Tomorrow, on Valentine's Day JJ turns 6!!! That's 40 years in dog years, so to celebrate his 4th anniversary wit us, I am telling his adoption story :)
A few years ago, after a lot of talk and many puppy rescue shows later, we decided to take the leap and adopt our own! Kyle wanted a Great Dane (we see how that turned out), and I wanted a dog that I could pick up without hurting myself, so a small dog. I started the search around our town for the dogs left behind, I didn’t work at home back then and wouldn’t have time for a puppy, so we knew we wanted an adult dog (little did I know it wouldn’t be that much easier).
I believe in rescue and I don't think I would ever get a dog from a breeder (absolutely nothing against it, in fact, my mother in law breeds golden retrievers and I love how she cares for them when their puppies) but I know that there are so many abandoned pets out there needing a home and love, and I think my heart will always go with the mutts. So that's decision #1.
After a lot of inquiries, dogs we were interested in getting adopted before we could and messages that went unanswered, I found two cuties in the same kennel in Alabama, and we set out to go meet them. By the time we got there, they had actually already adopted Jack, the Jack Russel and JJ, the Yorkie was all that was left; we drove 3 hours to see them, so JJ got sort of thrown into our lives haha he bonded with us very quickly and I swear he farted HORRIBLE farts the whole way home, I thought he had done it in the car at one point, they were SO bad. Our first "gift" was when he did it in the carpet on his arrival (yeah, he had just been outside) and he had worms. Oh boy. We quickly treated him for that and the next thing we did was start training!
Our first order of business after adopting him was to sign up for an obedience class at PetSmart, and that helped us tremendously! The time we chose ended up having no other clients, so he got 1-on-1 classes with the trainer, and he did wonderful! They have three levels and we only completed the basic, he knows how to sit, lay down, to stay (ish) and there was leash training but we’re still to master that without a lead.
We taught him other things ourselves too, like to go to his kennel, roll over, to speak (bark) to touch his doorbell, to wait and “off” for him to get off the couch. Now to that potty thing, he didn’t seem to EVER get it. We tried the regular bell, but we couldn’t quite hear it ring and it didn’t really work for us, he would just stay by the door and not make a sound, sometimes he’d go by the door, which was better than the rest of the house, but something had to change.
The months that followed were anything but easy. We thought he was potty trained, but it turns out he wasn’t. He would come back inside from doing his business and would start marking our bed, laundry basket and etc. A kennel was in order ASAP! The first challenge was to get him kennel trained! We got a kennel to the specifications online, not much bigger than your dog, just big enough for them to stand, turn around and lay in. With treats, a kong treat holder and toys, that was the easy part, but he still wasn’t potty trained.
"I think I can safely say that it took us 3 years to potty train him"
So, that was our BIGGEST priority, we needed him to let us know he needed to go, now, a little background from him is that we truly have NO idea what he went through, he didn’t bark when we adopted him, he was also VERY skittish and VERY afraid of drawers opening, afraid of bags, any loud noises, the broom, the refrigerator… We can only speculate about what happened, but he was clearly traumatized. I think I can safely say that it took us 3 years to potty train him. Yep, that’s right. After LOTS of reading, watching videos and learning about their behavior, we tried a few things.
We tried to teach him to associate words with going #1 and #2, we would go outside with him and wait, wait, wait, give him commands and wait some more, I am sure we spent upwards of 15 minutes waiting for something to happen, and the idea is that once he goes OUTSIDE, he gets rewarded with free time inside the house. Just like a puppy, you also make sure they go out every few hours or 3 times a day. He spent so much time in his kennel and sometimes it seemed like we had adopted a kennel and not a dog because he was never with us and we didn’t want that. We also taught him to "go outside", to "touch" his bell and to "speak" to bark when he needed to go out, but none of those fully worked.
"I confess that I thought about taking him back to Alabama a few times"
If you have read anything about training dogs you have heard about this, it helps your dog to associate performing a task with a reward at the end, it can be a treat, being petted or getting to play with you. We tried them, and JJ is very much treat motivated! But I was exhausted, I confess that I thought about taking him back to Alabama a few times, I was done, I had no patience left and it felt like he was just not smart enough to learn that he shouldn’t go inside. He had a bell so WHY in the world was he avoiding to touch it and would rather go potty inside? Why would he constantly mess it up? Why couldn’t he just learn? Truth is, I have no idea. He kept having accidents, both #1 and #2, while we played or while we were cooking, sometimes while we were gone and he was in his kennel and after trying everything, when things seemed hopeless, we found another product.
It’s called Pebble Smart and it’s a doggie doorbell. We absolutely LOVE and still use this bell daily, it wasn’t an overnight miracle, but slowly it seems like we FINALLY have a potty trained dog, yippee! This little doorbell has a treat hole and tray for training, when the dog presses the bell to try to get the treat, the bell rings.
"it isn’t magic, you still have to have A LOT of patience and commitment to train your dog"
Like I mentioned, it isn’t magic, you still have to have A LOT of patience and commitment to train your dog, they need to understand that the bell is not for going outside, it is for potty only and once they learn how to touch the bell, we stopped giving treats until he actually goes potty outside. So today he rings the bell, waits by the door (or runs back to make sure we heard it hahaha), we come to let him out, if he goes potty, he gets a treat when he comes back in, and a lot of loving and positive reinforcements, we tell him how good of a job he did! That seemed to finally do the trick and I can't imagine not having this doorbell!
Troubleshooting your potty training
If he rings the bell to try to trick us instead, he goes to doggy jail for a while, I know the kennel shouldn’t be associated with a bad place, and he doesn’t seem to mind his kennel at all, but by doing that, he understood that ringing the bell means going potty, getting treat AND hanging out with us. He had plenty of accidents since the bell, but we also moved twice, Kyle was deployed twice and also gone for training for weeks at a time and that didn’t help our training, so every dog and every situation will be different. The thing you need the most when training a dog, old or new, is PATIENCE AND CONSISTENCY! I am glad we didn’t give up on this sweet nugget, even though he still drives us crazy every now and then, he is part of our clan, he makes us laugh, he keeps us on our toes and he loves us unconditionally <3
Are you adopting a dog soon? Or trying to get ahead on the "untrainable" puppy? Let me know in the comments! And remember, it takes TIME!
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