Whistle, Whistle, Bark!

A few months ago, Kathy and I went to my family reunion in Ohio. It was a great four days touring my hometown and seeing cousins and aunts and uncles. While I flew back to Tucson, Kathy continued on to her company headquarters for an additional week of work.

I returned home, anxious to see the boys. Four long days without a dog was a tough assignment and I was eager to get back to them. I was surprised to read a note left by the pet sitter detailing why she thought Travis missed us. The most glaring on the list: he’d broken house training. Granted, Travis is a borderline Cushing’s dog, with the PU/PD stats to back it up. However, he’d never intentionally eliminated in the house when other options were available. Kathy, his #1 mom, wasn’t due back for a week and his stress was only going to get worse when he realized she wasn’t with me. I had a big problem on my hands.

I started working with him immediately, offering rewards for whistling and whining to go out, then more rewards and praise for eliminating outside. Treats for good boys who pee outside! Yeah! (Have you ever tried to be excited about your dog peeing outside at 2:30am? Try it sometime. It will be good practice for later…)

To complicate matters, he was becoming more and more incontinent. That seems like it should solve the problem, right? Just put him in a belly band or diaper. He can’t eliminate in the house, it all stays in the diaper. It’s not the simple. If we didn’t re-house train Travis, he would live the rest of his life wearing his own urine and feces. That’s not the life we wanted for him and certainly not the life he deserved. We continued to work.

So you can imagine my elation three months later; OK, elation’s too strong a word for 12:45am—my sense of relief—when Travis woke me from a sound sleep last night with whistling, whining and even a single sharp bark, letting me know he needed to go outside. As I struggled with a robe and sandals, I felt myself smiling through my sleepy haze. We’d done it. Rather than just go do what he needed to do on the living room floor, he communicated. And I listened.

We went out together. He was efficient and business-like, selecting his spots quickly and with little deliberation. He moved confidently back toward the door, negotiating the few boulders in his path with ease. He stood patiently while I rewrapped the belly band, stepped back as I opened the door, then went straight back to his spot in front of the fan, bypassing his soft bed (more on that in a different post).

I, too, went straight back to bed, and smiled to myself as I settled back in. Our work had paid off and my reward was a 12:45am pee call. I’ve never been happier to be ripped from my REM sleep by a whistling, barking dog.


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