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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?

This post contains affiliate links. I may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post.

Dog won’t pee or poop in the yard

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

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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!

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.

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 Earth Rated. 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!

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My dog refuses to poop in the yard

My favorite dog products that can help:

  1. High valued treats:
    I recommend Zuke’s minis training treats.
  2. Long leash:
    A long leash helps the dog move around and gives her more “personal space.”
  3. Earth Rated bags:
    These are the best poop bags! They are earth friendly and durable!

Other resources:

Get all of our training tips HERE

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Lindsay Stordahl is the founder of That Mutt. She writes about dog training and behavior, healthy raw food for pets and running with dogs.

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Jean B

Friday 4th of December 2020

Same problem with our rescue retired racer greyhound. At first she would do all her business in the backyard but then stopped when we started doing other things in the backyard (like socializing Covid-style). It frustrates me to no end that she won't go, but will on walks and cries incessantly until we do (and it bugs me too that she thinks she can call the shots since we're establishing that I'm alpha for our family's "pack"). But it's dawning on me that she may have decided that the yard is part of our "den", since we did some lifestyle activities out there, and she KNOWS not to go in the house (learned that that hard way as she watched me furiously scrub pee out of the carpet). She's a smart girl...and I think she's trying to play it safe and not go on our property. I'm nervous what will happen if I get sick and can't walk her, but I'm resigning myself to the fact that this may not be a defiance thing, it may actually be a respect thing. I think we'll just have to make a plan with a trusted neighbor/family member/local pro if I get incapacitated and can't walk her off-site. I'm wondering if some of your dogs with the same problem may have made the same association, and that I suppose we should be grateful that they want to go away from our living spaces, not inside of them.

Ludovica

Monday 26th of October 2020

Hi, I have a wolf dog who’s just turned 19 months and a medium mixed breed spinone italiano, 4 years. They’re both whole. Two weeks ago the wolf dog had some aggressive behaviours with the spinone and he got very frightened. It’s 3 days now he won’t pee in the yarn... if I walk him 2 metres far from the yarn he’ll have a veeeeery long pee. Suggestions?

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 26th of October 2020

I would probably just walk him a few meters from the yard if he will pee there. In a few days, he might feel safer again and go back to normal.

Kendall Helm

Monday 1st of June 2020

My 4 year old mix does this. She will not go in the yard. If we walk her she has no problem. But she will come in and go in the house. She refuses to go in our yard no matter how much we put her out. I have a newborn and I live in michigan so its not possible to walk her. Im desperate. I can't have my house a mess. I will steam clean and she will come right in and go on the floor that day! Help

Justin

Saturday 25th of April 2020

None of these tips helps with my dog. He just REFUSES to go, we'll take him out and hell just try to pull us back inside, try to do the 10 minutes thing then back in, but we could be doing that for over 24 hours and he STILL wouldn't even PEE. Sometimes he'll pee, but its very rare he'll poop. But as soon as we take him on a walk, instantly starts peeing and looking for a place to poop. We can't let him run around off leash because he jumps our fence. He'll sit here and scream at us to take him out, but won't do anything when we do. We can't take him on as many walks anymore with COVID, so we're worried his stubbornness is going to make him sick.

Baylie

Friday 6th of December 2019

I adopted my dog just over 2 years ago and he has always had this issue but not as bad at first. We recently moved and have been at the new house for about 3 weeks. He does not have a problem peeing in our yard but I will be outside with him for hours some days walking circles in our yard which is pretty big trying to get him to go poop. However, if we walk even 5 feet off our property he is going just fine. He enjoys walking around the yard 2 laps is like a regular 15 minute walk for him but he will hold it to the point of walking very awkward until we get right over the property line. We are in the process of saving to build him a fence but I'm worried that he still wont go in our yard and we will start upsetting the neighbors and their dogs territory. Also, I always go back and pick it up and put it in our yard in the few places he has went this doesn't seem to matter to him though.