Journey To A House Trained Dog (Part 1) - Jim Burwell’s Petiquette

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.