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My Dog Will Only Pee or Poop if I Take Him For A Walk

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?

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!

My dog refuses to pee in the yard - Dog won't poop in the yard

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!

Walking my dogs Remy and Ace

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!

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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!

I learned 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.

Me walking my dog Remy

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 Mighy Paw. Go with the unscented version.

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!

*Enjoying this article? Get realistic dog training tips emailed once a week. Click Here

My dog refuses to poop in the yard

My favorite dog products to help

  1. High valued treats:
    I recommend Wellness Well Bites training treats.
  2. Long leash:
    A long leash helps the dog move around and gives her more “personal space.”
  3. Mighty Paw poop bags:
    These are the best poop bags! They are earth friendly and durable!
  4. Fresh, dog food:
    My dogs eat fresh food from The Farmer’s Dog, delivered to our door. Get 50% off your first order.

Other resources:

Get all of That Mutt’s training tips HERE.

Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training, dog exercise and feeding a healthy raw diet.

Kathie Bailey

Saturday 18th of February 2023

I just rescued a breeder dog from a puppy mill at a shelter. Shes very sweet but scared and nervous. I take her to The dog park Where she will Pee and poop As Soon as We Get there But she will NOT go in my yard. She will hold it over 24 hours until The next day when we go To the Park. She is very good with all the dogs at the park. I take her out early in the morning and several more times in the morning. She will not go! As soon as i go to park She will Go ! I cAnt run her to park at 7am every day just so She can pee! Dont know what to Do!! Any solutions would be Greatly appreciated!!

Why Don’t Dogs Poop In Their Own Yard

Thursday 27th of October 2022

[…] Possible reasons your dog won’t go potty or poop in the yard He doesn’t like the surface in the yard, whether it’s woodchips, wet grass, dirty snow, etc. 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.[1] […]

Mary Trebotica

Sunday 12th of December 2021

My dog will not poop in the yard. When he was four months old they lost our fence in a windstorm it wasn’t fixed until he was nine months old was during the winter when it happened so I took a while to get it back up so in the meantime we walked him and he would scream and fight the door knob every time he had to go for a walk to poop while the fence was fixed we also had a second puppy by then and the two of them would run around the yard have a Ball. The other puppy would poop in the yard and Pee and the other dog will still not go in the yard no matter how many times we put them out when he barks and bites the door knob to go out for a walk he will not poop in the yard he could stay out there an hour by himself I tried walking him in the yard he bit the leash like it was a joke now the winters here and I don’t wanna fall in the ice and snow to walk him so how do I get him to get out in the yard and poop

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 13th of December 2021

Is he kennel trained? Crate him when not in the yard. Supervise him when you're in the yard. Then put him back in the kennel inside if he doesn't go. He will go eventually! Then he gets lots of praise and a good reward! Or go for a walk then if that's what he loves. Then lots of freedom inside.

Kimberly James

Saturday 30th of October 2021

I'm currently dealing with this, but it makes no sense because my Lili did it the last 2 nights and now today, refusing. I've had her 3 months and it has been a horrid fight over food and potty breaks. The problem is I suffer with lupus, crippling arthritis and other health issues. She was supposed to be emotional support, but instead she's turned things upside down. It's cold now, and I can't put in 3 mile walks, I struggled enough this summer. I know when she's going to try to get her way, she gets this look of defiance and I immediately know it's going to be a battle day. I'm already hurting my pocketbook because she refuses kibble. I need help. This isn't helping my depression, it's making it worse.


Sunday 12th of September 2021

I know it’s an older article but we are all of a sudden having this issue with our dog. He’s a rescue who we’ve had for a year. He’s a front amputee since we got him so he’s been through a lot. He was house trained when we got him and picked up peeing and pooping outside quickly. Now in the last month, we have to be outside and command him to pee. He just stares at us and wants to play with the toys instead of doing it. We are at a list how to get him back on track. My husband feels like he is training us to play before business and we shouldn’t have to do that. Help!