To get revenge! Right?
Doubtful. Dogs are not humans and do not think like human beings.
First, remember dogs view poop differently. “Poop would be the last thing that came to [a dog’s] mind as an item of revenge,” writes faculty and enrollment coordinator at the Victoria Stilwell Academy, Christina Waggoner. “If they had opposable thumbs and theory of mind, they would be more likely place a nice poop specimen in a box, tie the box with a bow, wrap it in gold foil and present it to you as a gift. Happy Birthday!”
Simply put, dogs love poop. So if your dog is suddenly pooping in your Pradas, something else is going on.
HOW TO SPOT IT: If it’s not revenge, then what is it?
We reached out to Irith Bloom, certified dog trainer, faculty at VSDTA, owner of The Sophisticated Dog and all-around animal behavior pro to get her thoughts on why a dog might start pooping where you’d rather they didn’t.
She suggests pet parents consider:
- Has there been a change in your dog’s routine?
Dogs rely on their humans to keep them on a schedule. “For example, the dog parent may have changed jobs, or started a new class, so that the dog is no longer getting walks at the time he is used to,” Bloom said.
- Is there something about being outside that is causing your pup discomfort?
“This can happen due to changes in weather (too hot, too cold, too wet, too windy, etc.),” says Irith. “It can also happen if something scary (to the dog) happens while the dog is outside.
“Any sudden alteration in behavior in a dog suggests that something has changed either in the dog’s body or in his environment,” Bloom told us. If the answer is no to the above, an underlying medical issue could be at the root of the behavior. Yup, it’s time for a trip to the vet.
Waggoner reinforces how sudden behavioral changes should include a medical rule-out as a first step: “Always, always, always assume that there may be a medical reason behind sudden behavior changes. Any shelter worker can tell you that the saddest surrenders are those of dogs that ‘are stubborn and will not be house trained’ only to find a bladder stone, tumor, or infection was the cause of the behavior.”
Nikki Wardle of Intermountain Pet Hospital doesn’t think your dog is revenge pooping either. But notes it could indicate:
- your dog is anxious
- your dog isn’t getting enough mental stimulation and feels bored
- your dog may be energetic and need more physical activity
Anxiety, specifically separation anxiety is common. The AVMA says separation anxiety shows up in approximately 20% of dogs.
But why poop in the Pradas, specifically? Bloom points out that your dog may be attracted to your shoe because it smells like you: “Our scent may be comforting to the dog, so the dog goes and finds that scent when he wants to feel comfortable pooping.”
THINGS TO CONSIDER: If your pup can’t think through revenge, then why are they acting guilty?
Pet parents sometimes say that the way their dog acted when the parent discovered the “misbehavior” was a clear sign of guilt. But science is saying otherwise.
According to Alexandra Horowitz from the psychology department at Barnard College, people have a tendency to see guilt in their dog when they believe the dog is guilty. Put simply—your dog sees you’re upset and responds in a way to appease you.
FIRST STEPS TO TAKE: How can I help my dog and save my shoes?
The next time you come home to a mess in your shoe (or on the carpet, your bed etc.), Bloom suggests you remain calm. “Getting angry at best confuses the dog, and at worst teaches the dog that people are scary.”
Determine whether this is a pattern of behavior.
Instead, Bloom suggests you, “clean up the mess and then think about whether this is a pattern or a one-time thing.”
Create a plan to stop it from happening again.
“If it’s a one time thing, come up with a plan to prevent it happening again—e.g., put shoes away in a closed closet, or keep the dog out of the bedroom when he’s not supervised,” Bloom says. ”Also, review your housetraining routine.”
If, however, this is happening as part of a pattern, make an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out other issues.
HOW TO GET HELP: Questions to ask veterinary and behavior professionals
You’ll want to get the conversation going fast with your vet if your dog has a sudden change in behavior. Things you might ask are:
- My dog’s elimination patterns have changed. [Dog’s name] is going in the house now. Is there anything medical that could be causing this?
- Along with pooping in my shoe, my dog has also been [name new behaviors you’ve noticed]. Are these two related?
- Separation Anxiety from ASPCA