I have several comments on teaching elimination protocols. One is, this is a classic behaviour that requires a “limited hold”. You wait until the dog really SHOULD have to go out and then start talking about it – you have to go out? Are we going out? Oh boy, going outside!
Take the dog out – on lead, off lead, on the grass, on gravel – however you want the dog to learn to do this. Go to your designated spot, give the dog TWO MINUTES to produce. If he doesn’t, hey, too bad, back in the house. If you wander around sighing for half an hour, he’ll wander around looking at birds for half an hour. You’re there for a purpose. In the house, keep a good eye on him so he doesn’t go in there. Half an hour or so later, start the routine again.
Also, if you’re trying to teach the dog to go in a different place or under different circumstances, do NOT under ANY circumstances take the dog back to the original place or original circumstances. Say the dog only goes on grass, off leash. Someone actually presented me with this problem. They had a sailboat and were going sailing for three months. They were thinking they’d have to take an ex-pen on the sailboat and go to shore ten times a day, set up the pen, put the dog in it, wait for him to decide to poop, then go back to the boat.
Do you know that sled dogs learn to poop and pee while they’re running? Like horses? They can’t ask the rest of the team to stop running just because they have to go!
The biggest mistake people make with this behaviour is giving up. I think the dog only goes on grass off lead, and I wait 12 hours with no grass and on lead. He doesn’t go in that time, so I take him back off lead to grass. Then I try again. I wait 18 hours this time, he doesn’t go, so I take him back to the grass again. Then I try again. This time I wait 24 hours and he STILL doesn’t go, so I take him back to the grass.
Are you seeing what’s happening? I’m systematically teaching him to hold it until he gets back to the grass. If I’d just said, the first time, “sorry bud, no grass available, this is it”, applied the limited hold and rewarded him when he went, he wouldn’t have held out for nearly as long as I’ve successfully taught him to hold out!
For dogs that are really good at holding out on the pooping, my vet suggests a couple of cans of pumpkin. I bet if you mixed a can of pumpkin, some bran cereal, some milk and canned dog food and didn’t give up, you’d get results. As an old dog show hand, I’d use a paper match. Suck it up, buttercup, this works. Moisten the business end of a paper match (just stick it in your mouth for a sec), then push it into the business end of the dog. Not sure whether it’s the sulphur or the feel of something there – sometimes just a stiff piece of grass will do the trick – but this almost always produces poop within a minute or two. By the way, this is something you do when you need poop right now, not something you do regularly, or even often.
There is NOTHING more useful than a dog that goes on cue!