My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Will Not Go Outside


You walk your pup or dog outside for a long time and nothing happens. However, when you get in, the pup goes immediately – often to his papers (or to where they used to be). He simply will not go outside.


Usually, this is a puppy who has been quarantined indoors for a month or more. These earnest little ones have been trained to use papers and use them they will! They hold their urine and bowels responsibly until they can race back inside to their former spot. While this drives their owners to some frustration, it is an excellent sign. Once these dogs know what they are supposed to do now, they will do it just as responsibly.

Or, if a pup has been punished for making mistakes in the house, he may now be inhibited about relieving himself near you – period. For this situation, a retractable lead may give your pup the distance he needs to feel comfortable. (PS: If this is the case, whatever you did that may have caused this, stop doing it.)

Yet another possibility is an adult dog who was raised in a quiet rural or suburban area who is new to the city. For these dogs, the noise is distracting and the pavement baffling. They have always gone to the bathroom on grass, and this bold, new city world is not the least bit familiar.

What to Do

Water – here’s the key. Try tanking up your pup. Early in the morning on a nice day when you have plenty of time, warm up a few cups of salt-free chicken broth and let him drink and drink and drink. Then, take a good audiobook, some excellent puppy treats, and outside you go. And outside you stay. Walk your pup, rest, walk, meet a friend and walk some more. Eventually, your pup will have to urinate, and when he does – praise him! Pet him! Give treats! Leave no doubt in his mind that peeing outside is JUST what you want.

Now, you can take a brief break inside for half an hour, then out you go again to walk and wait some more, because one puddle is not going to get all of that liquid out of his little body. Usually, once a pup has been praised for relieving himself outside a few times, he will be happier to do so in the future.

Confinement? You bet. You will start using the crate more and more as he starts going outside. Until he is going outside consistently, you can only crate for short and supervised times so you can shuttle him out if he needs to go.

If you must leave him, please confine him with his papers (gated in a small, puppy-proofed room or exercise pen) until such time as he is urinating outside three or more times a day and defecating at least twice a day for several days in a row. Then, by all means, crate him without access to the papers. But until he knows he can go outside, don’t take away his previous support – the papers.

Remove the bedding in the crate. A stressed animal can make confetti out of it and a dirty dog may use the absorbent material to mask his mistakes. The exception to this is if you have a tiny, toy breed puppy or sighthound mix or some other thin-coated dog; they need the padding to be comfortable.


If your pup urinates and defecates outside, then supervised playtime inside is in order. If he does not, give him his playtime outside then either crate him inside or keep him on lead RIGHT next to you (or ideally on your lap, if he’s small enough; do what is possible).

You know he is “loaded,” so don’t give him the opportunity to unload inside.

However, if you must go to work or leave a pup who has not gone to the bathroom, put him back on the papers, shrug and try again tonight. Crating a puppy who has not urinated or defecated will only guarantee a dirty crate, an upset puppy and a longer housebreaking period.

Signs a Dog Needs to Go Out

Each dog will show you in a different way. One of my dogs would come up, put a front paw on my knee and stretch. Another would stand in front of me and yawn. Dogs do try to tell us; it’s just that sometimes we don’t recognize their signals.

Their usual signals include panting, restlessness, circling, whining, trying to leave the room, trying to get behind something, staring at you, pawing you, and going toward the door.


Set aside extra time for the next week or so, because everything will probably take longer. Expect extra walks to be the norm. Although, before you head out, you should make sure that the weather is clear and dry for your pup’s walk. You can do so with the help of a weather station that you can find ore here or on similar websites. If you’re on a walk and it starts to rain, you dog might get agitated and have problems going out again next time.

Going On Command

Urinating and defecating do not embarrass dogs. For them these things are just behaviors — like sitting or eating.

It is easy to teach your dog to go on command. We use “Hurry up” for urination and “Get Busy” for defecation. When you see your dog about to start, say the words calmly, then praise quietly. Once she is finished, praise her more enthusiastically and give treats. Usually, with just a few weeks practice, your dog will go when you say the magic words.


None. Your pup has no idea yet he is SUPPOSED to go outside, so scolding him for going inside where he has gone for weeks will only upset and confuse him.

Common Mistakes

Getting angry at the pup for holding it outside then racing back in to go. You taught him to go inside so don’t be angry now that he learned it so well. He has no way of knowing that you’ve changed your mind. Be patient, he’ll get the hang of it.

It’s not really a mistake, but folks bring dirty puppy papers outside in the hopes of stimulating the pup to go. We’ve never found that to help, but it is an easy trick so heck, give it a try.

Further Advice

Once your pup is going outside regularly, then pick up his papers, clean underneath them and put the crate over that spot (or simply block it off). That should help prevent future errors in that area.

It is usually easier to get a dog defecating outside but if your dog is “holding it,” try a briskly walking him back and forth in one location. The exercise can get things moving and he will go. If you go to the same place every walk (we recommend someplace close to your home) your pup will soon learn what is expected at that location and not dawdle too much. After he relieves himself, then, as a reward, go for a nice long walk. That way, the long walk serves as another reward for a job(s) well done.

By Sarah Wilson


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