Crousti Chronicles: The dreaded deed of housetraining
Having never trained a dog in any sense of the word, I really had no idea what to expect when it came to house training. And all I can say is thank God we don’t have carpeted floors.
I followed the lead of my husband, whose past toilet training technique was as simple as 1-2-3:
1/ Show the puppy a Wee-Wee housebreaking pad (un tapis) and always keep the pads in the same location.
2/ When the puppy does his business elsewhere and not on the Wee-Wee pad, say “Bad” while you put his nose in his pee or poo.
3/ Pick up dog and show him the Wee-Pad as you say the word “Good”.
Apparently if you repeat these steps, the dog will eventually understand he’s to pee and pooh on the magic pads. Great. Sounds easy. Except … the pup wants to play with his Wee-Wee pad. He wants to chew it, lay on it, wrestle it … in fact, anything but do his business on it.
After a little surfing on the net, we learned that the old “rub his face in it” technique is no longer advised. Instead, when you catch your dog doing number 1 or 2 inside, pick him up mid-stream (so to speak) and plunk him on the Wee-Wee pad to finish. Fantastic. Makes sense. Except … the startled puppy either finishes peeing on you, or is so shocked he stops pooing altogether and just holds it all in. I don’t blame him, really. I wouldn’t want someone ripping me off the toilet right in the middle of my daily constitution.
We tried taking the dog for walks, long ones, too, in the hope that he would pee outside but instead he would hold it until he got back in the apartment and then relieve himself. I started to panic. Everything I’ve read and been told about puppy training indicates that if you don’t get it spot on right off the bat, your dog will develop bad habits. I’d add that we were also crate training (I say this in a whisper as the French would bring out the guillotine if they knew), and so each time he came out of his “house” we took him outside. I went to Star Dog & Cat Boutique in (http://jophicotedazur.com) and Marianne, the engaging Dutch owner, reassured me that “he is just a puppy” and this this “is what puppies do”. There are sprays that, eventually if the toilet training fails, you can apply indoors that deter the dog from peeing, but Crousti was nowhere near that point. Whew. I wasn’t failing at motherhood.
So we changed tactics and started taking him outside every two hours, basically abandoning the housebreaking pads. This worked overall, although provided for some rather long bouts of standing on the street. So here’s what I’d suggest (if living in an apartment):
Crousti’s toilet training tips for puppies
1/ Take your puppy out every two hours (adjust to higher frequencies if a very young pup) or ten minutes after a meal.
2/ Once outside pick one spot and always go to the same place. Stand there. Let the dog sniff around but you need to hold position. Right before he finally unloads, he will start frantically walk around in circles. Voilà. A dog usually poops within 3 minutes after he pees, so you don’t need to stick around for half an hour waiting. (Tip: If you have a yard, you can buy a Pee Post to train the dog to go at a certain spot.)
3/ Every time he does #1 or #2, give him lots of praise – a pat on the head with a “Good boy/girl” or Tu es bien – and a tiny treat.
4/ When you take your dog for a walk, start and end at this spot so that he gets used to it, and knows this is where he is to do his business.
5/ Always carry more than one bag to poop-and-scoop. You never know how many times the dog might go, or if he has problems and one poop comes out in three small bits. (In Italy, dog owners now can be fined it they are caught not having bags – whether the dog has pooped or not.)
6/ Always take the dog's water bowl up by 8:30pm at the latest. In the early days, get the puppy up at 5am and take him outside; at night take him out at 10pm or even later. If he's crying in the night to go outside be careful: it may be just for attention and you want to avoid getting into a situation where he calls the shots all night long. (Tip: If you live in an apartment without an elevator, you better be certain you want a dog because there will be lots of stair climbing for the next 15 years).
Without even knowing, your dog is being toilet trained outside. By taking him out regularly, you don’t give him the chance to go to the toilet indoors. And, with every month that passes, his bladder will grow so you can judge his needs. Crousti rarely has to tell us he needs to go out, but when he does, he comes and sits in front of my chair and stares at me (something he would never otherwise do). We still praise him (he’s only 8 months) but no longer with food.
The toilet training process makes clear two things:
1/ You need to be committed to owning a dog and the responsibilities that come with that. Toilet training is time consuming. And you are 100% accountable for cleaning up after your dog outside. Fido is not going to flush so be respectful of your community and duty as a dog owner. And please, please, please: KEEP YOUR DOG ON A LEASH.
2/ Street litter. I loathe the irresponsible who throw trash out car windows but now that I’m outdoors on foot more with the dog, I’ve stumbled on to the epidemic that is street litter. When you have a puppy that wants to chew everything, it’s a losing battle against the Top Five street trash: gum and hard candies, Kleenex, food, cigarette butts, and broken glass from beer bottles.
I have much more to say on the subject but Crousti is sitting in front of my chair, staring at me. So I gotta go ... or I should say he's gotta go.