Helping a Scottish Terrier Pup Learn to Eliminate Outside

AstaAsta is a four-month-old Scottish terrier who has an abundance of energy that causes him to get extremely excited when guests arrive. He also has had a difficult time with potty training resulting in occasional accidents in the house.

When I arrived for the session, Asta’s owner had him on a leash. He said that they had kept him on a leash in the backyard in the attempt to try to get him to go to the bathroom outside instead of running around and playing.

While the leash is a great tool that is underutilized by many of my clients, placing a dog on a leash to get them to eliminate outside it is usually not the best course of action. Some owners are forced to do this because they do not have a fenced in yard, but that wasn’t the case for Asta.

Making things more difficult, Asta’s owners had also come up with a few different unique command words for elimination. Adding too many words to your dog’s vocabulary is a common mistake that many dog owners make.

The smartest dog in the world only knows about 130 words. If you use multiple command words for the same action or activity, you are making it unnecessarily difficult for your dog as it has to remember more commands.

I suggested that they use only one, one-word command for elimination. Additionally, dogs don’t speak English so I explained that there was no need to conjugate or add directions to the command word like “go potty.”

I also suggested that they follow the dog into the backyard but let it off the leash to do its business. Once they notice that the dog is starting to go number one or number two, I advised them to repeat the command word over and over for as long as the dog eliminates, “potty, potty, potty.”

When the dog finishes, I suggested that they drop to a knee and throw their arms wide open in an inviting motion to get the dog to come over. When it does, I suggested that they offer it a high-value treat or lavish it with praise while repeating the command word over and over.

By consistently tying the command word to the action and following it up with a reward while the dog hears the command word, we can help condition the dog to understand that going potty outside makes his owners happy.

Asta’s owner told me that frequently they take the dog outside for 15, 20 or 30 minutes only to have the dog come back inside and promptly pee or poop in their living room. It’s a common mistake to believe that the longer the dog has access to the outside the more inclined it will be to eliminate. Dogs, especially puppies as young as Asta, are prone to get easily distracted.

I suggested that they start taking Asta outside when it’s time to eliminate and only giving the dog five minutes. During this five-minute period, it’s important that they keep the dog in their eyesight so they can use the new command word if the dog decides to eliminate. However, after five minutes, if the dog has not done it’s business, I suggested that they call the dog inside and place it in it’s kennel for 15 additional minutes.

After the 15 minutes is up, then it’s time to take the dog out into the backyard and give it another opportunity to eliminate. Just as before it’s important that their owners monitor the dog so they have an opportunity to reinforce the command word during elimination. By only giving the dog a five minute window of opportunity and then the placing it into its kennel, we can eliminate the dog’s ability to go anywhere but in the desired location.

Next I went over the times that a dog is more apt to need to eliminate; after waking up, after eating and after heavy playtime. I suggested that they immediately take the dog outside after it concludes any of these activities until he is housebroken. It’s important to put your dog in a position to succeed. By moving the animal to the desired location at the time it’s most apt to need to go to the bathroom, we make it much easier and increase the odds that the dog eliminates in the proper location.

To address the dog’s over-excitement when guests arrive, I suggested that Asta’s owner use the leash anytime the dog’s excitement level passes the midway point of his energy range.

After placing the dog on the leash, I instructed them to stand on it about a foot away from the dog’s collar. This leaves just enough room for the dog to sit or lay down comfortably with no tension on the line.

As soon as I did this, Asta started to pull in attempt to get away. I ignored this and after a few moments he settled down, and then he sat down. When he sat down the leash got tight so I slid my foot on the leash towards the dog to remove the tension from the leash. A minute or two after that the dog laid down next to me and was completely calm.

I suggested that they repeat this technique each and every time that the dog passes it his midway point of energy. It’s much easier to disagree with a dog or a behavior before the dog gets all worked up. By interceding before the dog gets too excited, we can help the dog calm itself down faster. By repeatedly giving it this leash-timeout every time it gets too excited, we can help the dog understand that overexcitement results in a loss of freedom in the house.

If his owners consistently apply this leash timeout technique at the appropriate time, Asta will learn to keep his energy level just below the threshold that gets him put on the leash.

I have found that most of the trouble that puppies get into is a result of too much energy. Although he is not a super high energy dog, I suggested that his owners take him out for a structured walk every single day to burn this energy in a constructive way that also helps him see his humans in a leadership position.

As a four-month-old puppy, Asta will likely get himself into little bits of trouble here and there. However, now that his owners know how to communicate with him and have the tools to condition him to eliminate outside as well as to stay calm, the trouble should be kept to a minimum.

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