I want my pup to whine at me, yes!
February 8, 2018 8:20 AM   Subscribe

I have a very wonderful little doggo who doesn't know how to communicate when he needs to be let outside. How can I teach him how to do this, for the sake of his potty training?

Desmond is an extremely wonderful, sweet, cuddly, lovable little dog. I have strong suspicions that he may very well be the best dog! He's also dumb as box of bricks. For an example: I've spent the last six months trying to get him to learn 'lay down,' and he still doesn't get it.

He's reasonably-well potty trained. He will always choose to go outside when given the option. The problem is, he doesn't know how to communicate to us when he needs to go out. If we start moving towards the door, he'll get excited and run in front of us, jumping at the doorknob... But if we don't move towards the door? Nothing.

This is a particular problem because his pooping schedule has gotten out of order, and he's had to poop in the middle of the night a few times now. We're working on getting his pooping schedule back to where it should be... But in the meantime, we'd rather that he wake us up, instead of us waking up to find poop all over the floor.

We potty-trained him by having a string with bells hanging from the door. This is what got him to jump on the door when we were near it and he wanted to go out. But he always seemed scared by the bells, and he had a strong aversion to rattling them for the noise.

Any ideas? What can we do? How can we teach him to communicate with us better?
posted by meese to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Your dog is a sweet precious tiny baby, and precious tiny babies can often do really well with a litter box.

My precious tiny baby is a big fan of night pooping, and handles his own business himself in privacy in the clean comfort of a litter box. No need to tell me where's going or what he's up to.

It's a system that works well for both of us.

We live in a second floor apartment in an urban area, so there's always a bit of an extended production between getting from inside the house to outside in a place he can toilet on. My dog never really caught onto the outside=immediate bathroom either. I tried with a (SCARY!) bell for a few months, then gave up when I realized a litter box makes both of our lives much better.
posted by phunniemee at 8:47 AM on February 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

I’d try bell training. Hang it from the doorknob at Desmond-level and give it a bump every time you take him out to potty. Eventually, hopefully, he’ll start ringing it with his nose to signal he needs to go out. If he’s food-motivated, pair it with a treat and lots of praise every time HE rings the bell.
You can google around for more specific “bell training” guides, but that’s the gist.
posted by adastra at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2018

First of all: 😍

My Annie never told me the first few years that she wanted to go out, so I'd take her out preemptively on a very specific and consistent schedule (4-5 times a day) until she caught on and her body got used to it. I always used the same phrase: "Annie wanna go outside?" and she'd respond by jumping around like a maniac. Also she'd get a special treat every time she came back in. Eventually she got so conditioned to it that she started coming to get ME at those particular times -- usually in the form of pouncing on me on the bed, couch, etc.
posted by mochapickle at 9:07 AM on February 8, 2018 [8 favorites]

nthing everything phunniemee says, though my tiny angel baby uses pads (this is the ONLY brand that I recommend, all other pads leak and are gross). Usually he leaves me a biscuit in the morning and I can just flush it down the toilet, easy peasy.

That being said, your dog just might have really subtle tells for when he needs to go that you haven't picked up on yet. We take our dog on a long walk once a day, otherwise he uses his pads. He is neurotic and refuses to use the pads in front of us, so we have to wait in the bedroom with the door closed. When he has to pee or poop, he starts to just kind of awkwardly stand around helplessly.

Trying a bell ringing setup would have scared the shit out of my dog. He jumps ten feet in the air if the phone rings.
posted by cakelite at 9:14 AM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Our dog has the most gentle, subtle little signals EVER to let us know he needs to go out. He will subtly orient himself to face the door and become ever-so-slightly quieter - as in, his breathing will sometimes quiet from a low panting to a silent breathing (he's already absurdly quiet, polite and chill). Occasionally he will lift his eyebrows slightly. That's it.

It took us FOREVER to start being able to pick up on such quiet body language, so in the meantime we set up a very rigorously kept routine that brought him outside every four hours during our awake time, no matter the weather, no matter his needs. His body quickly fell in line with the routine and he began evacuating to the clock (you can set up whatever routine suits you, I would just suggest it be one that you can follow very strictly for a good amount of time). This also taught him to hold his bladder for reasonable periods of time. After a long while we started to pick up on his signalling and were able to relax the routine a little. Now he always gets outside first thing in the morning, just before bed, and as soon as we come home and let him out of the crate. Otherwise, he lets us know.

So I would suggest looking for very quiet signals, and setting up a strict routine in the mean time.
posted by DSime at 11:05 AM on February 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

Teach him the touch command (touching his nose to something on command or hitting a target with his paw on command) and then extend it to the doorbells; ask for a touch every single time you guys leave the home. He'll get it.
posted by Nyx at 12:13 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

If he whines, puts his paw on your arm, whatever signal you can catch, about anything, "Good Desmond" and take him right out. Eventually, he will signal to go out. Eating triggers elimination, so a good sized meal and a walk should be productive if you need opportunities to praise him for pooping outside.
posted by theora55 at 2:17 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Came in to say that my pug uses a litterbox and it's great as a backup. Otherwise I walk him three times a day on a regular schedule and he goes at those times.
posted by rpfields at 4:35 PM on February 8, 2018

I swear by bell training. We rang the bells every time before we opened the door to leave -- when we first began we'd put her leash on first, then go stand at the door, pause, shake the bells, and then go out. It took her a few weeks to grok what was going on. Then we gradually started to make her ring the bells before leaving -- leash on, stand at the door, wait for her to hit them herself. It took some coaxing and pointing at the bells, but she'd eventually hit them. Repeat for a few weeks. When she finally worked up the courage to the bells on her own, she'd do so sooooo softly that we'd really have to be paying attention to hear.

Once she figured it out, she hit the bells all the damn time. For awhile, ringing the bells was the best trick she'd ever learned and it came with the extra joy of getting to go outside, even when she obviously didn't need to pee. She eventually leveled out and the bells were a good system.

All told, it took maybe 2 months to get her trained, another month or so for the novelty of controlling her outside times to wear off.
posted by lilac girl at 4:55 PM on February 8, 2018

Dogs are creatures of habit. Work on a schedule. When our pup was young we didn't give her free access to water and instead gave her water at regular intervals. Then, about 15 minutes later, we'd take her outside and she'd pee. As she got older, the intervals got longer and eventually she got the drift and we settled into a routine.

We go for a walk at 8:00am and she gets fed when we get back. She'll drink some water after she's done eating and then usually find something to chew. She gets a drink occasionally throughout the day. She makes a patrol of the fenced yard at lunch time and pees, I call her and she comes and gets a treat. We usually take her for another walk around in the afternoon/evening depending on the time of year and then she gets to take another patrol around the yard around 9pm. She almost never poops in the yard, she likes to be well away from the house when she poops. So she usually only poops on a walk.
posted by VTX at 7:24 PM on February 8, 2018

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