Having a pet is one of the most satisfying experience most people can have. They’re friends for single people, playmates for kids, eyes for the blind, companions for the elderly. But they’re a huge responsibility for those who decide to own them. The quality of the pet-owning experience is often tied to how well the relationship went. And that often goes back to how well the pets were trained from the start.
How It Began
Thirteen months ago, our children cornered us into adopting a three-month-old black Labrador puppy. Our friends had just adopted him from their relatives in Louisiana. He was one of four puppies. But a month into their adoption, it looked like their older dog was never going to get along with the new pup. So, they reluctantly asked around for anyone who would take the poor puppy in. And we did.
We named him “Mochi” after this delicious Japanese rice snack the kids loved so much. We already have a resident cat, Jack. And he was not thrilled with his new, bigger canine brother (and still isn’t).
First, Let’s Go Back A Decade
At that point in our lives, we were two years into the loss of our last pet dog, Fudge. Now, during the seven years that we had her, we were never really able to truly potty train her. There was no routine, as far as walks were concerned. We would let her out in the fenced backyard and let her take care of business on her own.
Often, when signals were missed, she would have accidents in the house, which everyone really hated, including, I guess, Fudge! It was inevitable, I suppose. Everyone was busy. The kids with their school work, us with our respective work. Fudge was a Pug. So, we thought, being a small dog, how hard could she be to take care of? Clearly, we were not ready for a dog at all! But she was a trooper. And we loved her.
So this time around, we were determined to change all that. We were going to get Mochi potty trained, properly, no matter what! Our first month with our new puppy promised to be an interesting four weeks!
First Things First, Consult YouTube!
A few hours on YouTube led us to Zak George’s Channel on training dogs. His subdued, easy-going style suited us, and we started following his advice on how to train our new pet to do his business outside, rather than inside of the house. Every dog owner worth their stripes knows that potty training is vital! It’s pretty much the first thing you need to get your pet to learn. And, of course, it doesn’t happen overnight.
Despite the excellent training routines Zak shared with his viewers, it was not an easy journey for us. But we were ready for it! We knew beforehand that it would be a grueling couple of weeks, or more. In fact, in our case, it took four months!
Four months of us restructuring our lives, our schedules, to meet the demands of our newest, and youngest, family member. And he was just that, our youngest. He was a puppy, still a baby. He was, and still is, full of energy, curiosity. He was into everything! He had no boundaries. He had no skills. He knew nothing (Jon Snow – Haha! Sorry, G.O.T. household. Couldn’t resist.).
Getting the Kids Involved
Since it was the kids’ idea to get us into agreeing to adopt Mochi in the first place, we insisted that they take up the bulk of the responsibilities in training their new pet. The dog needed to be taken out every four hours, per Zak’s rigorous schedule. We need to get ahead of his urge to pee and to poop. It was vital that a routine for going out was established as early as possible. And more importantly, Mochi needed to associate the “outside” with peeing and pooping.
The kids established their command center in the family room. They slept there with Mochi. They took turns waking up every four hours, taking the dog out to either pee or poop. And we must say, our kids did step up to the plate, took responsibility, if sometimes grudgingly. To his credit, Mochi is a smart dog. And he caught on fairly fast. But he was also easily distracted, and seem to easily forget the new skills he was clearly picking up. Distractions, his boundless energy, easily pushed aside the lessons that were so painstakingly imparted and acquired.
However, persistence won the day. And he slowly began to accept, and recognize, and even anticipate, his routines! He now knew that if he needed to relieve himself, it had to be done outside of the house. He treated the inside of the house as his own domain, where he slept, where he ate. Anything else he needed to do, he had to do them outside. And those included peeing and pooping.
The trick now was, how to give him the ability, apart from whining, which can often go unnoticed, to let his humans know, “Hey! I really need to go outside now!”
Enter The Potty Bell
On one of the videos Zak shared in his YouTube channel, he discussed this novel idea (well, novel to us) of using what he called the “potty bell.” Now this bell was supposed to give your pet dogs the ability to let you know, in no uncertain terms, that they need to go out. You go out and buy these bells, whether from the store, or online, and you position them on the doors leading to the outside. They also needed to be low enough to allow your pets to actually reach them. These bells can either be hung from the door knobs, or fixed permanently on the door.
That was the easy part. The hard part was teaching your dog to recognize the bells for what they were: his passport to the outside world! You need to teach them to ring the bell each time he needed to go outside.
How we accomplished that, well, that’ll be the topic of our next post. See you then!