Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and the
author of “Brain Training for Dogs.”
A puppy pooping in the crate can be a frustrating problem.
The Issue of Puppies Pooping in the Crate
A puppy pooping in the crate may sound like a minor inconvenience, but it can
turn into a major chore considering that the whole crate will need to be
cleaned, any mats or bedding will need to be washed and the puppy will almost
always need a bath.
No puppy owner wants the behavior of pooping in the crate to become a habit.
Who wants to come back after a long day at work to find a big stinky mess? Who
wants to wake up in the morning to the smell of poop?
The Importance of a Good Start
Ideally, good breeders will introduce puppies to the ABCs of potty training
from an early age (as early as 3 to 4 weeks of age). They do this by
inculcating in their young puppies the idea that eating, drinking, playing and
sleeping areas are not meant to be soiled.
To accomplish this, they raise the mother dog and her puppies in a den-like
enclosure with an area dedicated for eating, drinking, playing and sleeping
and an area purposely made for elimination located at the opposite side.
This area dedicated to elimination often has a special substrate that helps
puppies associate walking over it with elimination. This area may be covered
with pee-pads, newspaper, sand, grass, etc.
On top of this, good breeders will introduce puppies from an early age to a
crate, getting them used to being in there and helping them learn that the
crate is a place to eat, chew, chill, rest and eventually sleep rather than
soil. The crate is therefore perceived by the puppy from an early age more as
a bedroom than a bathroom.
Puppies who miss out on these important life lessons may be more difficult to
potty train, causing new puppy owners much anguish.
Identifying the Underlying Cause
There is crate pooping, and then there is crate pooping , in the world of
potty training puppies—in other words, not all crate pooping is created
equally, so there can be various underlying reasons.
Tackling the issue of puppies pooping in the crate requires some careful
evaluation to get to the root of the problem.
One main question is: has the puppy been pooping in the crate ever since you
have had him or is this a new behavior that has just erupted out of the blue?
This can make a difference in finding the underlying cause.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some possible causes for puppies
pooping in the crate.
Puppies sold in pet stores or other places are often forced to soil in their
Why Is My Puppy Pooping in the Crate?
Identifying the exact underlying cause for your puppy’s crate-pooping behavior
may not always be cut and dry as hoped, however, with some information on
hand, you are better equipped to solve the puzzle. Below are some pointers.
1. The Puppy Is Too Young to Hold It
Most puppies are welcomed into their new homes around the age of 8 weeks,
although some breeds may be welcomed later on because they are slower to
develop and need more time with their moms and littermates.
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Maltese puppies, for example, should be removed from their moms only once
they’re 12 weeks of age, recommends the American Maltese Association Code of
Around 8 to 16 weeks of age, most puppies are too young to hold their pee and
poop overnight and most require at least one or two trips at night to go
It is therefore important that before crating your puppy for the night or
leaving your puppy at home in the crate for some time, you ensure he is
“empty” meaning he has peed and pooped.
Moral of the story? If your puppy is crated for longer than he can hold it,
this will result in accidents in the crate.
2. The Crate Is Too Large
Remember how it was mentioned earlier that breeders create an area for eating,
drinking, playing and sleeping and one distinct area for elimination on the
opposite side? Remember also how breeders also introduce crates to puppies as
their bedroom area for eating, chewing, resting and sleeping?
Well, the crate size is very important when it comes to potty training. If you
provide a crate that is too large, your puppy may come to learn to pee/poop in
one corner and sleep comfortably on the opposite side.
To work as a good potty training tool, the crate should therefore be large
enough for your puppy to comfortably stand, turn around and sleep, but not
that large that he can sleep in one corner and poop on the opposite.
The purpose of the crate is therefore to teach your puppy to “hold it” as he
develops because he instinctively doesn’t want to soil his “bedroom” ( the so-
called denning instinct) and to eventually alert you when he needs to be taken
3. Puppy Is From a Puppy Mill/Pet Store or Bad Breeder
Remember how it was explained earlier in a few paragraphs above how dedicated
breeders take the time to create a specific area for elimination and how
puppies are introduced to their crates?
Well, if you got your puppy from a pet store or a not-so-knowledgeable
breeder, chances are, your puppy missed out on important life lessons.
Puppies raised in puppy mills and then sold to pet stores are often kept in
cages and left there most of the time. This only teaches them that the cage is
their bathroom area so they have no problem pooping there when the need
This puts a great dent in the potty training process, as these puppies never
learn to hold it, they just go the moment they feel the urge. Once introduced
to the crate, they’ll just perceive it as a bathroom and will go just as often
4. Medical Issues
If your puppy was doing pretty well in being potty trained and learned to hold
it and not to soil in the crate, and now, suddenly he is having accidents,
give him the benefit of doubt. Chances are, he may be suffering from some
Namely, softer stools and diarrhea may impact a pup’s ability to hold it. The
need becomes more impellent as the stools are passed with more frequency and
Soft stools and diarrhea are often seen in puppies due to dietary
indiscretions (puppies eating things they shouldn’t), abrupt dietary changes
(puppies introduced to new foods too quickly), intestinal parasites and even
potentially life-threatening disorders such as puppy parvo which can be
rampant in some areas.
5. A Matter of Anxiety/Stress
If your puppy isn’t used to being in the crate or he struggles being left
alone or is fearful of noises, this can lead to accidents in the crate. Even a
move or change can upset a sensitive puppy’s tummy.
6. A History of Punishment
If your puppy has been punished often for pooping, there are chances this may
teach your puppy to hide to poop. In other words, if you have caught your
puppy pooping on the floor in the past and got angry or frustrated, your puppy
may have come to associate pooping in your presence with punishment. This may
lead to the puppy holding it and pooping the moment he is crated and you move
out of sight.
Sensitive puppies can develop stress diarrhea when they travel, are boarded or
move to a new place.
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How to Stop a Puppy From Pooping in the Crate
As seen, there are several potential causes for a puppy pooping in the crate.
Addressing the issue quickly is important because too many poop accidents in
the crate may cause a gradual loss of the pup’s natural aversion (denning
instinct) to not soil where he sleeps. Following are several tips to stop a
puppy from soiling his crate.
Exclude Medical Problems
This is an important step because diarrhea may not solve until the underlying
medical causes are addressed. Minor diarrhea due to eating something unusual
or transient stress can often improve using home remedies for dog diarrhea,
but young puppies should see the vet as they are more prone to getting
dehydrated after several bouts. Bringing a stool sample to the vet to rule out
intestinal parasites along for the visit can be helpful.
Feed a Good Diet
Cheap, low-quality foods often cause dogs to produce a lot of stool. A high-
quality diet encourages less stool and stool of firmer consistency, therefore
you’re less likely to see accidents as he won’t need to go as much/as often.
Schedule Earlier Meal Times
Try feeding food no less than 6 hours before your puppy is crated for the
night. For example, if your puppy is crated for the night at midnight, plan to
feed no later than 6pm. The later a puppy is fed, the more likely he’s going
to defecate overnight.
Schedule More Frequent Trips
Take your puppy out of the crate more frequently so to reduce the chances of
soiling the crate. When your puppy poops outside, praise your puppy and reward
him with some tasty treats.
Listen to Your Puppy Carefully
Sometimes puppies alert their owners of a need to potty in the middle of the
night, but the owners fail to hear them. This often happens when the crate is
at a distance from the owner’s bedroom or the owner sleeps very deeply. A baby
monitor can sometimes help these cases. Setting your alarm clock for a middle-
of-night trip can help prevent accidents if they routinely happen around the
Make Sure Your Crate Is the Correct Size
The benefit of a snugger crate is that puppies must choose between holding it
or sleeping on their mess until owners are awake. A crate divider can help
make a large crate snugger.
Use a Long-Term Confinement Area
Puppy owners who work long hours or are unable for some reason to get up to
take their young puppies out to potty when crated at night should keep their
puppies in a long-term confinement area with pee-pads on one side and a doggy
bed on the opposite side.
Ensure Your Puppy Is Empty
Make sure your puppy is always “empty” before being crated for some time. Yes,
that means he has done the “double whammy” meaning he has peed and pooped
before being crated. Training your puppy to go potty on command can come in
handy as your puppy grows.
Use Enzyme-Based Cleaners
Clean the crate with an enzyme-based cleaner (like Nature’s Miracle, which I
have been using for years) and wash any bedding in your washing machine
followed by a spray of enzyme-based cleaner to remove any traces of poop
smell. This type of cleaner aims to destroy the protein molecules in urine and
feces rather than just covering the smell up.
Failure to do so may lead to repeated pooping considering that any odor of
poop will confirm to the dog that the crate is his bathroom.
Don’t Let Your Guard Down
As puppies improve in their potty training, often as dog owners we may become
more lax because we think they are trained, however, we need to remember they
are still young and learning so it is important to remain vigilant. Incomplete
house training is a big issue and it can persist into adulthood.
Avoid Punishing Your Puppy!
As mentioned, punishing your puppy for having an accident often leads to
puppies learning to hide from you to poop. Smart puppies may quickly learn
that when they’re crated they are often left alone, so they can finally poop
without you being around. Some puppies may go as far as pooping in the crate
and then eating it to hide the evidence.
If your puppy has an accident, don’t get angry. Try to be proactive rather
than reactive. Just clean the mess up reminding yourself that your puppy is
just a baby and learning and that you could have prevented the accident by
taking her out and not leaving her unsupervised.
If you catch your puppy in the act about to poop somewhere she’s not supposed
to, simply try to distract her and entice her to follow you outside to the
proper potty area where she can finally go and you can then praise her
lavishly and reward.
Create Positive Associations With the Crate
You want your puppy to love being in the crate and associating it with good
things like gnawing on a long-lasting chew, finding toys and tasty treats in
it and feeling comfortable and safe in it.
A crate should never be used as a place for punishment or timeouts. It should
be a place your puppy is happy to enter. This of course takes some time, but
this is very important.
Try Calming Aids
There are several calming aids available for puppies who are anxious or
stressed. An example is a DAP collar which is impregnated with a man-made,
synthetic version of the dog appeasing pheromone, a pheromone that nursing
dams give off to their pups to help them feel calm. DAP is also available in
the form of dog pheromone diffusers.
I always keep a pheromone diffuser on when fostering puppies or having puppies
over for boarding and training. It helps them adapt more readily and sets the
tone for calmer introductions in a new environment.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
© 2021 Adrienne Farricelli
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 02, 2021:
The puppy mill/breeder idea makes me so sad. I was binge watching the show
Hoarders with my daughter and saw one of the “cases” where a lady was raising
puppies in a small part of her hoarded house as her income. Filthy and so sad
for the animals who had no choice in the matter.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 02, 2021:
Your advice is always excellent. I had no idea that there were calming aids as
you mentioned at the end of your article. Thanks for continuing to help people
and their pets.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 02, 2021:
The too big of crate is common, we always think bigger is better as we imagine
how big our pups will get. It could be easily avoidable if pet store staff
would inquire about the size of puppies so to offer the best crate based on
that info or at least suggest life stage crates that come with dividers. I too
learned many lessons with my first dogs and we never really end up learning
from our dogs.
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on September 01, 2021:
We learned the “too big of a crate” lesson early on! And hubby was opposed to
crate training at the first. So we kept our girl in the kitchen and she
“cleaned” it up. I think you can guess what I mean by that. Then we put her in
the crate, kept adjusting the size, and she was out of crate training pretty
Luckily, except for our training period (not the dog’s) with our first pup,
this has rarely been an issue for too long a time with our later dogs.
Good practical tips, as always!
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 01, 2021:
I never had this problem with my dogs, thank goodness. You have once more
given great advice for all dog owners, Adrienne. I think you give all dog
owners some very good advice.