My animals have humbled me often, and I’ve learned to listen.
Leia is a smart puppy, and she learns quickly. She has learned to sit, lie down, and is starting to recognize her name. She is still learning that jumping on me and chewing on my hands is unacceptable. She has learned that I will not put her food down until she sits and waits.
But housebreaking has presented some challenges. The first three days she was home, she did not have an accident in her crate or in the house, only because I was extra vigilant and got her into the yard regularly.
Then, boom, she finally had an accident in the family room. Fortunately, I caught her in the act, reprimanded her with a loud NO, and quickly got her outside to finish peeing. I was able to catch her in the act two more times, and she was great for five days. Success! I thought.
Then she urinated in her crate and again in the family room. I was upset and frustrated; I honestly thought she was making progress! Humble Pie!
This made me realize that my training needed to have more clarity. Leia needed to understand that when she felt the urge to toilet that she should go to the door. I knew I needed to devise a plan and set Leia up to fail.
I gave her free range in the family room with access to water, toys, and chew items. It worked.
She squatted, and I quickly made it clear it was unacceptable and got her into the yard and praised her for relieving herself outside. I allowed free range in the family room to continue with intense play and chewing. Then she started to make a beeline for the corner where she had peed before. I said NO! and redirected her to the door and into the yard.
I allowed her a long drink of water and continued to give her freedom to play and chew. Eventually I saw her stop, hesitate, and then she made a beeline for the door. I was ready and let her out into the yard immediately, praising her effusively.
She took the initiative to head to the door one more time, to toilet in the yard. I then gave her a high value treat and put her into her crate to chill. It was like a switch had been turned on.
This whole scenario took about an hour and a half. I was worn out from the vigilant observation, acting quickly, and redirecting her appropriately.
The real test will be tomorrow, I thought.
This morning, after she finished her breakfast, I gave her free range again, knowing that she would soon need to pee. I gave her a sheep horn to chew to hasten the process. I only had to wait about 10 minutes when I saw her stop. I could see her brain working, and she opted to head to the door! Hooray!
She went out and toileted to much praise from me.
So, Humble Pie works sometimes. One just needs to recognize the mistake and have the fortitude to figure out how to produce the desired results or affect appropriate change. This reinforcement will continue until I can reliably state that she is housebroken.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when training animals is the lack of consistency and appropriate redirection. Punishing Leia for leaving a puddle in the family room or peeing in her crate after the incident would have not been understood at all. Discipline AFTER the misbehavior has been done is inappropriate, ineffective, and sometimes cruel. It can lead to mistrust and fear; that is something we totally want to avoid when we train.
Humble Pie can be quite delicious!