Yes, you read that right!
This is actually a common problem that comes up every now and then in the emails I get.
For whatever reason, the dog “holds it” and won’t poop or pee in the yard until the owner takes him for a walk. He refuses to go to the bathroom in the yard. He will only pee or poop on walks.
You might be thinking, smart dog!
Yes, it’s very possible the dog figured out if he pees right away he gets taken right back inside. However, if he holds it longer he gets to be outside longer.
Of course, the real problem would be if he starts going to the bathroom in the house because he doesn’t want to go in the yard. Hopefully you’re not having that problem. If so, then it’s time to go back to the basics and treat him like he’s not potty trained. Also see my post: How long does it take to potty train a puppy?
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Dog won’t pee or poop in the yard
Possible reasons your dog won’t go potty or poop in the yard
- He’s distracted in the yard. (Neighbor dogs, smells, noises, looking for other family members)
- He doesn’t like the surface in the yard, whether it’s woodchips, wet grass, dirty snow, etc.
- She doesn’t like the smells from so many other dogs (common if you’re in an apartment)
- She doesn’t like the smell of her own pee (if you have a small yard)
- He doesn’t want to step in the pee from other dogs or from himself
- Your dog prefers to pee on bushes & there aren’t any bushes in the yard
- He feels like your small yard is an extension of the house & doesn’t want to soil the area
- He’s never had a yard before so this is new to him – Perhaps he peed only on concrete at a shelter or only on walks in a past apartment home.
- The dog might be used to peeing while on a leash – try leashing him in the yard
- Some dogs need to run around a bit before they have to poop!
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My dog won’t go potty while on a leash
One related issue for some dogs is the leash. For others, it’s not being on a leash!
So, you might try the opposite of what you’re currently doing. If that’s possible.
For example, if you recently adopted a dog, he might’ve lived in an apartment before and all of his bathroom breaks were on a leash. So now he associates potty breaks with being on a leash. So try using a leash in the yard.
Or the opposite could be true. Maybe your dog is used to going potty off leash in a fenced area and now that you’ve moved to a house with no fenced yard, she is not used to going potty in that environment. You could try using a longer, 30 foot leash or a retractable leash to give her more space.
See this article: My dog won’t pee while on a leash!
What to do if your dog won’t go potty or poop in the yard
If the leash doesn’t seem to be the issue, the first step is to try to figure out why your dog is “holding it.” Hopefully some of the above bullet points I mentioned can help you brainstorm.
If it’s a new environment for the dog, just try to be patient and remember to reward him for going potty in the right place. Sometimes dogs just need a few days or weeks to adjust to a new routine.
Here are some additional tips for getting your dog to poop in the yard:
1. Use the walk as a reward!
Stand with him for 5 or 10 minutes in the yard until he goes. Then take him for a walk as a reward! Even if it’s just a 5-minute walk. If he doesn’t poop or pee, then head back inside. No walk.
Also, don’t end his walks or head for home as soon as he pees. Keep walking for a bit. The fun shouldn’t end because he peed or pooped.
2. Give him 10 minutes to poop in the yard and then head back inside
If he doesn’t go poop in the yard, then take him back inside. Put him in a kennel/crate if you’re worried he’ll have an accident. Then take him outside again in a half-hour. Repeat as needed.
I realize you only have so much time in a day, especially if you’re trying to get ready for work, but that’s what I’d recommend if at all possible. Most dogs will go if they have to. If you have to get to work then you may need to include an actual walk as part of the morning routine so your dog will actually go. Then, keep your evening “walks” to the yard.
When he finally does pee or poop in the yard, give a treat immediately and head out for a walk as a reward!
3. Use highly valued treats
Go back to some basics and reward your dog with highly valued food for peeing/pooping in the yard. Use jerky treats, real chicken, string cheese, hot dogs, whatever he loves! And try to walk him as a reward when you can.
4. Stay with your dog in the yard.
If you’re not currently standing in the yard with your dog, then try that. Some dogs are just nervous about being left outside or they are too worried about what you’re doing. This is especially true with newly adopted dogs or puppies or if you’ve moved to a new home with your dog.
5. Invite other dogs to come pee in your yard!
Yes, this sounds a bit silly. However, most dogs like to sniff on walks where other dogs have peed and then they “mark” the area. Males and females do this. So, one idea to try is to actually ask the neighbor dogs or friends’ dogs to come pee in your yard!
6. Try not to get frustrated if your dog won’t poop in the yard
I used to get mad at my dog Ace when he wouldn’t poop in the yard. I’d be like, “Hurry up!” in a mean voice. My obvious frustration caused him to feel tense and stressed and maybe even afraid of me and then he wouldn’t go to the bathroom for sure! Today I know I have to be patient and positive with him. He’s sensitive. 🙂
7. Does he need to move around?
Some dogs really need to jog around a bit in order to, shall we say, get things moving in order to poop! This is annoying because nearly every dog I take running will poop about two minutes into the run! That’s just the way it is!
If you think your dog needs to move around a bit, try tossing the ball or chasing him around the yard. He might poop then!
As I mentioned above, often simply using a long leash or retractable leash will allow your dog to move around and … “get things moving.” Or, if the dog just needs some space/”privacy” then the longer leash helps with that too.
How to teach your dog to pee or poop on command
It’s helpful to teach your dog a phrase that signals to go to the bathroom. That way, you can communicate to your dog what you want her to do when you’re in a hurry or when you’re in a new environment. For example, some dogs are unsure about where to go potty when traveling. Silly dogs!
First, pick a phrase you want to use to signal to your dog to go to the bathroom. I use “hurry.” You could say, “go potty” or whatever phrase you want to use.
Start out by giving this command when you know your dog is about to go potty or when you’re in the area she normally goes. As soon as she’s going, say, “Hurry” and praise your dog with a treat.
Eventually, you will be able to say “hurry” and your dog will understand what to do.
I have not trained my dog two separate words for peeing and pooping, but I’m guessing some people have successful trained two different commands.
How to teach a dog NOT to poop in the yard
Believe it or not, some people actually train their dogs not to poop or pee in the yard on purpose. They do so if they want to keep the yard cleaner or if they want to stop the dog from killing the grass.
So, it’s probably not the end of the world if you have to take your dog for a walk two or three times per day to give him a chance to poop. Just plan the walks at regular times, and it’s really no big deal. Your dog will get used to going to the bathroom on this routine.
If you need poop bags, I highly recommend the earth friendly bags from Earth Rated.
So those are my ideas. I know this is a strange topic but it really is a fairly common problem!
Have any of you dealt with this issue of the dog refusing to poop in the yard? How did you solve it?
Let me know in the comments what has worked for you!
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Our favorite dog products that can help:
- High valued treats:
I recommend Zuke’s minis training treats.
- Long leash:
A long leash helps the dog move around and gives her more “personal space.”
- Earth Rated bags:
These are the best poop bags! They are earth friendly and durable!
- How to potty train an adult dog
- How long does it take to potty train a puppy?
- Stop my dog from peeing in the crate
- How to train my dog to use pee pads
- Stop a dog from marking in the house
If your specific problem was not addressed here, you may be interested in our one-on-one dog training. Ask us unlimited dog training questions by email for just $9.99/mo (cancel anytime). Learn more here or email Lindsay@ThatMutt.com.
Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.