This week we’ve been discussing reasons why some dogs don’t last in what we hoped would be their forever homes. Some potential problems we are able to clue in on during the interview process. For example, if someone talks about living in an apartment without a yard and they are at work ten hours a day it doesn’t mean they are not a candidate for a dog. It likely means a large and active dog might not be the best fit even though that’s the breed they have been dreaming about forever. Instead, a smaller, less active dog who has already gone through potty training and is used to being alone might be a better fit.

Speaking of potty training, that was recently a reason someone brought back a dog they had adopted from us. After less than a day. We can’t stress enough that we do not know if a dog is potty trained and even if they are they don’t yet know how to communicate with you to let you know their needs. Patience and cleaning supplies need to be in large supply no matter the age of your dog or the assumption that they are trained.

I now know how lucky we were with Coconut. He was either the smartest dog in the world or he was potty trained at his old home and he simply had to help us understand his schedule and communication clues. In under two weeks, we were set.

Mele, well, not quite so lucky. She’s very smart and very stubborn. We started her sleeping on the same bed with her new brother and that didn’t work at all. And she went into our bathroom and pooped in the same spot on the washable rug. The exact same spot. Every night. This leads me to believe that maybe she went on a puppy pad in her old home. As delightful as others might find this practice it was not going to fly chez moi.

We took her poop out, placed it in the yard, told her this is where she would go potty, told her she was a good girl, rewarded her with a treat, and tried to do that for several days in a row to reinforce the desired practice. She would run away or turn her back on us every single time and then run upstairs and poop in the bathroom. I think I heard her laughing.

Next up was to kennel her at night. Both Coconut and Mele like the kennel, they go in willingly throughout the day and when we have to leave for short periods of time. The problem I had not anticipated was that she would be all by herself downstairs while her new family was upstairs together. The crying started every few hours when she woke up because I think she was scared. We’d finally respond at 3:00 am and take her out, she’d run around like a whirling dervish, run upstairs, and poop in the bathroom. Just great.

“A dog will never poop where they sleep!” Yeah, don’t listen to that nonsense. Twice in one night. A smaller kennel might help so we brought the new-to-us smaller kennel upstairs, took away the large new bed, gave Coconut his old bed, and set the two dogs side by side, one behind bars, the other free as a bird.

One night I put Mele in the kennel after her chasing her up and down the stairs and she sat. And stared. I swear she was accusing me of dog abuse. Then instead of curling up in his usual ball Coconut sat on his bed staring with that same, how could you stare. Yeah, I felt awful. This was on day four of the new experiment. You know those shelter commercials with Sarah McGlaughlin singing her sad song about rescue dogs? That’s what went through my head.

The next night Mele sat in her usual accusatory position and started trying to open her kennel as Coconut watched. We decided to give it one more try. Away went the kennel, out came the big bed, the small bed went under a table perfect for Mele who loves small spaces and they settled into their new arrangements. And around 4:30 it happened. Mele pooped! Outside! And she did not run into the bathroom to poop again. Yes, we got smart. The bathroom door is now closed.

Was it a fluke? We have had four days in a row of Mele Pooped celebrations with treats and praise and joy all around. We need to help her to delay the poop time but we know that will happen.

We are cautiously optimistic that Mele is trained.

Bringing home a dog can be a horrible experience for some, a snap for others. There are many ways to train a dog to use the bathroom outside and it takes time. An older time sometimes has bad habits to break but they know how to please their person. Sometimes it’s a fight because they can be stubborn. The end result is not up to them but to you. Stand firm and you will win and it’s the same with puppies.

Before deciding a dog is not for you because of potty training issues please talk to one of our wonderful staff. They have seen a lot and are filled with ideas to try. We never want to put a dog through rehoming until we’ve tried everything possible. I’m glad I didn’t give in to my frustration because Mele is now my grandson’s favorite dog because she loves to cuddle. What else matters?