Housebreaking a Great Dane: Great Big Fun

Question: 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

It sounds like your great dane 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: help him be comfortable enough to go outside and prevent him from going inside.

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.

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 the great dane 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.

Photo: Gmonkey/

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  • Sandy

    I hope your baby is doing better now :) My boy hates being outside unless I stay with him :) as soon as he has done his business he runs inside like there are zombies outside lol I still wake up during the night to poop in the laundry :( but he was violently abused, so can’t blame him :( I hope after 2 yrs yours has come out of his shell a little :) Just persevere, cause I don’t care if I have poop to clean up every day, at least he’s safe :) xx

  • Lora Seiter

    HELP! I have a 4 month old female Great Dane. She doesn’t potty in her cage, so I don’t think that she has bladder issues. She goes outside as soon as she’s released from her cage, and she goes potty then. She has access to a dog door that she does use and does go potty by herself. I let her out, using the same command, about every hour, and she usually goes potty then. But she is still going potty in the house! What am I doing wrong??

    • Pets Adviser

      Hi Lora, that’s great that you have a doggie door (must be a BIG one) and the dog has access to the back yard that way. And sure, she’ll take advantage of it. But just having her play in the backyard alone isn’t going to do the trick. We highly suggest long daily walks — 2 a day if possible. One should be a half-hour long. You’ll be shocked at how many times she relieves herself on these walks. There will be nothing left for her to potty in the house, for a long while. Then, keep an eye on her — watch her like a hawk in the house. Catch her sniffing around as if she’s got to go? Grab her and sweep her off into the yard. The real trick for you, we suspect, is a good 1-2 long walks a day. Plus, it’s great exercise for both of you!

      • Lora Seiter

        I’ll try anything once! lol! Thanks so much!