Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Housebreaking, redux

My wife and I have fostered god-knows-how-many puppies over the last several years, keeping them warm and fed and socialized until they're big enough to be altered and adopted.  In the process, we've typically had them very close to potty trained by the time they went back to the shelter (by the age of 8-10 weeks, mind you).  Thus I've adopted a very smug attitude towards housebreaking:  "Oh, if you're having problems, you must not be trying hard enough."

Two weeks ago, we brought home The New Puppy.

(I think you can see where I'm going with this.)

It was so easy to house train the foster pups.  Ohhh so easy.  *sadly shaking head*  And I think this is why:  They were foster pups.  Of course we adored them and spent hours cuddling and playing with them, wishing they could be ours forever.  But we knew they'd be going back in a matter of weeks or months (even days, sometimes), and so we didn't mind putting forth the SUPERHUMAN amount of energy that is flawless housebreaking.  We also let our own pup, Mesa, the ridiculously cute Golden Retriever, toddle around much more of the house than the foster puppies ever had access to.

Typically, they were granted one new room (say, the living room, or the bedroom) after several days of no accidents in their current living spaces, and only for 15 minutes at a time--and only when we knew their bladders were empty.  Whereas I love having a new "Velcro Dog" and am delighted to have Mesa follow me around everywhere, even if that means I occasionally forget to make sure that whatever she's chewing under my desk while I'm working is okay.

The moral of the story is that puppy training is easy.  It's tedious, and it may occasionally require an egg timer, but it can be boiled down to a few simple rules.

1)  Never take your eye off puppy.

2)  If you're taking your eye off puppy for a second, put him in the crate.

3)  If you're taking your eye off puppy for more than an hour, put him in his comfy puppy-proof room (e.g, a bathroom, the laundry room) with his crate or bed, toys, safe chewies, water, and a potty area.


So far, while taking our eyes off puppy, we've sustained a chewed a/v cable, a chewed credit card, pee in the middle of our bed (no, it's not because she's salty because we pet the other dogs or other Cesar Milan-type nonsense), a joyously unfurled roll of toilet paper, a dug-up bed of moss roses (see photo), and a puppy garbage fiasco after she (very quietly) learned how to open the lidded trash can in the bathroom.  I blame the work-to-eat toys.

It's not as bad as it could be.  She is getting potty trained and chew-trained, slowly but surely, under the increasing diligence of the sheepish humans.  And hey, it's nothing compared to my first dog as an adult, who in our first two years together (yes, two years; I never learned) chewed up two cell phones, my eyeglasses, about sixty paperbacks, all the windowsills in my apartment, and a couch, down to the wooden frame.

Nope, this new kid's not bad at all. But maybe next time I can just remember to... oh, that's right.  Never take my eye off the puppy.