"Everything came out just fine. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Saturday morning Poop Report," my husband, Andy, cheerily announced last weekend as he brought FLD Mike in after his first "park" of the day. (Click here to view a list of definitions of words and commands like "park.")
We live in a townhouse, so potty-time is on-leash in a corner of our common area. While taking the dogs out like this can be annoying in a heavy rain (or in minus-zero wind-chills), it forces us to "cleanup" right away. If we had a fenced-in backyard and could let the dogs go out alone, procrastination would get the best of me and cleanup would soon get out of hand.
Andy takes the morning "dootie;" for the most part I am in charge of the rest of the day. Every morning it is the same routine: Andy grabs a couple of recycled grocery bags and takes Gypsy out first; FLD Mike waits in his crate until it is his turn to "park." Afterwards, Andy makes coffee; I come downstairs and ask, How did they doo?
Without going into further detail, suffice to say that I don't think I'm the only dog-owner who monitors the health of the family pet (and Future Leader Dog) through a close watch on bodily functions. But knowing what the dogs have done at their first "dootie" gives me a heads up on their schedule as the day unfolds.
NORMAL: both #1 and #2 accomplished.
This means that after feeding the dogs, I don't expect to have to take them out again for a few hours. (FLD Mike is now nine-months old and very reliable.) Our "normal" daily routine is this:
- First "park" between 6:00 am and 7:00 am.
- Second "park" is mid-morning, usually between 10:00 am and noon, when I take the dogs out for a walk. Both #1 and #2 again. Any later than that, and I pay attention when FLD Mike gets restless--he's been patient long enough, let's go! (He waits for me, but still, it is my responsibility to meet his needs.)
- The rest of the day depends on what we do. I always "park" them if Andy and I leave the house for any reason, and then again when we return. FLD Mike gets "parked" before I take him inside a store, restaurant, class, or puppy-outing. This usually results in just a #1. If we stay around the house, I might not take them out again until after dinner; again, typically just a #1, but I might get another #2 out of FLD Mike. If it is hot and I notice a lot of drinking after our walk, I will take them out again within an hour or so for #1.
- A last "park" of the night just before bed; usually just #1, occasionally another #2. This can be anytime between 9:30 pm and 11:00 pm.
ANYTHING NOT NORMAL: rarely, but sometimes one or the other dog doesn't do a #1 or a #2 right away in the morning. Or, a #2 is anything but a firm, defined stool (I know, TMI!).
- This means that I'll need to keep a close watch and be prepared to make a trip outside before our "normal" mid-morning "park."
- If the #2 is "abnormal" I take note of the next #2 to be sure that everything is ok.
Recently, a new puppy-raiser asked me, "How do I get my puppy to tell me when he has to go? He still has accidents." She's had her three-month old puppy for a month. "Someone once told me to teach him to ring some bells on the back door when he has to go out. What do you think about that?"
Questions like these are pertinent, yet I struggle to give her a simple answer. Potty-training a puppy is less about teaching him to let you know "when he has to go," and more about teaching him bladder- and bowl-control.
Approached this way, it is the human's responsibility to "read" the puppy when he is about to relieve himself, get him outside in time, and manage his input and output schedule. The puppy needs to learn that relieving himself INSIDE is INAPPROPRIATE behavior; holding himself to go OUTSIDE is GOOD behavior. Teaching him this is a front-end-loaded effort (read more about potty-training specifics at my TIPS from April 13 and April 20). I reiterate what my trainer-friend Katie says: "A couple weeks of intense effort will pay off with years of pleasant co-habitation with your dog."
As for teaching a puppy to ring bells at the door? Those bells might well be your puppy demanding: "I want to go out. NOW." It seems to me that your puppy learns to train YOU. Wouldn't you rather have a puppy that understands he must control himself and relieve himself on YOUR schedule? Make the effort to teach your puppy, and you will!