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Puppy training tales

A friend of mine got himself a new puppy, cute as a button, but full of energy and herself. So full of herself in fact, that she has decided that urinating around the house is a pretty fun thing to do.

A friend of mine got himself a new puppy, cute as a button, but full of energy and herself.

So full of herself in fact, that she has decided that urinating around the house is a pretty fun thing to do.

House training a puppy is challenging at the best of times. Every day for at least two weeks the puppy has to be taken outside on a regular basis, swiftly upon waking in the morning or after a nap, shortly after each meal or a drink of water, right after a play time and before they are turned in for the night. The consistency of this prevents the young dog from ever having an accident (one hopes) in the house and it learns that outside is where their "business" is done. Accidents will happen, usually out of human error, but not always, especially in 12-week-old Whiskey's case.

You see, another undesirable (but admittedly cute) behaviour of Whiskey's is that she steals things. She steals dish towels, pillows off the couch, tools such as screwdrivers and hammers that her Dad has just used and put down for "just a second" and runs away with them, either in a flurry of puppy excitement or stealthy quiet. Once she has these items in her possession she is found - in the yard playing with dish towels or pillows or hiding under the couch or in the closet and chewing or somehow destroying the items.

When she's caught, either in the act of stealing the item or unfortunately, tearing it up, she willingly submits and gives the item up, but this is when she shows her "I'm the Queen of Cheyenne" attitude and pees. She will toss her head, lift her tail up in the air and strut over to a corner of the room, squat and look right at her owner while she releases her bladder on his hardwood floor or carpet. The only thing that is missing from her attitude is her lifting a paw and flipping him the middle toe.

To correct this behavior we started by recognizing that Whiskey is an extremely dominant young dog, full of confidence, but sensitive. We didn't want to squelch her confidence at all but we most certainly wanted to nip that dominance in the butt. She is sensitive to verbal corrections and loud shouts send her tail between her legs and her scurrying away. So we became extremely careful and conscientious about not leaving valuable items unattended after they are used. Laundry is placed in a hamper with a closed lid, tea towels are not left hanging off oven doors, pillows are placed in a secure spot and tools are placed high out of reach in between uses.

Then it was Whiskey's turn for a tune-up. When she managed to find other things to steal (because she did) instead of shouting like my friend used to do, he calmly and assertively went up to her and removed the item, as he had always been able to do before. But instead of allowing her to reassert herself by peeing, Whiskey was immediately put on a leash and attached via "umbilical cord" to my friend. If she tried to run off, she couldn't get away. This immediately took her display of dominance away and she submitted to her owner and his calm assertive display of dominance. Once she relaxed and "went to neutral" she was allowed off-leash again. For the first day she tried her thieving acts with the same vigor but by the end of the day she had stopped peeing in the house because she couldn't. On Day 2 we tested her to see if she got the picture. She was given a bit more freedom. After a thieving incident the leash was put on but she was not tethered to her owner. Instead of running off to pee after she was caught she began to follow her owner around the house instead. A few more days after that the thievery stopped because it just wasn't fun anymore.

A bit of calm assertive behaviour mixed with proper timing and applying "going to neutral" solved the case.

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