pissed off that she didn't get to go to the park so she pooped in retaliation. You can make any excuse you want but there really is no other reason that I can think of.
Sunday 28th of August 2022
@Emily, I totally agree because my dog has definitely revenged pooped more than once. So I do know and believe that dogs do revenge poop.
Monday 3rd of May 2021
@Emily, I completely agree with you. I have one that does the same thing. ONLY when he is mad and not getting his way. I go to the bathroom, he pees or poops in the living room because I won't let him come with me. He wanted out of the car to chase the squirrel at the gas station, he didn't get his way so he stared at me a pooped on the seat. He wants the water/pop/drink bottle you have and you won't give it to him, surprise, he will look at you and poop right by you. He doesn't get my shoes to chew, he will poop or pee on my floor, no matter how many times we go out. He begs, whines barks because he wants your human food and you say no, he will poop at your feet. The cat won't play with him, he will poop where our cat lays. Out of being mad. Nothing more. I have plenty more examples.. He's not anxious, not sick, not left alone barely at all.. matter of fact, he has only pooped on the floor ONCE while left ALONE. 🤔. He gets angry and does this out of revenge. He is too spoiled (unfortunately he was like this when we got him, I thought I could figure out how to get him to stop but nope he thinks he runs everything) and if he doesn't get his way, he WILL and DOES retaliate. The ways he knows how. By crapping on the floor. He will stare at me afterwards with an "I don't care" type of look, not scared, not anxious..it's more of an "FU I do what I want" thing. Dogs are VERY intelligent and people do need to stop making excuses. They are exactly like children, some will push you to the limits and not have a second care about it. My cat USED to do the same thing, but he prefers positive reinforcement, whereas my dog couldn't care less. If he gets what he wants, when he wants it, there are no problems.
Sunday 2nd of May 2021
@Danielle, I remember a time when our dog(male) got upset with my dad. Mom caught the dog actually straddling dads shoe peeing in it. 🤭 😂
Friday 19th of March 2021
Hi Emily, well in the first case it might not be full-blown separation anxiety but dogs can definitely act irrationally when stressed. Yes, he knew where you were. Yes, he had access to the outside. But still, he might've been distressed not to have access to your bedroom.
In fact, that's what happens with dogs who are peeing when excited. If trained, they do know that they can't have access to what they want to approach (or they know that they will if one lets his dog constantly meet other dogs) and they're potty-trained so they know where to go instead. And yet, they pee on the sidewalk.
It's the anxiety, excitement, uncertainty, lack of safety in a certain situation that causes them to empty their bladder or even poop, not because they need to go outside. Just because your dog knows where you are, doesn't mean he's feeling good about that.
I'm sure your dog is "mad" more often than once in his life and yet he only did this one single time. Maybe he learned that he'll get access sooner or later and that's why he didn't repeat it, who knows. If he had learned that this "revenge pooping" works and makes you mad, he would utilize it more often.
Not sure about the female since it's a bit unclear. You're saying she's used to going to the park and because you didn't go, she pooped in front of the door. How did she know the first time that she will not be going to the park? You think she somehow recognized that this not a park day and decided to poop in retaliation? That's quite unlikely because she might have just needed to go and the confusion around whether or not she'll go to the park caused her to poop.
Dogs are habitual animals. They strive on routine. If that routine is broken, they do things that seem irrational to us.
Also, dogs have nothing to gain out of being spiteful. Nothing. Getting us mad? Everyone who's worked with a dog knows that the positive reinforcement outweighs the satisfaction of this. Every dangled your dog's favorite treat/toy in front of him? They want to please, not annoy. Some other animals like apes are able to display some degree of these behaviors, but it hasn't yet surely be observed in dogs.
Thanks for your thoughts, Emily