The Old Trainer: Teach dog to 'take care of business'

April 21, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer: We adopted Dahli, a Bichon Frisé, two months ago when she was 6 months of age. Her previous owners used potty training pads in the house and never took her outside. She is a delightful dog and smart. We have taught her to urinate outside almost 100 percent of the time, but for some reason we have hit a roadblock with her pooping outside. What should we do?

-- Michelle, Merced

A: Just be patient and keep working with her. She is still a baby and was not properly trained until you got her.

All dogs prefer to potty as far from their den as possible, so training Dahli, or any puppy, is easy if you devise a sound routine and stick to it. Kind of like Mr. Miyagi showing the basics to Daniel in "The Karate Kid," then letting him figure the rest out himself.

First, feed her the same thing, in the same place, at the same time each day. I feed my pack in the evening, but it makes no difference as long as you stick to the same schedule every day. Don't leave food down for her all the time now that she is almost a year old.

Pick up her dish and take her outside as soon as she finishes her meal.

This is not play time, so just walk her to the most distant part of the yard. If she tries to play, say "no, take care of business." She will not understand it at first, but if you praise her and pet her every time she potties she will learn what the command means. Give the command every minute or so. If she poops, praise her and take her into the house. Take her in after 5 minutes whether she does anything or not, but let her go out every hour.

Watch her closely while she is inside for signs she may want out. If you see her start to squat say "no," scoop her up and set her outside. Forget the old "rub her nose in it" idea. It is nonsense, another example of projecting human psychology onto a canine.

Move her potty training pad next to the door. Any time she approaches it take her out. Take her to the dog park as often as you can. Watching other dogs is the best training Dahli can have. When she sees other dogs pooping outside she will adopt the habit herself.

Walk her every day. If dogs are on a reliable schedule they will poop at the same time each day, and they all prefer to do it on their walk. People who walk their dogs every day can tell you, within 100 yards, where their dog will go each time. Consistency is the secret.

The most important part is praising and petting Dahli every time she poops outside. She wants to please you. She just has to learn what you want.

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