Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Toileting away from the home...

[Name] = Jo
[County] = Surrey

[Country] = England
[Training Question] = I have been walking my neighbour’s dog for about a year now, he’s a border/cairn terrier cross and is a rescue dog. He won't do a bowel movement in his back garden, only doing so when he's on his walk. This is causing his owner a lot of problems as his owner has mobility problems and finds it difficult to get the dog out three times a day to go to the toilet and it would be much easier for him if he would go in the back garden. The dog had this problem since coming to his owner three years ago, and this is his third home. His owner has no solid information on the dog’s first home, but thinks that he was punished for going to the toilet in his back garden. Is there anyway to change this behaviour so that he will do a bowel movement in his back garden and on the walk?

Hello Jo, and thank you for this interesting question for D For Dog.

This is not the first time I have been asked this, and whilst he is having a chance to eliminate when on walks away from the home, it is indeed difficult to stop such behaviour. Bare in mind that it’s normal and desirable for a dog to eliminate away from its living habitat, and so in many respects the dog does not have a behavioural problem. This also suggests that the dog was not necessarily punished for doing so at his previous home. A behaviour problem is only classified as such when it affects the owner and their lifestyle. In the circumstances I can see that this does present some frustrations.

Should the dog eliminate when outside away from the home, there is nothing that can or should be done. Simply pick up as normal and carry on.
The best thing is to reward the behaviour we do want. This would involve you both agreeing a key word to use when the dog does relieves itself at any time or place to build an association towards that word. I like the term ‘Hurry up’. Though any clear term would work just as well. My own dogs are trained to go on command, though this takes time from puppy-hood to get right.

One method would be to not take the dog outside for a week and to put it in such a position so that it has to go outside within the owner’s grounds. The owner must be with the dog as soon as it goes ready to reward with food (assuming the dog is food driven). Something liked cooked liver or any other high value meat based product can get the message home that you’re happy and you approve. Some dogs are mad for the favourite tennis ball for example, so use this also if you think it will help. Simply throw the ball to reward the pooing in the garden! Play with the dog for a few minutes, and then come back in.

Not taking the dog out for a week will have effects on the dog’s energy levels, so the owner will need to interact with the dog more in the home. Feeding the dog through a treat ball or similar can be a good start, and working on a few simple yet enjoyable fetch games can also relieve the energy.

See how you get on with this approach, and feel free to contact me directly if this needs modifying.

Good luck.

Nick Jones MCFBA. Alpha Dog Behaviour

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