Surviving Housetraining

bodie thinking

I’m not an expert on how to house train a ten to twelve week-old puppy. But I’m a survivor of many, many puppies who have forced me to learn the tricks of the trade.

It’s officially twenty-two days since the latest fuzzy-faced elimination machine stepped into my house. The days have zoomed by already, although at the start I dreaded this part of raising dogs.  But finally I have had one full day of no cleaning, no drama, no paper towels, nothing stinky in the air or worse, on my fingers.  Lucky me, when I got him at ten weeks of age Bodie already slept through the night.  Of course, I didn’t allow him to have any water after seven and supper was at four.

My golden rule for successfully house training dogs is that puppies need to go outside after and/or before any activity word that ends with an –ing: eating, playing, sleeping, running, barking, thinking and ripping (whatever fits in their mouths). You get the picture.  They have no muscle control so basically your cute young puppy  is a short tube.  What goes in must go out, the sooner the better, ready or not, here it comes.

A puppy may give a bark or whine to go out but not always because they also have the attention span of a bug. So housetraining depends on the person in charge being attentive to every single thing the pup does.  That’s why I have an exercise pen in the kitchen hallway.  I can see and hear him bark, whine, be uneasy, sniff and I can throw on my shoes and say, “Want to go out?”

Outside Bodie has learned three things, the word “potty” means pee, “poopies” means the obvious, and he has to do both on lead. Eliminating on lead is crucial for show dogs but it also keeps a puppy from running, zooming and forgetting why he was out in the yard, which happens all too often.  Always, always he gets a very soft, kind word, “Good”, as he assumes the position, followed by a treat when done.  Sweet little Bodie almost can’t help himself but comply after over a dozen repetitions a day for three weeks.  He knows what I want.  The funny, frustrating thing is that sometimes he wants to chew my shoes, tug the leash, or look at the neighbor’s yard.  So he won’t “go”.  We walk up and down, back and forth until nature makes the decision for him.  Did I mention how incredibly frustrating this process can be; terribly, teeth-grinding, whose-idea-was-this frustrating?  Then the puppy and I get a routine going and he blends in with the pack as they all potty together.  Finally I see a light at the end of the dark tunnel that is house training.  Paper towel prices go down on Wall Street as my need for them decreases.

Now Bodie is earning free time in the house which puts me back at square one. Now he needs closer monitoring because he’s play-ing and mov-ing which means eliminat-ing without think-ing.

I don’t know the exact statistics but one of the main reasons people turn dogs into shelters is because of house training problems. Really though, with dedication, the use of crates, being attentive and monitoring the small puppy the time goes fast.  Look how long it takes human babies to be potty trained.  Dogs are quick and easy in comparison.

As a caveat for all my hard work done in the beginning of their lives, my adult Border Collies are very fastidious about having a clean place outside to do-the-do. They tip-toe at rest areas and hotels where careless dog owners fail to pick up after their dogs.  My poor Border Collies seem to be disgusted by the smell and filth.  Dogs love to be clean and hate to mess in their den and later it simply carries over to the entire house, not just their crates.  But at the beginning, that first week, what I call hell week, it doesn’t seem possible.  It’s all worth it though.


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