What can you do when your dog suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside and starts doing it all over the house? Well, instead of yelling or feeling irritated, try to approach the problem with an open mind.
Did your dog go through some recent trauma? Were there any noises that scared it? Was there something from the outside (or even the inside) that caused it harm?
There are quite a few reasons behind the dogs not pottying in the yard. But whatever the reason might be, you can always retrain your dog to void its bowels outside. It will require a bit of effort, but it will pay off tenfold once you’re done.
Dog Suddenly Refuses to Go to the Bathroom Outside
I have seen it happen dozens of times: a trained adult dog suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside, despite doing it regularly for years. And I understand why people might get upset with this situation. After all, if a dog refuses to go outside, it will more than likely void its bowels inside. And nobody wants to see fresh poop on their carpeting, hardwood floors, sofas, or, according to some bizarre reports, on top of Playstation 4s.
In this article, I will go over all the possible reasons for this sudden change in a dog’s behavior. In addition, you will learn all the necessary steps to try and get your furry friend to start peeing and pooping outside again.
Possible Reasons for Avoiding the Outdoors
Sometimes, dogs will outright refuse to leave the house at any point during the day, be it for pottying or walks. One of the most common culprits behind that behavior is the presence of loud noises.
Any number of sounds can spook a dog. For example, if you have a noisy neighbor who yells all the time, the chances are that the puppy is afraid to go anywhere near the neighbor’s fence. The same goes for using gardening equipment. Leaf blowers, lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, pressure washers, leaf mulchers, sprinkler systems — all of these tools make a lot of noise. And all of them can explain away why your dog suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside.
Naturally, it’s not just the gardening tools and other humans that can frighten dogs with irritating sounds. Other animals, such as birds, jackals, and even other dogs, can spook your pet with their howls and squeals. Jackals, in particular, howl at night, which might explain why your dog refuses to leave the house after dark.
Finally, let’s not forget Mother Nature. If you live in an area where thunderstorms, torrential rainfalls, and strong winds are an everyday occurrence, the noises from these phenomena will be more than enough to spook your pooch.
Traumatic Past Experiences
Has your dog been bitten by another dog, or stung by a bee? Did someone hurl a water bottle at it, or yell at it while you were not around? Maybe it slipped on moist grass and hit its head against a corner somewhere?
Just like humans, dogs remember past traumatic events. And again, just like humans, they tend to associate their experience with the place where it happened, so they try to avoid it. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that the road to recovery is long and that it will take some patience to get there. But I’ll cover that a little later.
Lack of Proper Socialization
Dogs need to be exposed to the outside world before they turn 14 weeks old. They need to see that there are other people and animals roaming about. Otherwise, they will find the outdoors an alien place, and they wouldn’t want to go anywhere beyond the house, much less poop there.
It is absolutely possible to train an older dog to socialize and experience more of the outside world. However, the older your dog gets, the more difficult this process will be. So, if possible, do it when it’s still young.
The Dog Is Not Used to Leash Walking
Sometimes, owners adopt adult dogs from animal shelters that have either gone through some sort of abuse or have been living on the streets their whole life. In either case, that dog will probably not be used to wearing a leash, or might downright despise it. So, putting a leash on and taking it out to potty might not be a good idea.
Dogs that came from abusive households might hold bad memories associated with leashes. On the other hand, a dog that spent all of its life free and roaming might find the leash suffocating, both literally and figuratively. As an owner, you should try to approach your pooch slowly and have it get used to wearing a leash over time.
Moving is stressful for both humans and pets, especially if it’s to a completely different environment. Imagine living with a dog in an apartment in a big city, and then suddenly moving to a residential neighborhood with houses, big yards, cul-de-sacs, and a lot more greenery than before. As awesome as this new environment is for the dog, it’s also quite terrifying.
When dogs move to a new environment, they will naturally be afraid of what it might contain. They are quite habitual animals, so the stress from seeing something they don’t recognize might frighten them. So, they will see their new house as the only ‘safe haven’ and will exclusively potty indoors.
Health issues are something you will have to rule out first. If your dog suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside, pay attention to its behavior. Does it feel lethargic, tired, devoid of energy? What about its stool? Is it firm, is it loose, does it look like diarrhea?
Any number of health conditions could be the reason behind your dog pottying indoors only. Some of them include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Bowel cancer
- Food intolerance
- Various parasites
Whatever the case might be, make sure to take your puppy to the vet as soon as possible. After the diagnosis, discuss the pet’s pottying behavior. The vet will most likely give you some useful pointers on the matter and how you can apply them while your dog is recovering from its condition.
If you own a senior dog, one that is aged seven and above, you will more than likely encounter this type of behavior. Senior dogs don’t adapt to changes as quickly as young ones, so a new outside environment might frighten them. In addition, their cognitive capabilities decline with age, so anything that their brain deems as ‘new’ or ‘different’ might scare them.
More often than not, a pet owner has a routine for letting the dog out. However, our pooch might have experienced something bad during that routine that has caused it to fear going outside. For example, the tiles in front of the door might be slippery, or the front porch might be made of rough, coarse wood that scrapes the paws.
If that’s the case with your own puppy, you’ll be happy to learn that it doesn’t really have a fear of going outside, but rather a fear of the ACT of going outside. So, try to switch up the routine a bit: get the dog out through a different door, put a carpet over the tiles, or a doormat on the front porch. In no time flat, your pet will be back outdoors and pottying like usual.
What to Do If the Dog Refuses to Potty Outdoors
Place Toys By the Door
Dogs need to know that the outdoors isn’t as scary as they think it is. So, one good way of getting your dog that much closer to the front yard is to place toys close to the front door. At first, the pooch might not move past the door itself. But the more frequently you place the toys there, the more it will approach them. And once you’re confident enough, you can start putting the toys in the yard itself.
It would also help if you made the front yard a dog-friendly area of sorts. Try to sprinkle some pet toys all over the grass and the front porch.
Slowly Lure It With High-Value Treats
Toys are a good lure, but they might not be enough. It’s probably more effective if you used snacks to get your furry friend to step outside. But you can’t do it with regular food. Instead, try using some high-value treats.
For those of you who are new to owning pets, there are treats out there that dogs consider to be higher in value than others. Some of those treats include peanut butter, hot dogs, baby food, french fries, freeze-dried meat, etc. Such items are sort of like fast food to dogs — crammed with calories, barely healthy, but undoubtedly delicious.
When they spot high-value treats, dogs will most likely try to ‘take a risk’ to get them. So, try placing some of these treats on the front porch. As time goes by, put these foods further and further until your pup gets used to being outside without the added anxiety.
Set Up an Outdoor Feeding Station
This method is a step beyond high-value treats and, if possible, apply it during the warm months of the year.
If your dog suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside, place a feeding station in your front yard. Take the dog’s food and water bowls and place them in a spot that’s quiet and safe. That way, your dog will associate the outdoors with feeding time. More importantly, it will be motivated to leave the house and potty outside.
Find a Quiet Area
When you’re slowly getting your dog to walk outside, find a quiet area for it to potty. That way, it will associate the silence with pottying and gradually unlearn to poop inside.
Patience is the key component of all of the methods above. You cannot whisk your pup’s fear of the outdoors overnight. It takes days of hard work and dedication, but it will be worth it in the end.
What Not to Do If the Dog Refuses to Potty Outdoors
Don’t Punish the Dog
I completely understand how it feels to find poop on your carpeting or your couch. However, when your dog suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside, the last thing you should think of doing is to punish it. Both yelling and hitting the dog will only make it more afraid to go outside. I will be very blunt about this — DO NOT punish your dog for this behavior.
Don’t Flood the Dog
When you’re taking the first steps with your pooch outside, do not take it to the spot where the bad experience happened. Unlike us, dogs don’t really ‘do’ exposure therapy. If anything, it might end up being even more terrifying for your furry friend.
Don’t Take the Dog Out By Force
Once again, I have to stress that direct exposure doesn’t help your dog feel safe outside. If you take it outside in your arms or drag it by the leash, its fear and anxiety will simply worsen.
Dog Suddenly Refuses to Go to the Bathroom Outside: Final Thoughts
As I stated earlier when you spot that your dog suddenly refuses to go to the bathroom outside, approach the situation carefully. Make sure that everything is alright with your pet health-wise. Only then can you start a slow and steady process of recovery. And if you’re persistent and determined, your dog will be back to its old self in no time.