Housebreaking a Great Dane: Great Big Fun

A reader tells us she’s frustrated that her dog refuses to “go” outside.

By: brandonsneatphotos
Some dogs will never overcome their fear on their own. By: brandonsneatphotos

We got this question the other day:

Hi, I just a got a Great Dane puppy, Cooper. Ever since we got him, he just will not go outside at all. We take him out and wait for almost 20 minutes, and the minute we come back — inside he goes!

We’ve had him for a week and half, and he still won’t go outside. We take him outside every 30 minutes to an hour, and he still refuses to go outside. We know that if he poops indoors we take the poop outside and show him where he should be pooping. But he runs away from the grass and comes back inside.

I’m getting frustrated about it, because he’s scared all the time, and doesn’t want anyone to touch him but me. It’s weird. I don’t know what else we should do. We only feed him two or three times a day. I need advice! We had a Great Dane before, but she never acted scared or anything; she goes outside. She was such a happy little puppy when she was a puppy.

But Cooper, he’s so scared of everything! I’m starting to think the breeder did not let him go outside at all and socialize the puppies. –Brittney

Brittney, it sounds like your dog has never learned to go to the bathroom in grass and is too fearful to learn in the way you are trying.

When dogs are very fearful it is not uncommon for them to never overcome the fear on their own. This means you might repeat the same situation for a month without seeing any results.

We need to do two things in this situation:

  1. Help him be comfortable enough to go outside
  2. And prevent him from going inside

Figure Out the Schedule

For housebreaking a Great Dane like this, I would start by sitting down and figuring out what the dog’s schedule has been until now. His bowel movements should be fairly predictable from day to day. When you think he probably needs to go, I would take him for a long walk on grass.

You can wander around the yard working on teaching him to “heel” properly. This will help alleviate any fear he may be experiencing since you are teaching him to focus on you. The longer you walk, the less worried he will be about all the things in the world that he finds scary.

Remember to Praise

Once he is calm and relaxed in the yard, he will be much more likely to be comfortable enough to poop. The walking also tends to make him feel the need to poop because of the exercise. When he eventually goes, I would quietly praise him while he is going and then give some more excited praise after he is done.

It is also important to stop him from pooping in the house. If you take him outside and he doesn’t go after his walk, I would bring him in and either keep him on leash with you or put him in his crate. The crate isn’t meant to be a punishment; it just prevents him from going inside.

Each time he goes outside he becomes more comfortable with it, and each time he goes in the house means one less time outside.

Once you have four or five days of success, you should be pretty much finished helping the dog to be comfortable outside, and you will be left with some of the more basic housebreaking issues common to all puppies.

Matt Covey

View posts by Matt Covey
Matt Covey is a professional dog trainer who specializes in the training and rehabilitation of dogs with behavioral issues. His company Suburban K-9 has consistently been recognized as one the top dog training companies in Chicago. When not counseling clients, training dogs or teaching dog behavior seminars, Matt spends his time with his wife, daughter and their dogs.

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