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Why Does My Dog Poop In Their Crate? Tips to Stop Dogs Messing In Crates - PawSafe

Why Does My Dog Poop In Their Crate? Tips to Stop Dogs Messing In Crates

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Why Does My Dog Poop In Their Crate

There are several reasons that dogs poop in their crate. If you’re dealing with this issue, you’re not alone. Many dog owners have run into the same problem and it is frustrating and unpleasant for both you and your dog. 

Anytime we are dealing with a problem like a dog defecating in their crate or in the home, we need to make sure that we have an effective dog waste cleaner on hand to get rid of the smell and any stains.

To deal with this issue of dogs defecating in their crates, we have consulted our expert source, Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, by Gary Landsberg. Read on as we unpack the issue and shed light on your questions on why your dog poops in their crate. We will then also look at tips to stop this behavior.

Key Takeaways

  • Dogs pooping in their crates is a common problem with many possible causes. Examples include anxiety, lack of training, and medical conditions.
  • Preventing a dog from pooping in their crate may involve providing a comfortable and clean environment, plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and proper training.
  • If the problem persists, seek help from a professional.

Before we seek solutions, let’s look at the most common causes. There are three categories of common causes:

1MedicalIf your dog suffers from a medical condition that is linked to incontinence, they likely poop in their crate because they can’t control their bowels.
2Appropriate trainingIf your dog’s potty training was incomplete or inconsistent, they may not realize that they aren’t supposed to poop in their crate. Additionally, if your dog is still a puppy, their crate might be too big.
3Anxiety, trauma, or phobiasIf your dog suffers from separation anxiety, noise phobia, or trauma, eliminating in their crate is likely a symptom of an underlying behavioral problem.

Naturally, identifying the problem is the first step in resolving it, so let’s take a closer look at the most common reasons a dog will poop in their crate.

13 Reasons a Dog May Poop in Their Crate

13 Reasons a Dog May Poop in Their Crate

1. Incontinence 

Incontinence affects a dog’s ability to control their bladder and bowel movements, and it can lead to accidents in their crate. In many cases, it is just the symptom of an underlying problem. As such, incontinence features in many of the other potential causes.

2. Underlying Health Problems

Dogs may defecate in their crate if they have gastrointestinal problems or digestive issues. Conditions such as diarrhea and constipation can make it difficult for them to control their bowel movements. 

Also, be sure to read our article on what to do if your dog eats poop.

3. Separation Anxiety or Fear

Dogs with separation anxiety may feel distressed when left alone, causing them to exhibit problematic behaviors. Problematic behaviors associated with separation anxiety include pooping in their crate. See our article on separation anxiety in dogs to help with this issue.

The same can occur due to fear or strong emotional responses, such as during a thunderstorm or fireworks.

4. The Wrong Size Crate & Lack of Routine

For a dog to learn that their crate is not a place to eliminate, they need to have an appropriately sized crate. When a puppy defecates in their crate, it is likely that the crate is too big. When puppies get a very large crate, they often simply poop in one corner and sleep in the other. 

Improper use of a crate, such as keeping your dog confined for too long or using it as a solution when your dog is inconvenient, can lead to elimination in the crate. Prolonged confinement can cause restlessness, anxiety, and stress, leading to soiling the crate. 

5. Inadequate Crate Training

If a dog has poor crate training, they may not understand that it is a designated space for rest and relaxation. They might see it as another place to relieve themselves. Rescues from puppy mills and similar environments (like dogs in laboratories) learn to poop where they stand because they are rarely let out of their cages. This means they learn to accept living in feces and don’t have the natural urge to hold it until they get out the crate.

6. Not Being Allowed Out of Their Crate in Time

Dogs thrive on routine, and irregular feeding or walking schedules can disrupt their potty habits. If they’re not taken outside for regular potty breaks, they may have accidents in their crate. Make sure to see our article on how long a dog can stay in a crate

7. Physical Limitations 

Elderly dogs, puppies, or dogs with mobility issues may have difficulty reaching the designated elimination area in time, resulting in accidents in their crates. Make sure not to punish your dog for pooping in the crate or inside.

8. Fear or Aversion to the Outdoors 

Some dogs may fear going outside due to loud noises, unfamiliar environments, extreme weather conditions, or negative past experiences. They may associate going outside with anxiety, and wait till it’s too late to go. Dogs in an extreme state of fear outside of something may not want to leave their crate to poop, and if they don’t have a crate, they may hide under the bed instead.

9. Infections or Parasites

Certain infections or parasitic infestations, such as gastrointestinal worms, can increase urgency or irregularity in a dog’s bowel movements. It may result in accidents occurring in the crate.

Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can cause diarrhea and vomiting in dogs. If your puppy has parvovirus, they may have accidents in their crate. Note that parvovirus is a life threatening disease that requires immediate medical intervention.

10. Attention-Seeking Behavior

In some cases, dogs may engage in inappropriate elimination as a form of attention-seeking behavior. They may also do it as a response to changes in their environment or routine.

11. Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders can affect a dog’s ability to control their bowel movements, leading to crate accidents. Such disorders are more common in older dogs.

12. Tumors

Tumors can press on the nerves that control a dog’s bowel movements, leading to crate accidents. Naturally, it is a diagnosis that only a veterinarian can confirm.

How do I Stop a Dog from Pooping in their Crate?

To prevent your dog from pooping in their crate, it’s important to make sure the crate is the right size for them. If it’s too big, they may use one side to defecate. If it’s too small, they won’t have enough space to be comfortable. Thereafter, you need to have your dog checked for medical issues causing incontinence, train your dog where to poop, and address behavioral problems like anxiety.

Addressing Incontinence

  • Consult a veterinarian to identify and treat any underlying health conditions causing the incontinence.
  • Use dog diapers or belly bands to manage accidents in the crate.
  • Provide frequent potty breaks.

How to Approach Underlying Health Problems:

  • Follow the veterinarian’s recommendations for treating and managing the specific health condition causing the bowel issues.
  • Adjust your dog’s diet and feeding schedule as advised by the vet to alleviate digestive problems.
  • Have your dog examined for medical issues like infectious diseases, cognitive dysfunction, stomach issues, or any other medical problem that could make them empty their bowels in the crate.

Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety and Fear:

  • Our article on separation anxiety covers the basic steps to helping your dog overcome this issue.
  • To alleviate anxiety, provide your pup with mental and physical stimulation, such as puzzle toys or interactive games.
  • Consult a professional dog behaviorist or trainer for guidance on managing separation anxiety.
  • For previously traumatized dogs, particularly those from puppy mills and similar conditions, you have to start from scratch.
    1. You will have to take them out at regular intervals both day and night.
    2. Because they have lost the natural urge to keep their space clean, you must ensure they eliminate before returning to their crate. Keep them on a tight schedule by taking them out to poop every two hours and take them to the same spot each time to condition them to know where to poop.

What to Do About Inadequate Crate Training:

  • Reinforce positive crate training techniques, including rewards for using the designated elimination area.
  • Avoid using the crate as a punishment or leaving your dog in the crate for excessively long periods. Adult dogs are fine for up to 6 hours. Puppies of around five months old shouldn’t be left in their crate for more than 4 hours at a time.
  • Gradually increase your dog’s comfort and positive associations with the crate through short, supervised sessions.

Fixing a Lack of Routine and Consistency:

  • Establish a consistent schedule for feeding, walking, and potty breaks.
  • Take your dog outside regularly, especially after meals, waking up, and before bedtime.

Helping Your Pup with Physical Limitations:

  • Provide an appropriately sized crate that allows your dog to stand comfortably, turn around, and lie down.
  • Accommodate mobility issues by creating a safe and easily accessible elimination area close to the crate.
  • Consider using dog ramps or assistive devices if necessary.

Addressing Fear or Aversion to the Outdoors:

  • Gradually desensitize your pup to outdoor stimuli through positive reinforcement and gradual exposure.
  • Use behavioral modification techniques and reward-based training to help your dog overcome fear or negative associations.

Combating Infections and Parasites:

  • Seek veterinary treatment to address any infections or parasitic infestations.
  • Follow the veterinarian’s prescribed medication and treatment plan to alleviate the urgency and irregularity of bowel movements.

Avoiding Too Much Crate Time

  • Do not use the crate as punishment or neglect proper exercise and attention!
  • Use the crate as a training aid and safe space, not as a confinement solution. 

Train Your Dog To Poop On Command Outside Their Crate & Where to Poop

It is helpful to teach your dog to poop on command so that you tell them to poop outside their crate. This way you know their bowels are empty before they go into their crate.

It’s also helpful to train your dog to poop at a particular spot everytime. 

Choosing the Right Size Crate to Prevent Your Puppy Pooping in the Crate

The crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. However, it shouldn’t be too big that your puppy can designate a corner as a bathroom area.

A general guideline is to select a crate that provides enough space for your puppy to move comfortably but restricts them from having extra room to eliminate in one corner and sleep in another. If the crate is too spacious, it may hinder the effectiveness of house training.

As your puppy grows, you may need to adjust the crate size accordingly. Many crates come with divider panels that allow you to customize the space as your puppy grows. This way, you can make the crate smaller initially and gradually increase its size as your puppy learns proper bathroom habits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What to do if a dog keeps pooping in the crate?

Begin by consulting a veterinarian to rule out any potential medical issues. Once any medical concerns are addressed, you can start retraining your dog using positive reinforcement methods. 

How to prevent a dog from eating poop in the crate?

To prevent your dog from eating poop (coprophagia) in the crate, it’s important to maintain a clean crate by removing any feces. Boredom or anxiety can contribute to this behavior. Make sure to provide your dog with plenty of toys and mental stimulation to help discourage the behavior.

Why is my crate-trained dog pooping in their crate?

If your crate-trained dog is pooping in their crate, there could be several factors at play. It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian to determine any underlying issues. Retraining using positive reinforcement techniques can be beneficial in addressing the behavior.

How do you deal with a dog peeing in the crate due to separation anxiety?

To address a dog peeing in the crate due to separation anxiety, it’s important to gradually desensitize them to your departure routine. Begin by leaving for short periods and gradually increase the duration over time. It helps your dog become more comfortable with being alone.

What is dirty dog syndrome?

Dirty dog syndrome refers to a condition where a dog is kept in an unclean environment, such as a dirty crate, for extended periods of time. This can have negative effects on their health, including skin infections, respiratory problems, and digestive issues.

Why does my dog poop so much?

If your dog poops a lot, it could be due to a few reasons. Diet plays a role—high fiber or new foods can make them go more often. Also, smaller dogs tend to have smaller digestive systems, so they poop more frequently. Some medical conditions like infections or allergies can also be to blame.

If you’re worried or notice other issues, it’s best to see a vet for advice. Keep an eye on your furry friend’s pooping habits and make sure they’re feeling fine!

Final Thoughts

You can work towards resolving the problem by understanding the possible causes and implementing appropriate solutions. It’s essential to address any underlying medical conditions, provide proper training and socialization, establish a routine, and create a comfortable and clean environment for your dog. 

Remember, with patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement. You can help your dog overcome this and create a happier and healthier living environment for both of you.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.