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Small Dog in CageDear John,

We recently found an un-neutered 1.5 year old Shih Tzu in need of rescue. He came from a home (his 3rd) with a 1 year old Pug. He did not have his shots, had sores on this back and was biting himself. They also put the pug and the Shih Tzu in the same cage crate together, where I’m told the pug regularly “had his way with him.” He has many problems but right now we’re concerned because he will not ask to go outside to go to the bathroom and he will mess in his cage while we are gone. He sleeps all night on our bed, and never makes a mess in the house during the night. Thanks, O.J.

Dear O.J

A dog like this must now feel like he’s won the canine version of the lottery. Contrary to what some people might think, mounting behaviour whether done to another dog, same gender or not or to any human, is a dominance deal. Trapped behind bars your poor guy had nowhere to hide from the megalomaniac bully pug and so needless to say the crate is unlikely to be of any use as an area of sanctuary. I’m reasonably certain that the elimination in the crate part is anxiety based, so until he is overall house-wise the first thing to do is to find some way to replace the crate as a means to keep track of him when you can’t directly supervise him.

Go buy a few lengths of those plastic runners used to protect high traffic areas for rugs, pick a corner of a room, and lay two sections out so you have a small area about the size of a crate surrounded by the runners, but flip the runner upside down so the little prickles are pointed up. Make his little square as comfy as possible and hopefully that combined with the feeling under his paws will keep him in his new “crate” without the ‘trapped’ anxiety that actual walls might provide. Initially just use it when you’re home with him, ideally in the same room so you can add your own emphasis to “Stay off the mat!” If your dog even looks like he wants to venture from his mat in the corner scold him. You’re going to have to gauge what scolding is for him as he may be a little on the soft side. Don’t be too stern but make your point. If he ignores you he’ll feel the inverted prickles as your back up and you can return him. If it works you have a less stressful area for him to stay when you can’t supervise him while he’s being house trained.
Now as far as his house training in general, I’m not a believer in teaching a dog to give a sign that they need to go out. I have kids; my day is busy enough that I don”t need a dog using me as the royal butler too. Some dogs use it as intended but more then enough just connect it with, “Hey Reginald! Leave the maid alone and get the door for me. I want to go dig a hole.”, or something equally not having to do with relieving themselves.

Instead, train him to a schedule. This is easier if you offer him a good quality food once or twice a day and take it up if it isn’t gone after ten minutes. You want to get his digestion into a daily rhythm. Watch the treats as well. Too many can throw him off as most have a high grain content and in my view are more suited to a duck’s gut then a dog’s. Nice packaging though.

Make supervising easier by having him drag a leash about so you can step on it if he tries to sneak off. If you’re really busy tie it to your belt. Take him out on a schedule. Set your watch or oven timer for increments of an hour or two and take him out when the alarm goes off. Set the increments small enough that he won’t need to ask to go out. Every day he is house clean add a half hour and keep at it until he has learned what is the bathroom and what is not and his elimination schedule matches the 3 or 4 times a day that mesh with your activities.

Considering his horrible start in life I’m not surprised he has other issues. It doesn’t mean that as he feels more secure he won’t blossom somewhat but still I highly recommend you find a trainer or behaviorist to have a look at him. I think he’ll come along faster.

– John Wade

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