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Dog Gone Problems: My Yorkie suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside

Dog Gone Problems: My Yorkie suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside

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Dog for 9/23/20

Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at dogbehaviorquestions@gmail.com.

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David Codr (mug)

David Codr is an Omaha dog behaviorist. You can reach him at his website, doggoneproblems.com.

Dog Gone Problems,

I have had my 11-month-old Yorkie for about six months now. I take him out every day to potty at least five to eight times. He used to poop outside, but then all of a sudden he stopped.

I would take him out to run around for a while, and take him out before and after meals but he refuses to poop. When he does not poop, I keep him in his playpen where there are pads on the floor (as well as outside of it) until it’s time to go out again, but still nothing. He will pee but not poop.

When I allow him to stay out, he poops as soon as I turn my head. He pooped in my bed a couple of times when I went to the rest room. He will not poop in his playpen or on the pads I have on the floor, but he will poop on the floor — especially on my carpet only if I’m not watching him. I think there’s something seriously wrong with him.

I feed him Wellness dog food because of the research I have done. I mix dry and wet food together. I give him bottled water because our water supply is disgusting. I keep both him and his area clean. When and if he has an accident, I thoroughly clean the up the spot with Lysol and bleach wipes. I try to keep him around me when he is out of his playpen so I can keep an eye on him, but like I said, as soon as I take my eyes off of him, he poops.

I hate keeping him locked up all day, but I cannot tolerate him pooping in the house when I take him out as often as I do. I am trying to be patient but my patience is wearing thin to the point where I am thinking about giving him away. I know if he continues this behavior I have no other choice because I am disabled and don’t need the extra workload I have with him. How can a dog go outside fine for months and then all of a sudden just stop? I really think there’s something wrong with him. I really hope you can help me find a solution for him because I need help.

Carla

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Hi Carla,

If a dog is doing something for an extended period of time and then suddenly stops, there is a reason for the change. In my experience as a dog behaviorist, it's usually due to something the human does. I've had a number of clients whose dogs developed an issue after they chastised the dog for having an accident.

The person means to say, “I get upset when you poop or potty inside the house,” but what the dog learns is “I get upset when you poop or potty.” The dog associates the punishment — either physical or verbal chastising — with the act and not the location.

Since you mentioned this started happening after he pooped in your bed when you left, I wonder if you were cross when you came back (which is understandable) and lectured or punished the dog. It's possible the dog needed to go, didn't know how to communicate or you didn't understand his cue or couldn’t get down and he eliminated after he thought you left him behind.

If you were a client, I'd ask what your dog’s command word for potty is. Most of my clients give me a nonchalant answer that indicates they never assigned a command word to the act or didn't completely potty train the dog. Here is a link to a free dog training video on how to potty train your dog.

It's also possible your dog had a negative experience right after pooping outside. For example, maybe your dog finished up doing his business and then something scary happened right after or even during the act. I've had clients where this happened due to a door slamming, window breaking, bee sting, firecracker or the dog getting accidentally hit by a ball right after or at the time it was doing its business.

These dogs start fearing the activity they were doing when the scary or startling thing happens because of the way that dogs learn. The dog does something and then gets feedback (something rewarding or something it dislikes), which influences future behavior.

To fix the problem, first get your pup into a regular feeding schedule. Dog digestive tracks are usually pretty consistent. So if you feed at the same time every day and keep track of wen the poop arrives, you can narrow down the window.

After a week of this, set aside a weekend to focus on training. You need to make this your number one commitment for two straight days. You will need some amazingly high-value food your dog never gets. Warm chicken or steak works wonders in my experience.

Take the pup out when it's time to go. Give him five minutes to go while you observe. Make sure to avoid talking or doing anything that may distract the dog. If he doesn’t go in five minutes, take him inside and hold him or put him in the kennel or long-term confinement area for 15 to 45 minutes or until the dog protests. When this happens, take him back out and give him another five minutes. Keep repeating this cycle until he pees or poops. When he does, say a new command word like “business,” “splat” or something else. This new name is important, as the previous word likely has negative baggage at this point.

If the dog doesn’t go within two to three hours, try going for walks in between. This jiggles the dog's bowels and moves the food though the digestive track, making them more likely to need to go.

As soon as the dog finishes his business, give him five treats in a row (all bite-sized pieces that can be swallowed in one to two chews). After the treats, spend five minutes doing your pup's absolute favorite thing. Give him a belly rub, butt scratches, ear rubs, go for a walk, game of fetch, etc.

Repeat this for the next few potty breaks over two days. If you do that and never verbally chastise or punish the dog for eliminations, you should have a new command word and a dog who thinks, “My human is crazy happy when I poop.”

Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.

David

Submit your pet questions to David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and question to dogbehaviorquestions@gmail.com. Visit doggoneproblems.com for more from David.


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