Thursday, May 8, 2008

Potty Training for Pets

Let me start out by saying I adore Mystie, our 4-1/2-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Of course Lexie is still number one pup of the house, but the two of them get along famously, just as I’d hoped. Mystie’s cute and cuddly and playful and mischievous and utterly puppylike. And Lexie enjoys being chewed on by her, or at least she pretends to.

But I have a bone to pick with Mystie. She’s still too much of a baby for me to get too upset, but I am a bit frustrated. I’ll put this as delicately as I can and still make my point. In the housebreaking department, she’s got one bodily function down almost perfectly. She holds it till we get outside to the dog run nearly every time.

Not so in the other department. She seemed to do much better when we first brought her home. Now, she produces some of the time where she should, but, more often, she evacuates inside our house. On the carpet.

I’ve been reading up on what to do. We’re crate-training her. According to the books, she should be averse to producing while in her crate. She’s not. She has no interest in the housebreaking pads that are on the market these days--except to eat them. And our house isn’t set up to allow her to use a doggy door at will.

I take her out ever 10-20 minutes or so after she’s eaten till she produces, which is time-consuming and frustrating, especially when she comes back in and too often does what she should have done while outside.

I keep her near me almost all the time when I’m home, but she’s adept at doing her thing when my back is turned.

She sleeps in her crate at night in our bedroom, and when she wakes up and whines I put her outside. Occasionally, she sleeps through the night... but usually not.

I admit I’m not a dog whisperer. Instead, I hold one-sided conversations with my pups, even though they don’t talk back. I play with them. I love ‘em. I know they’re canines and pack animals and have their own heritage that doesn’t make them people, and I attempt to understand and deal with that.

Right now, Mystie is lying beside Lexie on the floor near my computer, looking up at me quizzically and adorably, as if she knows I’m writing about her. Lexie is cute and smart and housebroken, and when she has an accident I think it’s on purpose, to teach me an occasional lesson.

One day, perhaps Mystie will show up in one of my Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries, where Lexie is already the star. Maybe Kendra will have better success than I’m having right now at training this puppy.

On the other hand, surely by then Mystie will be old enough that I’ll look back on this blog entry and laugh at my frustration. I hope.

In the meantime, if anyone has any magic solutions, I’m ready to hear them!

Hey, guess what! Mystie must really have known what I was writing about. I started writing this entry yesterday around her dinnertime, and after she ate, she did what she was supposed to where she was supposed to do it. I knew Cavaliers were smart, but this is exciting!

Let’s see what happens next time....



Kathryn Lilley said...

The idea of potty training a dog sounds very intimidating to me, Linda. I think that's one of the reasons I've always had cats--they come pre-potty trained! But dogs are so worth the trouble for all the love and affection they give you, I'm sure!

caryn said...

Well, I'm surprised the crating didn't work, because that is pretty much a given that dogs won't soil their "den." This is especially true if the pup was with it's housebroken mother for a couple of months. Often, even if a dog has an accident-like really has to go and no one is there to take it out, its drive to not "foul it's den" is so strong it will...sorry this is the problem.
Hopefully you have some way to confine her to a small area of the house so her mistakes area is limited.
You do know that wherever she does go you have to clean, clean, clean to get the odor out or else she will smell it and go there again and again-or anywhere any animal has gone!
Our first dog we got as a puppy. It seemed like forever before we could trust him in the house for sure. The other two we got as adults and had spent a great deal of their lives as outdoor dogs, so the housebreaking was a snap-they were already used to going outside!
Good luck!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Dogs are definitely worth it, Kathryn!
And, Caryn, one of the reasons I was so frustrated that I blogged about the situation is that Mystie seems to break all the usual "rules" about training. My first Cavalier, Panda, was a boy and liked to mark his territory everywhere, but my many Cavaliers since then seemed to get the idea fairly soon, even though there were accidents.

Monica Ferris said...

The only thing I can think of is based on something I saw on an Animal Planet show featuring a British female dog trainer. Use a word for pooping and another for weeing. When the dog is outside and is about to do what is expected of it, say the word and lavish praise when it happens (perhaps even a small edible reward?). Of course no word or reward in the house. I once saw a young dog crouch "in the position" when its owner cooed "puddles!" hoping to fake the owner into a give it a bite of boiled chicken.

caryn said...

Monica, that is too funny! Yes daogs are good at figuring out how to con for treats!
Two last thoughts...I asked mmy behind me neighbor who raised shepards to show and seems to know all things "dog." She mentioned the following-could she possibly have some sort of physical issue that causes her to avoid the issue until she just can't hold it? Like maybe impacted anal glands or something? And, have you tried taking the misplaced poop to the disired spot along with the dog and then praising her there? I about lost it on that one, envisioning trotting around with a paper towel of poop, dog, and treats...

Linda O. Johnston said...

I give amazingly lavish praise, Monica, when she does things where she ought, provide small treats, and even leave a sample there as a reminder. (No, I try not to trot around with it, Caryn!) But maybe I need to just repeat a word over and over to reinforce it.

And you've really triggered some interesting questions in my mind, Caryn. I think Mystie and I may visit the vet. She seemed to be getting the hang of things better till she had diarrhea due to worms, and she hasn't been scooting now that she's rid of them, but there was some discussion of anal gland issues.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Has the vet checked her carefully? When our Bichon had problems, we discovered she had portal liver shunt problems. Also, try walking her or exercising her after she eats to stimulate her. My dogs often play and then, just like little kids, race outside to do their business.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Kate here - please get a copy of both of these books - The Loved Dog by Tamar Geller and Dog Trainning for Dummies (the Volhard Method). I'm definitly not trying to say you don't know what to do and aren't doing things that will help, but theses are the 2 best training books I've read in the past 2 years. I've been training my own dogs and those of several friends for 30+ years, and many approaches/methods have come and gone in that time, and theses 2 books are really, really good ones!
Cavaliers are smart, but they, especially as puppies, have small bladders and often have a slightly 'unfocused' thing going on about all aspects of housetraining. Also, yes, cleaning with an enzyematic cleaner is a must. Good luck!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Anonymous Kate--my poor rescue Bichon still "sprinkles" when he gets upset when I leave the room. If he's in his crate, he's fine, and he's getting better but...will this ever end? Oh,and afterwards, he lingers by the "mistake" as if to say, "See what I did when you left?"

Monica Ferris said...

Revenge tinkling, too funny! But I have a cat who used to fish socks out of the dirty laundry basket at night and put them in his water dish. I often thought there was a message in this activity but had no idea what it might be. He doesn't do it anymore, so whatever it was, he got over it.

I had a Scottie many years ago who had been paper trained by the kennel people where I bought him. He taught us to pick up paper off the floor as he felt obliged to tinkle on it any piece of paper he came across!

Good luck, Linda -- keep us advised!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Thanks to everyone! I'm trying some new stuff with Mystie--plus we have a vet appointment tomorrow to check things out, just in case there's a reason besides she simply doesn't get it yet. With luck and more encouragement, she'll figure it out soon.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Regarding the "revenge tinkling." One good thing: I do believe that Rafferty (my dog) has COMPLETELY broken Michael (my son) of leaving his backpack in the middle of the kitchen floor. The day Rafferty decided to "baptise" Mike's backpack with his special "golden tinkle juice," Mike learned a valuable lesson about dropping stuff wherever it suited him. Now, I suppose, I need to lock poor Rafferty up in Michael's room for an extended course in picking up your things!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...


One last thought: Tamar Geller is a big fan of "making a party" which is pretty-much making a huge to-do over when your dog does something right. If you can just catch your little pup pooping outside and give her treats and love, she might get the message. Right now, it's possible she's just plain confused.

Linda O. Johnston said...

I do try to make a fuss over her, Joanna--although the last time she did it right was about 4 AM this morning, so my fussing was probably a little fuzzy! Thanks for the tip, though. I'll fuss even more!
And as to revenge sprinkling, my first Cavalier, Panda, was a male, and he lifted his leg everywhere when I brought another man into the house. My husband married me anyway, and they continued to fight over who was alpha.