Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ring them bells!

I've created a monster, and it didn't take much effort. ;)

There were (and are) a couple of issues going on here.
  1. Peter hasn't had to ask to go outside at my house--so he hasn't learned how to ask. Since I work at home, he gets lots of trips outside during the day. I work until I get fidgety or want more Diet Coke or something. I get up, stretch my legs by taking the dogs outside for a quick trip to the corner (a pine tree with needles under it--and it's not in anyone's yard--makes a great place for dogs to pee), come back and make a trip to the kitchen. The dogs settle down again to nap, and I go back to work. And Peter hasn't learned how to make me get up and take him out when he wants me to.

  2. Peter has the attention span of a flea. Really. You can take him down to the peeing corner, spend 20 minutes or more with him there, start back to the house, and about 30 feet from the front door he slams on the brakes, suddenly realizing that he's forgotten to pee. He's been too busy watching neighbors and their dogs, passing cars, airplanes, falling leaves (it's October, for cryin' out loud), and raindrops. He'll finally settle down to do some business. He'll circle, sniff bushes, circle again, sniff pine needles, circle again, sniff tree trunks, circle again, get all set to go--and a neighbor will come out to see if there's mail in the mailbox. Or a bird will make a noise. A cat will cross the street two blocks away. Whatever. Peter forgets what he was about to do. I just want to scream at the neighborhood: "Stand still for 30 seconds, will ya?"
What this combination yields--on mornings when you're frantically pressed for time--is a disaster. Get up. Take the dogs out to pee. Twenty minutes later, decide that Peter needs more time to make up his mind than I can afford to spend (it's amazing how distractingly busy my neighborhood is at 7:30 on a Saturday morning), and head home with the dogs for breakfast, planning to take Peter back out after he's eaten. Feed both dogs. Decide to spend a couple of minutes filling Kongs. Go looking for Peter and find that he's left gifts by the front door. At first, only the pee was visible on the black floor, and I dashed off to get paper towels. Came back with the towels and realized I'd just run through the less visible poop--brown on black in the dimly lit foyer--and tracked it from the foyer, through the front room, the pantry, and into the kitchen--and back again. Call it Kiss your morning schedule good-bye.

So, step 1: Teach Peter how to ask to go out. The easiest way is to teach him to ring a bell. I took a Christmas collar that has bells on it and draped it over the knob of a door that's in a place he can reach easily--and that's close enough to where I work that I can hear the bells. (They're not very loud, but they've worked short-term, and I'll make something better.) The collar isn't on the front door that we go out for our walks; that would be too hard for me to hear. It's just on a convenient doorknob, but it could be put anywhere. (And the bells can be used later when he's in an unfamiliar place--when he goes to his forever home or he goes visiting with his forever people.) For the past 8 days, every time I've taken Peter out, we've stopped by that doorknob. At first, I jingled the collar; after a bit, I could point to the collar and Peter would jingle it; and now, Peter goes to the collar on his own and rings the bells when he wants to go outside. At that point, I praise him, take him by the leash, and we go to the front door to go outside.


(The "monster" I've created, of course, is that Peter now rings the bells when he wants to go outside--to look at the scenery, bake in the sun, meet with the neighbors, watch the birds, dodge falling leaves, scope out the cats, stare at passing cars... I can take him out, watch him pee and poop all he wants, come back to the house, settle down to work--and the bells are jingling again. So now I need to figure out when he's serious and when he isn't--without undoing this useful week of training.)

We'll continue the bells next week while we work on hurry-up-and-poop. I'm going to take treats out with me and start treating both dogs if they pee/poop quickly. The longer we stand outside, though, the fewer the treats. And I'll make it a point to stay out there for a bit after everyone's finished (I don't want him stalling in an effort to stay outside longer). As for Peter's attention span... What I've discovered is that I need to break his focus on whatever he's watching. Walk him in circles, get between him and whatever has hypnotized him. He can't pee while he's moving, of course, but he's not peeing standing still, either.  I want him to learn that he doesn't have to watch everything that's moving. Perhaps if he watches the approaching car for fewer seconds, fixates on the Yorkie twins only for a few yards (rather than two whole blocks--and those dogs move so slowly!), perhaps I can get Peter's attention back where it's supposed to be--especially if there are treats involved.

In good news, he hasn't peed or pooped in the house again, so that bad Saturday morning wasn't the start of a new bad habit. And he's remarkably better about not jumping up on people.

P.S. The title of this post isn't a grammatical slip. It's the title of a Fred Ebb/John Kander song.


  1. Hi, when did you quit dog grooming?
    I never realized you guys in the East got Ebro dogs. Both of mine came straight off Ebro Track to me for fosters, lol. Never moved out. I live close to Ebro.
    Peter sounds very much like our Trader. I actually compare him to Forest Gump.

  2. I quit grooming in August 2012. I got tired of wrestling big dogs and of having a whole appointment-book of biters and generally bad dogs. These days, I also have some problems with being on my feet for long hours. Working from home is great, although it would be better with another 5 or 10 hours of work a week.

    SEGA used to get JCKC dogs, until that track closed. Rarely, we get a Birmingham dog, but most of ours are from Florida. Other exceptions are the "found" dogs--dogs abandoned to animal control, like my girl Silver.