When you walk over to fill your dog’s bowl and find something that shouldn’t be there, it can be disturbing. When your dog poops in its bowl, you may be alarmed or worried, and you wonder what it means. What could be wrong? Is your dog sending you a message? Could your puppy be ill or angry with you? Or is your dog simply giving its lunch a thumbs-down review? Here we’ll talk about the reasons behind dogs pooping or peeing in their food and water bowls, and what you can do about it. 

There are a few different causes that could be prompting your dog to poop his bowl. To find out the true cause, you need to consider your dog’s breed, age, health and what’s going on around him or her. Knowing the issue, or combination of issues, behind your dog’s actions will help you choose the best remedies from our suggestions below. 

Why does my dog poop in its bowl?

Territory Marking with Poop

Dogs may be communicating with other dogs when they poop, in their bowl or other strange places. The dog’s scent lets others know who is in the area, and shows your dog’s ownership of the food and/or territory, and helps establish dominance in a multi-dog household.

If a dog feels in competition with another pet in your home, or feel bullied by a larger or more aggressive dog, it may resort to marking its eating area with scent (poop or pee).

Older Dogs and Puppies Might Poop in the Water Bowl

Age may be a factor when your pet poops in a bowl. In some cases, young pups poop in their water or food bowls. To a puppy, the whole world is a new experience, so pooping the bowl might have been an accident or a way to test boundaries.

Puppies may pee when they’re excited, and meal times are pretty thrilling to most. Puppies who haven’t been house-trained quite yet may be unaware of the right or wrong place to poop. When elderly dogs unexpectedly poop in the bowl, it’s often a sign of a physical problem.

Illness Can Make Dogs Poop in the Food Bowl

Illness can definitely be a reason why a dog might poop in a water bowl or food bowl. If your dog has a health problem, physical or emotional, s/he might poop in the bowl. Any health conditions that causes doggie diarrhea could lead to an “accident” in or near the food bowl.

Nervous or Upset Dogs May Poop in the Bowl

Your dog may be trying to tell you something about its emotional health by pooping in the bowl. Anxiety, stress and sadness or depression can certainly cause out-of-character behavior from a pet, including fouling the food bowl.

If living conditions have recently changed, for example, your dog may act out by inappropriate pooping. If your family and your dog have moved recently, your loyal pet may be out of sorts emotionally. If there is a new baby in the house, or guests, or more noise and activity than usual, these conditions may make some dogs anxious. 

If your dog is a rescue, with abuse or neglect in the past, s/he may be fearful in new surroundings and expressing this with strange pooping or peeing behavior. Former puppy mill dogs may be in the habit of pooping in the bowl, since puppy mills leave dogs with little space to live in.

Loneliness or Boredom Can Lead to Pooping in Highly Noticeable Places

Losing another family pet can be a reason your dog feels lonely. Being left alone while you’re at work or school can also lead to loneliness and/or boredom. If you are spending more time with a new pet, with family or visitors or with a new baby perhaps, these situations can leave your dog “hungry” for attention. When your dog feels lonely or wants more time with you, they may turn to attention-seeking behavior like pooping in the food bowl. Even though it’s negative attention, just like kids, dogs may act out in order make you focus on them.

What to Do About My Dog Pooping in Its Bowl?

Naturally, you want to correct your dog’s new habit of pooping where he eats. To deal with this behavior, you’ll need to carefully observe your pet, study the situation and determine the root cause of the pooping problem.

When you’ve isolated the issue, one or more of the following steps should help you discourage your dog from pooping the bowl:

  • Schedule a vet visit to learn about any physical or emotional problems. 
  • Put food and water bowls in a quiet area. If your dog is pooping in its bowl due to nervousness, a crowded or noisy home, or territorial marking due to other pets in the house, this should help.
  • Consider feeding at specific times only, and remove the bowl once your dog has eaten, leaving less time/opportunity for the dog to poop in the bowl.
  • Clean the soiled carpet or flooring thoroughly. Any remaining scent will attract your dog to poop or pee in that same spot again.
  • Reward correct behavior. Punishing your dog won’t do you any good, of course, and may make the problem worse. 
  • Do more dog-walking. Considering hiring a dog walker if you’re out all day. If you’ve been wanting to spend more time outside yourself, taking your dog on more walks could be good for both of you.
  • Put your dog in a trusted kennel when you’re out of town or have someone stay in your house to care for it. This helps avoid separation anxiety 
  • Let your dog roam the yard. It’s great for your dog to have an outdoor area that’s safely fenced, and even better if you also have a doggie door so s/he is free to go in and out. Make sure your dog is comfortable with the dog door, is not afraid of it and knows how to use it, otherwise the indoor pooping problem could continue.
  • Play with your dog. Whether you’re home or out at the dog park, playing with your dog shows love and provides the attention and bonding your dog is craving. Using their energy playing also keeps dogs from getting bored and anxious. Regular play sessions can help stop your dog from seeking your attention in destructive or unpleasant ways, like poo-pooing in his food dish.
  • Train your dog with positive reinforcement. Once you’re sure there is no medical problem, begin by taking your leashed dog outside and guiding your pet to an ideal pooping place. (Use the leash even if you’re in your own yard, so you can easily steer your dog directly to the same place on multiple days, without the distractions that come with running free.) Continuing to “go” in the same area creates a routine for your dog, which will hopefully replace the urge to poop in the doggie bowl. After your dog has completely finished its business, reward it with enthusiastic praise and a yummy treat. This will soon make a connection between pooping in the right area and getting your approval, and proper pooping should soon become a habit for your dog. 

Why Does My Dog Pee in Its Bowl?

Dogs peeing in their water bowl typically has similar causes to a pooping-in-the-wrong spot problem. Your dog may be marking the area as “his property” to warn other pets away, or to show dominance over other pets in the home. Your dog may be anxious due to a change in your household, such as having guests in the house, adding a new pet or the death of a companion pet.

As with dog defecation problems, always reward the good behavior you want to encourage, rather than punishing your dog. (Never rub your dog’s nose in its pee to discourage it or punish it. Punishment will get your dog to fear you or avoid you, but won’t work at all for training purposes.) 

Whatever else you may do to discourage your pet from peeing in their bowl, first make sure to rule out any physical health problem, like an infection of the urinary tract, with your dog’s vet. If you’re having trouble training your dog not to pee or poop its bowl, or if you’re losing patience, a good dog trainer (who uses methods you approve of) can be a worthwhile investment.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.