The Doo-Doo Dilemma: Why Is My Dog Pooping in the Car?

dog pooping in car

My dog has been a chronic car pooper for the longest time. I’ve lost count of the times when my nostrils were assaulted by such a fowl stench that it can make me lose focus on the road.

It’s no fun having to deal with your dog’s stink nuggets after a long drive. My dog can hold his poop in a lot better now it still happens on longer car rides.

If your dog is a car pooper too, welcome to the club.

But why is your dog pooping in the car?

When a dog poops during a car ride, it is mainly due to factors that are making your dog anxious or overstimulated. The dog is unable to control its bowels and starts pooping in the car thus leaving the dog owner with a difficult clean-up session.

Let us take a closer look at the exact reasons that are causing your dog to poop in your car and what you can do about it.

Why Does My Dog Poop During Car Rides?

When dogs poop in the car, it doesn’t always mean that something is wrong with your dog. Our pets don’t have the best bowel control and the world is their toilet.

What we are looking for here are triggers that can cause your dog to poop. It can be distressing for your dog and it is something that we can help with.

Anxiety And Stress

anxious dog in car

Every time I see a dog on screen, it is always happy to get in the car and stick its head out of the window to capture the breeze.

Well, it is the direct opposite when I first got my dog from the shelter

Trying to get him in my car felt like I was trying to stuff him in a shoebox. He was yelping, whimpering and trying to wiggle his way out of my grip.

After 30 minutes of coaxing and treats, he finally relented but not without leaving some poop on the back seat during the ride home.

Most dogs relax while they are in the car. But not all dogs are comfortable when it comes to car rides.

It could be due to a bad experience they might have with cars like an accident or they are just unfamiliar with it.

All this added anxiety leads to an increase in serotonin in your dog’s body which can cause the colon to spasm and make the dog poop uncontrollably.

Many puppies are not used to car rides as the experience is so new to them. That can cause some serious smelly and soft poop from your puppy.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness in dogs is a lot more common than we think. This happens when your dog is in a constant state of motion such as being in a car or plane which messes up its sense of balance.

This condition is more common in puppies or younger dogs as parts of their inner ear might not be as developed as an adult.

Symptoms of motion sickness include:

  • Vomiting
  • Restlessness
  • Diarrhea
  • Whining
  • Excess drooling

Motion sickness can also cause your dog to be more anxious about getting into cars because it dreads the experience during the car trip.

Cleaning dog poop AND vomit out of the car has to be one of the lowest moments in a dog owner’s life.

Too Much Excitement

Being anxious isn’t the only thing that can set off your dog’s bowels. There are dogs that will start to poop when they start to get too excited.

It could be due to the extra adrenaline in your dog’s body that’s causing it to lose its bowel control in the car. Some male dogs are even said to ejaculate when excited.

If your dog associates the car ride with the possibility of going to somewhere fun like the beach, park or a place it enjoys, it will get very excited even before reaching the destination.

This excitement will start to build as the journey continues which ends in the dog letting one rip in the back seat.

Dogs Age

elderly dog

Similar to humans, dogs too will have poorer bladder and bowel control as they get older. It is a fact of life and there’s not much you can do.

When my family’s first dog was in her golden years, I swear she had a second bowel specifically for the car. She can still magically poop inside the car even after pooping outside a few minutes ago.

Puppies that are yet to be toilet trained can be poop bombs on car rides.

How To Prevent Your Dog From Pooping in the Car?

As much as we love our dogs, it is a real mood killer when the dog decides to leave a couple of turd seeds in the car.

It isn’t possible to completely stop your dog from popping in the car but there are ways to minimize it.

Get Your Dog Used To Car Rides

dog in car

If you have a dog that is anxious or fearful about cars or car rides, you will need to start desensitizing your dog to it.

This is important especially if you need to take your dog to the vet or groomer.

The final aim is to get your dog to be ok with going in the car and be able to happily travel long distances happily without having to poop unless it’s potty time.

To do this the right way, you will have to do it very slowly and in baby steps.

Get something that your dog really loves and can’t resist like its favorite blanket, toy or treat.

Place the item in the backseat and let your dog have fun or eat it while you sit in front. Just keep your dog company for 10-15 minutes without even starting the car.

Once the time is up, take your dog back into the house.

Keep doing this for the next few days.

After a few days, while the dog is in the car, start the engine but do not drive off. The trick is for your dog to begin to realize that the car is access to its most fun things.

Once your dog is comfortable with the car engine on, take a very short drive to a nearby destination that is fun like the park.

At this point, your dog should be very relaxed and excited about being in the car and pooping is the last thing on its mind.

If your dog shows any signs of distress during one of the phases, revert back to the earlier one to let your dog settle in more.

Manage The Car Sickness

Given that motion sickness in dogs can bring about anxiety, using the above method can help your dog manage some of the symptoms.

However, motion sickness is something of a medical issue and might not go away regardless of how comfortable your dog is on car rides.

Try to keep food to a minimum if you are taking your dog on a longer ride. It’s good to give your dog bland food like boiled chicken and rice which is easy to digest.

This will cut down on the risk of vomiting if there’s less food in the stomach.

Making sure that your dog poops just before the journey will ensure that it has emptied its bowels.

In more severe cases, there are anti-motion medications that your vet can prescribe to help with the symptoms.

Plan Your Journey

plan driving map

For long road trips, it is important to plan out all your rest stops beforehand. The younger or older your dog, the more toilet breaks that it needs.

You don’t want to be caught out on the highway when your dog needs to poop.

Assuming that your dog needs to poop every 4 hours, you need to stop the car and take your dog to potty when the time is up.

Once your dog is done, give it a lot of praise and really yummy treats to let your dog know that pooping outside the car is the right thing to do.

Bring along items that can help to keep your dog calm and occupied like its toys or a piece of your clothing for your dog to smell.

Prepare Your Car

There will be times when even with the best planning and training, your dog might still poop in the cat.

Dog owners need to prepare their cars by buying a backseat cover that can thoroughly cover the seats and make sure it is waterproof.

Putting on a pair of doggie diapers on your dog is another good way of preventing dog poop from getting all over the backseat.

If there’s going to be poop, at least let it be a controlled mess.

What To Do When Your Dog Poops In The Car?

Do not get mad with your dog if it poops in the car. It is something that your dog does not want happening as well.

Shouting and being upset with your dog will only worsen its anxiety disorder with car rides.

You should wind down the windows and turn off the aircon to prevent the stench from being stuck in your air filters.

Dog poop isn’t toxic to breathe in but it can really make you gag in enclosed areas.

How To Clean Dog Poop In Your Car?

As someone who had to clean up dog poop in my car more times than I liked, you can’t just wipe it with water and expect the smell to go away.

It largely depends on the material of your seats too.

Leather seats are a lot easier to clean as compared to fabric which can stain and trap odors.

Use vinegar and baking soda to remove as much of the mess as possible. This will also help to eliminate the stench and stains.

Enzymatic cleaners that you can get at your pet store work very well too as they contain special enzymes to help break down the bad odors.

Plus they are safe for dogs too.

It is important to get rid of the smell as a lingering poop smell will signal to your dog that it is ok to re-poop in the car.

If the poop has gotten into hard to reach places like under the seats or center console, you might have to bring your car to a professional car detailer to get it properly cleaned.