I am not a dog person, I am a cat person. I do like dogs though and for reasons beyond my ken I got the urge to have a dog. In addition to our two cats, that is.
The first attempt with an adult dog was unsuccessful, but it did not discourage me and the urge remained.
But in no way was I prepared to handle a puppy.
I read everything I could find on the Internet and even in some “proper” publications, and they were all full of praise for the great positive effect that dogs have on people, etcetera, etcetera, and everyone should have a dog, basically. No! No. A dog will change your life on a minute-to-minute basis, and it will only be positive if you can handle it.
A cat is pretty much its own individual who lives in your house on its own terms – excuse me, you live in their house, of course. If you are lucky, the cat can be your companion, but many don’t bother. They don’t impose on you, always pee in the same place – the litter box – and generally lead their own lives. You can lead your own existence too.
A dog is a very different creature. A dog does not exist alone, cannot live alone and can never be happy alone. A dog depends on you to survive, mentally and emotionally rather than for food. A dog needs to be a part of your life continuously, every minute of it. Your life apart from the dog ends right there.
Of course this doesn’t mean that the dog has to be physically with you 24/7, as most dogs can be trained to wait for you while you are at work. But mentally they are with you all the time.
However, a young puppy doesn’t have such training yet, it has just been rather brutally removed from its mother and litter mates and thrust into a new place with unfamiliar smells and sounds, all alone. You are its world now.
We got our puppy at 8 weeks old as is now the trend. This is too early! The puppy’s vision is still very poor, so it cannot see you; it has the need to touch mum most of the time – that’s you now; the bladder and bowels are still developing, so it cannot hold it when it needs to “go”; the emotion of fear has not yet emerged in its brain, so it cannot learn from mistakes and cannot be told off yet for messing absolutely everywhere in your house 12-15 times a day – including in your bed. Oh, and you are completely responsible for it and without you it will die, literally.
But a month later, at 12 weeks, most of these issues are resolved as the puppy develops. I really don’t understand who could ever imagine it would be a good idea to put both the puppy and the human through a month of total misery! No, it does not make you appreciate the puppy more. It makes you wish you got another cat instead!!
Our puppy is now almost 6 months old, so yeah, we got through it and we didn’t give her up to a shelter. I kept repeating to myself that it takes a human baby over a year to learn to control its bladder, so surely I cannot expect a puppy to do it in 8 weeks. By 12 weeks things improved.
That is not to say that she is house trained now – far from it. But I found an acceptable compromise which is the main purpose of this post, apart from a doze of venting above. 😉
I looked everywhere for tips and advice on house training and found nothing useful and nothing that worked – the puppy didn’t seem to understand what was expected from her. At some point I think she thought I wanted her not to pee at all – ever. Oh dear. She didn’t seem to get that it wasn’t the peeing I was objecting to but where she was doing it. And so I could not make it clear to her how to do it right.
Ours is a winter puppy, born in November, so it was too cold to make her go out 15 times a day – and I couldn’t do it either. So we had to find a solution with peeing indoors. Puppy training pads were bought and laid out, and she used them happily if she happened to be sitting on one when the urge took her. Otherwise anything else would do just as nicely, thank you very much. The carpet, the sofa, your bed or your lap – it’s all good. This nearly drove me to despair.
Then the weather improved and we started going outside. But she refused to pee on the grass! Much too weird. Run back indoors and pee on the carpet. 😤 Even if it had been saturated with the “Don’t Pee Here” spray. Oh, she hated the smell but felt there was no choice but to endure it! Again, I was not getting through to her – she could not tell the difference in terms of toilet suitability between a pad and a sofa. Both soft, both absorbent, how do you choose?
They say some dogs will try to always pee in the same place, so if there’s lingering smell of urine somewhere, they’ll go there again. No, that’s cats! Our dog will not go in the same place again – she wants to go in a fresh place every time. Wouldn’t you? So much better.
So, your first line of defence is to absolutely close off all areas where peeing is out of the question. Do not let your dog go there – supervised or not, she’ll find a way to pee. We installed a pet gate.
But the question still remained: how do I make it clear to the dog what she’s supposed to do? She learned quickly enough that peeing on the carpet gets her in trouble, but not knowing what to do instead, she wasn’t getting anywhere. Yes, of course I tried pointing her nose into the pad and all that – nothing worked.
What did work was so simple, I don’t understand why I didn’t think of it before (was probably too busy panicking). The solution was: do not believe advertising. The pads claimed to carry a scent that would tell the dog to pee here, yet the dog didn’t seem to get it. Well then, the scent must be too weak or may be not even be there at all! Obvious, isn’t it? We bought a separate “pee here” spray and started squirting it onto the pads, refreshing every few hours. That’s it! Miraculously, the dog got it! And every time you praise her for doing it right, it reinforces the training and prompts her to do it right again.
Of course, we are still getting an occasional accident, mostly when her nose is on the pad but her business end is off it. She gets it though, she looks and sniffs and realises she got it wrong – you can see it in her eyes. It gets more accurate every time.
So, as a temporary solution indoor toilet routine is sorted. Phew! I can live with that for a bit and gather my strength, because the goal is of course to have her go outside. We have a cat flap in the kitchen door, so she goes out into the garden all the time. But even if she spends all day outside (if you are also there), she runs indoors to use the facilities… The goal is however for her to go outdoors for toilet and see the garden as the facilities. She does use it sometimes, but only if the weather is warm, the grass is not wet, there are no magpies watching and she is just too lazy to go upstairs.
So this is only half of house training for now. We haven’t managed the crucial second phase yet. But it has only been 4 months, and apparently it can easily take 6 to 8 months or even longer to house train a puppy! My god! If I had only known it in advance! It took me on average all of 10 minutes to house train my cats, so I could not even imagine that kind of timescales for dogs… Almost as bad as human babies, that!
Don’t worry – our dog is in no danger of being abandoned, even if she pees on the carpet. Our lives have been changes and we are sticking with it, and thankfully we are managing. But it is not an easy path to take! There are other aspects that take a lot of work and attention – there is a lot of training to be done. Dogs have an immense learning potential, and whether you train them or not, they will fulfil it, they will learn things either from you or by themselves, and the latter would often be wrong. So you have to train them, after all, you are their pack now, and the pack trains the youngsters.
Wolves are genetically the same as dogs – they belong to the same species. Wolves typically live 6-8 years, but they only reach adulthood by the age of 3. That’s nearly a half of their life span. Think about it – wolves spend a half of their lives in training. And you think half an hour for your dog is enough?