Why Does My Dog Poops in the Car? (How to Clean and Prevent?)

Traveling with your dog – what image crops up in your head when you read that sentence? Music blasting through the speakers, windows rolled down, your dog has its head out, a big smile on its face, tongue hanging out, enjoying the soft blowing wind.

That is an ideal scenario we pet parents dream of. But, as experienced pet parents, we know that is not always the case. A dog might be one of the easier pets to travel with, but they have their own issues. Pooping is one of them.

You may be used to scooping your dog’s poop off the ground, but it requires more effort than scooping when the dog poops inside the car. In addition, dealing with the mess and odor can be difficult, especially if you have hours of driving ahead of you.

One of the most common reasons for ‘why does my dog poops in the car’ is anxiety. Your dog may not be too keen on riding the car. But, on the other hand, if the dog is too excited, it may end up pooping in the car.

The article will look at different reasons behind your dog pooping inside the car, how to clean up the mess, and techniques that can make car rides fun for both you and the pet.

Dog Poops in Car – 4 Possible Reasons

Your dog does not poop inside the car to annoy you. Yelling at it will not solve the issue. Instead, try to understand the reason behind such behavior. This can help you pick the right training or precautionary technique to make car rides hassle-free.

Here are reasons why your dog might be pooping in the car.

1. Anxiety

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Involuntary bowel movement is a normal response when faced with a scary or frightening situation – in both dogs and humans.

Sitting in a metal box and moving at high speed might be a usual experience for you, but the same does not hold true for the dog. The confined environment of the car, honking and other loud noises, the smell of the fuel, and the continuous movement may be overwhelming for the pet.

If a puppy has never traveled in a car before, it will take a few tries to get them comfortable with the car.

When it comes to adult dogs, if they associate a car with an unpleasant experience, traveling with them can be difficult. For example, if the dog travels by car only when it has to see the vet, it will develop a negative association. Or, if your adopted dog was involved in a car accident, getting inside a car can be terrifying for the dog.

The dog can show signs like whining, licking, drooling, pacing, or reluctance to get into the car if it is anxious. It would help if you discussed the condition with the vet. In the meantime, it would be best to use car seat covers or doggy diapers.

2. Car Sickness

Car Sickness
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Car sickness is a condition that is more common in younger dogs than adults. This has to do with balance. The dog’s vestibular system is located in the brain, inner and middle ear. The system helps maintain balance and prevents the dog from falling over.

In puppies, the inner ear parts of the vestibular system are still developing. So, traveling in a car can be unpleasant. In addition, the movement, speed, smells, and sound can make the experience all the more stressful.

Puppies should ideally outgrow the car sickness phase when they are over one year old. But medical conditions like ear infections or tumors will make the dog prone to nausea.

If your dog is car sick, it can show signs like:

  • Whining
  • Licking lips
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If your dog suffers from car sickness, it would be best to stick to short trips and get the pet comfortable. Also, limiting food before the trip and using a carrier can help the dog along the way.

3. Excitement

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Dogs can poop involuntarily when anxious, but on the other spectrum of emotions, dogs can also poop when they are excited or happy. So, if your dog loves traveling in the car and spending time with you, it may poop because of over-excitement.

If the dog poops due to extreme emotional conditions, other contributing factors could exist. For example, the way the dog eats, quantity and quality of food, exercise, and digestive state. A vet will be better able to diagnose your dog’s condition.

An over-excited dog may show signs like:

  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Excessive barking
  • Full body shaking

It would be best to take the dog out for a walk, limit food intake and plan for poop breaks on the way.

4. Too Much Food, No Potty Breaks

Too Much Food, No Potty Breaks
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This is one of the reasons for the dog pooping in the car that you may be responsible for. Before going on a long road trip, don’t you eat well in advance and plan breaks along the route? The same needs to be true for your pet.

Most dogs tend to poop within half an hour of eating. So, if you are feeding your dog just before it gets in the car, it will sound the alarm on the way that it needs to go.

Adult dogs may poop once or twice a day, but puppies can poop up to five times a day. So, if you do not consider the pet’s pooping cycle and do not plan for breaks, the dog is bound to make a mess.

The dog will bark, whine, or scratch at the door when it needs to go. The dog may try to hold the poop till it is let out, but such behavior is unpredictable. Also, it is not good for the dog to hold its poop for longer. The poop can get reabsorbed by the body leading to health issues.

How to Clean Dog Poop, Stains, and Smell from Car?

It is essential you scoop the poop from the car seat, clean the area and remove any stains or odor. If your dog can smell its poop in the car, it will think it is ok to relieve itself in the back of the car.

Your dog might be in the pink of its health, but if it poops anywhere inside the house or car, the areas need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to avoid health concerns.

Here are ways to clean dog poop and remove pet stains and smells from your car.

1. Get the Poop Out

The first step is to take out as much poop as possible. If the poop is well formed and log-like, you can use a scraper and dustpan to remove the poop. If the poop is watery, like the dog has had diarrhea, remove any solid bits if you can. Next, use a paper towel or baby wipes to soak up everything else.

Do not rub the area or use force. Doing so can push the poop deeper into the car seat’s fabric. Also, do not let the poop sit for long, or the area can get stained.

2. Clean and Disinfect

Clean and Disinfect
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If paper towels are not enough for cleaning up the watery mess, you can use baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on the soiled area and let it dry. Once dried, you can scrape the powder off and use a vacuum cleaner to clean up any remaining particles.

You can use a mixture of mild soap and water to clean up the poop. Spread the mixture on the car seat and use a cloth to clean up the area.

You can also use pet-safe enzymatic cleaners to remove dog waste stains and odor from the car. These cleaners are simple to use. Simply spray the solution on the car seat and use a gentle bristle toothbrush or a damp cloth to remove the poop and clean the stain.

Once the area is cleaned of poop, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide to disinfect the car seat. Apply a small amount to the seat and soak up any extra liquid with a paper towel. According to the CDC, this is an effective cleaning solution as it can remove bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms from the applied surface.

3. Remove Odor

There are a few easy-to-find ingredients you can use to remove pet odors from your car. Baking soda is one such versatile ingredient. Apart from cleaning, it can also help remove odors.

If you are dealing with a mild case of odor, leaving baking soda on a rimmed plate or a baking sheet in the car overnight should do the trick. Go with a flat surface to place the powder as it increases the exposure and absorbent power of baking soda.

 You can prepare a paste by mixing baking soda and water for strong odors. Spread the paste on the car seat, let it dry and then vacuum the area. Ensure you also air out the car as much as possible. Repeat the process as needed if you can still smell a funny odor.

Another versatile ingredient that can remove odors is vinegar. Prepare a solution with one part vinegar and two parts water. You can wipe down car seats with the solution or use a spray bottle as an applicator.

It is best to have a cleaning kit ready in your car. The older the poop stain, the longer it will take to clean.

How to Prevent My Dog from Pooping in the Car?

Yes, it is possible to remove dog poop and clean up stains and odor from car upholstery. But, instead of a reactive approach, explore ways you can make the ride comfortable for the dog.

Here are a few techniques that can prevent your dog from pooping in the car.

1. Get the Dog Comfortable with the Car

Get the Dog Comfortable with the Car
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If your dog knows what it is getting into, it will be much less anxious. For example, you can start by letting the dog get comfortable with the car’s exterior. Then, let it sniff around the doors and tires.

Next, you can take the dog inside the car with the engine off. Let it see the interior and get used to the smell and textures. Next, turn on the engine and sit with the dog inside the car without driving off anywhere. When you do go for a drive, you can maybe circle around the block.

Let the pooch get comfortable with one stage with a few tries before you proceed to the next. This way, you are not placing the pet into a strange, new situation. The steps involved can help ease the dog’s anxiety and stress.

2. Take the Dog for a Walk

If you have a planned car drive or a road trip coming up, it is best to take the dog for a walk and give it ample time to relieve itself beforehand. This way, it can empty its bowels and not poop while on the ride.

Do not rush the dog while pooping or let it hop into the car as soon as it is done pooping. If you do so, the dog may not empty its bowels and end up pooping in the car.

The plus point of walking is that it can help the pet calm its jittery nerves, and the exercise can tire the dog out and put it to sleep.

3. Limit Food Intake

Limit Food Intake
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Bulking up on food right before a road trip is never a good idea. A tummy full of food on winding roads when you are prone to car sickness is not ideal. The same goes for your pet.

As mentioned above, dogs need to poop once they eat food. For some, it may take 30 minutes; for others, it may take an hour or two. So the dog will want to poop once you start driving.

Also, the presence of food can add to nausea and cause stomach upset. So, you should avoid feeding the pet before the start of the drive and also during the drive.

4. Plan for Poop Breaks

If you plan a long car ride, you will have to stop in between to feed the dog. Keep the meal small and simple, something that will be easy on the dog’s stomach. Keep an eye out for the dog’s behavior. If it starts whining or scratching at the door, they are signs it may want to go. So let the dog out if you do not want to deal with the mess inside the car.

If you are traveling with a puppy, they will want to go more times than an adult dog. So, it would be best to map out poop breaks along the route. Also, please make a note of rest stops along the way where the dog can take care of its business.

5. Go to Fun Places

If the dog has only ridden the car when going to the vet, it is bound to associate negatively with the vehicle. Try to build positive memories for the pet.

For example, where does your dog enjoy the most? Is it at the dog park? Then take the dog to the park in the car. Doing so will help the dog associate getting into the car with something fun.

How to Protect Car Interiors from Dog Poop, Stains, and Odors?

You have taken all the necessary precautions mentioned above and tried to get the dog comfortable for the ride. But accidents can happen, and the dog may leave a mess behind.

So, here are ways you can protect your car interiors from dog poop, stains, and odor.

Dog Seat Protector

Dog Seat Protector
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A car seat protector is a great way to add an effective barrier between the car seat and the pet. Even if the dog poops in the car, it will be easier for you to clean the protector than the car upholstery. In addition, some of them are washing machine friendly. Your car seats are also protected from any dust, debris, mud, or snow the dog drags inside with it.

Depending on your dog’s traveling behavior, you can choose a car seat protector. For example, if your dog feels nauseous, buying a protector with a harness or crate support would be best. It will hold the dog in place and also limit the mess, if any, in a small area. And if your dog likes traveling, then you have mat-style protectors which let the pet move about freely.

Doggy Diapers

First off, know that doggy diapers are not an alternative to house training or conditions like anxiety. As you train the dog not to poop inside the house, you need to do the same for the car.

But if your dog is suffering from conditions like urinary or bowel incontinence, then use doggy diapers for a short period. Incontinence is more commonly found in senior dogs. In this condition, the dog passes poop without any awareness. So, informing you beforehand to let it out is not possible here.

Use these diapers for short durations and keep checking their condition. Keeping a soiled diaper on can bring on other health issues. 

Cleaning Car Seats

Cleaning Car Seats
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As a habit, clean the area of the car where the dog sits after every ride. The dog’s saliva, sweat, pee, or fur can collect over time. These factors will contribute to stains and odors over time in your car.

So, it would be best to wipe down areas after every ride. This way, you do not let any stains or odors take hold. Have a car cleaning kit ready. Have baking soda or vinegar and water spray handy. Also, if possible, roll down the windows as the cross ventilation will keep odors from building up.


Dog poops in the car – now that is an unpleasant situation to be in. If not cleaned properly, your car upholstery will stain, and the car will smell like dog poop for days.

Your dog may be pooping inside the car because it is anxious, stressed, or over-excited. Also, if it has overeaten before the ride and has gotten no potty breaks, it is bound to poop in the car.

For cleaning out poop stains and odors, you can use ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, mild soap, or enzymatic cleaners from the market.

Getting the dog comfortable with the car, taking it for a walk, limiting its food intake before the ride, and mapping out pooping breaks along the route can help prevent the dog from pooping in the car.

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