Ask Dog Lady: Training a difficult but essential part of ownership

Monica Collins

Dear Dog Lady,

I enjoy your insightful column very much. I have a big problem:

My two Chihuahuas, 9 and 10 years old, initially belonged to my daughter. She bought them together after leaving the Navy. She had them for several months before she came home to live with me. She has now moved on and the dogs have been mine for the last few years.

No matter how many times I let them out, they still wet and poop in my house. They have ruined countless rugs, wall-to-wall carpeting and my wood floors. I work full time and they can use my laundry room if they have to relieve themselves as the floor is vinyl and can easily be cleaned up. At night, I have taken to having them stay in my bedroom with the door closed so they won't pee and poop in the rest of the house.

I am at my wit’s end! My daughter didn't train them as puppies, and the behavior is ingrained in them now.

-- Barb

Consider the old expression: “How do you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” The same applies to dogs allowed to relieve themselves in the house. Once they squat or lift their legs in the living room, it’s hard to go back.

You can train them to perform outside, but you have to work at it. No more opening the door and letting them out. You must supervise. Keep them contained in crates so they don’t have the run of the house. Take them outside on leashes to walk. Reward them with small meat treats (freeze-dried liver is heaven) when they perform outdoors.

This whole training rigmarole is going to be loads of work, but the exercises will yield excellent rewards. Dogs that “doo” right help you feel better about life in general.

Cleanse the places they’ve gone indoors with enzymatic cleaners such as Simple Solution or Nature’s Miracle. These wipe away the smells so dogs don’t return to the scene of the grime; they love to go in the same places again and again. Remember -- your dogs would really prefer to go outside.

Dear Dog Lady,

Our longtime next-door summer cottage neighbor couldn’t afford to come back this year because of a steep rent hike.

Byron, the neighbor, loved my dog, enjoyed his visits and kept a jar of biscuits handy. The couple who replaced Byron immediately call my cell phone if Plimpton, my Labradoodle, wanders over (the cottages are very close to each other).

They are very frank about not wanting to deal with a dog and have asked me numerous times to keep my dog on a leash. How can I tell them to mind their own business?

-- Keith

The new residents are entirely within rights to ask for privacy and consideration. Their dog-indifference understandably irks you. Don’t let this continue to gnaw on your righteousness.

Be a good sport about the whole thing and plaster a smile on for the sake of neighborly relations. Please don’t become the angry guy pushing the limits of civility and decorum. Your dog is a talisman of warmth, an ambassador of hope, a peddler of grins. Do not allow Plimpton to become a divisive agent.

Monica Collins offers advice on dogs, life and love. Her website is www.askdoglady.com. Contact her at askdoglady@gmail.com.