Canine Behavior/New rescue will not potty in yard
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I have had Peeko now for a month. She is an 8 yerar old Pembroke Corgi that was given to me from a rescue group. She is perfect in every way, except she will not potty in the yard. You must walk her. I have tried baiting the lawn, walking her around the perimeter of the lawn hoping she will go. I also tell her to go pee pee or poopy, but it is not getting through. The only thing I havent tried is that spray you use to potty train a puppy inside or out. The reviews for this isn't too favorable. When she does go out in the yard, she is hooked up to a 15 ft. soft nylon lead. She can have access to almost the whole yard. The Vet also gave her a clean bill of health. So, any ideas? Thank you so much, Faye
Thank you for your question. If I'm understanding the situation correctly, she is NOT going potty inside. But she will only go potty while out on a walk and not in her own back yard. You would prefer that she potty in her yard so that you don't have to walk her several times every day. While she refuses to potty in the yard, she is going regularly every day, but it must be out on a neighborhood walk.
Some dogs will only go on their own property and never out on a walk (mostly timid dogs who don't want to leave any trace of themselves for other dogs to find). Other dogs will only go off their property and not on their own property. At 8 years old, your dog has had a long time to practice her behaviors. If I had to venture a guess, I'd bet that in her first 1-2 years, she didn't have a yard to potty in and so all potties occurred on walks. She learned that this is where potty happens. This is the routine that is part of going potty.
When dogs are puppies - the surface they potty on most becomes their preference for life. If they are going on concrete or sand or grass or mulch, that will be their preference for the rest of their life. It's possible to teach them to go on other surfaces, but it can take time. And even well into their life, if given a choice between the original surface they pottied on and the newer learned appropriate surface, most dogs will revert back to the one they used as a puppy.
I believe this is true as well for the routine that goes with pottying. If the puppy was taken to a yard to run around off leash until potty happened, they will always prefer that scenario over a neighborhood walk - even if they learn to potty on leash while walking the neighborhood. By contrast, if the puppy was walked multiple times per day to go potty, then they learn that routine and it is the preferred scenario.
In your dog's case, I would venture that even in adulthood - in the foster at the rescue - daily walks happened and this is when she pottied.
It can be difficult to teach a dog to potty differently than they have all their lives. In your case, there are a couple of things I might try if I were in this situation.
First, instead of putting her on a tie-out in the yard, if it's fenced, I might just go out with her and let her be off leash. If it's not fenced, I'd take her for a walk in your yard. It should last as long as any other walk - 20 minutes, 45 minutes, however long your walks usually are. Walk not just the perimeter, but meander around the yard. Zig-zag around, walk in figure-8 patterns, around trees or bushes, walk an X pattern from one corner to the other and then the opposite corners. Make it different and random. But go for a walk in the yard. If she goes potty, whisper a praise while she is going, "good pee...." and when she's done, immediately and on that very spot, make a big happy fuss over her. "Oh my goodness! You are a rockstar!!! That was amazing! You pottied right where mommy wanted you to. Such a good dog!!!!" in gooy, baby talk voice and give her three bite sized treats, one at a time, while you're telling her what an awesome dog she is for going in that spot.
Repeat this every potty time - make a big happy fuss over her for going in the yard. If you also take her for neighborhood walks and she goes while out there, don't say a word. Don't interrupt her as outside is still the preference over inside. But because you want her to want to go in your yard, the neighborhood doesn't earn the kind of praise and reward that going in your yard does.
From the dog's perspective, the thought process might be something like, "If I knew I could get liver treats for peeing here rather than over there, well I would have peed here all along!!!" and then you end up with a dog who will hold it on the walk so she can go in the yard.
If you walk her for your regular walk length (but in your yard only) and you know she should need to potty, and she doesn't, then bring her back inside for 5 minutes. Keep her on the leash and keep her with you so that if she does start to squat, you'll be prepared to interrupt her and take her outside again. After 5 minutes, return to the yard and walk her around for another 10-15 minutes. Repeat this process until she goes. Eventually she'll have to go and she will prefer the yard to inside most likely, because the yard is closer to what she gets out in the neighborhood.
If she does pee/poop in the yard, after the praise and treats, go for a quick walk around the block. This way she will learn that going potty in the yard leads to the neighborhood walk. She just has to do the potty first. . .
Option two - if the first option just isn't working for you. If you have a gate to the yard so you can walk between the back yard and the front of the house, open the gate and go for a walk. This walk may start out by going out your front door, around your driveway, maybe to the neighbor's house, then back to your back yard (without going through the house), spending much more time wandering your back yard, then through that gate again and out to the front of the house, perhaps the other neighbor's yard and back to your back yard.... Continue in this fashion, watching her body language and hopefully getting her at least onto your property, if not all the way to the back yard before she goes. Then, just like above - whisper praise while she's going and then big, happy fuss and three bites of treat given one after the other in the spot where potty happened, then a walk around the block as further reward for going potty in the right place.
If you can get a paper towel or a rag under her while she's peeing, or use it to sop up what she just did if she does it off property, do this and then rub that towel/rag in an area you want her to go in your yard. Leave it out there - put a rock on it to keep it in place, but so that the scent remains there. Repeat several days in a row so that her scent starts to be familiar in the yard where you want her to go. Ditto for poops. Pick up her poop, but instead of throwing it away, place it along the perimeter, perhaps at the corners of the yard so that she starts to smell her poop in that area. Do throw the poops away after a couple days and refresh.
Pro Tip: Dogs generally do not want to pee in the same spot where they poop. So whereever you put the pee smell, put about 5-20 feet between that and where you place her poop. This will feel more natural to her as she discovers her own scent in the yard.
Most importantly, be patient. It's like you're asking a 60-year old human who has pottied in the toilet for their whole life to now use the kitchen sink. It feels very wrong and will take time and convincing that this new location is really not only acceptable, but preferable.
Set her up for success as much as possible. This means, try to get her to go in the yard when you know she has to go more urgently - first thing in the morning... her before bed potty, after her dinner. You could try just not taking her for a neighborhood walk for a whole day, but every hour take her to the yard for a leash walk with you - not just tied out and left unattended. With any luck, she'll go. But some dogs are so very well trained and will hold it. I had one dog hold her pee for 16 hours and the owner finally gave in and took her to a known potty spot. We don't want to cause health problems in the process of trying to change locations. So, if you are certain that she has to go and she's held it for 2 hours longer than you would expect, take her for a walk so she doesn't damage herself or have an accident inside. Try again at the next walk. Her health comes first in this.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of any further assistance, or just to let me know how the efforts are going.
Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behavior Specialist