Saturday, March 1, 2014

Reflections on House Training

I'm sure that unless someone is house training a puppy right now, most people have no interest in this subject, so feel free to skip over this post.  I've owned dogs my entire life and I've house trained all of them, but when many years pass between puppies, it's easy to forget all that is involved in the process.  So, once again, I find myself learning as I go.

A friend who is sort of a "crazy dog lady" in our area reminded me that Stewie is still quite young, and being a Chihuahua, has a very small bladder.  So, I am keeping my expectations realistic.  Some dogs can't be fully house trained until they are about a year old, so I know I could be in this for the long haul with six more months of potty training ahead of us.

I've been doing my research, looking for unique ideas on house training puppies, as well as reminding myself of the tried and mostly true methods.  What has been baffling me the most is how I can take Stewie outside two or three times within a few minutes of each other, and he does do his business outside, but then within seconds after bringing him back indoors, I find more, fresh accidents on the carpet.  It's not like I can say that I'm not taking him out often enough.  If he hasn't gone, I hang out with him until he does get down to business, so it's not like I'm not giving him enough time.  I just can't fathom how one little tiny puppy can have that much waste to expel.

Then there are the other dogs.  Scrappy is house trained as long as he's not sick, but he waits until the absolute last minute to let me know he needs to go out, and then while I'm running him outside, he pees on the driveway or the staircase or some other inappropriate location instead of walking a few extra steps into the yard.  Sometimes I can head that behavior off at the past by pushing him from behind with my legs or carrying him to the yard.

Midge is in some ways the worst.  She tells me she needs to go out, and then either just stands around sniffing the air, lays down in the dirt, or has to run around sniffing every old pee spot or pile left behind by herself and the other dogs.  If I take one dog out, Midge is waiting at the door anxiously, because she wants to go out and follow her nose to the location where the other dog eliminated.  Lately, she has actually started eating poop, so now I have to keep the yard constantly clean.  She rarely actually gets down to business.  I'm guessing she thinks it is her responsibility to clean up after "her puppy."

So, it's like I have three points of a triangle, or three dogs on opposite spectrums of each other in their potty training behaviors.

My latest plan of attack for Stewie has been to keep him in his crate around meal times, because that is when he becomes a little tornado of bodily functions.  Then when I take him out on his leash, I reward him with a tiny treat as soon as he finishes the desired action.  I tried praising and petting him for a while, but as soon as I made a verbal sound, the dogs next door barked at me, and the snowbirds on the other side of us turned on all their lights and came out of their camper to investigate who was outside, and that just distracted the puppy so that I couldn't get him to do anything more.  Now I just quietly slip him a treat out of my pocket.

Unfortunately, the consequence of treating him is that sometimes he walks outside with me and stares at my pocket instead of getting down to business.  There are other problems with the method, such as him only emptying himself partially and then waiting for the reward, only to finish his business indoors on the carpet.  Nothing can ever be simple.

Scrappy gets slipped a treat when he urinates in the dirt, but chastising him when he goes in inappropriate outdoor locations is useless because he's deaf.  Midge gets a treat only when she gets right down to business, but I know it's a stretch to get her to understand that the timing of her bathroom breaks is the key to getting rewarded.  So far I've had some success, but we're still a long ways from eradicating the undesirable behaviors.

A few days ago we got new neighbors.  They moved in with an existing neighbor next door, parking their camper in his side yard and taking over his house.  They are at his house 24/7, and their behaviors make it really hard for me to potty train the dogs.  Every time I walk the dogs outside for a potty training session, these people feel the need to either come outside or loudly slide open a window to peer out and see what I am doing.

They are door and window slammers.  I find it bizarre how it is always quiet when I walk outside, and then within seconds of me coming into these camper's view, I hear this frantic flurry of activity as they scramble around in reaction to my presence, running between house, car and camper, opening and slamming each door and compartment multiple times.  And, of course, each time they slam a door, the dogs stop sniffing around for a place to do their business and start looking for the source of the noise.  They stand on their hind legs to look over our little wall, or pull on their leashes to get around the wall.

I have learned that if these people come outside, I may as well give up and try again later, but then later they come out again the second that I come outside.  I've been tempted to just go over there and explain the situation and ask if they can just sit still and be quiet for a few minutes when they see me trying to get my dogs to potty.  But, if they are snowbirds, they'll probably be gone in a week or two, and then I can resume my regularly scheduled program.

It's amazing how just having a couple of new bodies around can be so disruptive.  It's like having roommates.  I thought I would be in good shape buying a house on four acres, but in some ways having a lot of land makes the intrusions worse, because people are attracted to your open space, and then my backyard becomes their view.  If I had a tiny lot surrounded by fencing and locked gates in the middle of a city, I wouldn't have these issues.  Also, because it is so quiet with all this land around us, being away from the city and roads, the noises that people make are more pronounced.  It's difficult for the dogs and horses to tune out human activities and focus on the task at hand.

We've spent the past several weeks shopping for dog kennels and dog runs, as well as looking at materials to customize one, but struggled to find anything that fit our needs.  Each solution created other problems.  However, Stewie went through a growth spurt this past week and we are realizing that he is less Chihuahua and more MinPin or whatever his other breed(s) may be.  Despite just buying him new harnesses a few weeks ago, we had to move him up a size, because the "old" ones are now digging into his armpits.  We went back and looked at the covered kennels at a local store and decided that with the size he is now, he probably can't slip through the gaps between the gate and frame anymore.

We are no longer as concerned as we were a few weeks about about Stewie escaping as soon as we open the gate, because, despite our lack of success with house training, we have successfully trained him to sit and stay.  For the past week, we've been able to consistently walk in and out doors more freely.  We didn't want any kind of kennel that required digging holes or sticking anything into the ground, because the ground here is all rock, but we wanted something tall enough that we could walk into it and cover both the top and sides with a tarp for shade.

Once we ordered it, we had to decide where to put it.  If we put it in the little yard where we've been walking the dogs to do their business, we can't see them unless we look out a closet window or a bathroom window.  If we put them where we can see them, the tarp-covered kennel will block our view of the horses.  If we put the kennel down by the barn, it's just too far to walk and I could see us not using it, because it would be faster to just put the dogs on leashes and walk them to the dog yard on the side of the house, plus we would have to move rocks and weeds, and then level the ground.

We decided to put it off to the side of the back of our house where we can still see it from the windows of the main living area, but the only thing the kennel will block is our neighbors' view of us when we sit on the porch.  It's about the same distance from the back door as the dog yard, and shouldn't block our view of anything except the neighbor's backyard.  Sweet.  I can't wait for it to be delivered.  I'm hoping it will kill two birds with one stone, freeing up my time AND allowing us more privacy.


Grey Horse Matters said...

Good luck training the puppy and I hope your snowbirds leave soon. You certainly seem to attract gawkers no matter where you live!

Crystal said...

We have been lucky, our dogs mostly live outdoors and so when in the house that was not thier spot so rarely had a mess, even rarely pooped on the lawn, went outside the yard area which was nice. It sure will be nice to have a dog yard for them they probly will appreciate it as well

Cheryl Ann said...

My black lab, Ripley, never really DID learn her potty training and she still has accidents inside the house, mostly around 2:00 a.m. when we are asleep...sigh...

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

This morning was just nuts. It stormed all night, so the dogs didn't want to go outside. I brought the puppy into the bathroom with me just to let me supervise him while I brushed my hair and put on my shoes to take him out, and he peed on the floor right in front of me. I took him out, he peed outside, and as soon as I took him in, he peed a third time inside. While I was scrubbing up those two stains, he pooed just a few feet away from me. In the hour that followed, he had three more poos on the carpet. How can a little dog even carry that much poop in his intestines? I just don't get it.

achieve1dream said...

You might need to give him meds for tapeworms. When Jackal was a puppy he started peeing all the time inside and even when he was sitting or laying down. After treating him for tapeworms it immediately stopped. You probably already know this but regular dewormers don't work for tapeworms. Good luck!