Dear AKC: My dog is a wonderful Jack Russell Terrier/Chihuahua mix. My question has to do with taking him to go out. He will only go to the bathroom where other dogs have gone. My husband and I moved into a townhouse where no one has lived before. As a result, he will not go in our front yard. Do you have any suggestions on how to change this habit? I noticed at a pet store that they have something called a "pee post." Would that be worth a try? -- Timid Toilet Training
Dear Timid: I've been getting a lot of housebreaking questions recently and yours brings up an interesting angle. I'm wondering if you have recently moved from a city to a more suburban setting, especially since you now have a front yard which I'm going to assume is grass. Many times puppies that are trained to go on one surface, such as concrete sidewalks, will balk at doing their business on something as foreign as a lawn. This might explain your pet's reluctance. This can easily be overcome with time because eventually the dog will get used to the new surface.
I've had some dog owners who moved into a city with a country dog tell me they used newspapers to help with the transition. They would have the dog go on a single page of newsprint outside, as a neutral surface and one that harkens back to puppyhood. Then each time they went out, they would tear off more of the page making it smaller and smaller over several days until eventually, he went on the new surface unassisted.
As for your pee post idea, this little knick knack is a pheromone-treated plastic yard post you place in the ground for your dog to pee on. They stink enough of canine hormones which trigger a natural behavioral response in a dog, such as a male dog wanting to "mark" where another male dog just went as a way of leaving his calling card on his "turf." They are not expensive so you could give it a try. You could get a friend's male dog to come over and pee on your front lawn which would work too! Then take you dog to that same spot over and over again and give him the "go" command and praise highly when the job is done, and before you know it you will accomplish the same goal.