Our dogs Barker is broken, how do we potty train?
April 14, 2008 8:55 AM   Subscribe

Potty training for a dog who doesn't bark?

We have an adorable, lovable 6mo old Rat Terrier puppy. She's very energetic, and we've been we've been crate training her to minimize accidents in the apartment.

She's definitely getting better bladder function, and I think she's reached the point where she knows that *outside* is where she is supposed to go. We've started her on the concepts of sit and stay and come. She knows "crate" means to go in her crate 100%, and she responds to "sit" most of the time. We're still working on the stay part because she's so energetic - it's hard for her to stay anywhere for more than 3 seconds.

The gist of it is - I think she's pretty smart for a 6 mo old puppy. But we're running into a little trouble with the potty training part.

She doesn't bark. At all. She knows how (we've heard it a few times), but the only audible sound she makes is a whine. And she whines if she has to go potty (sometimes), but she also whines if she wants attention, or food, or lost her ball under the bookshelf. So it's really hard to tell a "hey, I have to go the bathroom!" whine from a "hey, play with me!" whine.

If we took her out EVERY time she gave a little whine, we'd literally be taking her out every 10-15 minutes. So it's hard/possibly undesirable to enforce a connection between whining and needing to go potty.

Right now we've been good about taking her out a specific times and after meals, but we'd really like to find some solution where she can let us know during those in-between times.
posted by finitejest to Pets & Animals (12 answers total)
2nding the bell at the back door idea. Helpful tip: put a spot of peanut butter on the bell. They nose the bell producing a ring. Reward lavishly and take them out. Repeat. Be prepared for the dog to *get it* and you have to let them in and out continuously for a little while. It's worth it.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2008

seconding the bell.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:10 AM on April 14, 2008

Thirding the bell. Or fourthing, rather.

My dog is big enough to reach the doorknob, and she noses the doorknob when she wants to go out. It makes an audible rattle that she's trained her owner (me) to listen for. And yes, she doesn't bark either unless it's an "ALERT! INTRUDER!" bark.
posted by SpecialK at 9:15 AM on April 14, 2008

Yup, the bell. I just took my puppy's paw and hit the bell right before going out each time. She made the connection in about two days. Then I spent the next two weeks taking her out every three minutes because I couldn't tell when she was playing with the bell and when she really had to go, but she was perfectly potty trained. Well worthwhile.
posted by Enroute at 9:18 AM on April 14, 2008

yeah, nthing the bells. my dog does that.
posted by violetk at 9:22 AM on April 14, 2008

Yeah, just Google bell training.

Our dog also doesn't bark and until we had potty training *really* down, it was outside every two hours, 24 hours a day, and then every 4, and then every 6. We now take her out three times a day and there are no accidents unless we've failed to communicate who last took her out when.

So yeah, bell training. Just don't get a scary bell! Little jingle bells on a ribbon at her height will work great :)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:48 AM on April 14, 2008

We used "piddle pads" next to backdoor to first get our then puppy to not just go anywhere. Once he learn to go to the pad we knew to open the door door to scoot him out. It was a quicker process than it might seem. He did learn to go straight to the door, and not just use the pad.
posted by sailormouth at 10:09 AM on April 14, 2008

If for any reason you don't -want- to do the bell thing (fwiw, my aunt and uncle do that with their Maltese and it works for them, too, but he also uses it a lot of times just when he wants to go play or whatnot), you should still be able to potty train your pooch even if she doesn't bark - heh, to be honest, when I first read your question I couldn't for the life of me figure out the connection between a dog's tendency to bark and one's ability to potty-train him/her ... my muttster has never barked to tell me she needs to go out but it's still pretty obvious, she'll go to the door and nose her leash, then come give me "the potty look," then go back to the door, etc. It's quite clear. Really, I think it's every bit as much about learning to read your dog as it is about them learning to give a particular signal - if you DO train them to give a particular signal, whether it be a bark, or a whine, or a bell-ring, or a piano concerto, they'll do it for you, but even if you don't teach a specific signal they'll figure out one on their own in due time.

Furthermore, if the above answers are any indication, no matter WHAT signal you or the dog picks out, you probably should expect to go through a period where you do have to let her out every 10-15 minutes, just because you can't yet distinguish a false alarm from the real thing, and because she needs the repetitions in order to eventually figure out the connection between giving that signal and being let out to go potty. So again, while the bell method certainly is a good one, don't feel like you HAVE to do that if you'd rather not have a bell jingling merrily by your door, or if you don't want to have to take said bell with you if you ever take her on a trip or whatnot. You'll all learn to read one another's signals in time, regardless of what those signals are =)
posted by zeph at 10:17 AM on April 14, 2008

I got my dog to stop nosing the door when she wanted to go out to play by letting her go out to go potty on a leash. We'd go out, I'd tell her to go potty and she'd sniff and find a place, and then we'd go RIGHT back in. And if she didn't sniff and find a place, we'd go back inside.
posted by SpecialK at 11:25 AM on April 14, 2008

Over time you'll also start to get a feel for how often the dog has to go. My dog doesn't really relay potty time in any way that I'm aware of, he just holds it and I take him out often enough that it's not an issue.
posted by toomuchpete at 1:19 PM on April 14, 2008

We taught our Boston Terrier to ring a bell dangling from the door knob. It didn't take very long at all to teach her to do this. However, as toomuchpete alludes to above, it is better to take the dog at regularly scheduled intervals. We combine the two methods. That way we also know when the little shit is ringing the @*%!# damn bell just to get attention or a treat.
posted by terrapin at 1:23 PM on April 14, 2008

My dog stands next to the door when she needs to go out. If we don't notice immediately she then begins to pace from the door to one of us and back to the door. I didn't do anything special to teach her this behavior. She knows that outside is where she needs to go to take care of business and she knows that the door is the way to outside. All I ever did is take her outside whenever she gave me any hints that she needed out.

Like SpecialK said, one important thing to do when still in the phase of needing to take her out ever 15 minutes, just in case, is to take her out and if she doesn't go right away then back in she goes. Once my dog got the hang of it I noticed that if I took her out and she didn't need to go she'd act like she was getting to go for a walk so back inside we'd go. When she did do her business I would say, "good dog" and associate it with a command. She now knows what it means when I tell her to "hurry up." :)

The potential pitfall with any of these options is that your dog might start ringing the bell or whatever anytime she wants to go out, not just when it is bathroom time.
posted by J-Garr at 1:26 PM on April 14, 2008

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