Ah, poop. There’s no way around getting up close and way too personal with your dog’s feces—picking them up, stepping in them, finding them on your favorite rug. None of it is fun, but perhaps the most frustrating thing of all when it comes to dog poop is, well, when it doesn’t come at all.
When your dog won’t poop on leash
If your dog won’t poop on leash, you’re not alone!
It’s quite common for a dog to refuse to poop while on leash. No, it’s not modesty: your dog doesn’t have the puritanical hang-ups about toilet behavior that we humans do. But the root does often lie in the restrictions we set around what is and is not appropriate pooping behavior.
Think about it: from the time your dog was a puppy you’ve told them when to poop and where to go. You’ve made them wait (or “sit” or “lay down”) while you pick it up.
During housebreaking, you may have become frustrated after finding a steamy pile and confused your dog by scolding them for something they already forgot they did. Or, perhaps, you rescued your dog after they were housebroken and that early experience was a negative one.
Add a leash to that (which has its own set of challenges, restrictions, and triggers) and you’ve got a recipe for a dog that has a few hangups about elimination.
There’s no simple fix for getting a dog to poop while on leash but we can troubleshoot the behavior to attempt to get to its root and overcome it.
Troubleshooting Tip 1: The Leash
One potential roadblock to your dog refusing to poop on the leash is the leash itself.
Take a moment to consider you and your dog’s relationship with that leash. If your walks are tense, anxious, or filled with pulling contests, your dog may associate leashing up with strife.
Humans have trouble pooping in anxious situations too. Imagine having to do your business in a disgusting public bathroom. Unless it’s an emergency, you’ll probably wait until you have another, less anxiety producing option.
In order to overcome this problem, work with your dog to create happy associations with the leash and your walking routine with some positive reinforcement training.
Troubleshooting Tip 2: The Environment
Leash-reactive or fearful dogs may not have a negative relationship with the leash, per se, but still may have too much anxiety to relieve themselves.
The key to helping these dogs with their elimination routine is to continue to work on relieving their fear, anxiety, or reactivity on walks.
Provide them with a quiet relief spot or two along your route like your own backyard, a quiet alley or byway, or wherever on your journey your dog is the least reactive.
Troubleshooting Tip 3: Uncertainty About Leash Confinement
Some dogs feel confined by the leash while pooping. Try this simple progression to try to acclimate them to wearing the leash while eliminating:
- In the yard or other safe space, have your dog wear their leash but allow them to drag it while they poop.
- Next, using a long line (a 30 ft + leash), hang on to the leash while they go in their safe space, putting as little tension as possible on the leash while they go. Do not use a retractable leash! Your dog will feel tension on the line or, worse yet, the mechanics of the leash may start to pull them before they’re done.
- Still in the ‘safe space,” slowly decrease the distance between you and your pooping dog while gently increasing the tension until you are at a 6-foot distance, similar to that of a regular leash.
- Still in the “safe space,” switch out the long line for a regular leash.
- Once your dog has accomplished step 4, expand the type of location they eliminate in, starting first by picking a place nearby the “safe place,” followed by another similarly quiet environment, eventually graduating to busier and/or more unfamiliar locations.
Troubleshooting Tip 4: Be the Relaxation Leader
Whether you find an accident in the house or you’re feeling frustrated by some other aspect of your dog’s potty behavior, your own emotions may be adding to your dog’s anxiety.
If you find an accident after your dog has finished their business, no amount of scolding is going to help solve the problem; all you can do is clean up the accident and move on.
If you raise your voice or otherwise scold your dog in other aspects of elimination, you may be compounding the problem unintentionally.
Troubleshooting Tip 5: Take it Back to Square One
Think back to your puppy training days. Taking your dog all the way back to house training 101. Luckily it’s sure to go faster the second time around, plus we’ve got a great article on potty training adult dogs to help you through your potty time struggles.
Use the power of routine to be in control of the potty situation. Especially if you aren’t consciously aware of what time your dog routinely has to go, make the time to take your dog out to relieve himself on the leash first thing in the morning, directly after meals and naps, and right before bed.
Using a crate or keeping your dog penned when you can’t supervise is a good tactic if you’re having problems in the house as well as on the leash.
All in all, patience, routine, and giving your dog the help she needs to feel comfortable should help you get on track with pooping on the leash.