Housebreaking a Puppy (or Likely a Rescued Adult Dog Too)

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Hi there.

Charlie has been growing like a weed. He put on two pounds each week he’s been here and one time when I walked him for a pee break after a long nap, I was positive his legs had grown. His body continues to lengthen and he’s developed a waist.

We don’t know exactly when his birthday is, but the vet estimated when she first met him about three weeks ago that he was between eight and ten weeks of age.

So he’s been with us for almost three weeks and that would put him to almost three months old, which I feel is pretty close to where he is. If he continues at this rate, he will be about 25 pounds at about four months, which is the point when you double the weight to get a close guess of what his final weight will be. So, probably in the neighborhood of 50 pounds, which is where I was thinking.

Lots of people ask me about his breed. I have no clue other than to suggest that he’s a serious herder and his legs are showing that characteristic marbling that so many border collies possess. But specifics on his breed elude, so my son and I came up with one, but it’s in German, to sound exotic: he’s a verlassen Hund, which translates to “forsaken dog.” If you’re new to his story, please go here to read about his rescue; it’s a “page turner” and “an amazing story about heroism for our four-legged friends who have no where else to turn.” –Me.

But you didn’t come here to learn about him as much as you might’ve come to check out my housebreaking tip(s).

I’ve made many comparisons between our verlassen Hund, Charlie, and my six-year-old golden retriever, Murphy. Because Charlie was a rescue, who’d likely never seen a human until the night he was scooped up and placed in a hatchback, we’re working on his manners. These include:

  • Not snarling and snapping at anything that dares to give or take a toy or go near his food.
  • Not pissing and shitting wherever he feels like it.

I thought I’d have a longer list (and believe me, I do, but those two top it), so, that’s pretty much it. This is all new to me; rescue dogs, every dog I’ve ever had with my family has been a dog from a breeder and with them, you hope (at least) there’s lots of human interaction before the dog comes home.

Charlie, being a verlassen Hund, has a different aspect on all of this “training” business. To him, it’s all noise. “I shat. Where’s the treat?” is all he’s about.

I love training dogs though, so we’re doing lots of affirmative “clicker” training to help him understand when he’s doing something right and repeating it. When he does something that needs refining, we stay at it until he’s better.

The not-snarling thing is something that we’re learning (due to his lack of human interaction and my inkling on his breed, if he’s a Border Collie, he’s going to be a nipper genetically) needs to be performed in every area of the house / property — especially outdoors, because that’s where he was whelped and raised, along with repetition and reinforcement.

The housebreaking is going to be a little harder, and I’m coming to realize, it will also need to be performed in every area of the house as well. This is all given with the caveat that you’re crate training your dog for overnights and while you’re away; you’re not letting your dog sleep in his detritus, and that you’re taking him out several times a day to eliminate.

Here’s my tip: dogs don’t want to eat where they shit.

That’s it.

How do we fix this? How to we reinforce positive behavior? Two three ways:

  1. Feed them in every area of the house on the floor surface. That means put kibble down on the bare wood or tile or carpet and let your pup / untrained / rescue dog eat off that surface.
  2. Let them be with you in those areas of the house under supervision for several hours a day and play with them there and do training / tricks in there so that their scent joins your scent and they begin to understand that your home is one giant crate that they don’t want to shit in.
  3. When you take the dog outside to poop or pee, use the clicker when the dog is finished eliminating and immediately give a treat along with your specific praise for the act. In our house, we do this: Click, say “Good outside!” and give a treat along with a quick rub on the back of the dog.
This is Charlie learning to not shit where he eats. It will take some time, but it will be worth it.

This is Charlie learning to not shit where he eats. It will take some time, but it will be worth it.

For us, as a friend just said, Charlie spent likely seven to nine weeks without a human. It’s going to take at least that long for him to get this right. If he gets it right sooner, then he’s a genius and we should nominate him for a Peece Prize. I’m not placing any bets. It’s frustrating to walk into a room immediately after he pees outside for a treat and a smooch to encounter a warm puddle and his wee sparkly black eyes saying, “HI! I FEEL BETTER!”

Charlie is a great little guy; he’s like a clown. He greets us with kisses and wags his tail so hard I feel like it’s going to fall off one of these days. He is full of enthusiasm and genuine curiosity. He makes us all laugh. He is one grateful albeit mannerless verlassen Hund. Every time I walk in on him and Murphy playing, it’s like I’ve interrupted their scheming to overthrow the world.

… Just gotta get that “don’t shit where you eat” thing down and we’re off to the races. Or the cattle show.

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

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