Ranger the Shelter Dog (who won’t poop outside)



Those of you who have been following this riveting tale know that we had a wonderful dog (absolutely wonderful) in our Buddy, and he is the namesake of this blog. He lived fourteen and a half years, gave us a great deal of love and a lot of laughs, and punched a big hole in our hearts when he passed away—relatively peacefully–on Election night two years ago.


Andy in his favorite pose

At first we couldn’t think of getting another dog, but it’s been two years, and we needed to do something to fill that empty space left void where a four-legged creature once showed unrestrained delight at seeing us come through the door in the evenings. Cats don’t count, people. We love our Andy, but when we come home from anywhere, he lifts the lid of one eye into a sharp slit and glares at us like, “It’s about time,” or “You people ever gonna figure out how to keep food in my bowl?” And other pleasantries that don’t involve actually moving his hairy butt from the prime real estate known as the living room couch.

We were expecting to come home empty-handed the first time we went to the shelter, but there he was: in the midst of black, brown, and striped pit bulls mostly, there was our new dog. He sat at the gate and chuffed. He bent his head low to his front paws, raised his behind, and his tail waggled like a happy little flag fluttering on a little boat. And he chuffed again.

After about 20 minutes of this, we asked the attendant if we could take him out for a spin. We watched as she allowed him to drag her all over the place on the lead, tripping her and happily going wherever his nose led him. But when she handed me the lead, I told him to “heel.” He looked up at me and smiled, as if to say, “Hey, I’m, like, a free spirit, babe.” I ignored the cuteness and told him to heel again and started walking. He began to get out ahead of me so that the lead became taut, I gave it a light snap, said heel again, and after about a minute or so, he realized what I wanted: not to be tripped up by an enthusiastic, confident, delightful, but somewhat headstrong dog.


Andy and Ranger

He loves the family, he loves the cat (who, not too surprisingly to us, loves him too). He sleeps in our room without a peep at night, he doesn’t snap food from our fingers, he comes to his new name, he sits, he’s started lying down on command, and he’s very affectionate and people-oriented.

BUT, he hasn’t figured out where to poop…and he’s four years old. You see, there are problems in any relationship. Some problems are not worth pursuing, others are. We feel, in this case, that this problem is worth working out between us. We think he must have been kenneled for too-long periods of time in his former home because he doesn’t show any sign that he understands what grass and dirt or for. He understands trees and bushes but not grass and dirt. He has pooped in the house three times, but mostly wants to poop in the cement-floored garden shed. And he doesn’t go there on his own, he waits for us to put him there when we must pop into town for a few minutes, etc. This is more than mildly disturbing as we only put him in there every two or three days, and other than that, he shows no sign of even needing to poop at all, and totally ignores the poops I gather from the garden shed (and the couple I’ve collected from the wood floor near our bedroom) and place in the spot—across the driveway at the furthest point from the house—where I want him to make his deposits. He doesn’t even lower his nose to those poops. In his doggy brain, they do not exist.

Moving poop from where Buddy used to drop it as a puppy, to where we wanted him to drop it, worked for Buddy for most of his 14.5 years….Ranger is not getting this at all. Buddy used to ring a little Christmas bell that I kept on the back door handle all year long, and he did this when he needed to go outside for a “private moment.” I don’t think Ranger is going to “get” this, as he never indicates, ever, that he wants to go out at all. So here’s the question, not “Do we keep this guy?” but “How do we train this guy to go outside on grass and dirt, and not cross his legs waiting for the garden shed floor?” And, “How do we get this four-year-old to see the house is not the place for unseemly canine scat deposits?”

Any suggestions dear readers?


posted by Jean Foster Akin

photos by JFA


8 thoughts on “Ranger the Shelter Dog (who won’t poop outside)

  1. Oh my goodness, Jean, you do have your work cut out for you with this issue. Yikes!!! All my suggestions are things you have already tried. I guess it’s just going to take a lot of time, repetition, praise & treats. I like the idea of the bell on the door knob! I’ll have to do that with Yoda! We tell him to “go shaboopie” when he place him in his outdoor kennel & then we take him right back out of the kennel when he’s finished & we give him a scooby snack & let him run around the yard. We scoop out his kennel every other day with a shovel & place it in various spots at the parimiter of the yard. I hope this helps! Good luck!

    • PS; I love the photo of Andy & Ranger! It looks like Ranger is saying; “I am ready & willing to do whatever you desire, Mom & Dad.” While Andy’s thought bubble seems to be saying; “Oh. We’re being photographed now, are we?” (LOL!!)

    • Our problem is that he doesn’t acknowledge “out.” We have had him 3 weeks now and we say, “Wanna go OUT?” when we get the leash and put it on him. There is no excitement, no fear, no indication whatsoever that he understands the word. Seems smart in other ways, knows “sit,” “lay down,” “no,” and “off,” and though he was called by another name for four years, he started answering to Ranger by day two or three and comes to it with a big wagging tail. But ANYTHING related to poop, nada. He smelled another animal’s scat today when we were walking but completely ignores his own when I walk him to the place where we put it. He doesn’t do the out-the-side-of-the-eye routine, he doesn’t look at it AT ALL. It’s a conundrum!!!

  2. Wow! An excellent addition into your family! Except for the poop. Do you have a dog crate? Maybe he should go there instead of the garden shed when you have to leave the house–do you think he’d poop in a crate? If you don’t ever let him in the garden shed–where he likes to poop–until he’s started pooping in the designated spot, maybe he’ll get it. It is disturbing that he will wait days to poop, though, and I don’t know what to say about that. You definitely have a challenge here.

    • Good idea, Anna! A dog will NOT (usually not) poop in his own crate! We had to crate Yoda whenever we left him home alone, for quite a few months because he was upset that we left & he destroyed a lot of nice things we owned, by chewing them to bits. He no longer does this & we no longer have to crate him. ; )

    • We wonder if he was crated a lot in his old home, like so much that he’s learned to hold it for days?? Or, if the holding it isn’t so much deliberate or a trained trait as a lack of fluids since he got here. He REALLY doesn’t drink. We have caught him lapping a few laps at his water since he got here, but only three times. His food has moisture and he’s drunk a few licks out of our cupped hands, plus we’ve tricked him into drinking by putting some broken up bread in a bowl with water. We are considering that he simply doesn’t like the taste of the water coming out of our tap. I’ve started giving him all his food and any little snack IN water. We’ll see if that softens things up inside him. But, of course, even if it DOES, he still doesn’t see outside as the place to poop right now so the relatively mess-less dry droppings will be more messy…but what can we do except try hard to catch him before he goes, or find a crate for him at night so that, at least, we won’t have to listen to him getting up in the night and wonder if he heard something or if he’s pooping somewhere.

  3. My dog Jack was pooping in the house, mainly right where we’d walk (purposefully), whenever there was a change… renovation, a child leaves for college, a kid comes home, whatever. I almost gave him away 6 months ago. My dog friend told me to start using our crate and just pen him up every now and then to beat anxiety. Worked like a charm. This is not Ranger’s issue, I know, but I was amazed at how it worked for our particular issue. I crated Jack a few times when we left the house, and then started leaving him outside the crate again, but the crate is now always on our porch and open, so he sees it. I think it gives him security. He hasn’t pooped in a few months now, and he’s just a dear!

    • I love Jack!! But I wouldn’t want him pooping in my house!! 😀 He’s a BIIIIIG dog!!!! We’re getting a lot of advice to get a kennel, and now we really have to consider that option seriously. With a puppy, you lay papers down, bring the pup outside and dump the poop so he knows where to go. We did this with Buddy, and our families did this will all their dogs and it worked. Not knowing where Ranger comes from and how they trained him over the last 4 years, we are flying blind at the moment. Somewhere, you mentioned (maybe on Face Book?) that maybe we need to keep him out of the shed when we leave him so he will stop connecting the cement floor of the shed with a bathroom. Good thought. Because he doesn’t poop for two days (sometimes THREE at a time 😦 ) and we needed to keep him from doing it in the house when we’re all out, the garden shed is all we’ve had. And by two or three days, he just HAS to go, so that’s where he felt comfortable going. We’ll definitely have to get a kennel for him. I saw a large one for $25 in front of an estate-sale remainders place near our house but I was on my way to an appointment and couldn’t stop. I came back about 2 hrs later and it was gone! DRAT! This is BEFORE we got the dog, but I sure wish I’d snatched it up now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s