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"Touch" Command & Overcoming Potty Training Setbacks

Touch Command for dogs

Welcome back, bugg lovers and pet parents! Today I want to share the two most important lessons I learned this past week. First, the “touch” command ...

The touch command was one of the first things I taught Chance and Roxy as small puppies -- in large part because it was so easy. Just hold out the palm of your hand and wait for the pup to touch it with his nose, then reward with a hearty “yes!” and a treat. Doesn’t get simpler than that! They both picked it up really quickly.

The second reason I taught that command so early on was to use it as a recall. Because the puppies were so young, I knew they didn’t know their names yet. And even if they did, they certainly hadn’t learned to come when called. But it was super easy for them to learn that they get treats and love when I hold out my palm and say “touch.” 

Why the Touch Command is SO Important

A few days ago, I was sitting in the yard with my neighbours, as I often do on warm, sunny afternoons. And of course, the kids were leashed by my side. They love to play in the grass and watch the world go by. 

Suddenly, Chance took off like a proverbial bat out of hell! So quickly and without warning that his leash slipped right out of my hand. As I jumped to my feet, I was horrified to see how far he’d gotten in a few short seconds. And without hesitation, I reached down and held out my palm at his eye level and yelled across the yard, “Chance, touch!”

He stopped in his tracks, spun around and ran toward me enthusiastically, booping his nose on my hand as he arrived. Wag, wag, wag, “I’ll take my treat now, Mom!” Of course I praised him profusely and rewarded him with more than just one treat.

Granted, I’d spent a fair bit of time teaching this trick / command, and it's one thing to see them do it in the living room. But to see it in action … wow. I was elated! 

Just goes to show all that hard work you put into training your pups early on really does pay off

Potty Training Setbacks

Potty training seemed to be slowing considerably. In fact, it nearly halted entirely. There hasn’t been much progress over the past week (closer to two weeks if I’m being brutally honest). So I had to take a good hard look at what I’ve been doing wrong ...

Mistake #1: Lack of consistency

Potty breaks were random. There was no rhyme or reason to when the puppies would go out to pee. Worse, I was trying to train them in three completely different places: a) on the grass out front of the house, b) on the pee pads out back on the lanai, and I also gated an area outside their crate where they could go potty in the night.

Obviously, I know they need to be trained to go outside on the grass. That’s a no brainer. But I also thought it’d be a good idea for them to know they can pee on pads out back because winter is around the corner (I shutter to even think about it) and I wanted them to have a place to pee when we’re on the boat in the summer. 

As for the pads outside the crate … that’s so I could get some much-needed sleep. 

Wrong.

They weren’t learning to hold their bladder; they could just go whenever the urge struck. During the night, particularly, they’d pee (or poop) on the pads then scream for me to clean it up. My plan to get some sleep was backfiring.

Mistake #2: Self-serve potty breaks

And here’s my biggest mistake so far … I left the sliding glass door to the lanai (which is screened in) open so they could come and go (to pee) as needed. Why? So I could get some work done, or clean the house, or do any of the other things I so desperately felt were getting away from me.

The flaw in my plan is that puppies aren’t able to understand the difference between peeing on a balcony and peeing in the living room. They don’t understand that some doors lead “outside” while others lead to inside rooms. And when they’re unsupervised in a room without a pee pad when mother nature calls … they answer.

My thinking was logical … but too much for the little furballs to figure out so early on in the training process. 

These are the changes I made (and we haven’t had an accident in nearly 3 days!) …

new puppy harnesses

Dress for Success

The kids now wear their harnesses at all times (except in their crate at night, that is). I bought them thin, comfortable harnesses to wear all day long, which makes it SO much easier for me to attach a leash and take them out front to the grass to go potty … often! It may sound like a small thing, but it has truly saved a ton of time. 

Individual potty trips

Time to pee doesn’t mean time for a walk. It means it’s time to go to the grass, do your business and come back inside. The best way to achieve that is to remove all other distractions -- in this case, each other. 

One puppy at a time, we go outside to the same grass area where I give the command, “go pee pees,” and wait quietly. I don’t engage, I don’t talk. I stand still and make the trip as boring as possible. This helps them focus on the task at hand.

And it’s working! It was taking 5 - 10 or more minutes to get results when they were out together. Sometimes the entire trip was a bust. Now, we’re out 2-3 minutes tops (sometimes even quicker!).

Crate, not playpen

I removed the gates and pee pads from in front of the night time crate. Now, they sleep inside the crate with the door closed. No potty pads to be found.

I set my alarm for 4 hours after they fall asleep, take them out one by one to pee on the pad on the back lanai. Then I put them back to bed and reset my alarm for another 4 hours when it’s time to start the day. 

Yes, I’m breaking my own rule a little bit with the lanai pee pads. But we live up north with bears, foxes and coyotes in the area, so midnight trips outside with baby dogs is not something I’m willing to risk.

Less freedom, more supervision

The playpen gates have gone back up to block off certain areas of the house at various times throughout the day. Now, the puppies are never more than 20 feet away from me at all times. It’s much tougher for them to find a corner to sneak off to for a quick pee.

Because they’re always in my line of sight, I’m able to spot the pre-potty warning signals and get them outside quickly.

So far so good! 

Until next time, Roxy, Chance and the PureForm Pack wish you a happy and safe Labour Day (or Labor Day to our US friends) weekend!

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