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Category: Question of the Week


Nick chilling in the crate while I write.


I’ve written a few posts on housebreaking,  – check out the posts under Housebreaking Wednesdays – but I’m going to go over some things again today.

Housebreaking is very important – its one of the main reasons dogs are rehomed – that and other behavior issues.   If you can seperate the idea that housebreaking is an evil plot on the dog’s part to make you miserable and ruin his happy home, you are one step closer to getting it accomplished.  Dogs don’t poop or pee in the house because they are out to get you.  Sometimes it seems like it!  But generally dogs do what they do because its working for them at some level.

Okay – housebreaking.   Deep breath. We’re going to talk about how to back track with some dogs who we think SHOULD know – and yet DON’T DO IT.   Not little puppies who we know don’t know.

First of all decide where dog is going to be when you can’t eyeball them.  Crate works well for this.

Then get a leash and big clip, so you can attach the leash to you, your belt loop, arm, something.  NOW – if the dog isn’t in the crate, he’s attached to someone.   Its not as awkward as it sounds.  I’ve spend many many many hours with a dog clipped to me and you both get used to it quickly.  If there are more than one of you around – even better.  You can share!  Kids love this for a short amount of time.   Don’t over do that though.

small clip attached to leash. They come in many sizes.

NOW.   Decide when the dog is going out.  Yeah, that’s right, you get to decide.  Just like kids at school who (usually) can’t pee willy nilly – they have to wait for the bell – dogs will too.   Write down on paper when you want the dog to go out.  Then set the timer on that fancy phone you have (or the kitchen stove timer) for those times.

When dog hears that tone, in a few days, he’ll be heading to the door.  YAY!  But that’s not today.  Or tomorrow.  Or….well.  So right now you have to add in your words to that tone.  I say “Outside” and then we go out.  We walk to the same spot in the same way.  Then I stand there and hold the leash and sing my self a little ditty.  lalalalalalala.   I get bored with my singing pretty quickly so I tell the dog ‘Hurry up’.  I don’t walk around the yard, and I don’t really interact with him much.  Just stand there, waiting.  IF he goes – he gets a treat OUT there.  Not in the house.  Often they hurry up and go back in to the get the treat.  You want them to know they are being rewarded for going Out there.  Not for coming back in the house.  So once he gets the treat – then we can have a few minutes of play time or a quick walk around or whatever.  But pee first.  If there is no action, when I get bored, or cold, we go back in.  Dog goes back in the crate and we try again in fifteen minutes.

When they Do go, then they get a few minutes of play time either outside or in the house in a confined area.  They don’t get run of the house, because while they might know that they don’t pee in the kitchen, they have No clue they can’t pee in the bedroom – yet.  They will.  But not for a while.   Leave the leash on them so you can step on it if you need to – easier to step on a six foot leash than grab a running puppy.

Then puppy goes back to being attached to you.   He needs exercise yes, but you have to provide that some other way than letting him run around your house unsupervised.  Ball chase down a closed hall – walks – training.   When you get tired of him being attached – crate time.


When the next time you wrote down that you want to take dog out, and the timer goes off – repeat.

If YOU mess up and puppy pees in the house  – and you see it – yell ACK then say Outside and run them right out.  You want them to know outside is where that goes and standing there and acting like a potty fool doesn’t teach them that.  Taking them out where they go, is how you do that.

Make sure you write down when you want them to go out and when they actually DO something.  In or out – so you can see a schedule, “Yup he poops 4 times a day – what’s with that?! ” Or “Man, when I bring him in, he poops fifteen minutes later.  I’ll have to make sure he’s attached to me in the meantime and I set the timer for fifteen minutes and take him out again.”

More to come….Questions??

HELP! My Dog Hates …


I’ve had a couple fear related questions these past few weeks.  Usually, they start out, “my dog’s afraid of men.  I think she was abused before we got her. I don’t know why people do the things they do to dogs!”

Well, I don’t either.  But I don’t know why people do what they do to the ones they supposedly love best in all the world either, so we’re going to kind of skip that question for now.

As a very practical person, I sigh and nod sympathetically and say, “you just don’t know, do you?”  And what I mean is, literally,  you don’t know if some mean male abused this dog.  You really don’t.  You can’t know and won’t ever find out unless he knocks on your door, hat in hand, flowers and candy  and says “I came to apologize to your dog.”

It could have happened, sure.   Or a hundred million other things, or maybe nothing.

What you need to do to help the dog get past this, is quit feeling sorry for the dog.  That’s just not helping anyone.  Not you.  Not the dog.  Not the males she’s afraid of.

So when she sees a man and pees herself, you aren’t going to go “oh poor baby! He’s not going to hurt you! He’s a nice man!”  Pick up the dog and shove her in his face, “see?  He won’t hurt you!”   And man is going to be thinking “Scared dog, proximity to my nose.  Not good.”  And you aren’t going to be happy because neither of them will kiss and make up.  Unless the dog does some submissive appeasement licking, which again, is really no good for anyone.

Just like babies, dogs are born with different personalities that become apparent soon after birth.

Okay – so your dog is afraid of men.  We are going to call her Sadie and we’re going to pretend she’s a nice medium sized dog.   Not a lab, not a Chihuahua– oh, let’s say she’s a Chinese Crested!  I like it.

So, Sadie the Chinese Crested came to my house as a year old dog.  She’d been given up to the rescue because her people ‘were moving’.   No, the shelter didn’t believe it either, but they pretended to.

I discover she’s terrified of men.  I’m not sure how I discover this, because I have no men living in my house.   Well, my 13 year old son, but she probably loves him.  All the dogs do.   But I have some visit occasionally.  And she is fearful.  She’s fearful of a few other things too, but not as bad as her fear of  men.

I was in a kennel all my life. I don’t like men, but, really, I don’t like anybody much but that lady who feeds me. I’m learning to tolerate others, but its hard for me.



So.  What’s the first thing I’m going to do with my shy fearful dog and her terror of men?  Housebreak her.  Oh yeah.  No peeing in the house here!  (Submissive urination is NOT the same as housebreaking and that will be discussed later.)  So I put her on a food and elimination schedule.   I take her out on the leash because its important she gets used to the leash.

A schedule is comforting to a dog.  They have internal clocks.  Know when the kids get out of school, when Dad is coming home from work, when its time for food.  Use that to your advantage.  I want Miss Sadie all relaxed and comfortable in a routine.

I give her a safe place.  In a cozy crate.  Since she’s shy, I’ll use a plastic one, because that makes it feel more den like and she will feel she can be well protected.   She will be in and out of her safe place a lot.  She gets chewies in there and depending on how shy she is, she might eat in there.   (I have one who ate in his crate for three months before he was bold enough to find his bowl in the kitchen).

If the scary men come around while I’m establishing this routine (or in your case, if they live with you) I keep them apart as much as possible.  I ask the scary men to ignore the dog.  Then I ask them again a little more firmly because the men will want to try and make up with the dog.   “Hi baby!  I’m nice, want to come see me?”  No.  She doesn’t.  Leave her alone.  Be in the room, speak in a normal tone, do what you want but ignore the dog, please.

It would be really hard to ignore someone as adorable as me!



And I am not going to comfort the dog for showing me fearful behavior.   If she sneaks up to me despite scary man being there, I’ll pet her and say Hi.  But I’m not going overboard with my praise and I’m not going say ‘its okay baby.  Mommy’s here.  Bad man isn’t going to hurt you.”  Because what she hears when I say that is “what a good doggie you are, Sadie.  You are acting just like mommy wants you to!  What a smart girl you are!”

And she wants to please me, so she’s going to keep on doing those same behaviors.

Okay, so I’ve had her a bit of time now, and she’s working on the house breaking and we are successfully ignoring the fear behavior and the scary man.  So now, I’m going to….start training her!  Yes!   You thought I was going to say shove her in the man’s face, didn’t you?

Nope.  What I want it for Sadie to have confidence.  I want her to be a proud strong female and I want her to have some skills.

Now, realize, Sadie may never be the most social crayon in the box, but that’s okay.  We just don’t want to clean up pee every time she sniffs testosterone, right?

So I start with walks, and the basics of sit down stay come.  If she freaks out on walks, walk her back and forth in front of your house.  Back and forth back and forth.    You can get a mile in going back and forth.   Soon she will get used to that and you can go one house down.  No hurry!   Yeah, the neighbors may think you are nuts, but if they are talking about you, they’re leaving someone else alone.


Go ahead. Talk about us all you want. We can take it!



I want her to be comfortable in her environment.  I want her to have fun on her walks and  be confident in her abilities to ‘do for me’, perform basic chores and commands.

After a bit of this, if scary male is in my house, he’s going to start feeding her.  And treat tossing.  Mommy gives no more treats – they all come from the scary guy!  He still gives her no eye contact and kind of ignores her.   Just ‘here you go dog, have a treat’ toss it on the ground and ignore.   If he does this a time or two and someone is cleaning up pee or pulling her out from under the bed, we back up.   There’s no hurry – you have another ten or fifteen years with this dog.  A couple more weeks isn’t going to be more than a blip.

If he only comes over occasionally, or if I see him on our walks, I’m going to give him some very yummy treats to toss.   First we toss far away from his scary male self, and then after a while closer.  Eventual goal is for him to be about to crouch down, give no eye contact but have her take the treat from his hand.

Soon she’ll be going “MALE!  TREATS!” and then we are going to have a whole ‘nother issue on our hands.

I’ll be posting more in the next day or so.

But basically the steps are: Back the Scary off.   Build the dog’s confidence in other ways. Introduce the Scary in a non threatening manner.  Take it slow.  Back off as necessary.

Look for more in the series of My Dog Hates coming soon!


Recall or Come When you are called

What could be better than an arm full of love charging full speed to you, any time you want them? Not much, and besides being fun for you both, a good recall can save your dogs life.  And get them out of trouble now and then.

My Odie likes to be the neighborhood alert dog.  “Look! Look! There’s people walking on the road!”  He runs from one side of the fence  to the other to ‘escort’ the mailperson out of the yard. I don’t mind an occasional yip or a couple yaps,  but incessant barking is just unneeded.  So instead of telling him ‘hush’ or something stronger, I say, “Odie, come!”   And he joyfully leaves the fence and his guard status behind, running to me, quietly.

On Alert!

‘Come’ is a great distractor.  And gives you a huge amount of control over your dog.  Redirection is one of the best things you can do when your dog is doing something dog-like that you don’t like.  Once they come, get a treat or a snuggle, then they have most likely stopped the unwanted behavior and you can direct them to something else.

As soon as you get your new dog or puppy, you can start ‘come’ exercises.   An easy one is to simply call their name, (they need to know their names) and add the word come: Stella, Come!  in an upbeat voice.  Come is always a good thing. Always.  Every time.   They should always be glad they came to you.   Never call and punish, or call and do something nasty without a little break in between.

So -with Stella a few steps away from you, you call her name, add the command, and then take a step back, while holding out a treat or toy.  Dogs are curious things and will follow you.  “Good come!”  I like to add in the command again as they get to me, in praise terms, so they understand that Yeah, that’s what that word means! Then take another step back and do it again.

When I get a new dog, or am working with a board and train dog, I will measure out about 30 tiny pieces of mixed  treat and kibble in a bowl, set it on the counter and throughout the day, call the dog that many times.  Then I can look at the bowl at the end of the day and think ‘good teacher! called the dog thirty times’  or ‘lazy! work harder!’   It doesn’t take long for the dog to figure out, that ‘come’ means something wonderful will happen.  And that is your goal, to make the dog think that something wonderful will happen when they come to you.

Next time, I’ll work on answering the question, ‘but what if they don’t come?’ for those unresponsive ones.  You’re welcome.

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