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Why does my dog poop on the sidewalk?

It can be frustrating when you’re walking your dog and suddenly he decides to poop on the sidewalk. Not only is it hard to clean the sidewalk up, but it’s also embarrassing. If you want to avoid dirty looks from the neighbors, you might want to think about why your dog is showing this type of behavior — and what you can do about it.

Why does my dog poop on the sidewalk?

Like many dog behaviors, there are a few reasons why your dog might poop on the sidewalk. You’re going to need to look at your dog, the environment, and the situation to determine why your dog might have pooped there. A few of the most common reasons include:

There wasn’t an opportunity to do it elsewhere

When pet owners are distracted, they tend to “pull” their dogs along and try to get the walk over with. If a dog isn’t given the time to sniff around in the grass, they may just decide to poop where they’re currently walking. Dogs usually need some time to find a good spot, to relax, and to do their business. If they aren’t given the time, they’ll go wherever they are.

They don’t want to walk in the grass

When the grass is high, many dogs will avoid it. It’s uncomfortable. And that’s actually a good thing, for a large part, because tall grass is where ticks and fleas often reside. You may need to take your dog to space with clean-cut grass.

They’re nervous

Dogs are particularly vigilant when going to the bathroom, because it’s one of the times when they feel most vulnerable. If your dog is feeling nervous, your dog isn’t likely to poop. Your dog might end up pooping on the sidewalk just because it’s an open and seemingly less dangerous space.

They’re uncomfortable

If your dog has developed any walking issues, paw issues, or age-related arthritis, your dog might not want to walk over bumpy ground. They might decide to poop while walking on the sidewalk rather than taking a detour.

They’re used to it

Over time, dogs can just become used to using the bathroom on the sidewalk. This is especially true if they tend to go on faster, more direct walks.

If this is brand-new behavior, it’s likely that something has happened to your dog that your dog is now concerned about. Your dog might be scared to depart the sidewalk, might be uncomfortable doing so, or might just be having a strange “doggy brain” moment and be used to it now. If your dog has always pooped on the sidewalk, it could just be a habit.

Why does my dog only poop on the sidewalk?

Most dogs are going to seek out grass to poop. So you might be concerned if your dog starts pooping only on sidewalk, rather than seeking a more suitable location.

If your dog has suddenly started pooping on the sidewalk, look to the environment first. Overgrown grass or ground that’s otherwise difficult to traverse could be producing a major role. When it comes spring and everything is in bloom and growing quite fast, dogs can become more reluctant to wade out into the tall grass. This is especially true if the grass is wet.

But if the grass is just fine, it’s more likely to be a physical or psychological issue with your dog. It could be that something scared your dog in the grass and they are avoiding it altogether. It could be that they have hurt their paws or their joints and they don’t want to wander into the grass. It could also be that they have just become used to pooping on the sidewalk.

To deter this type of behavior, walk into the grass and wait with your dog. Many dogs have a bit of a preamble or “ritual” to using the bathroom. They need to sniff around, circle around, find the right place, and finally poop. If your dog isn’t being given this time, your dog may have simply started going wherever they could.

By standing in the grass, you give them another option. You can patiently wait until they need to go — which will help them start thinking of the grass as “the place to go” in the future. 

Why has my dog suddenly started pooping on the sidewalk?

Whenever a dog displays a sudden, new behavior, it’s always something that you should explore.

Dogs are creatures of habit. They almost never change their behaviors unless something has changed for them — usually some sort of medical or behavioral issue. 

A dog might suddenly start pooping on the sidewalk if it’s uncomfortable or even painful for them to go off the sidewalk. If you’ve noticed that your dog is sticking to the path, it’s possible that they are having joint-related pain or that their paw pads are hurt. Pay attention to where your dog goes when walking and what your dog does.

A dog might also start pooping on the sidewalk if your dog associates the sidewalk with poop. If another dog has been pooping on the path, for instance, your dog will “learn” through the scents that the path is the right place to go. The best way to counter this is simply to take your dog to the right place — the grass on the side of the path — to “retrain” them.

A dog might also be having gastrointestinal issues. If your dog has an “urgent” poop, your dog is going to go wherever they are without a lot of thought to it. So, if you recently gave your dog treats, or changed your dog’s food, it’s possible that they are suddenly pooping in the middle of the sidewalk because their poops are a little more urgent.

The easiest way to avoid this situation is to walk your dog around your front yard or backyard for a little while before your walk. Your dog will usually go after some mild activity. Many dogs need this type of activity before they are able to poop.

How to stop my dog from pooping on the sidewalk?

Regardless of why your dog is suddenly pooping on the sidewalk, it’s usually a situation to avoid. There are a few ways you can experiment with to keep your dog from pooping on the sidewalk:

  • When walking your dog after a meal, walk around your front yard or backyard for a few minutes first. Most dogs poop after they eat because the process of eating kickstart their digestive tracts. If they poop before you go on the sidewalk, you’re safe.
  • Walk your dog on the side, by the sidewalk. You may want to give your dog a slightly longer leash when walking. If you’re keeping them by your side all the time, they don’t have a lot of options.
  • Periodically stop to let your dog sniff the grass. Your dog is often seeking the “perfect place” to poop. If they aren’t able to find a great place, they might poop anywhere.
  • Watch your dog. If your dog is intentionally avoiding the grass, the issue could be less with the sidewalk and more with whatever your dog is avoiding — whether your dog got startled by a snake or your dog just hates wet grass.

But if your dog seems uncomfortable on the sidewalk and won’t stop pooping there, it’s more likely to be some sort of medical issue. Consulting with your vet can help.