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I've had my almost-2-year-old black lab for almost 4 months now - adopted her from my girlfriend. And about 2 months ago, I discovered that she refuses to go to the bathroom in my yard. I own a townhouse, so I don't have the luxury of a fence unfortunately.

It's not a physical problem - she used to do #1 and #2 three times a day, every day, back when I used to walk her all the time when it was warm. And she'll still go instantly if I walk her for 30 seconds in any direction away from my property. She just refuses to go in the yard. I originally started trying to train her to do it exactly for times like this, when it's single digit highs for 10 days in a row - I'm not always going to feel like actually taking a walk just for her to relieve herself.

Rewards for going in the yard and punishments for not going have had ZERO effect. When she does go, it means praise, a treat, and an actual walk - her favorite thing. When she doesn't, she gets a stern reprimanding and then goes in the laundry room and stays there until our next attempt. She still refuses to go until she absolutely has to. And she can hold it for a *long* time - her record is 60 hours. I give her ample opportunity - once it's been 24 hours since her last time, I usually take her out every 6 hours. But she usually won't go until it's been at least 36 hours.

I'm at my wit's end. I just don't understand how - rewards/punishments aside - an animal can resist the natural urge to go for so long. It's obviously some type of mental/psychological thing. I briefly considered her not wanting to go so close to the house (a la not going in a crate) but my girlfriend has a fenced back yard (and it's smaller than mine) and she never had problems going there. And the fact that she's still exhibiting the same behavior after 2 months is frustrating.

Any ideas or tips are gratefully welcomed and appreciated.

Thank you.
 

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This is going to sound kind of gross but have you tried placing her feces in your yard? Animals in tend to have "rooms" similar to us ie they wont use the bathroom where they eat and won't sleep where they go to the bathroom. You could try dumping the poop bag in the yard after each walk to show her that this is bathroom not living space.
 

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This is going to sound kind of gross but have you tried placing her feces in your yard? Animals in tend to have "rooms" similar to us ie they wont use the bathroom where they eat and won't sleep where they go to the bathroom. You could try dumping the poop bag in the yard after each walk to show her that this is bathroom not living space.
I had considered that to possibly be the reason why she won't (going so close to her living quarters), but see above comment re: girlfriend's yard. My townhouse is an end unit so i have a pretty good sized "yard".

But it isn't fenced, and technically isn't even legally "my property" (it's considered communal space) so I don't have the luxury of leaving the feces on the ground. She definitely is a creature of habit though - she almost always tends to go in the same spots when we walk, and also when she does go in the yard. We don't really play in the yard due to no fence - we're right next to a major road and I don't want to risk anything happening. So the yard is pretty much only used for potty now.
 

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First, stop punishing her for not going. I really, really doubt she actually knows what you are punishing her for. She just thinks, "Oh, we went outside, I did nothing, and owner reprimanded me and put me in the laundry room." Most likely, it's having an adverse affect on your problem because you may be scaring her to do ANYTHING outside.

Have you every punished her for going in the house in the course of potty training? If so, that teaches dogs that they shouldn't go IN FRONT OF YOU, which isn't exactly what you want. It may be why she hasn't been going potty when you take her out, because she is afraid to go in front of you. She goes in the fenced back yard because she thinks nobody is watching her. I don't know why she chooses to go potty on walks only, but sometimes dogs make weird and unintended associations with things, which is kind of a fallout of punishment.

This probably isn't what you want to hear, but you're probably going to have to take her for her 30 second walk. Make sure to praise and reward lavishly. No more punishment. Try slowly decreasing the distance you go away from your own yard. If she continues to hold it for such long periods of time, it may put her at risk for a UTI or other pricey infection.
 

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First, stop punishing her for not going. I really, really doubt she actually knows what you are punishing her for. She just thinks, "Oh, we went outside, I did nothing, and owner reprimanded me and put me in the laundry room." Most likely, it's having an adverse affect on your problem because you may be scaring her to do ANYTHING outside.

Have you every punished her for going in the house in the course of potty training? If so, that teaches dogs that they shouldn't go IN FRONT OF YOU, which isn't exactly what you want. It may be why she hasn't been going potty when you take her out, because she is afraid to go in front of you. She goes in the fenced back yard because she thinks nobody is watching her. I don't know why she chooses to go potty on walks only, but sometimes dogs make weird and unintended associations with things, which is kind of a fallout of punishment.

This probably isn't what you want to hear, but you're probably going to have to take her for her 30 second walk. Make sure to praise and reward lavishly. No more punishment. Try slowly decreasing the distance you go away from your own yard. If she continues to hold it for such long periods of time, it may put her at risk for a UTI or other pricey infection.
1. She knows exactly what the punishment is for. She's a very intelligent animal, and it isn't rocket science. She knows what the words "pee-pee" and "potty" each mean - I use them every time we go out and every time that she does go. Doesn't take a genius to figure out that when she doesn't go, she goes in the laundry room, and when she does go, she gets praise, a treat, a walk, and NO laundry room.

2. I don't think you actually read my original post. A fenced in back yard has never existed in my situation, and she has zero problems going in front of me - as long as it's not on my property. Also, I didn't even get her until well after the potty training stage.
 

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1. She knows exactly what the punishment is for. She's a very intelligent animal, and it isn't rocket science. She knows what the words "pee-pee" and "potty" each mean - I use them every time we go out and every time that she does go. Doesn't take a genius to figure out that when she doesn't go, she goes in the laundry room, and when she does go, she gets praise, a treat, a walk, and NO laundry room.

2. I don't think you actually read my original post. A fenced in back yard has never existed in my situation, and she has zero problems going in front of me - as long as it's not on my property. Also, I didn't even get her until well after the potty training stage.
1. She doesn't. I have no doubt that she is a very intelligent animal, but dogs don't understand punishment like humans do. It is not black and white to them. We may think we're punishing them for not going potty, but really they might think we're punishing them for standing there and looking at a rock. They only understand things in THAT EXACT MOMENT. They are not like toddlers where you can sit them down and say, "I'm putting you in time out because you didn't go potty when I asked you to." I think that is very important for you to understand as you move forward with your pup. It is clearly not helping your situation, so why continue to do it? It's also possible she doesn't actually know what those potty cue words mean...because she isn't responding to them consistently. Typically, when a dog TRULY understands a cue, they do it immediately, in any situation.

2.
"...my girlfriend has a fenced back yard (and it's smaller than mine) and she never had problems going there."
This is the fenced back yard I am referring to...that was mentioned in your original post. It's possible that even though you didn't do the potty training, the person who did punished her.

Listen, I am not trying to accuse you of doing bad by your dog or being a bad owner. I'm trying to help. Becoming defensive is not going to help you or your situation. I tried to keep my response as matter of fact as possible. Your method isn't working, I pointed out what you might be doing wrong based on the information I received in your posts, and how to correct it. Don't take it personal, because its not. It's about helping your dog and you, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it.
 

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My dogs will squat on cue and at least pretend to potty - in the back yard. I am quite sure I could cue them to potty elsewhere and they wouldn't have a clue. Dogs cannot generalize without a lot of data points. Unless she will potty after you cue her in many different places then she doesn't know that cue.

She may have some weird aversion to using your yard. My gopher hunting fiend refused to go after the gopher I really wanted her to scare, the one in my front yard. Any other gopher she would 'chase', not that one. Zero idea what that was about.

You could use a bagged poop to salt the yard, you don't have to leave an actual pile. Scent a piece of paper with her urine and keep that in another bag. All you need is the scent.

Try playing in the house with her before going outside, moving often makes dogs want to lighten the load. Try walking around the yard with her. Tedious but a few loops around and she might get it. My female dog hates the wet and demands we go out with her and sometimes won't go until it's made clear we are walking until she gives up. The yard isn't fenced so she's on lead anyway isn't she?
 

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1. She doesn't. I have no doubt that she is a very intelligent animal, but dogs don't understand punishment like humans do. It is not black and white to them. We may think we're punishing them for not going potty, but really they might think we're punishing them for standing there and looking at a rock. They only understand things in THAT EXACT MOMENT. They are not like toddlers where you can sit them down and say, "I'm putting you in time out because you didn't go potty when I asked you to." I think that is very important for you to understand as you move forward with your pup. It is clearly not helping your situation, so why continue to do it? It's also possible she doesn't actually know what those potty cue words mean...because she isn't responding to them consistently. Typically, when a dog TRULY understands a cue, they do it immediately, in any situation.

2.
This is the fenced back yard I am referring to...that was mentioned in your original post. It's possible that even though you didn't do the potty training, the person who did punished her.

Listen, I am not trying to accuse you of doing bad by your dog or being a bad owner. I'm trying to help. Becoming defensive is not going to help you or your situation. I tried to keep my response as matter of fact as possible. Your method isn't working, I pointed out what you might be doing wrong based on the information I received in your posts, and how to correct it. Don't take it personal, because its not. It's about helping your dog and you, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it.
1. I'm aware that I can't talk to her. But the rewards come immediately after she goes. Any time she goes now, she immediately starts tearing for the street because she knows that a walk follows if she does go in the yard.

2. She knows what the words mean. She even has now learned what the phrase "time's up" means, after me muttering it so many times half to her, half to myself, after my patience runs out. She hears it and immediately starts walking to the door to go back inside.

My dogs will squat on cue and at least pretend to potty - in the back yard. I am quite sure I could cue them to potty elsewhere and they wouldn't have a clue. Dogs cannot generalize without a lot of data points. Unless she will potty after you cue her in many different places then she doesn't know that cue.

She may have some weird aversion to using your yard. My gopher hunting fiend refused to go after the gopher I really wanted her to scare, the one in my front yard. Any other gopher she would 'chase', not that one. Zero idea what that was about.

You could use a bagged poop to salt the yard, you don't have to leave an actual pile. Scent a piece of paper with her urine and keep that in another bag. All you need is the scent.

Try playing in the house with her before going outside, moving often makes dogs want to lighten the load. Try walking around the yard with her. Tedious but a few loops around and she might get it. My female dog hates the wet and demands we go out with her and sometimes won't go until it's made clear we are walking until she gives up. The yard isn't fenced so she's on lead anyway isn't she?
1. Dogs aren't robots or computer programs. They have the ability of NOT doing what you tell them to. Just because you say "come" doesn't mean they're immediately going to come to you 100% of the time. They're living animals with free will - it's still a voluntary decision whether to obey you.

2. We do walk - every time. She's always on a leash when we do it, and i let her walk anywhere she wants within the confines of the property. We usually loop at least a dozen times during failed attempts before time runs out. Lately my timer has been at about 10 minutes. It was closer to 15 or 20 minutes back when it was warmer.
 

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1. I'm aware that I can't talk to her. But the rewards come immediately after she goes. Any time she goes now, she immediately starts tearing for the street because she knows that a walk follows if she does go in the yard.

2. She knows what the words mean. She even has now learned what the phrase "time's up" means, after me muttering it so many times half to her, half to myself, after my patience runs out. She hears it and immediately starts walking to the door to go back inside.

1. Dogs aren't robots or computer programs. They have the ability of NOT doing what you tell them to. Just because you say "come" doesn't mean they're immediately going to come to you 100% of the time. They're living animals with free will - it's still a voluntary decision whether to obey you.

2. We do walk - every time. She's always on a leash when we do it, and i let her walk anywhere she wants within the confines of the property. We usually loop at least a dozen times during failed attempts before time runs out. Lately my timer has been at about 10 minutes. It was closer to 15 or 20 minutes back when it was warmer.
I highly suggest you take an obedience class with your pup from a positive, rewards based trainer. I am truly not trying to be condescending or rude here, but you seem to misunderstand the fundamentals of dog training and dog behavior in general, and it is so much easier to modify your training when you understand how the dog understands YOU. It's important for you to understand that your dog isn't trying to piss you off, she is not doing what you want her to do because 1) she does not understand what you want her to do, 2) you have not made doing what you want rewarding enough, or 3) something is making her uncomfortable, so she is frightened to do it in the yard, which can be a number of things from past punishments to something environmental.

And yes, of course she knows what "Times Up" means because you IMMEDIATELY GO BACK INSIDE when you say that phrase. Just like when I say to my dog "Time to pick up poop!" he runs up on the deck because I immediately go get the pooper scooper to clean the day's mess. If I say it anywhere but in our yard, it means nothing. If you say "Go Potty" and she does not potty, that indicates that she does not understand. Dogs do not generalize well. "Sit" means 'sit on your butt' in your living room, but the dog might not understand that "Sit" means 'sit on your butt' at the park. Same thing with "Go potty". She might not understand that it means "relieve yourself" in a different location, in a different circumstance, if something weird is happening, etc. She's a dog, so who knows? It's up to you to proof it and make sure she understands what it means in all locations, within all situations.

Additionally, if you're just taking her someplace and chanting "go potty" and she isn't going, that may be poisoning the word. When you teach her what that means, she should be ACTIVELY GOING POTTY as you're saying "GOOD POTTY" and then rewarding her after she is done. It's just like teaching a sit. You don't chant "sit, sit, sit, sit" when they don't know what the word means yet. It just becomes meaningless, then. I don't know if that's what you're doing, but I think that's some good troubleshooting advice.

1. I'm aware that I can't talk to her. But the rewards come immediately after she goes. Any time she goes now, she immediately starts tearing for the street because she knows that a walk follows if she does go in the yard.
Okay, so she does go in the yard? If she goes in the yard sporadically, I would suggest getting out a journal or something and try to see if there is a specific event (or non-event) that causes her to want to go in the yard. Perhaps another dog wanders through and marks? Maybe there is a person/object/thing that scares her so she doesn't want to go? Be observant and see if there is anything environmental that could be causing it. It very well could be absolutely nothing, so don't get discouraged if you can't discern anything.

In the meantime, my first bit of advice stands. Stop punishing for not going, because it is not helping. Take your 30 second walk off your property. When she goes, praise. Slowly decrease the distance from your yard. You can even put the scent of her waste in your yard when you get to that point to help, as Kathyy suggested. In any case, I highly doubt that there is a magic solution to this issue. It will take time and patience, and consistency.
 
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