Help me train my dog to do something fairly simple before we both lose our minds?
October 22, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Locked in a battle of wills with my dog over when and where she's gonna pee. I think she's actually holding it in on purpose! How bad is this? Should I just give in, or hold out?? also general advice on what i'm trying to train her to do would be helpful.

I've had my little dog for about 4 years now and winters have always been problematic. I like going on long walks and so does she, but once winter hits, it's not really an option because: a- she can't handle the cold for very long; b- neither can i, and c- we live in an apartment in an area where virtually all sidewalks are heavily salted in the winter (so she can't really walk through that stuff.) Generally i just try to shovel out a little patch of grass for her on the front lawn, but she won't always go on it and i end up having to bring her in because she is cold, and then i either have to do it again 10 min later, or crate her, etc. or worst case scenario, there's pee on the floor. (she is pee pad trained, which helps, but her aim isn't always great and sometimes pee ends up on the floor anyway. so i'd like to try to make outside peeing happen, and use pee pads only as a backup.)

anyway, realizing that winter is coming, it occurred to me to try and fix this problem now while it's still decent outside. my plan was just to take her out, but not leave the little patch of grass directly outside the apartment until she has peed on it. as soon as she pees on the rectangle of grass outside the apartment (and is heavily praised for it) off we go for a nice long walk. this seemed to be working out ok the first day, but now i think she realizes what i am trying to do and is fighting it. like right now, its about 3pm. i've taken her out three times, for at least 15 minutes each time, and she won't pee so i bring her back in and gate her (into the dining room/kitchen and i am on the other side.) i don't want to resort to the crate yet. anyway, she did this yesterday too, and it resulted in like five trips out with only one giant pee for the whole day. i'm sure if i keep doing this she'll eventually give in, but i am kind of concerned about her general well-being while we play this game. i'm also beginning to suspect that for her, the entire appeal of going on a walk at all is peeing on stuff, which is why she is trying so hard to hold out. while i understand this, it doesn't solve the winter problem, when we won't be able to go on these long walks, and she'll be stubborn and do whatever she can to get away with peeing inside. i was just hoping to get her into the habit of peeing within the first minute or two of being outside, but it's turning out to be a lot harder than i thought. so i guess what i need to know is- is my training plan a good one? should i stick it out for a few more days? (this is day 3.) is she doing major harm to herself by holding it in for so effing long? does anyone have a better idea of how to approach this?
(some extra fyi)
-i know she is doing this on purpose because generally on a walk she pees within the first block or so (so within a couple minutes.) i just cant figure out why she is so against peeing out front.
-if it ends up being my only winter option, i suppose i could try to train her to do her biz more neatly on the pee pad or try a dog litterbox, but i don't really love the idea of my apartment smelling like pee or having pee soaked items hanging out for a long time while i'm not there.
-i think i'm going to try adding treats next. she generally won't go for regular treats when outside, especially after doing her biz, but maybe if i give her something really exciting like cheese she will be into it.

thanks everyone! i know this post is long and kind of silly but she is making me crazy! she's half doxie, so she's kinda smart and manipulative, but she's half chihuahua too and so sometimes she can be kinda dumb as well. (like after we've been outside for long enough, as i wait for her to pee, she eventually gets bored and just sits down on the grass! this is the point where i feel like my brain is going to explode . . . ) anyway . . . i just really need to come up with a good solution before winter! i thought my idea of pee-before-the-walk was a good one, but not if i can't implement it!
posted by lblair to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
She clearly likes walks and is trying to manipulate you into taking her on one IMMEDIATELY. (Okay, that's anthropomorphizing a bit too much-- she associates walks with peeing. I haven't peed yet? Yay, I get to go on a walk!)

Clearly, one of you will have to be trained. I'm guessing that everyone will be happier if you find a way to keep taking her at least on short walks. Given the restrictions, I would suggest shoes and a coat for her. I'm normally against dog clothing, but that sidewalk salt is nasty, and I wouldn't want to be outside in the snow naked either.

It's tough to get them to go when and where you want. It's all mixed up in territories and marking and socialization, so getting out and sniffing other dogs' wet spots is at least half the fun. It sucks being out in the cold (not looking forward to it myself, and I'm only in Philly), but I personally think you're both better off if you let her.
posted by supercres at 1:20 PM on October 22, 2010

She wants to go for a walk. You need pawz. They're great. They're cheap. They stay on. THey keep the salt out.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:31 PM on October 22, 2010

Response by poster: i tried some sort of dog boot things last year and she hated them and i could never even get all four on her feet and her out the door. however i don't think they were Pawz, maybe i will give them a go. will they stay on even if she's trying to kick them off?

she does wear sweaters in the winter. but i think they only buy me an extra minute or so tops when its really really cold.
posted by lblair at 1:38 PM on October 22, 2010

A friend of mine got a dog from the pound kind of like this. The third or fourth day that the dog was just cross legged but refusing to pee on the leash she reached down and squeezed in on its belly right above the bladder. The dog never gave her any shit after that
posted by fshgrl at 1:53 PM on October 22, 2010

It stinks, but I really think your best bet is just to walk until she pees. Yes, even in the miserable slushy winter. If it takes a walk around the block to make that happen, so be it. If there's an easier way, I haven't figured it out yet. Sometimes I think my dog just needs to walk a bit to get everything down there loosened up.

As far as the "too cold" thing goes, ChillyDogs coats are really warm. We combine ours with a snood for extra warmth. (That's supposed to be over his ears, but he was particularly wiggly that day).
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:54 PM on October 22, 2010

How do you know she can't handle the cold? Is she begging to go back? I had a dog in Montreal (admittedly a big, shaggy one), and he did not seem to mind temperatures down to -20 F. The only time he ever wanted to go back was when it was raining.
posted by musofire at 1:57 PM on October 22, 2010

Response by poster: @musofire- when she gets too cold, she stops walking, stands on three legs and starts shaking. it's pretty sad and happens pretty fast, like within a couple minutes. she weights about 12 pounds and can handle temperatures down to about the 20-30 F range before i notice her being unable to handle it.

to be fair, i actually DO like going on long walks too. thats why i kinda feel like i did this to myself . . . i've been spoiling her and now it's a tough habit to change. i don't want to deny her walks; i just want the pee to happen right at the beginning. that way, if her winter walk only lasts two minutes (because SHE stops walking) her business has been done already. right now, when it's still warm-ish, i plan to reward her right-outside-the-door-peeing with an extra long walk. now if she would just go along with it . . .
posted by lblair at 2:06 PM on October 22, 2010

Our lives changed when we discovered the joy of food based pee rewards.

We rev her up before going outside with a few bits of steak, or a strip of bacon, or some leftover hamburger, and if she goes, she gets it when she comes back in. We're talking a tablespoon or two of something.

It took a while, but boy does that little dog pee quick at night these days.

I literally used to weep as she refused to pee for me in the winter. I'd feel like they'd find us in the morning frozen to death on the sidewalk, her still in her leash, frozen, sniffing at some random thing she'd refused to pee on, me just lying next to her.

Anyway: food. Wonderful food. It took maybe a year to get 100% consistent, but it's pretty great now.

BTW we consider walks separate from the needing to pee thing -- needing to pee is a task, needing to go for a walk is recreation (meaning we do both at different times of the day.)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:10 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

i plan to reward her right-outside-the-door-peeing with an extra long walk.

I think that's a little too abstract -- you might want to go with something a bit more concrete in the doggie world.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:15 PM on October 22, 2010

I'm with Llama. She needs a more concrete and immediately satisfying reward for peeing. Give her a treat right after she pees on the grass outside. Don't give the treat for any pees, only pees that happen right outside.

You may not have this down by winter but just keep going and she'll get it eventually.

And again, like llama says you might want to try splitting peeing from walking. This is probably going to be annoying for you but just going out to pee and then going back in (even if it is only for like 10-15 minutes) should separate the two actions in your dog's head. Then she'll know, when we go outside and stand on the grass that means you pee. It does not mean stand there until we go for a walk. You can use different words to cement the action beforehand as well: "time for pee-pee" versus "time for walk."
posted by magnetsphere at 2:25 PM on October 22, 2010

They make these bricks that supposedly contain a pheromone that attracts dogs to pee on it. YMMV.

I'd try one of these. Put it in your patch of grass now, which should attract your dog right away. Then when she pees there, reward her with a treat. That will get her connecting that particular pee spot with a reward.

One caveat: if the brick is accessible to the whole neighborhood, you may find that other dogs pee on it, too.
posted by juniperesque at 2:30 PM on October 22, 2010

forget dog boots, get a tub of musher's secret and rub each paw in the tub before you go outside. does a really great job of preventing dog feet from the cold, chemicals and salt, and snowballs between toe pads. love this stuff and recommend it all the time, it changed my dog's life and mine for the better!
posted by lia at 2:34 PM on October 22, 2010

Pawz are AMAZING, but if you try them out, you have to take her outside to see if she likes them. For some reason, dogs are sort of frozen to the floor when they're wearing Pawz inside but once they get outside, they walk happily for miles. I know several dog owners who mistakenly assumed their dogs couldn't use Pawz because they had only tried them inside.
posted by kate blank at 4:10 PM on October 22, 2010

Agreeing with the food-based reward. Except I'd recommend an immediate treat when she pees, then hurry back in. Dried liver is our treat of choice - I've heard others say that dogs will do *anything* for dried liver treats!
We trained our dog when she was younger to do this, and the other thing we were advised to do is to always use exactly the same language. We say "Do your business, (dog name)." When it's pouring, she gets right down to it!
Good luck!
posted by dbmcd at 4:39 PM on October 22, 2010

It sounds to me like you are asking your dog to do something new and she has no idea what's going on, so she's stressed, thinks you are punishing her (no more walks) and is shutting down.

Things will be much easier if you train your dog to urinate on cue. The basic idea: start giving her cue right before she pees. (I use "Get busy!") Click just as she finishes and give her a treat. Repeat many times until she associates the cue with going to the bathroom. You might also want to train her to ring a bell when she needs to out to pee (also discussed in that article). Over time, shape her behavior: gradually restrict the places where she's allowed to pee until it's the spot you want.

See also advice for getting your dog trained to pee outside in cold weather. These articles are from the Whole Dog Journal; if you subscribe you get access to all of their back issues online.

Also, if you haven't read it yet I highly recommend "The Power of Positive Dog Training" by Pat Miller.
posted by medusa at 6:37 PM on October 22, 2010

Teaching dogs to pee on command is really useful. Not just for the winter situation, but for going on long drives ("Right here, right now, GO PEE. We're going to be in the car for another 4 hours without a stop after this!") and for urine collection for urinalysis at the vet. Also for any other days when the schedule is unavoidably different; doggy needs to be able to go when given the opportunity, not just when doggy is used to going.

So yes, it will be worth it to keep going through this until she's compliant. It'll probably help (at least for other situations) if you add a verbal command to it, too. My dogs know it as "go pee." There are probably many better potential commands, but this one works for us :)
posted by galadriel at 6:46 PM on October 22, 2010

Take her out for your normal walk, tell her to 'go potty', and give her 2 fingernail-sized pieces of cheese as a treat, along with lots of goofy cheers and praise.

If she doesn't go, put her in the crate. Dogs who cannot be trusted to go in the appropriate place do not get the reward of roaming freely in the house.

Take her out how-ever many minutes later, run through the routine again.

Your dog sounds extremely smart and as if she knows the behavior, but perhaps she needs clearer language (really good treats/crate) to understand exactly what you're asking for in this moment.

I'm thinking that once she does it and you treat her, she'll have it down within 2-3 days.
posted by MeiraV at 7:01 PM on October 22, 2010

Musher's secret works for us (lab in Boston MA). She hates putting it on but it gets her around the block in January!
posted by mozhet at 7:44 PM on October 22, 2010

If she doesn't go, put her in the crate. Dogs who cannot be trusted to go in the appropriate place do not get the reward of roaming freely in the house.


I'm assuming no age/health problems here. Continuing...

Sounds like your dog is pretty much the boss of the situation (indoors and out). If you've properly associated that crate with a 'happy den' instead of a punishment zone then your dog will REALLY want to avoid peeing in there.

Attempt whatever you do (or follow some excellent directions listed above, I don't use them and have never had problems like this) and if it doesn't work place the dog in the kennel when you come back in, right away. Try again after a bit of time has passed. If it really needs to pee, it will do so outside ASAP (which sounds like what you're going for).
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:09 AM on October 24, 2010

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