Dear Lisa: My dog is a wonderful Jack Russell Terrier/Chihuahua mix. My question has to do with taking him to go out. He will only go to the bathroom where other dogs have gone. My husband and I moved into a townhouse where no one has lived before. As a result, he will not go in our front yard. Do you have any suggestions on how to change this habit? I noticed at a pet store that they have something called a "pee post." Would that be worth a try? – Timid Toilet Training
Dear Timid: I’ve been getting a lot of housebreaking questions recently and yours brings up an interesting angle. I’m wondering if you have recently moved from a city to a more suburban setting, especially since you now have a front yard which I’m going to assume is grass. Many times puppies that are trained to go on one surface, such as concrete sidewalks, will balk at doing their business on something as foreign as a lawn. This might explain your pet’s reluctance. This can easily be overcome with time because eventually the dog will get used to the new surface.
I’ve had some dog owners who moved into a city with a country dog tell me they used newspapers to help with the transition. They would have the dog go on a single page of newsprint outside, as a neutral surface and one that harkens back to puppyhood. Then each time they went out, they would tear off more of the page making it smaller and smaller over several days until eventually, he went on the new surface unassisted.
As for your pee post idea, this little knick knack is a pheromone-treated plastic yard post you place in the ground for your dog to pee on. They stink enough of canine hormones which trigger a natural behavioral response in a dog, such as a male dog wanting to “mark” where another male dog just went as a way of leaving his calling card on his “turf.” They are not expensive so you could give it a try. You could get a friend’s male dog to come over and pee on your front lawn which would work too! Then take you dog to that same spot over and over again and give him the “go” command and praise highly when the job is done, and before you know it you will accomplish the same goal.
Dear Lisa: I have a male Chihuahua that is just the sweetest little dog in the world. He's well trained, does well overall with obedience but is very territorial. My problem is that I can't get him to stop marking in the house. He especially has a fetish for plastic bags and cardboard boxes, both of which cause us continual problems. Is there anything I can do about this habit of his? – Marking What’s Mine
Dear Marking: You didn’t mention if your male dog was neutered or not, but if he continues to exhibit territorial behaviors like urinating in the house, I would suggest getting him neutered if he is not already. This will curb that urge somewhat. Another observation I have is that it seems like what he is marking are new items brought into the house such as a plastic bag from the grocery store or a cardboard box left by a delivery company, for example. Am I on the right track here?
These items are new to the household full of “alien” smells from faraway places. Your little boy seems to be marking them in an effort to call them “mine” in his home. Two obvious quick fixes would be to pick up bags and boxes off the floor and place them on the counter or away in a separate room. Or put him in a crate when you are bringing new items into the house. Many times I get questions that people are looking for a change in behavior from the dog when simply doing something mechanically, i.e. such as removing the offending item of his marking, will change his behavior automatically.
However, if you’d rather train him ‘not’ to pee on something then use his obedience talents and teach him the ‘leave it’ command. Next time he saunters over to a potential target, tell him to ‘leave it’ get his attention with a wonderful treat and reward when he walks away from the bag or box. Eventually he will learn the command and look to you for a treat every time a delivery arrives rather than trying to make it his.
BARK BACK ~
From readers regarding last month’s column:
About your Elkhound who loves bananas . . . I would love to understand that idiosyncrasy as my German Shorthaired Pointer won't take anything off any counter or sniff the air in the kitchen unless a banana is available. I've discovered her three times guiltily enjoying one. Funny thing. – S.B.
Just read your suggestions on "Come" command using Bananas. I will certainly try it. We have a German Shorthaired Pointer that is smart as a whip, but very hard headed. – T.D
Thanks for the responses! And how funny that they both came from German Shorthaired Pointer owners!
Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions we cannot offer individual responses.
© 2008 The American Kennel Club, Inc.