Why is my Dog Suddenly Waking up at Night to Poop?

dog suddenly waking up in middle of night to poop

As our puppies grow into adult dogs, we assume, for the most part, that they will adhere to their potty schedule and do their business outside. But sometimes, this is not the case.

Is your dog suddenly waking up at night to poop? Why is that?

Your dog may be waking up at night to poop for a few reasons. Maybe she’s getting up there in doggy years, or she has anxiety. Perhaps she has a tummy bug, or her feeding schedule is off.

In this article, I will go over the reasons why your dog may be waking up at night to poop, as well as what you can do about it. 

Why is My Dog Suddenly Waking up at Night to Poop?

Until someone comes along to tell them differently, dogs don’t know the difference between pooping inside or outside. But as we work with them and get them on a regular schedule, things usually fall into place for the most part.

But sometimes they fall apart too. If your potty-trained dog is suddenly waking up at night to poop, take a look at some of the potential reasons why.

  • She’s getting older
  • Behavioral issues
  • She wasn’t taken out before bed
  • Problems with her health
  • Mealtime is off

She’s Getting Older

As dogs age, their ability to hold poop and pee decreases. Weakened bladder or rectal muscles can make it harder for your older dog to go through the night without pooping. 

As she ages, her health changes, and house accidents can be frustrating for you both, whether at night or during the day. Most older dogs know they aren’t supposed to poop in the house, but sometimes it just happens.

Aging changes your dog’s gastrointestinal tract, leading to problems with holding their stool all night. Your dog may be experiencing fecal incontinence, too, and she just isn’t able to hold it overnight like she used to. 

Behavioral Issues

At any age, dogs can develop behavioral issues that can cause them to start pooping at night. There is usually something that has triggered this behavior, especially if your dog hasn’t had problems before. 

Anxiety or Fear

One of the most common behavioral issues that can cause dogs to start pooping at night is anxiety. Perhaps something recently scared him in the yard or around his usual potty spot. 

Dogs are very reactive to situations, and often once their anxiety level goes up, it can be hard to bring it down. It’s possible that your dog was frightened by a loud motorcycle or a loud boom of thunder while he was pooping outside and since then, he’s associated pooping with that loud noise.

When dogs are not comfortable in a situation, they tend to hold their stool until they can relax.

If you recently installed an invisible fence or your dog was recently shocked by one you currently have, that can trigger a fear of going outside. Some dogs are so afraid of being shocked again that they stay near the house totally, which means not pooping outside like they are used to. 

Dogs also leave behind their scent when they poop, which can also make them feel scared if there is something they feel threatened by in or around your house. 

Separation Issues

Perhaps you changed your schedule, and you are working more hours during the day. Or maybe you stayed home with children and are now returning to the work field. 

Any change in a dog’s schedule, including the time we spend with them, can trigger separation issues.

Many dogs do not do well if left alone for long periods. If you come home and find your dog has soiled, she may be experiencing separation anxiety.

Separation issues may cause your dog to start waking up to poop at night too. Not seeing you all day and then having you go to bed means they are still alone. They may poop at night because they fear you have left them again. 

She Wasn’t Taken Out Before Bed

Dogs, like people, tend to go to the bathroom at the same time every day, which usually includes first thing in the morning and before they go to bed.

If this routine changed at all and she wasn’t taken out before bed to do her business, she may wake you up to poop. 

If she wasn’t given the opportunity, she’s either going to wake you up or poop in the house. I’m not sure which is worse!

Keep her schedule consistent to avoid this.

Problems with Her Health

Nobody wants their dog to suffer health problems because, as dog owners, they are our babies. But it does happen, and sometimes a dog’s way of telling you something isn’t right is by pooping at night, especially if the frequency or consistency of the stool has changed.

There are a few health-related problems to look out for.

Tummy Trouble

Tummy trouble is usually the first thing that comes to mind whenever anyone, dog or person, suddenly finds themselves having to poop at night. 

While certain breeds are more sensitive to dietary changes, a change in their food may be the culprit. Dog foods that don’t carry the necessary nutrients can cause belly upset. 

It’s also entirely possible that your dog ate something she wasn’t supposed to. There are a lot of human foods that can cause your dog to vomit and poop. Or maybe she ate part of a shoe or something else that is giving her belly problems. 

Orthopedic Issues

You will find that older dogs may suffer more from orthopedic issues, such as arthritis. Arthritis can make it hard for dogs to squat in the pooping position, so they may avoid it until they are alone at night.

Sore joints can affect your dog’s mobility, and she may be trying to put it off as long as possible. Unfortunately, by later at night, she may no longer be able to hold it.

Other issues you may notice along with arthritis are:

  • Feeling lethargic
  • A stiff, abnormal gait
  • Trouble getting up from a lying down position
  • A reluctance to move from one spot

An illness

Anything from viral infections, to parasites to inflammatory bowel disease, can cause your dog to start having accidents at night. Illnesses can irritate the digestive tract and throw things off. 

And if your dog has diarrhea, there is a good chance she will have to poop at night.

A Recent Surgery

Any dog that has had recent surgery, especially being neutered or spayed, can be expected to have its poop schedule thrown off. Anesthesia can affect them as well as the soreness of an incision.

Meal Time is Off

As mentioned before, dogs are creatures of habit, even more so with food. My dog will stare at me for a good hour before it’s time for her to eat just to remind me.

If her schedule is thrown off and she is getting fed closer to bedtime, this may also throw off her poop schedule. If you hear her crying to go out at night, this could be why.

How can I Help My Dog Stop Waking Up to Poop?

There are several things you can do to try to help your dog get back on her schedule.

Change Her Feeding Schedule

By changing her feeding schedule, you can alter her bowel movements. Most adult dogs do not need to eat more than two times a day. And you certainly don’t want her to have unlimited access to food.

Don’t give her anything to eat for roughly two hours or more before she is ready to settle down for the night. This gives her a chance to poop out whatever is left in her bowels.

Make Her Surroundings More Calming

If you think it could be anxiety that is contributing to your dog pooping at night, try doing everything you can to give her a calm environment.

A soothing, calming voice and touch can work wonders for dogs. Talk to her calmly and enjoy a good snuggle before bed. 

If you think certain sounds are bothering her at night, invest in a sound machine with a soothing sound to keep her calm.

See Your Veterinarian

All dogs need to visit the vet at least once a year for a wellness check, but if you think something may be going on, it’s best to get her in for another look.

Explain to your vet what the problem is and give her an idea of what is going on at night with your dog’s pooping.

Most likely, your vet will be able to point out several reasons this may be happening after giving your dog a thorough examination and any needed tests. And she should be able to help both you and your dog work through it. 


If your dog is suddenly waking up to poop at night, there are several reasons why, from health to anxiety, to changes in routine. By working through these and clearing things with your vet, you should be able to get your dog back on track.

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