How can I get my adult dog to poop where I want, when I want?
October 28, 2007 1:52 AM   Subscribe

How can I get my adult dog to poop where I want, when I want?

A week ago, I adopted a 1-year-old lab mix. I live in a townhouse/apartment complex. I do not have my own yard, but there are plenty of grassy areas around the complex. What I want is to get the dog to pee and poop (when he needs to) in a designated area when we first go outside, and THEN we can walk around. The first couple of days, I would take him to my chosen spot and try to tell him to go (useless; I assume he was never trained to go on command), and failing that, just keep him in that area and try to wait him out. He would sniff around, and once or twice he would pee there, but no dice on the pooping. Standing around in the same spot for 20 minutes is boring, so I gave up.

Instead, he requires that we walk around to a variety of grassy areas around the complex, sniffing all of them very thoroughly before rejecting them, eventually picking a spot after about 20-40 minutes. I keep returning to wherever he went last time, but he has yet to use the same spot (or even the same general area) twice. Every day, twice a day, we have to go through the rigmarole of finding a new, perfect spot to poop in.

He pees much sooner in our walk and I'm generally more hopeful that we can get him to be cooperative with the peeing, but picking a spot to poop is a major ordeal. Of course, there are other dogs in the complex, so I'm guessing the scents they have left behind may be adding to the problem.

I'm guessing this might have been easier if he were a wee puppy, but as a dog who now has his own annoying habits, how can I get him to go where I want, when I tell him to?

I have been using keywords/praise/rewards when he pees or poops. Is there anything else I can do? Should I keep waiting him out in the designated spot, indefinitely? Take him back inside if he doesn't go within a certain timeframe? Are there any products that will tempt a dog to poop on/near them?
posted by thatgirl to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know this is possible and I have read a really good website on it once that I can't seem to find now. However, in my case it seems like my dog needs to... uhhh, work it out a little bit before he's able to poo. What I mean is that he usually can't poo straight away unless he's been holding it for a while. Most of the time he has to walk round a little until the urge comes, and then I can guide him to the area I want him to do his business in.

This happens a bunch when we're hiking or jogging — the physical exercise seems to bring it on quicker than just walking around the block.

I don't like for him to poo near the footpaths or where people might tread (even when I scoop, since I sometimes can't get all of it) so when I see him start to squat I gently reproach him by saying "un uh, un uh," while leading him to a better spot. Then I tell him it's okay, "Go poo" and if he complies he gets lots of excited vocal praise during the act and a scratch on the head when he's done.

It's a lot like potty training, actually. The site I read before says not to physically reward them while in the act because it can distract them. Just lots of "Good dogs!" in the most bright and excited voice you can muster until they are done, then you can give treats or whatever.
posted by Brittanie at 1:03 AM on October 28, 2007

Can you poop on command? Maybe he's just not ready.
Have you tried waiting 20-40 minutes before taking him out?

Its also possible that what you're actually training him is poop = end of walk. Dogs love walkies, they want to be outside, they need lots of exercise, if he only gets out to go poop then he'll make it last as long as he can.

Dogs also like treats. Our dogs were trained with choc-drops as reward, never had much trouble getting them to go - unless they weren't ready to go yet.
posted by missmagenta at 1:53 AM on October 28, 2007

babies need to crawl around a bit before they can do a poo (once they're on solids). i imagine dogs are the same. being horizontal and all.

good luck possum. dog poo sucks (sticks? ;-)) when it's not where you want it, when you want it to be there.
posted by taff at 2:31 AM on October 28, 2007

Best answer: This is what I did for my dog:

Whenver he pees or poops anywhere acceptable, use the cue word that you want. Then reward the instant the act is done.

For pooping, some dogs do take a little bit of walking to get started. This is normal. If you are determined to make him go in a specific spot, pace around at the stop, don't stand still. An area roughly the size of a bathtub tends to be ideal as it is large enough to get things moving but not so far that it's new or even remotely exciting. It willtake some time.

Basically if you are going to wait him out, do so consistently for a while. Same spot every day, pace around until he goes then praise, treat and take him on his walk. If you stay for 20 minutes and get bored then let him poop where he wants, he learns that eventually he will get to go where he wants.

For me I spent several weeks letting my puppy choose his spot but using the cue word and once I was sure he had a connection down, then started using it to trigger the act. If you go the other way, it will take time and a lot of patience.
posted by hindmost at 3:01 AM on October 28, 2007

My mom taught her dog to start pooping by waiting until the dog was ready and then saying, "Get started." Eventually she could say "get started" and the dog would know to stop running aimlessly and start seriously sniffing around for the perfect spot to poop.

However, none of her dogs ever pooped immediately after going out. Maybe that's not how their digestive system works. They all had to run around a bit. So you might reach your goal of having your dog poop WHERE you want, but maybe you should resign yourself to letting the dog run around for twenty or forty minutes. He needs the exercise anyway.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:39 AM on October 28, 2007

Do you know anything about the dog's medical history?

My dog had a huge cyst on her butt that eventually got infected and had to come off. When the vets sewed her up, they didn't have a lot of skin to work with, and so ended up giving her a "butt lift" by way of the tension of the scar. So now she has a really hard time pinching off, and takes a lot longer. She sniffs around more, too, and I think in her case it's the dog equivalent of reading on the toilet. Since it's going to take a while anyway....

This happened to my dog when she was older, though. She'd already been going in a specific zone of our yard, and still does. When we initially trained her, we laid a board against our fence and taught her that she was supposed to go anywhere further back than the board.

So my suggestions are, make sure there's nothing going on medically creating this need to take so long, and use a visual cue to show the dog where you want him or her to go, in addition to what you're already doing.
posted by RobotHeart at 5:30 AM on October 28, 2007

What I want is to get the dog to pee and poop (when he needs to) in a designated area when we first go outside, and THEN we can walk around

I don't know that you'll be able to -- you can train dogs a lot, but the digestive system is still going to have some say. I've had my dog 4 years and he never poops as soon as we go out. He needs to walk, run, or play before he's ready to poop. He'll pee whenwe first go out, but he'll also stop and pee continuously throughout the entire walk. I hope you don't expect your dog to pee once and be done; most dogs don't work that way.

Maybe you can train him to poop where you want, but after your walk, once he's had a chance to move around a little. And by "train him" I mostly mean train yourself to recognize when he's almost ready to poop, and get him to the spot where you want him to go. Eventually he'll associate that spot with pooping and want to "go" there. Maybe eventually he'll want to start pooping there when you first start the walk, but you can't necessarily count on that. And I think it's better for the dog if you let him poop when his body says it's time to poop. Why do you care so much exactly when he does it, as long as you're outside on his walk?
posted by boomchicka at 6:54 AM on October 28, 2007

Best answer: Good advice already. Just like with people, a dog either has to go, or it doesn't. You can certainly form an association in the dog's mind between a cue word and the act (I do this, and it's the single most useful thing I have ever taught my dogs), but if there isn't a "round in the chamber" so to speak, no amount of wishing and hoping is going to make the dog able to defecate, and many dogs need a fair bit of walking before they're ready to go (you will always have to carry poop bags if you're out with the dog, no matter how successful you are at training a cue for this behaviour, and you must always remember that you are at best letting the dog know that now and here would be a good time and place for taking care of business, but this is NOT a truly trained behaviour, and there should never be punishment or anything else negative associated with not going when told). I try to use my backyard for getting my dogs empty before we go for a walk (because I'd rather not carry a bag'o'poop with me on a walk if I don't have to), but they have a whole lot of room to run around and get things going there, and it doesn't always work if I have limited time.

What I would do is this: walk the dog on a leash around near the area you want him to use as the bathroom. When you start seeing signs that pooping is imminent (sniffing, circling), encourage the dog over to the bathroom area and just stand there, stand still but give the dog enough leash to move around as much as he likes, while staying in the same general area, as soon as pooping starts, praise with a CALM voice, interspersed with your desired poop cue (I use Ian Dunbar's term of choice: "get busy", because it's something I never say under any other circumstances, and it's a whole lot less embarrassing to chant at a puppy than "POOPIES!"), so I'd see the dog "assume the position" and say in a calm, pleased voice: "good get busy, good dog, gooooood get busy", and then BIG praise and a cookie when he's done, plus "let's go for a walk" (or whatever term you use for walkies), so that the walk becomes in some part a reward for pooping on cue and in the right area. It's much easier to do this with urination, in exactly the same way.
posted by biscotti at 7:30 AM on October 28, 2007

I had the same problem with my greyhound. He learned to pee in a specific area within a few days after we adopted him, but poop was a different matter. And I learned from experience that no matter how long we waited in the yard before we went out on our walk, he wouldn't go. Get five or six houses down the block, though, and all of a sudden he's starting to give me his traditional "poop signs" (tail out ramrod straight, starting to squat). I thought it had something to do with Trai's love of going for his walk that he was too distracted to think about pooping before we left home, but when I mentioned it to the vet, he said that most dogs need some strenuous exercise to get the ol' poop muscles working.

My advice is to do what we did - carry a pooper scooper bag with you of some sort on your walks and let the chips (as they were) fall where they may.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:24 AM on October 28, 2007

Ditto on the pooch needing time before the poop - that's been my experience with my pug as well. If you're really stuck with this idea, maybe play indoors (fetch, chew toy, something?) for 20 min or so before going outdoors might help get things going.
posted by twiki at 2:51 PM on October 28, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good answers! The last time I had dogs was when I was a kid living in the boonies, and the dogs just went out to the woods to do their business - we never had to train them or think twice about dog poop.

Re: All the comments about him needing to walk around for a while first, I do remember reading that before but forgot. I will definitely bear that in mind and work with him accordingly!

@missmagenta: Its also possible that what you're actually training him is poop = end of walk. Dogs love walkies, they want to be outside, they need lots of exercise, if he only gets out to go poop then he'll make it last as long as he can.

I read about this before we got him, and of course it makes sense, so I've always been careful to never take him right back in after he goes potty (either #1 or #2). Even if we're not out for a full-on long walk, we always walk around for a bit afterward. Though, a couple of times when it's been raining really hard or really windy, he himself has trotted right back to the house, so I let him go in then.

@biscotti: but this is NOT a truly trained behaviour, and there should never be punishment or anything else negative associated with not going when told

Agreed, and definitely not!

@boomchicka: Why do you care so much exactly when he does it, as long as you're outside on his walk?

1. I'm currently unemployed, but once I find a job, I will be taking him out for a potty walk before I go to work. I'm not going to be able to do a 40-minute walk at that time. If he doesn't poop for me, he'll have to hold it until my husband gets up later (he's a graduate student with no morning classes, so he sleeps late). Maybe that'll be fine for doggie, but I figured it might be a little nicer for him if he could go first thing in the morning.

2. In this complex, certain areas would simply be more convenient for me as poop spots - for example, near a dumpster, so I don't have to carry it around for a long time, and not near anyone's door or front "yard" (as it were) or where there's a lot of foot traffic. I always pick up after him, but he has fairly soft stool and sometimes there is some residue left behind.

3. We'll be moving to a "real" house in the next few months, and I'd really like him to do his business in our yard before we set out on our walks. There's no park or other "neutral" space where he could go in the neighborhood we're moving to, so if he doesn't go in our yard, it'll be someone else's yard and I'd rather avoid that. So, this is prep for that.

(Re: his soft stool, the woman at the rescue agency, who has been fostering him for a couple of months, assured me that it has been that way as long as she's known him, and that the vet checked him out and is confident there is nothing physically wrong with him.)
posted by thatgirl at 3:41 PM on October 28, 2007

Response by poster: Oh, forgot...

@missmagenta: Can you poop on command?

I don't know, no one has ever commanded me, but I can go in a designated "spot" without agonizing over which toilet to use! ;-)

Just to clarify, I never had the idea that I could make him go if he doesn't need to. Just that at the times I know it is likely that he does have to go, we could get a ritual going where he'll respond to my cue that here and now would be a good time and place.

The thing that is most frustrating is when we've walked around a while, and he obviously IS ready - the way he's sniffing and his body language clearly indicate that he's ready to go 8212; yet he continues to sniff far and wide for the shangri-la poop spot. Sometimes he even starts to squat and gets thisclose to going, but changes his mind and starts the search all over again. So, I can wait for him to get to the point where he is ready, but hopefully cut out this portion of the routine by getting him to skip the obsessive search and just have him go when I cue him (assuming he's already given the indicators that he's ready).

@RobotHeart: The rescue agency woman says he's gotten a clean bill of health from the vet, but we will be taking him for a checkup on our own, and I will mention our "poop issues" just in case!
posted by thatgirl at 4:59 PM on October 28, 2007

One thing to remember that is vital when housetraining dogs (and which applies here too), is that a feeding schedule = a pooping schedule. You will learn your dog's GI habits (some dogs need to take care of business right after breakfast, for example, some will be a while later), and you can tailor his meal times to a defecation schedule that will work for you (most dogs can hold it for a while, of course, but just as with people, the longer they hold it, the drier it gets and the more likely they are to become constipated).

I actually don't feed my dogs on much of a schedule (beyond a meal in the morning and a meal in the evening, with lunch if they're a puppy), because I like having some flexibility as regards mealtimes, but even so, I know roughly when they're going to need to go in relation to when they last ate.

You may not ever change your dog's habits, he may just be a dog who takes a while to get ready to go, and even though he's giving signs that he's getting there, for him, that may mean that defecation will happen in the next half hour or so (he may "change his mind" because he's just not ready to go yet). But that said, you should make sure to get his anal glands checked. Just like people, dogs are all individuals, and the "normal" range of bowel habits for dogs is pretty wide. However, what you are feeding him will have an enormous effect on his bowel habits. The cheaper the food, the more poop you will have, as a general rule, because there's so much filler and cheap ingredients which are not utilized by the dog (which is just one of the reasons cheap food isn't really a bargain, you need to feed more of it, and you end up with way more dog crap to clean up).
posted by biscotti at 6:38 PM on October 28, 2007

Response by poster: @biscotti: His "foster mom" was feeding him Canidae, so I picked up a bag of the Chicken & Rice variety. This is a pretty well-regarded food... right?
posted by thatgirl at 12:12 AM on October 29, 2007

Canidae is a great food. As long as your dog is doing well on it.
posted by biscotti at 7:08 AM on October 29, 2007

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