Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Going Potty Over Potty

We were going to be very successful at potty training. I have all kinds of information from various sources that I've gathered over the years, and lots more experience in dog training and in understanding dogs, and I'm working at home almost all the time, and I'm using crates and x-pens and leashes and all that to control my dog.

On the other hand, my personal theory is not simply that "accidents will happen", as most of the books and trainers will tell you, but that in fact learning doesn't happen without accidents where you catch the dog in (or, preferably, just before) the act so that you can tell the dog "wrong" or "not here" and speed him out to the desired potty area. (OK, in truth, this is something you'll hear a lot in dog training--and in people training--one learns best when one makes mistakes along the way. Just no one ever seems to *tell* you that about potty training.)

So, OK, we were going to catch Boost in the act (or preferably just before) and rush her out to the potty area.

These are nice theories.

During the closely monitored period of her life, the first few weeks, where she was virtually never out of my sight, we still had a few accidents--maybe half a dozen at most. The morning when she squatted at the door while I was unlocking it; the next morning where I decided to carry her down to avoid this and then she got excited when the other dogs ran by and peed down my shirt and pants; the middle of the night when she was very restless and woke me up but by the time I was fully awake she had peed in the crate (plastic tray at bottom so cleanup not too bad); the time I left her in the crate while playing with the other dogs in the yard and didn't make sure she had peed beforehand.

Once, while I had her with me in the bathroom, I realized I was looking at pre-poop behavior and rushed her outside, where she pooped immediately and got a lot of praise. This was according to plan.

But because I controlled all of her access and timing, she was never in a position to decide when to go out on her own--I always took her out when I thought it was time to go potty. And I was usually right. But was she learning anything?

Then began the less-controlled portion of her life. For the last week or so I've been giving her lots of off-leash in-house freedom, although I'm trying very hard to still keep an eye on her everywhere in the house. In the first couple of days--
  • We had breakfast, exercised, tried to potty but did nothing, settled down with a chew toy in the kitchen; suddenly I realized she wasn't there (she's like a little gray ghost) and called her. She came running downstairs (she's not supposed to be up there without me but she doesn't really know that) and then settled down nicely for a nap. Housemate came down about an hour later to ask whether Boost had been with me the whole time because there was a little poopy gift in his bedroom.

    Fortunately it was dry and easy to clean up.
  • The next morning, I worked hard at keeping an eye on her *all* the time in the house. She was sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes down in the office (which I can see from the kitchen), playing with toys, lying around, running back and forth. I could've sworn I watched her all the time, anyway. But when I headed out to the garage, there was a little puddle in the middle of the tile just behind the staircase wall that's the only place I can't see through between the kitchen and the office.
  • Later that day, we were out in the garage unloading groceries and sorting sodas. The little puppy nose got into everything and I kept fending her off. She was constantly underfoot, and so followed me closely from the garage to the kitchen and back again. About the fourth time I made the trip, my little human scent detectors thought they smelled something funny (not as in ha-ha) in the garage. Sure enough, in the far corner, was little poopy gift again.

And it has gone on like that, although not so many in a single day as I become wiser to her sneak tactics. Not always wise enough:

This morning, after Boost and Tika had a very intense play session in the back yard, then in the office, then Boost ran like a maniac through about a thousand tunnels, then we all came into the kitchen and Boost collapsed on a mat under the table. Jake collapsed on the other mat under the table. Tika looked at us (panting) for a moment or two while I watched her standing there with muddy feet, then turned and headed upstairs. I immediately called her back and put a gate across the stairs. As I headed back into the kitchen, there came a loud thump from upstairs. I tried to imagine what could have been precarious enough upstairs to fall and make a noise while no one was up there--then I noticed that there remained only one dog on a mat under the table.

The little grey ghost had whisked herself upstairs, silently, during a time when I was 100% positive that I was watching the area and knew exactly where she was. It's amazing.

A couple of days ago I thought I smelled dog pee in my bedroom. I checked everywhere, crawling all over the carpet feeling for wet spots, checked in the closets and the bathroom and checked the mat in her crate. Nothing.

This morning I plopped my laundry basket on the foot of my bed--and noticed a large stain across the comforter cover. Completely dry. But smelling intensely like puppy pee. Went all through the comforter (milkweed silk, if you can believe it, not down--supposed to be better for allergy sufferers, but that means it needs special handling) and the sheet and onto my electric mattress pad--all dry but all stinky. Thank goodness all of that padding kept it from getting down to the mattress itself.

When did she do that? Cripe.

When I strippped the cover off the comforter, I noticed another large stain on the comforter. But no matching stain on the sheet. Which means it happened at least a week ago and I didn't notice.

The puppy isn't even allowed on the bed, but she gets up there ASAP the instant I take my eyes off her. Little grey ghost--

Life is full of surprises.

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