Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dare I Say It?

I feel like I will jinx myself if I speak of it, but I think we have finally made a permanent breakthrough in Stewie's potty training.  Whenever I struggle with dog or horse training topics, my go-to person is achieve1dream.  She said a couple of things that got me headed in a more successful direction.

First off, everything I read about dog potty training said to not get angry and to not punish the dog for having accidents indoors.  They say just take the dog outside immediately after it has the accident.  Well, I had several issues with that approach.  First off, it is impossible to watch your dog like a hawk every second of the day, and Stewie was so good about hiding his indiscretions, that we would often find them hours or days after they happened, so there was no point in taking him outside.  The other thing, is that if you take the dog outside the second he loses control on the carpet, aren't you essentially rewarding him?  Think of all the lizards and toads and butterflies he gets to chase outside.  Obviously, he has already eliminated, so he doesn't need to go outside, and honestly, I don't think Stewie is smart enough to make the connection that he is supposed to eliminate outside if we put him outside after he already eliminated inside.

Anyway, achieve1dream said that she could tell by Stewie's behavior that he didn't know that eliminating inside was bad.  She was right.  He didn't know, because we never got mad or punished him for it.  All we were doing was praising him when he did go outside.  So, I settled on saying the term, "Bad dog!" in a firm tone and clapping my hands when he had a poopsident in order to call his attention to the problem.

Then I needed to up the ante with the praise that he got when he eliminated outside, because simply saying, "Good boy!" didn't do the trick.  Achieve1dream brought up the idea of playing with a toy outside right after he finishes, but because of our yard setup and the fact that we have to keep the dogs on leashes to protect them from predators, we really weren't in a position to play outside.  Usually, we are running into the house to either get out of the heat or get away from coyotes or big birds that want to eat our dogs, or we're trying to get away from fire ants, missionaries, or sales people that are crawling all over us.

But I knew it was important to play with the dog after a successful potty effort.  When I volunteered at the animal shelter, we had police officers come in to train a German Shepard to be a service dog, and they had a very special toy that they used as a reward when the dog reached a specific goal.  The dog was only allowed to play with that toy when he reached that goal.  So, I picked out a squeaky toy and deemed it "The Poo Poo Outside Toy".  As soon as Stewie eliminated outside, I brought him inside and started running around the house excitedly exclaiming, "Stewie pooed outside!  Where's the poo poo outside toy?"

Once I found it, we threw it around and played fetch off leash, and the other dogs usually joined in and chased Stewie around the house, which he loved.  So, we made a big impression on him.  It was like throwing a party for him.

But that still wasn't enough to keep the carpet consistently clean.  I noticed that every time I stepped outside to do chores or run errands, Stewie would get anxious, and I would return to find poo poo on the floor.  So, I started doing inspections.  As soon as I walked in the house, I looked Stewie in the face and asked him, "Did you go poo poo?" in a serious tone.  Usually, if he did, he pinned his ears back and ran off to hide himself.  If he didn't, he'd follow me around the house, as I walked from room to room saying, "Is there poo poo in here?"

If there wasn't, I'd say in a happy tone, "Yay!  There's no poo poo on the floor.  Yay!"

And if we made it through the whole house without me finding poo poo on the floor, we got to play with another toy.  However, if I did find poo on the floor, he got the "Bad dog!" scolding with a finger shake.  For some reason, those home inspections really sunk in for him, and now you can see that he is clearly proud of himself if I get home and he has managed to control himself.

Last night I spotted our first scorpion of the year crawling along on the carpet.  I had sprayed the recliner with Febreeze to get the smell of dog butt out of it, and managed to gas out the scorpion from underneath it.  I called for my husband to get a boot to squish it.  The squishing left a stain on the carpet, and when my husband couldn't find the carpet cleaner, bucket and scrub brush on the kitchen counter, he said, "You put them away in a cupboard.  Does this mean we have been accident-free for a while?"

Yes, that's what it means.  No more poo poo on the floor.  Stewie is officially 16 months old, and we found him as a 6 month old, so this was a 10 month long effort.  I'm so glad it's finally over.


Cheryl Ann said...

Oh, phew! My black lab STILL pees in the house (on one spot on the carpet) at night, so now that the weather is just right, she stays outside. Hubby just can't seem to remember to put her out before he goes to bed...sigh...

How Sam Sees It said...

Yay! Progress!

Monty and Harlow

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yup. I just jinxed myself. After a couple of weeks of no accidents, I wrote this post and woke up to poo poo on the floor.

achieve1dream said...

Aww rats! But it is progress!! Keep at it and he will get there. I know he won't poop in the kennel outside but can he not hang out there while you're doing chores? Maybe being able to watch you will make him less anxious? Good luck!