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What's Up With Dogs Who Won't Potty on Leash?

It can be frustrating dealing with a dog who won't pee on leash during walks, especially considering that dogs are often purposely taken on walks to do their business!

 If you own a dog who refuses to go potty when on leash or are pet sitting a dog whose bladder goes on strike the moment a leash is attached to his collar, rest assured you are not alone! "Shy bladder," also known as "bashful bladder," or more technically, "paruresi," is a real thing. 

 Many people wonder why their dogs won't pee or poop when on leash, but dogs may have their very own good reasons. By better understanding the dynamics behind dogs who won't pee while on leashes, dog owners can try different approaches to help their beloved dogs succeed.

Keeping the leash loose can help give your dog some extra freedom

Keeping the leash loose can help give your dog some extra freedom

It's a Dog Thing

While for us humans, eliminating waste is just a "chore," for dogs, urinating and defecating has much more meaning. 

From a dog's perspective, peeing and pooping is like depositing an important business card on the certain surfaces for other dogs to "pick up" and interpret with their powerful noses (they use their Jacobson organs for this).

Dogs therefore, like to sniff around for a quite a bit before picking their ideal "potty spot" and a leash may interfere with this natural behavior, especially if the leash is short and kept tense, meaning that the dog doesn't have much "leeway" to sniff around at his own pleasure.

Tip: keep that leash loose, or even better, if safe to do so, try using a long line to take your dog to potty on walks so that he can move freely and find his "inspiration" with little to no interference.

A Matter of Surface

While humans use standard porcelain toilets as receptacles for their waste, dogs must rely on the ground's surface as their restroom.

This surface may vary greatly from one place to another (grass, gravel, dirt, dry leaves, sand, concrete, pee pads, you name it!) and it's a known fact that dogs don't thrive on inconsistencies.

So if Rover uses grass as his favorite potty spot at home, a pet sitter might not have much luck taking him on a walk on concrete sidewalks and expecting him to do his business on such walks!

Tip: For those pet sitters out there, it might help asking the owners what type of surface their dogs usually prefer to potty on. This can help prevent a lot of headaches associated with trying to get dogs to potty on totally different surfaces they are accustomed to normally using. Dogs tend to develop a substrate preference when they are young puppies and love sticking to it!

If the place where your dog has been peeing has been covered with a blanket of snow, you are facing an additional challenge.

If the place where your dog has been peeing has been covered with a blanket of snow, you are facing an additional challenge.

Too Much to Handle

When dogs are in a new place they are not familiar with, they may temporarily inhibit their normal routines and this may include, eating, drinking, playing and going potty.

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Whether your dog is in a new place or you have chosen a different path on his walks, he may be keeping everything in, because he may feel overstimulated or doesn't feel safe in his surroundings.

Going potty requires some level of relaxation and a dog not feeling comfortable or safe in his surroundings may have more important things to pay attention to rather than elimination.

Tip: try walking your dog in quiet places where there is not too much going on. This may mean choosing a quiet cul-de-sac rather than a busy road with people walking their dogs or garbage trucks passing by.

Too Much Pressure

Last but not least, your attitude can play a big role in your dog's inhibition to go potty on leash. Let's say that your dog is reluctant to go potty on leash, and you start acting frustrated when he doesn't go.

This makes only matters worse, because your dog feels you are getting upset and this makes him further inhibited due to the extra "pressure" you put on him.

It could be he is about to go, and is sniffing around to find a spot, but when you get impatient and say something like "just go, stop wasting my time!" your dog perceives your irritated tone as telling him the opposite, to stop searching from a spot!

Tip: Often, dog owners find that if they start relaxing and stop coaxing their dogs into going, their dogs will finally relax too and eventually go.

Puppies need some time to be comfortable wearing a collar and leash.

Puppies need some time to be comfortable wearing a collar and leash.

A Word About Puppies

Puppies may be particularly reluctant to go potty on leash if they haven't been allowed enough time to habituate to wearing a collar, harness and leash.

It takes some time for puppies to get used to a leash, some may panic when they are attached to it, others may instead perceive the leash as a fun tug toy.

In either case, their attention can be diverted from doing their business which can be particularly frustrating, especially when the puppy won't pee or poop during the walk, but then readily does so once home, and of course it has to always happen on the immaculate carpet or expensive rug!

Tip: allow your puppy some time to get used to wearing a collar and leash starting indoors and introducing the leash slowly. Simply, feed treats when he sees the leash, then, when he sniffs it, then, when you clip it, and then, when he wears it for a bit of time. Then, take your puppy outside on leash when you expect him to be needing to go potty. Here is a more in depth guide: how to get puppy used to wearing collar and leash. 

Now That You Know...

As seen, dogs may refuse to pee while on leash for various reasons. It's therefore important understanding what may be going on and tackle the underlying reason. Following are several additional tips for getting your dog to pee while on leash. 

12 Extra Tips to Get Your Dog to Pee on Leash 

  1. Be patient. If your dog is not comfortable going potty on leash, patience is your best friend. Don't give up! You may have to go back home and try again later (keep a close eye though or your dog may go inside!) Eventually your dog will need to go badly enough to overcome his initial reluctance to go potty.
  2. Astutely time your dog's outings. Take advantage on when your dog needs to go potty the most, which in most cases, is first thing in the morning after holding it all night. This is the perfect time to practice going potty on walks.
  3. Praise and reward. When your dog finally goes potty on leash, make sure you make a big deal about it, praising him lavishly and giving him some treats. Remember, behaviors that are rewarded, tend to repeat!
  4. Use commonly marked areas. Many dogs love to pee on vertical items. Try to take your dog in areas where other dogs have likely eliminated such as fire hydrants, lamp posts or on bushes the dog park. These area work like community bulletin boards and your dog may try to leave his "mark" under the form of urine or feces.
  5. Go very light. Use a lightweight long line (like cotton) rather than a leash. A lightweight long line can help the dog feel less constricted and more free. 
  6. Create privacy. Some dogs need privacy to go potty and it may therefore help to erect some temporary visual cover (like large pieces of plywood or cardboard) to provide privacy. It also helps not to stare your dog or distract him in any way. 
  7. Add your dog's scent. If your dog had a previous accident somewhere it may help to soak up a paper towel or pee pad with it and place it in the area you will like him to potty. 
  8. Train your dog to go potty on command. This can take time to train, but it can make life much easier as your dog will associate the word with the act of going potty.
  9. Return to the spot. If your dog goes successfully on a walk, keep a mental note of that spot and return to that same spot in the next days.
  10. See your vet. If your dog is act ill or seems to have trouble going potty, please see your vet. In some cases, a urinary tract infection or an obstruction due to a large bladder stone blocking the passage may the culprit. If your dog has a hard time defecating and seems uncomfortable, this can be sign of an intestinal blockage.

Did you know? Young puppies don't urine mark and this suggests that urine marking must entail some sort of "conversations" that have to do with something that mostly matters to adult dogs, explains Alexandra Horowitz, in the book "Inside of a Dog -- Young Readers Edition: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know."

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