A man called the other day; he had just adopted a dog from the Payson Humane Society. The family loves the dog, but he was having a few accidents and they had some questions about house training.
No matter whether you buy a dog from a breeder or adopt one, the dog needs time to adjust to the family, his new surroundings and to learn the rules. Remember that a humane society dog has had to relieve himself in his own space for as long as he has been at the shelter. No dog wants to do this, but when in this small space, he has no choice. Suddenly he is taken out of that space and brought into a whole new environment. Everything is new. It is all strange and maybe frightening. The dog normally will do his best to please his new people. But often what he should do is not clear to him.
Part of the process of bringing this new dog into your home is to quickly and calmly show him his boundaries. Walk him around the property. Show him where he is to relieve himself. Show him around the house and if there are rooms off limits, set those limits right away.
Set up a schedule and stick with it. In the morning, take the dog directly from his crate/kennel on leash out to the designated place in the yard. Choose the words you will use forever to tell him to go to the bathroom. When he does his business, praise him and give him a little treat. Bring him in and feed him his breakfast. After breakfast, take him again to that bathroom place and, if possible, take him for a walk. If he has not taken care of business, keep him on a leash when you bring him back in the house. Try again in 15 minutes. Set the timer and take him out every hour. At about 5 p.m. feed him his dinner and again take him out to that special place. The goal is to never have the dog have an accident in the house. It does not usually work out that way, so don't despair. If you stick to the schedule, he will soon catch on. Soon you can go to every two hours, and then longer and before you know it, he will let you know when he needs to go out.
This may sound like too much work, but you will not have to do it for long. Bring a new dog home when you have a few days to devote to helping him adjust. You will be rewarded.
The dog referred to in this beginning paragraph is one lucky fellow. The family loves him, he gets to go running with them, he sleeps in their bedroom and they are committed to helping him adjust. After a couple of months at the humane society, he has found a home and a family. There are children and someone is home most of the time. I wish all these stories could turn out so wonderfully.
My children gave me a book for Christmas, which I have just finished. "Marley and Me," by John Grogan, is on the New York Times Bestseller list. The subtitle is "life and love with the world's worst dog." Grogan is a newspaper columnist who has a great way with words and a clever wit. From puppy-hood, Marley causes problems that would have made most owners send him back to wherever he came from. But this couple loves the good in Marley and tolerates the destruction and flaws. Besides being a charming story, the book also is instructional in a most entertaining way. Grogan talks about the importance of in-depth study to determine which breed of dog is best for your family, buying from a reputable breeder, making sure you do not get a puppy mill dog, stressing proper training and the value of exercise. Many of his lessons he learned through experience, and he shares cleverly.
I wish he had started out with a kennel for Marley, as I believe it would have solved a lot of problems. The story is enchanting. You laugh out loud and you cry. You will love Marley and you will love John and his wife Jenny and wish you could meet them both personally. If you want to read a heartwarming story, read "Marley and Me."
Christy Powers is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail mail at HC1Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.