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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice November 2018 Issue

Dear Doctor: The Dog Won’t “Go” in the Yard

Q. I have a four-year old Lab mix I adopted two years ago. My problem is that he will not pee or poop in my small, enclosed yard. He always waits until we go out, which we do at least three times a day. I have tried keeping him in the yard without going out for a walk to see if he will “go,” but he doesn’t, and by evening I finally give in and take him out. I have even tried to bring his poo home (in baggies of course!) and placed some in the corner of the yard to let him know it is okay to go there. Likewise, I have collected urine in a cup and put it in the yard. These ploys don’t work, either. Everyone’s opinion seems to be to not take him out at all, and eventually he will relieve himself, but I worry that if he doesn’t go for long periods it could be a health risk. I realize this problem is most likely my own doing since I seem to have inadvertently taught him that he should go outside of the yard by taking him out so much. Any advice?

Judy Ryan

Wilmington, Ohio

Dear Ms. Ryan,

A. We are happy to report that you do not a have a problem! It sounds like you have a delightful dog who will go to great lengths not to soil his outside “crate,” if you will, and also looks forward to going on outings with you. For the record, going with him on walks at least three times a day, as you do, is not “taking him out so much.” An adult dog should be taken out three or four times a day at a minimum. Can they get by with twice a day? Yes. Should they have to? No. So many of today’s pet dogs are bored to death, lying around by themselves until their owners finally go get the leash. Bonding with your dog several times a day by going out with him and letting him sniff and interact with his environment increases both his happiness and sense of well being, along with his attachment to you. The only health risk attached to making him wait in the yard until he can’t hold it in any longer is a mental health risk. You are doing great. Keep up the good work!

Comments (6)

I have the same problem, my boy is also a rescue & when I got him I lived in a unit with beautiful gardens but I would always take him out for walks to the park behind my place, but he would do his wees in the garden cause he could smell the neighbours cat & he'd wee over their wee's & poo's then I moved last year into a house with a yard he wee's in his yard cause there's small dogs either side of him & the back of our fence ajoins onto a walkway that dogs are walked along, so he wees along the fence lines but NO poo he waits for his walks to do his poos my vet said as long as he isnt holding his wees he should be OK & he's a very clean dog...
If you know someone who has a dog or 2 ask them to come over with their friendly dog or dogs & wee out in ur back yard then your dog will hopefully wee over their wee & mark his territory....

Posted by: Sue | November 20, 2018 2:55 AM    Report this comment

I absolutely laughed out loud at the boyfriend peeing in the yard to show the dog! Thank you for sharing that!! I am female but I may try the approach!

Posted by: Judy and Sarge | November 19, 2018 5:57 PM    Report this comment

We have a young female westie who will go in her own back yard, but absolutely refuses to go in other yards while out on walks. I have no doubt the neighbors probably appreciate it, but it is a problem when we go to visit our kids and she won't potty in their yards either. I think eventually she'll outgrow that as she gets a little older.

Posted by: dblack8050 | November 19, 2018 4:30 PM    Report this comment

Although It's great to take your dog for frequent walks, it's not always possible or practical every time. Being able to let your dog out for a quick pee or poo in the yard is convenient when weather or time doesn't permit a long walk. We have trained our dog to basically potty on command. For a while after we first adopted her, every time she peed or pooped we would say "yes! Potty!" and giver her a treat. Now when we say the word "potty", she will go (given there's anything in her body to come out!) and is excited for her praise/treat. It works especially well for her, as she's a timid dog, and is reluctant to eliminate in unfamiliar places, like when we are away from home.

Posted by: giantsquid | November 19, 2018 1:35 PM    Report this comment

I wish I had that problem with my Yorkie. She likes to come in the house after being out and urinate on the carpet.

Posted by: frustrated | November 19, 2018 12:17 PM    Report this comment

About 20 years ago I took my collie to my boyfriend's house in New Hampshire. She absolutely refused to "go" no matter how much I walked her. Finally, one of men said he would take the dog out and see if he could get her to "go". He reported back that he was successful only after he had relieved himself in front of her and showed her where "going" was allowed.

Posted by: Lassiea#1 | November 19, 2018 11:38 AM    Report this comment

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