how can I teach my fastidious dog to 'go' on the balcony?
March 22, 2020 2:54 PM   Subscribe

My dog has shockingly good housetraining and has never had an indoor accident in all the years he's been with me. I'd like him to do his doggy business on the balcony when circumstances make it difficult to go for a real walk. How can I convince him that the balcony counts as outside, not inside?

I'd like to train him to quickly pee and poo out there when a full walk is impossible. So far, he just won't do it, and won't even make a move towards it (like lifting a leg) that I could reward. I've tried getting him all dressed up for a walk and then marching him around the balcony on his leash for a while, no go. I've repeated certain training words to him consistently every time he's pooped for four years straight, but repeating those words don't seem to prompt him to do his business. Any training hints?

(I'm aware that there are some concerns with letting a dog use the balcony this way, but I can clean it up immediately and there are much bigger health concerns I have to take into account these days. It's not possible for anything to get to a neighbor's property.)
posted by moonmilk to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
How about growing a patch of turf in a large flat container? Maybe stick something upright in the middle of it to stand in for a tree?
posted by pipeski at 2:59 PM on March 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

You could try training pads or getting something like this for him to pee on. He might like having a specific thing to prompt him.
Dogs also like to pee on things that have already been peed on by themselves or others, so if you can get something that already smells like pee for him to go on it would probably help.
posted by arachnidette at 3:08 PM on March 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

There are both commercial and DIY “grass pad” or “doggy potty” options — maybe it would help your dog to have a small patch of (real or fake) grass?
posted by Dip Flash at 3:10 PM on March 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

We had issues because of a period when our dog was mostly unable to walk, and I had mixed results with soaking paper towels or newspaper with our dog's urine and placing in the (easy to access) area we wanted her to go ... but she's old and doesn't really retain new info well. So mixed success. She would go there for a while, and then totally forget anything but her early training. If your dog is younger, I'd say anoint that specific area with his pee and poo for as long as you need to in order to encourage comfort with going in that spot. And rewards and loving praise, of course. :)
posted by taz at 3:19 PM on March 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am really sorry to suggest this, but... squat down and defecate there yourself and let him witness and sniff. If you model the behaviour it might be something he will imitate. If you have a kid in the home who shares the status of the dog, having the kid do it would be more effective than if you do it. You are top dog, so he may not imitate your behaviour as much as he would with another junior pack member.
posted by Jane the Brown at 3:23 PM on March 22, 2020

My ex built a small frame, about 3ft x 4ft from 2x6's, set it on the deck and then filled it with tan bark. The dog immediately understood what it was for.

(Actually, she made it a bit more complicated by putting it up on 2in legs and putting a fine mesh screen under it to hold the bark off the ground. You could certainly go that far if you're ambitious but the simple solution should work.)
posted by sjswitzer at 3:44 PM on March 22, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would take something like an absorbent door mat and take out on his usual walk making sure to get it under him for a pee. Then leave it on the balcony for him to smell.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:41 PM on March 22, 2020

This NYTimes article about helping your dog during a quarantine says:
To do this, you should prep for how “you would normally for a walk,” she said, which can include grabbing a leash, bags and treats. Cue to your dog that this is business as usual, even if it’s in a corner of your living room instead of down the block.

“Walk your dog to the area where you want them to go during a time when you think they need to potty,” Ms. Edshteyn said. For most dogs, this happens in the morning, after exercising, after eating or after a nap. If at first your dog doesn’t go, give yourselves a break and return to another area of your apartment to hang out. Then watch for signs that your dog needs to potty and try again.
posted by thebots at 4:46 PM on March 22, 2020

Some pee pads are enhanced with a smell to encourage dogs to pee on them. Put them down where you want your dog to go, when dog goes praise them to the sky & give them a town of treats to let them know that's the correct behaviour.
posted by wwax at 5:34 PM on March 22, 2020

Update: it took a few weeks, but he finally caught on! I ordered and put down a square of fake grass. For several days worth of walks, I collected leaves and dirt from the sidewalk that he had peed on or found interesting, and sprinkled them on the grass patch. Then I cut him down to one walk a day and took him out to the balcony 8-10 times a day to encourage him to use the patch. For a few days he used it reluctantly and only after a very long wait, but he always got rewards and praise for it - but now he's going fairly quickly and efficiently, and also enjoying growling at squirrels from the balcony. He still gets a treat immediately after every use!

Obligatory dog photo
posted by moonmilk at 7:29 AM on April 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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