How does your dog signal his need to go out?

freezetagOctober 20, 2008

When our four month old puppy needs to go out, she goes and stands by the door. Since she is not completely house trained, and we are keeping an eye on her, generally we see her standing there, and let her out. It's working for now.

However, I would like to reach a point where we do not have to watch her every single second, and then how will we know when she needs to go out? We have tried a couple different types of bells (one hanging from the doorknob, and one bellhop-type sitting on the floor), but (like everything else within her reach) she thinks they are toys and plays wildly with them. Is there some, more boring method we could use that would not excite her so much?

Would like to think that she would eventually bark or whine, but not the case so far. If we miss seeing her standing by the door, then we find a puddle in front of the door.

Also, is it odd to think that she is bothered by us watching her poop? She generally stays by us in the yard, and pees in front of us with no problem, but always runs around the corner, or behind the barn to go poop. She very rarely pees in the house anymore, but does sometimes poop in the house - am wondering whether this is because she has not had enough private time. She'll go when we are on a walk, but then is pulling away / trying to run along while I am picking it up. Will she just outgrow this, or do we need to give her more privacy? Hate to have her out of sight for long when she is so young!

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Consider that your pup is in "prime potty" stage, you don't want to mess this up.

You first need to get dog on a "going out" schedule. Supervising her every second when she is not crated is a very good thing, think of it as temporary. The goal for you and your dog should be unsupervised freedom. You also need to walk your dog to get things moving, and be there with her for positive behavior reinforcement.

Theory states that a dog should be able to hold it one hour for each month of age. It's a pity dogs don't know this. Set a schedule for a morning and afternoon walk. Stick with this for the life of the dog, only add relief times about every 2-3 hours, again when she is not crated, until she is about 9-10 months old. If she has taken in huge amounts of water after play or eating, she is simply not going to be able to hold it because she has not grown inside or out yet.

When she does her thing outside, make a HUGE fuss like she is the best dog in the world, followed by treats. Get her used to commands for relieving herself, this is a huge help when weather is bad.

Gradually decrease extra times she goes out, doing do to fast will confuse her.

Not until pup has the "big three" under control should she be gradually weaned from the crate. Those are: Chewing, house training (no accidents for 9 months) and teething. Also keep in mind that when you supervise every second she is not crated, you gradually make corrections, turning negatives into positives without confusing the dog.

When she reaches about 9 months, she will have grown considerably inside and out, and should start to show maturity. By this age, you should be able to trust her, and start the crate weaning process over the course of 3-4 months.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 12:37PM
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Crate training, check.
Schedule, check.
Leash walks (2x per day), check.
Positive reinforcement, check.
Consistent potty words / commands, check.

Thanks for the input, but do you have any ideas for her to signal that she needs to go outside?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 1:50PM
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freezetag, your pup is just starting to "get it" to to "know" when to go. Your pup is still little enough that it is not going to associate the time to go with the feeling to go. If you continnue a set routine like SG has suggested, and most importantly you talk to your dog when she is in the act, and at the door when you are ready to go out. Ultimately she will put two and poo together and let you know. You might even be able to just ask her if she needs to go PP outside.
Keep up the good work and be patient. Some pups get it faster than others.
PS - YES it is absolutely a normal thing for your pup to hide her duty. Mine hates to be watched during his meadow muffin making routine and will go way out in the brush.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 2:38PM
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My only suggestion is the bell. It worked well for our dog who would sit silently by the door. We had a rescue dog that never barked. Sometimes she would accidentally hit the bell maybe with her tail or her nose, which let us know that she was sitting by the door.

We also had another dog who would let us know when she was sitting by the door. He would come and bark in your face and then you would look and see that she was sitting by the door. They were best buddies.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 5:15PM
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Our pup also would just stand at the door and wait for the first few months and then at 4 months she would start to bark at the door. At 5 months, she was able to stay in her crate at night for 10 hours without having to relieve herself. She is now 6 mos. and goes into her crate at 7:00 p,m. and sleeps straight through to 7:00 a.m. before she barks to let us know she is awake.

That is just perfect for us! Be patient, your pup will get there.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 5:17PM
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Actually, freezetag, I agree with you completely. In my experience it helps quite a lot for a pup to have a "signal". Yes, the pup is just starting to "get it" and will eventually put it all together, but I agree with you that a signal helps that process along.

We use the bells and it works wonderfully. Like you, our pups originally thought the bells were a new toy. We had ones that we thought would hang on the door knob, but of course were pulled off. We attached them to the wall so they couldn't be pulled down. Have you tried something like that? Also, have you just tried letting pup play with the bells for a little bit to see if she loses interest?

Another possibility - could you rig up something so that when she goes to the door she steps on something that makes noise? I'm not very imaginative and can't think exactly what, but maybe you could....

Is your dog vocal at all? If so, you can probably teach her "speak" very quickly and then move to using that as a signal. Personally I didn't want my dogs to bark or whine to go out, but you seemed to think that would be okay.

With any of these, you will have to be diligent about responding for awhile. Every single time your pup rings the bells or barks or whatever, you should get very excited and say "oh, do you want to go out?" and then go out. Now that I think about it, that's what you could do if the pup tries playing with the bells. Pup grabs bells to play with and your response is "Oh! Let's go out!" Pretty soon pup won't just play with the bells because she'll know that means she goes out.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 5:18PM
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When you take the dog out of the crate, immediately take her outside. Don't stop to put shoes on, just go. Eventually, dog will associate being let out of crate with going outside to do her thing. After she makes progress with this, and you can delay going out for a minute or two, you can start working on a bell signal.

You are looking for "signals" that your pup has to go. At this early age, her insides have not fully developed, especially her bladder. You don't want to pile things on to fast, this will confuse her. She also has a higher metabolism than that of an older dog. If she is playing, or after meals, she is going to gulp huge amounts of water, and she is just not going to be able to hold it.

If you are going to incorporate a bell or something else that she can ring, it needs to be done gradually, along with being let out of the crate would be great. When she comes out of the crate and gets to the door, ring the bell on the door knob.

After a few times doing this, put some sort of treat on the bell, like peanut butter, just a small amount to make her curious. When she licks it, the bell should ring, if it doesnÂt, ring it slightly. Then make a HUGE fuss over your pup. You may need to repeat this 100 times, or maybe just a few, it depends on how fast your dog catches on.

Good luck! Can you post a photo??


    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 5:51PM
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freezetag, for 4 months old she is doing great and will learn to bark in time.

For the poop shy part of your original message. She might always be that way, our girl was for all of her 14 years. She passed away last month and to the end she was poop shy.

She didn't care if you saw her pee but she wouldn't poop if you were watching her. I learned to look away enough so she thought I wasn't watching but I could still see her at the edge of my vision. She would stare at me the entire time she was squating to make sure I wasn't looking.

It worked, she was happy, had her pride, and I knew if she was regular or not. LOL

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 10:02PM
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Cody will either grab my hand and bark or do this low growl thing to get my attention.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 3:21PM
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Our dog never had any vocal signal that she needed to go out. She would stand with her nose to the back door and just wait. As she got older, she would do "the potty dance" which was a kind of quick, pointed run around the house- she'd run to us, then back to the door, then to us, then back to the door. It worked. We never did get the bell thing to work with her, but we developed a system between us nonetheless.

Try whatever comes to mind and eventually something will stick.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 4:06PM
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My big girl does her best Lassie impression. She runs to me and gallops to the door and if that isn't enough, she does it again with more urgency.

Mostly she is a 115 pound speed bump and dust bunny factory.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 6:04PM
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Good suggestions here - your dog will find other ways to communicate with you also - if you keep watch for them. Mine is usually fine on his schedule, but sometimes if he is in need or sick, he will come and stare intently at me and if I'm not looking at him he will grunt a special grunt he only uses when he "NEEDS TO GO RIGHT NOW" LOL.

Dogs treat pee and poo separately as you've learned. I use different verbal cues for each. For poo - mine likes ivies and bushes to hide under, or trees - he likes to "fertilize" trees. Funny animals.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 6:22PM
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Sounds like you two are off to a great start with potty training. Not long now and she'll have it. :)

Our pup is also quite passive about signally to go outside. The major sign is him getting restless, then he'll come lick our hands and make eye contact. If we are near the door, he'll go stare at it.

We did teach him to use the bell, but had to take it away from him. He figured out quickly that he could ring the bell and we come running. Typical border collie: he turned it into a means to his way! Or more like he started training us to come when called! Well, he started using it to request playtime, treats, dinner, walks... everything. After the 20th ring with him at the back door with a tennis ball - we called it quits. :P

    Bookmark   October 21, 2008 at 6:52PM
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HoneyBear is around one year old now and we have only had him about 5 months. He still will wet in the house periodically if we don't take it on ourselves to put on the leash and take him out every two hours or so. He poops in the house a few times but mainly outdoors and on his walk. He is a funny dog about his eating too. I can put his food out for him and I have to coax him to come and eat. When he does he growls if I get near his food and would probably bite too. He eats some and goes through the motions of burying it in plain sight. Our previous little dog did that too. He has issues and they are tiring to deal with, but we must.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 2:48PM
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My dog Duke jingles his tags to let me know he needs to go out. The only problem with that method is when he gets an ear infection and then he's jingling all the time until the medicine takes effect!


    Bookmark   October 24, 2008 at 5:10PM
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My Toy Poodle learned early on that sitting up gets him what he wants. If he wants water or food he sits up facing the bowls, if he wants a treat he sits up facing the treats, If he wants outside, he sits up facing the door. lol He is a trip

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 12:43PM
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Mabel will come right up to you and stare at you until you ask her what she wants and then she will either run to the door or run to her food bowl....

My Dad was watching her one weekend and commented that he was a bit freaked out by her staring at him intently, until he realized, OH that means she wants out... even if you aren't paying attention, you get that feeling that someone is watching you...

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 1:09PM
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My dog also does the stare down. He will come into the room I am in and just stare at me intently, then I say "Out?" and he races to the door. He started this when we was about 8-10 months old.

joepyeweed, is Mabel a hound-breed? Mine is a coonhound/walker houndish "mix". Maybe the stare is a hound thing?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:22PM
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We taught Riley to ring a bell. When he was younger he would sometimes take advantage but now he seems to know it's for when he has to go outside only. When we visit other homes, I take the bell with me, show him when we arrive and he's never had an accident. Riley is a mix of shitzu, bichon and poodle.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 5:50PM
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My 8 YO Dachshund finds me (if she is not already on the sofa, bed or chair next to me) and barks when she has to go out if I don't see her sitting by the door. She can be quite vocal if I don't immediately get up and let her out. She came up with that on her own. I usually take her out every 2 hours or so but sometimes get busy with things so she has to remind me.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 12:46PM
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Nope, Mable is a lab.

My old hound was very vocal. We used to call him kangaroo, because when he wanted to go out, he would bark, whine and jump up and down, very high at the door. (Ringing the bell was incidental to the jumping)

The hound was the one who would vocalize for the silent sitter at the door (who was also a lab).

    Bookmark   February 9, 2009 at 3:03PM
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Our puppy is just over 12 weeks old. She will always go when I take her out every 2 hours or less and I say "go potty." She doesn't yet know how to signal me though, at times she does stare but when I've taken her out she didn't go. It's a bit confusing. Is this normal at this early age? I know every dog is different, but is there an average age where puppies/dogs start to get it and learn a signal that works for us?

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 2:14AM
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I have 2 mini schnauzers and the female will go to the door, go around and around in circles while growling. The more urgent her need, the faster the circles and the louder the growling, no kidding! She's a funny girl with all kinds of eccentric behavior quirks, but we think she's adorable. The male will just calmly go sit beside the door while staring at me. If I say 'wanna go outside?' he gets very excited. I feel so fortunate that they do signal me when they need to go. I've had several dogs in the past who would not.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 8:57PM
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