Pooping to Establish Dog Territory

by Eldonna Waddell
(Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario)

Reader Question - my dog poops whenever we enter a new space

My male neutered Jack Russell Terrier poops whenever we enter new space. A friend`s house, my son`store, the pet store, the vet`s office....any place that we don`t go to often, or have never been to before.

He gets a 90-minute brisk walk every day, during which he will eliminate normally, one big dump, and sometimes a smaller one. If we end our walk with a visit to one of the neighbours he will absolutely, guaranteed...poop in their house, even if I keep him on a short leash and watch him carefully.

I bought a new car a few weeks ago. First trip out...he pooped on the console between the two front seats while I was in the gas station paying for my gas. Next trip out...he pooped and peed on the back seat, and even though he gets scolded he persists. I'm at the point of giving up and delivering him to the Humane Society.

Have you any suggestions to help me teach him to control this urge?

Vet Suggestion Regarding Pooping to Establish Dog Territory

Hi Eldonna,

This certainly sounds like a behavioral issue, but the first thing to do is to rule out medical causes. Get your dog in to your veterinarian for a check-up, including a rectal exam and fecal exam. Assuming he gets a clean bill of health, then you can move on to behavioral modification.

Do you think he could be defecating out of anxiety? This is a common reaction in dogs and he could be nervous when he goes to places he is not familiar with. You mentioned that you scold him when he defecates inappropriately. You could inadvertently be making the problem worse by scolding him (i.e., you’re making him even more nervous because he’s afraid he’ll be scolded). It is almost always better to ignore bad behaviors rather than punish them.

Your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist should be able to help you come up with a behavioral modification plan and possibly some medications that best suit your dog’s individual case. In the meantime, how about just leaving him at home rather than bringing him out on the town with you?


Jennifer Coates, DVM

Editor Note regarding a Jack Russell Terrier that poops in new locations

Another way to think about this behavior is that it might be an automatic reflex beyond the dogs control. If you think about a dog salivating when exposed to food, your dog may be conditioned to poop when faced with stress or tension. Thinking about it this way, shouting at the dog or scolding does not help. This is why, behavior modification, or allowing the dog to relieve tension another way when in a new location can help. Dogs are very efficient at relieving tension. We agree with the vet that behavior modification techniques can be of value.

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