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Canine Behavior/Dog won't do his business while on leash



I'm seeking help on behalf of a friend, Lisa, who has two King Charles Spaniels, both two-years old, one is male and one female.  The male, Sam, will not poop while on a leash. Until a few weeks ago, Lisa lived in a house with a large fenced in yard, which is were the dog always went- no problems.  Then, Lisa moved to an apartment where there is a grassy area to take the dogs, and Sam will urinate but not poop.  Even though the female does her business and gets rewarded with a treat and praise, Sam still will not.  There is a problem with the area being littered with poop due to others not picking up after their dogs.

So, Lisa began taking the dogs to a dog park where Sam will go if not on a leash.  But, if she doesn't take him off the leash, he will hold it for a couple of days.  Lisa does expect that her husband (soon to be ex) may have smacked Sam or yelled a lot if the dog went in the house (occasionally), but she can't be sure, because she didn't witness it.  We thought Sam maybe just had to get used to his new surroundings, but it's been three weeks, and Lisa can't take him to the dog park twice a day.

Any insight you have is very much appreciated.  Thank you.

Hi Michelle -

It sounds like Sam may have been frightened by Lisa's soon to be ex for having accidents.  Dogs that have been yelled at for accidents and reprimanded in an over the top manner such as spanking, yelling, having the nose rubbed in the accident, etc, can become afraid to eliminate in front of people especially on leash.
If Lisa hasn't already, I recommend teaching the dogs an elimination cue such as "go potty" or "go pee."  She would use the cue for both pee and poop and if she makes it really happy and rewarding for the dog and he will catch on quick.  She would have to carry valuable treats in her pocket such as chicken, cheese, etc.,  It must be something the dog really loves but doesn't get everyday.  She should take him to the elimination area and tell him the elimination cue of her choice.  When Sam pees give him lots of praise in a happy voice and the treat.  Continue giving the elimination cue until he poops and repeat the praise and treat.  Most puppies learn this during initial housetraining, however, it can be taught at anytime.  Using an elimination cue is especially helpful when taking a walk (so the dog does his business in the appropriate area and not the neighbor's lawn) or while travelling and you want the dog to take his potty break at a rest area.
Some dogs will hold it if the area is not clean, or worse, can start eating poop to clean it up.  She should speak to her apartment supervisor regarding the other tenants not cleaning up after their pets.  If it continues, perhaps the tenants could split the cost of a professional poop scooper (yes they do exist) to help keep the area clean and free of feces which can transmit parasites dog-to-dog and dog-to-human.  In many towns there is a fine for not cleaning up after your dog so I am sure there is some course of action that can be taken.
Best of luck to your friend.  Hopefully when she gets settled in the dog's behavior will improve.  Sounds like it's a big change (for the better) for everyone.  Thank you for being a good friend to Lisa.  Keep me posted.

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Jennifer Ganser, LMT, ABCDT


For canines I can answer questions related to behavior, obedience training, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) For equines I can answer questions related to behavior, barn management, health and massage therapy (anatomy, health benefits) I am not a veterinarian and it is not within my scope of practice as a licensed massage therapist or certified dog trainer to diagnose health conditions. Please contact your pet's veterinarian for illness related questions and emergencies.


I am a licensed massage therapist for people, horses, and dogs and a certified dog trainer. I teach group obedience classes as well as private lessons. I also work with horses and help barns establish good management practices.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) National Certification Board of Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)

2009 - graduate of Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy 2010 - certified in canine/feline first aid + CPR by Red Cross 2012 - graduate of Post University equine program 2012 - graduate of Animal Behavior College Obedience program

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