Why Won't My Dog Do Her Business in Our Backyard?!!
June 13, 2016 12:25 PM   Subscribe

Hive Mind, please help us figure out how to get our dog to do her business in the back yard.

We adopted Peaches from a rescue a little over two months ago (sorry! I couldn't upload a photo!). The rescue said that she came from a shelter in NYC where she was an "owner surrender". Their vet said that she might be four, but that she could be as young as two. She is a Shih-Tzu/Maltese/Poodle mix.

Whoever had her before us trained her to go on newspaper (we're guessing that she may have been an "apartment dog" who didn't get out much) because the first time that we left her alone for the day she went three times; ALL ON THE PAPER! (Woo-Hoo!) However, she hasn't done her business on the paper since. She will hold it the entire time that we are gone!

When we walk her she has no problem doing her business, but, we have a good-sized, completely fenced in back yard that she loves to roam in, but will hardly ever do her business there.

We are assuming that, coming from NYC, she never experienced the freedom of a back yard, and doesn't realize that she can do her business there. We have tried walking her around the yard while leashed and harnessed, with inconsistent results. Sometimes she pees. Most times she doesn't. She has never pooped in the backyard.

We have also tried a technique that we saw on a potty training website that suggested that you take the dog in the backyard on their leash and stand in the area you want them to go in. Let them sniff around as far as the leash will let them, but, don't move from that spot until they go. Then when they go praise and reward them! Well, we tried that. We stood in the spot for half and hour and other than pulling on the leash the dog did nothing! So we walked her and right away she did her business. And this was after being in the house for 8 hours!

We are certain that she is not going in the house somewhere we can't find. She loves going in the backyard to roam around, but, she doesn't make the connection that she can relive herself there too! Any suggestions would be appreciated, as we really don't want to have to walk her every time we think that she should go (and after 8 hours she should need to go!). Thank you!
posted by Hanuman1960 to Pets & Animals (16 answers total)
Have you tried putting newspaper down outside and see what she thinks about that? It could be a gateway to getting her to associate that area with 'bathroom'
posted by Dmenet at 12:29 PM on June 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

Put her poo outside in your yard. Collect it and put it in a corner you'd like her to go in.
posted by ReluctantViking at 12:39 PM on June 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

We have tried walking her around the yard while leashed and harnessed, with inconsistent results. Sometimes she pees. Most times she doesn't.

I think this merits more work - and consistent rewards every time she does pee (or anything else). Make your backyard a place for "walks" - she'll probably get it fast! And of course continue regular walks as well for exercise and stimulation; but maybe do that after she pees in the backyard?
posted by R a c h e l at 12:40 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

What ReluctantViking said! Also, whenever you catch her pooping, say "go POO!" (or some other cue word/sentence) and do it over and over whenever this happy event occurs. Then, when you go outside, and want her to poop, tell her to go poo! She'll get it eventually and shower her with ridic amounts of praise. We also noticed, that if you keep a pretty regular schedule our dogs poop times became pretty easy to predict.
posted by speakeasy at 12:43 PM on June 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'd do this: when you're on walks, the very second she begins to pee (or poop) use a phrase that you won't be using for anything else (I used "good girl go peepee!!! in a particular singsong tone, with emphasis on the "peepee") and give her a treat as soon as finishes, while telling her she's so good!

Once she's used to associating that phrase with peeing, you should be able to get her to go when you use it while walking with her, and then eventually by giving her the verbal peepee prompt in the yard (don't forget the reward if she does it!). If the yard continues to be a no-go zone, you might collect some of her pee on newspaper or paper toweling during the walk and save it in a plastic bag, and try putting that down in the yard while using the pee phrase.
posted by taz at 12:44 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not a dog owner, but I dogsit for a dog who needs at least a short walk to do #2. Said dog's owners confirm this is the case with them too.
posted by mchorn at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2016

I stupidly trained my dog to weewee pads when he was a pup. It took forever, and I mean months, to get him to use the dog door and go in the yard. I would put the paper in the spot in the yard where you want her to go with a little of her poop. Reward big time if they even tinkle a bit on the paper.

The only good thing that has come from the pads is that my dog will use them when we travel or if he is going to be left all day.

I also think little dogs are harder to potty train than big dogs but I have no proof to back that opinion up. It's just based on my own personal experience. Also, two months is not a long time for a dog to adjust to a new living environment. I would say give them another four months to truly settle down.
posted by cairnoflore at 12:50 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My dogs need a good 10 minutes of walking to get them to poop. Active walking not strolling around the back yard. If you don't want to walk try throwing a ball or toy, encourage active play & running around not just sniffing & strolling. As soon as she starts to poops outside, lots of praise & when she's done more praise & loving on her & she'll eventually get the hint, but some dogs dogs can be a little slower than others on these toilet matters & tend to stick to what they know. I have a stubborn pooper who will hang on for days if the weather is bad as he hates the cold & wet, unless I walk him until he just has to poop.

Dry dog food can be pretty binding add some fibre to your dogs diet (unflavored metamuci or plain unspiced tinned pumpkin)l can help, even if the dog isn't constipated it will make the poops bigger so she'll feel the need to go more strongly and make sure she's got plenty of water.
posted by wwax at 12:51 PM on June 13, 2016

One of my friend's dog's only learned this by watching the new dog. It was a like a light bulb, "oh, we can poop and pee out here!" I don't think they were as motivated as you, but it could be a strategy to invite another dog over.
posted by Gor-ella at 1:08 PM on June 13, 2016

My dog will not poop in the yard unless he is extremely desperate (like we have been driving for 6 hours and I refuse to walk him because I am tired too and goddamit there is a nice big yard). He will normally only do it in discreet places where no-one can see him or find his precious poop and remove it - he wants it to stay where he puts it. I see this as a good thing, because I hate removing poop from the yard.
An element of this is that I have to find places and hours to walk him where there are not too many other dogs to distract him, but we have worked that out fine.
He will pee in the yard, sometimes - I suspect it is when the fox has been in during the night, fishing for interesting leftovers from dinner.
posted by mumimor at 1:21 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

My in-laws used taz and speakeasy's training method to great success. This is also great because if the dog is anywhere unfamiliar you can tell them to go, too. They use "busy" as the word for pooping/peeing-- it's rare you need to say that phrase for anything else. It's still weird (to me) to be praising "a good busy" or telling a dog to "get busy," but a lot less weird than having to gloriously exclaim "good poo" or "good peepee" in front of other adult humans, IMHO.
posted by holyrood at 1:52 PM on June 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Two months is not very long at all. The dog will likely have a different personality in six months to a year. Try putting some of your dog's poop in the yard and/or used newspaper. Doggy may just need more time to acclimate, though.

When I hit the door with my leashed dogs in the morning I try to prime them with, "Time to poop, guys."

I use the super classy phrase, "Fuck yeah, we're poopin'. Good job." to my dog Binky as he's pooping. My other dog requires no cheerleading.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 4:26 PM on June 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think she just hasnt realized it's "hers"...she will get there.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:08 PM on June 13, 2016

For my OMG-I-can't-pee/poo-on-the-outside-carpet-dog I had to take the pee pad out in the yard and reward for peeing/pooing outside. He really displayed palpable relief when I took the pee pad outside - like "I'm really trying to be a good dog, here - why are you making this so hard for me?" Eventually, we worked our way to the point where I could remove the pad - but he has forever remained a very private dog about his business - to the point where he will not "go poo" if you are looking at him. He can "go pee" on command. He also only poos/pees on the perimeter of the outside carpet and never the middle.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 6:42 PM on June 13, 2016

I don't have a solution, only sympathy. My dog is a rescue, and after about 6 months he would pee in the yard, but after 4 years he will not poo in the yard -- except, if my husband is not home for the night, and I'm the only one in the house, he seems to know that he will not get his 11pm walk, and he'll march right out in the back yard and drop a deuce.

My theory is that he eventually learned under certain circumstances -- husband not home -- he will not get the walk he is waiting for, so he does his business. That means that if we really, really wanted to, we could train him to poo outside. I guess we don't really want to.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:20 PM on June 13, 2016

A friend of mine is having a very similar issue right now, and has had some encouraging success by bringing friends' dogs over for playdates to demonstrate -- dog-to-dog -- that yards are both fun for playing and also totally the place to do your doggy business.
posted by desuetude at 2:36 PM on June 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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