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Anna, Pet Trainer
Category: Dog Training
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Experience:  40 yrs. training pet dogs and performance dogs in obedience, agility, herding, tracking, and therapy.
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I live on a boat with my dog and havent been able to consistently

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I live on a boat with my dog and haven't been able to consistently get him to do his business aboard. I have a well seasoned astroturf pad but my dog will hold it until i take him off the boat onto land. How can get him to consistently use his pad and understand that it is okay to pee on the boat? And, if he does hold it and we aren't able to go ashore for days will he go eventually? I don't want to cause him any pain or illness!


My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in pet health, and over 30 years experience training dogs. Some additional information will be helpful.

How old is your dog, and has he lived on the boat his entire life?

What exactly do you mean when you say the astroturf is well- seasoned?

Has your dog ever urinated or defecated while on the boat?

Are there any methods you have tried besides showing him the area? (I don't want to tell you about things you have already tried).

Thank you.


Hello again,

It appears you went offline without seeing my request for information. I don't want you to have to wait any longer, so I'm going to go ahead and answer without knowing those things.

Dogs generally cannot hold their urine or feces long enough to cause actual health problems, but doing so can be very uncomfortable, and for a well house-trained dog, cause a lot of emotional distress. Your dog would eventually go on the boat, but would feel he had done something wrong.

The first thing I recommend is teaching him a 'go potty' (or whatever word you prefer to use) command while he is on land. Have extra tasty treats in your pocket - I like to use bits of cheese or hot dog. Take him outside and say 'go potty.' When he does, praise him and give him treats. Repeat this each time you take him out. Most dogs associate the words with the act after a few times. My dogs will urinate whenever I tell them to, even if they don't have to go all that badly.

Once your dog knows what the words mean, you can start teaching him that it's all right to do his business on the boat. I suggest getting the aids made for housebreaking puppies. You could place a piddle pad on the astroturf until he gets the idea. There are sprays, such as 'Go Here' you could spray directly on the astroturf. These things encourage dogs to go in the areas where they smell them. For male dogs who lift their legs to urinate, there are plastic fire hydrants or spikes, also containing the encouraging scents, that will help even more. Here is a reputable online source of all these supples:

The next step would be to place the prepared astroturf on the ground. This will feel more like outdoors to your dog than it will to immediately transfer tot he boat. Make sure he has to go by waiting until first thing in the morning. Take him to the spot and tell him to go potty. Praise him and give him treats. When he will do this willingly, it's time to transfer the whole process to the boat. Repeat the command and treats as often as necessary for him to get the idea. Once he is comfortable with using the astroturf, you can gradually discontinue using treats.

If you have more questions let me know in a REPLY. I wish you fast success with this method.


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Customer: replied 3 years ago.



Thank you for the response. When you say "Dogs generally cannot hold their urine or feces long enough to cause actual health problems" HOW long is that? I mentioned he has held it > 36 hours and when let off the boat after that time he didn't seem rushed to go. How long could a dog hold it? Our dog is a pug/terrier and weighs 35 pounds. Also, if the dog is holding it and we are getting nervous is there anything we can do to help him go? Medications? Actions? Massage?? Anything that could help him along?


Thank you,


Hi Diana,

There is no certain amount of time that is safe for a dog to wait because how often they need to go depends on a lot of factors. I have had dogs, especially males, that will hold their urine 18 to 36 hours because they didn't want to go in the rain. Both urination and defecation vary, depending on what was eaten, how much water was taken in, how active the dog was, and the weather. For example, if a dog is not very active, he won't drink as much and will be able to hold urine longer. If the weather is warm and he pants a lot, water is given off that way, too. When excited or stressed, some dogs urinate and defecate more often, while others will hold it longer during such situations. The bladder will only hold so much, and when it reaches that point, the dog will have to go. When a dog holds urine for along time, it does increase the chances of urinary tract infections and stones, but other than that possibility, there are no other risks associated with it.

There are no medications to help with this. Some dogs can be encouraged to urinate by massaging the stomach and penis with a wet cotton ball, but that works best in younger puppies. The most likely thing to work is using piddle pads or the spray because both contain compounds that encourage urinating.

I can tell you would like a quick, easy fix for this, but if I told you there is one, I'd be lying. Training/conditioning as I described above is the best method. Most dogs will learn the go potty command in 3-4 days. Learning to go on the astroturf when placed on the ground and sprayed may take 2-3 days. Going on the astroturf on the boat can take longer, but within 2 weeks, your dog should be able to get the idea that it's all right to go when on the boat. Of course, with living beings, there is no guarantee. some dogs learn more quickly, and some more slowly. However, what you want to teach is not a major problem like aggression or failure to become house trained, so with some patience and effort, he should pick this up.

If you need anything else, let me know.


(If you've found this information helpful, please take a moment to rate the answer so I can receive credit for it. Thank you very much).
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