Journey To A House Trained Dog (Part 1)

By: Michelle Mantor

April 2007

Recently, house soiling from my Maltese/Yorkie mix, otherwise known as the 3lb Wonder (her real name is Sake), has risen in importance in my household. One year ago, when she was just a year old, she was given a “pass” because she was still young and her “mistakes” were accepted putting us at “mildly important” on the house soiling status scale.

At “mildly important”, I had all the intentions of getting better over time. Well…time has passed. We’ve risen from “mildly important” to “important” and finally to “very important”. Which means time is up for Sake!

I must admit that Sake’s lack of improvement can mostly be blamed on my own lack of routine. I’m not naturally a person of routine but as we know, our pets need consistency. So with much resignation to the part I must play in Sake’s “relief efforts”, I finally had to admit that I have to be more proactive.

For those of you out there that still have a dog soiling in the house (you know who you are…we all walk the hall of shame together!), you most likely have an idea about your dog’s routine. For instance, I know that first thing in the morning, Sake goes outside and urinates. Then, she runs to the laundry room to check her food bowl. While she’s eating, I am dealing with getting the kids ready for school and if I don’t let her back outside as soon as she finishes eating, I’ll find a Sake “chocolate”.

Now, I’ve put up with this because I don’t have carpet, but that’s really no excuse any longer. I know that I need to stick to a routine with her and let her outside after eating and if she doesn’t relieve herself, crate her and try again in fifteen minutes until she does.

Although I know this is the advice of the experts, (not to let your dog have free reign of the house if they’re not house trained) my schedule and my attention span put a wrinkle in this theory.

So guys, here’s how I’m gonna deal with it. This article will be the first installment of my “Life With Sake…Journey to A House Trained Dog and Beyond” series that will chronicle my journey to a having my floors back…I’ll be able to put my favorite rugs back where they belong!

First, I’m gonna do what any desperate dog owner would do that knows she can’t tackle this problem alone…(otherwise I would have!)…I’m gonna use a life line and call my long-time friend and trainer to my dogs since 1995, Jim Burwell.

Many of you may know Jim as our local “Dog Whisperer” as he was dubbed by a Houston Chronicle article in 2003 and as seen on Channel 2 “The Buzz” with Roseanne Rogers. Jim was also named Dog Trainer of the Year in 2005 by the Houston Press based on a survey of readers. He is well known as Radar’s trainer (the Channel 2 weather dog) and he has trained over 20,000 dogs in 20 years… get the picture here…if Jim can’t fix Sake, I’m destined for a life with no rugs!

With that decision made, I take it upon myself to look into another element that I think might help Sake do her business outside rather than inside, and that’s a pet door. I have resisted the idea because the only place she can get outside is through my sliding glass doors and I don’t want to ruin the door by putting a hole in it, nor do I want Sake to go out anytime of day or night for security reasons. Three lb. dog’s make good hawk dinners!

Now, here is one of the reasons I’ve decided to run this article in our LifeStyle section and that’s because this “problem” affects my lifestyle…my schedule, the looks and functionality of my slider, my inability to decorate with rugs and the main reason: my guilty conscience. How can I publish a pet magazine and have a house soiling issue with a two year old dog? I already feel better now that my shameful secret is out.

I don’t know where this journey will lead but I hope that at a minimum, you and I will both learn something even if Sake and I fail to accomplish our goal. The really hard part is that I know success is more dependent on me than my dog. More pressure and commitments is what we all need in life, right? So…here we go….

Day 1 – Called Jim Burwell and scheduled an “evaluation”. Meeting in two weeks after Spring Break. Found myself making excuses for my dog’s behavior with words like “she’s really smart but sometimes…” or “I think it could also be diet related”. All he said was “Uh Huh”. I think he’s heard this before.

Day 2 – Decided to check into pet doors while waiting for our first session with Jim. How did we survive without the internet?  Had no idea the variety of pet doors available! There’s even one for guinea pigs to go out the window…no more messy cages! Nice try… but there were more choices than I expected and I don’t have to put a hole in my sliding glass door after all (see inset). Now that I know the options, I’m going to investigate more on pricing, sizing etc.

Day 3 – Leaving for Spring Break vacation with Sake in tow….feeling better about having a plan. Determined to work on a routine with Sake over the next week…not having the morning rush of getting the kids to school will help me (the real problem) focus on the dog.

Read the rest of the article published in the May issue of Houston PetTalk.

Getting fit with Fido

Every January 1st most of us make New Year’s Resolutions of getting fit and being better people.  And, by January 31st most of us have forgotten those New Year’s resolutions.

Unfortunately many of us just don’t take very good care of ourselves.

But as pet lovers, we do try to take good care of our dogs.  However, being overweight and no exercise has become a big problem in the pet population also.  So this year, team up your weight loss and exercise resolutions with the same resolutions for your pet.  This just might make you stick to your goals better.

According to research from the University of Missouri, people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion.  In this study, to the suprise of the researchers, the dog walkers showed a big improvement in fitness, while the people who chose a human to walk with, began making excuses to skip the workout.  Walking speed among the dog walkers increased by 28% compared with jua a 4% increase among the human walkers!

Also, we all know how we’re not supposed to snack and overload our plates with food.  Well, the same goes for our dogs.  Using treats to begin shaping training is fine, just don’t overdo it and wean off treats quickly.  Give healthy treats like raw organic carrots or simply pieces of quality dry dog kibble.  You could even snack on some of those carrots!  Also, really think about how much food you’re giving your dog at each meal.  Dog food producers want to sell dog food, so generally speaking, the amounts they suggest for feeding are usually too much.  An adult 17# dog, which gets sufficient exercise everyday, should be fine with approximately 1/4 to 1/3 cup of food 2 times a day.  An adult 70# dog that also gets sufficient exercise should get approximately  1 1/2 to 2 cups of food 2 times a day.  Try adding cooked vegetables to your dog’s food if Fido’s a little flabby.  Cut back on the kibble and replace some of that with cooked spinach, cooked broccoli, sweet potatoes or peas.  Dogs love that and it’s good for them.  Good veggies for you too!

Speaking of quality food, make sure you are making good choices for yourself.  Back off on the processed carbs and fat; choose fresh foods as much as possible.  Now is also a good time to check the ingredients in your dog food so you can make a good choice there.  Dogs don’t care if it looks pretty, or smells like bacon.  What is important is the quality of the ingredients in their food.  The first thing mentioned on the ingredients list needs to be a high quality protein, such as chicken, beef or lamb or turkey, NOT corn meal or any other low quality carbohydrate.  High quality “meals (chicken meal, beef meal) made of those whole meats listed above are also ok.  Whole grains, vegetables and fruits are good things to find in dog food.   Look for bad preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. Another bad additive is propylene glycol.  Many dogs have allergies to wheat, corn and soy.  Don’t buy foods that contain such things as animal fat, animal digest or meat meal or foods whose protein is derived almost completely from “meat by-products.

Quality dog food is like quality human food, you get what you pay for.  “There is a terrific publication called “Whole Dog Journal”, all of our Petiquette trainers encourage dog owners to subscribe.  It’s the “Consumer Reports” for dogs and every February they do a thorough rating of all dry and canned dog foods.You’ll be amazed! ”

The dreaded “E” word.  Yes, exercise is important for both you and your dog.  Realize that daily walks are central to the well being of your dog.  If you won’t get out and walk for yourself, get out and walk for your dog.  Walk at a pace as if you were late for an appointment, don’t just leisurely stroll.  The dividends are enormous.  You’ll be surprised how something as simple as a walk not only burns calories for you and your dog, it gets endorphins going for both you and your dog also.  What a great way to meet other folks in your area who have dogs, a great conversation starter!

Exercise is also a terrific way to manage your dog’s energy.  I always encourage owners who are having behavioral issues with their dogs, to include walking as part of the behavior modification.  This simple exercise not only manages the dog’s energy, it allows you to show leadership when you control the walk.

Last but not least, some of us make New Year’s resolutions to be better people.  That means different things to all of us.  But, being a better dog is pretty simple.  A good dog is one that understands boundaries and restrictions, has good house manners or “Petiquette” as we call it.  No jumping, house soiling, barking, tearing things us.

Make a decision to make your dog a better dog this year.  – “‘OPPORTUNITY BARKS!”

The Shopping Cart Dog

December 2006 a wonderful little homeless dog named Cooper came into our lives.  Here’s a link to his story and a video(actually 2 videos on site) hosted by the Houston Chronicle, but that’s just to give you some background. Cooper’s video

Cooper has been a member of our family since January 2007 and he has blossomed and flourished with good food – the typical 2 squares a day, the everyday company of the love of his life, our black lab Sammy and of course he knows he’s safe.  No more living on the streets, under abandoned houses,  getting out of the way of cars.  Cooper 2006

Now I know that usually my post are always about dog behavior, dog training and all that other good stuff, but, it’s always at this time of year when we look at Cooper, it always warms our hearts and literally makes my wife get teary eyed.  So please put up with our sentimentality this once.

We were laughing at Cooper the other day because he still has one character trait from living on the streets that he can’t see to overcome – hoarding!

Throughout the day Cooper will walk around the house or the yard and pick up what he perceives as “treasures”, anything from a stick, a piece of tissue dropped on the floor, a piece of fluff from a much played with toy, a ball, a sock.  You name it.  All of this is done very quietly and discreetly.  The funniest is when he will wait at the den door while the other dogs are playing with some partially mauled stuffed toy and when the dogs are done playing and they’re looking elsewhere,  Cooper will hop over quietly, pick the treasure up in his mouth and run back to his bed in our bedroom and make the deposit.

By the end of the day, there will be a mound of treasures in Cooper’s bed, so many that there’s no room for Cooper.  So, my wife will clear them away, put them in the den, knowing full well that the next day the ritual begins again.  Guess what Cooper’s getting for Christmas—–a shopping cart to help with his daily job!    Happy Holidays everyone.
Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

Unwanted Dogs in Houston Texas lose a good friend

I read in the Houston Chronicle this week that Kent Robertson has resigned his post as Bureau Chief of BARC (Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care) effective August 22, 2008.

I’m going to miss him and what he’s done for the animals.  Because of Kent Robertson, the stray and unwanted animals of Houston Texas have a cleaner, dryer place to stay.  And, despite the budget hardships he faced, Kent connected with the community and generated donations on his own, miraculously pulling donations out of the hat as if they were rabbits. 

He managed to get new trucks, fencing for play areas for the shelter dogs and much, much more.  I worked with him on the Mayor’s Committee or Task Force to investigate making Houston a “No Kill” city and know first hand, how difficult it was to get things done.

Kent was able to make a difference in the lives of many animals.  Cooper (aka 3 legs) for one, owes so much to so many – especially Kent Robertson.  Kent assisted in his humane rescue from a serious situation.  Despite Cooper’s broken back leg he had been dragging around for a year, he had eluded capture by neighbors desperately trying to get him medical aid.  Then, Kent Robertson, with the aid of Kentucky Fried Chicken, had this little Christmas pup safe and sound at BARC within an hour.  The rest is history as seen in this link

I want to thank you Kent, for raising the bar for the next Bureau Chief and for pointing us in a good direction for the future.  You inspired me and gave me hope for the animals.  Time will tell.  Sadly, though, time does not wait for the animals.