Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Poopsicle Conundrum

I have been a blogging slacker. I'm sorry. I started writing a post on where to acquire a canine friend and it just got to be to preachy and not funny, so I lost my mojo. The basic gist was - get a dog from a shelter or rescue group. Never get a dog from a pet store. If you absolutely have to have a specific breed and you can't find an available rescue, then do your research about breeders. Make sure they take their dogs back if something goes wrong or doesn't work out, and make sure they do the appropriate genetic testing for the breed they are breeding. Okay, that was way simpler and not nearly as preachy.

Now, lets deal with some training issues, which I think are far more fun anyway! A friend of mine lives in the great state of Minnesota and has a little dog that we'll call 'Henry'. Henry isn't so keen on going outside in the winter to poo, so there are frequently mishaps in the house. I can totally understand Henry's perspective. He's thinking "It's effin' COLD out there and I have the body mass of a turkey. I've seen what happens to turkeys in the freezer at home and it ain't pretty! I'll just 'take a moment' over here in the corner and hope I won't get into too much trouble. Even if she does yell at me it's still better than what happens to those turkeys!" Even though I am sympathetic to Henry's plight, this really isn't a behavior we want to encourage, even if his presents are the size of tootsie rolls. So what's a Minnesotan to do?

The first thing to do is control Henry's access to indoor places that he might want to fertilize. You can't stop a problem that you aren't there to see. He should be kept close by his humans so they can keep an eye on what he's doing and thinking. If he starts sniffing around or showing his other potty cues, then he needs to be scooped up and taken outside. Yes, this can be a frustrating process, especially in the winter when the human doesn't really want to go out either. So how do we make it more bearable? REWARDS of course!! Rewards for both the dog and the human. The dog gets something special when he poops outside. Make sure this reward is extra special awesome, something he doesn't usually get! Remember that the value of a reward is determined by the receiver, not the giver. Personally, I wouldn't be excited by a reward of beer, but reward me with a chocolate martini or a Diet Coke and now we're talkin'! So what would your dog risk homelessness to steal off the table if it could? Butter? Bits of hot dog? Turkey sandwich meat? Cheese? Cookies (I've met a dog before with a sweet tooth)? Tuna? Filet Mignon? Hamburger?

Whatever you choose, have some on hand where it's easy to get on the way out the door. If it's okay to be frozen you could keep a stash of it outside since it's winter. Many dogs like frozen treats. It's important to have it with you because you need to reward your dog immediately once they've taken care of their business. Waiting to give your dog a treat when you get inside is merely rewarding your dog for being inside. In the winter in Minnesota, being inside is its own reward!

Unless you are totally OCD about putting your coat away in closet that is inaccessible to dogs, I don't recommend keeping your treats in your coat pocket. I left some treats in the pocket of my LL Bean parka once. Courtney discovered the coat hanging on the back of a chair and proceeded to extract the treats from the pocket. Being a Border Collie, one might expect her to figure out how open the pocket so that no damage was done to the coat. Sadly, this story doesn't have that kind of ending. She chose the brute force method and went through the front of the coat to acquire the goodies. Lesson learned: Don't keep treats in coat pockets. Got it!

While we are on the subject of coats, make sure your dog is properly attired while they are outside.  There are lots of dogs that do not need sweaters or coats, but there are also lots that do.  You know your dog best, if they are acting cold then get them a sweater or a coat.  I keep Zinger in a sweater all winter, even when he's inside.  I also have a coat that I will put on him when it's particularly cold out or we are going to be out for a long time.  The nice thing about the 'all the time' sweater is he can go zooming out the back door after the squirrels with me having to futz around putting his coat on him first.  Comet doesn't mind the cold one bit and prefers to not wear a sweater.   In the springtime, when sweater season is over, your dog will look naked when you first take the sweater off.  You've been warned, do not be alarmed.

When faced with the daunting task of choosing fashions for your canine model, be sure to keep the practical in mind.  How easy will this be to put on?  Will it be comfortable?  Does my dog really need pockets that he can't reach? (I mean really...Pockets? On the back of a dog sweater? )  Is there adequate "urine stream" clearance?  Begin Rant:  Seriously, whose idea was it to make sweaters for boy dogs that cover their private parts?! The bottom of a sweater should always come down to the end of the rib cage and then stop.  I can't count the number of times I've thought "Oh what a cute sweater! That color will look great on Zinger!" only to turn it over to see that it will look great on Zinger until he needs to pee!  After that it may still look great but it will be wet and stinky!  There is no excuse for making a sweater that the dog is guaranteed to pee on!  Last I checked dogs all over the world have their private parts in the same places, so really, regardless of whatever country the sweater is made in, it should still have accommodations made for something so obvious! Sheesh! End Rant.

As a budding canine fashion connoisseur you may also consider shoes.  Keep in mind though they take a while to put on, so they aren't necessarily good for what we are trying to accomplish here.  They are GREAT for the guaranteed comedic "dog learning to walk with shoes on" episode you will get to witness the first several times your dog wears them!  

So what about that reward for the human? Pick something that you don't normally allow yourself to have.  Chocolate? Potato Chips? Starbucks Grande Decaf Soy Vanilla Latte? Sex with George Clooney and Brad Pitt (if you're into that kind of thing)?  Reading Shakespeare in the Old English?  Doing math for fun (I kid you not, I know people who do this)?

You can choose to reward yourself the entire time you are outside with your dog (which could be interesting given some of the above options), or you can choose to reward yourself inside when your dog is finished. You get to reward yourself every time, regardless of the, {ahem}, outcome. Why?  Because the behavior you are rewarding in yourself is "spotting signs your dog should go out and then taking your dog out even though it's cold and you don't want to".

If you are having trouble knowing when your dog needs to go out, I highly recommend putting up a 'potty bell'. You can pay a ridiculous amount of money and buy one made specifically for this purpose, or you can make your own. I'm cheap, so I made my own. Go to the craft store and buy a jingle bell or two and some ribbon. You may even be able to mooch these items off a crafty friend or relative! String the bells on the ribbon and and hang it on the doorknob. Make sure it's low enough that your dog can reach it standing on all fours. Before you open the door to go out, take your dog's paw and ring the bell with it. Open the door and out you go. It will not take long at all for your dog to associate ringing the bell with an opening door!  This is how I potty trained all of my dogs and I swear by it!

If you would like to reduce the quantity of butt nuggets your dog generates, then switch your dog to a prey model raw diet. Feed them 2-3% of their body weight daily with raw meaty meat with a little raw bone, and a little raw organ meat. The whole point is to feed them like their wolf cousins eat in the wild. This is how my dogs eat and they are very healthy. They have no breath or body odor and they only leave me amorphous deposits every couple of days. Best of all, it quickly disintegrates naturally so I don't have to pick up in my yard!  When kibble fed dogs visit I'm always astounded at how many backyard bungalows they generate!

Here's the medical caveat - if your dog has been doing fine going potty outside in the winter and then starts to have accidents indoors, a visit to the vet is in order. Any dramatic changes to potty behavior can indicate a problem and should be checked by your vet before beginning any training modification.

Drop me a line if you have questions or ideas or other euphemisms for 'poop'! 

1 comment:

  1. awesome! you are so funny... I don't even own a dog, yet I can't wait for the next blog! Thanks Christine!

    LOVE YA!